Sometimes we can look at the church here in the west and wonder if we, as followers of Jesus, are impacting people at all. Is the leaven of our lives working its way into the lump of worldly dough that we are surrounded by? Of course, such a pessimistic view is not warranted. Each of us, as salt and light, is always making a difference in the lives of those around us and we are finding wonderful ways to be used by God wherever we live and serve. God is surely at work and He will continue to use us to bring his kingdom to those who are ready.
But it is also good to step back and look at the global picture and realize that amazing things from a worldwide perspective have been happening, are happening, and will continue to take place.
Wolfgang Simson reports:
Our own continuous research has shown that the single largest apostolic initiative in the last 20 years is the house church movement. It has now crossed a historic threshold and milestone of 10 million new house churches planted globally since 1998 and has added at least 100 million new souls to the Body of Christ. This is why it is crucial that this momentum continues until it reaches what we call the “Starfish goal” of 200 million house churches/Kingdom communities (see: The Starfish Vision).
He also reports on this development in his own country of Germany:
Only recently (2018) one house church network, Hope Germany, has grown to more than 1,000 newly planted house churches, and there are about 40 other networks in Europe with typically between 50‐100 house churches.
Our own work, that takes us to many continents, allows us to see beyond our western world and remember that our own home-country is not the only consideration in God’s global plans. As such, clear progress abounds much of which is coming through movements of disciples making disciples resulting in hundreds and thousands of simple/house church gatherings starting in many parts of the world.
This article reports on the impact taking place by “movement ekklesia” which are disciples, as in the first century, multiplying rapidly without the need for dedicated buildings:
- Recently Credible organizations and networks reported approximately 2,500 movement engagements, including nearly 500 movements that had produced millions of new disciples. As 2017 ended, the count was nearly 650 movements with 50 million disciples!
- New disciples in ‘multiplying movements’ among the unreached are ‘increasing many times faster than any other large population on the planet.’
This report concludes that ‘thousands more movements are still needed, yet there are many reasons to hope expectantly for their continued multiplication.’
So, are you and I part of kingdom progress that is exciting, clear, and on the increase? Most definitely.
Some excellent twitter-thoughts from a variety of folk I follow:
Steve Simms @CSteveSimms
When I read the book of Acts & see the passion & joy of early Christianity, I wonder what happened?
Rob Ross @oikosministries
“The model we have used — a church, a pastor and a commitment by people to support the enterprise — is getting harder and harder to maintain.” We need to think different ( individually together). #everydayfaith #simplechurch #musingsofamilkman
Dan White Jr. @danwhitejr
What we learn from Christendom is that it was well constructed to create church-goers but not well suited to cultivate Jesus-followers.
Brad Brisco @bradleybrisco
We often wrongly assume the primary activity of God is in the church. But the primary activity of God is in the world, and the church is an instrument created by God to be sent into the world to participate in what God is already doing. #kingdom #missiodei #mission
Traviskolder @traviskolder Courtesy of @CSteveSimms..
Lesslie Newbigin @LesslieNewbigin
Foreign missions are not an extra; they are the acid test of whether or not the Church believes the Gospel.
Lesslie Newbigin @LesslieNewbigin
The deepest motive for mission is simply the desire to be with Jesus where he is, on the frontier between the reign of God and the usurped dominion of the devil.
Scott Sauls @scottsauls
The Kingdom of Jesus does not advance through spin, political maneuvering, manipulation of power, or “taking a stand” for what we believe. Rather, the Kingdom of Jesus advances through subversive acts of love.
Ann Voskamp @AnnVoskamp
Clinging to Human Traditions
“You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions (Mark 7:8).
Jesus repeatedly challenged his disciples to avoid the yeast of the Pharisees who placed the traditions of men above the commandments and word of God
“How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition.
Clearly, Jesus never intended that the traditions of the Pharisees would be replaced by the traditions of New Testament era churches that no longer serve the life of the disciple. Yet we all fall into this way of thinking
First, let’s be reminded that the commandments of God, when energized within us by the Spirit of God, are the pathway to immeasurable joy, not some kind of religious, duty-bound, heart-deprived existence. “The commandments of the Lord are right. They make the heart rejoice.” Psalm 19:8. Aligning heart and life with God’s ways, as the Spirit leads and works in us, produces freedom of soul and spirit like nothing else. Jesus called his disciples away from the traditions of religion in order to call them into the experience of life, in the Spirit, wholly devoted to the joy of following Him
Now, let’s consider why the ‘commandments’ of God are not always easily embraced. On the front end, when confronted with Jesus’ challenges, his words can often seem unsettling:
- Love God with your whole heart
- Love your neighbor as yourself
- Give to the poor
- Go and make disciples of all nations
- Take up your cross
- Be mature (embrace growth and transformation)
- Forgive as you have been forgiven
- Pray for your enemies
- Abide in me
- Give up everything you have
Indeed, as we look at such ‘commands’ realistically, I can understand why it seems much easier to simply take on the basic traditions of: going to church, meeting at Bible study, doing a daily devotion, giving a tithe, serving as an usher, etc, etc, etc. The traditions of western, cultural Christianity are actually quite comfort-able and easy to settle into especially considering the alternative of fully surrendering heart and and life to God’s life-transforming call.
But Jesus, in making such strong challenges like I have listed, was not creating rules of religion, rather he was inviting people to do whatever it takes to move out of self into daily, obedient, joyful life with Him! These ‘commandments’ help us confront and shake off the parts of ourselves that keep us bound up in self-willed living so that we can enter into the joy and freedom of God-centered, God-infused living. He does not bind us up afresh with His commands, but as we walk with Him daily, His word transforms us in the most profound and genuinely freeing way.
I meet people every day who, out of frustration or pain from their church traditions, want to leave those traditions but, really, just want to replace them with some newer, more comfortable, traditions. Perhaps we all continue to miss the point. When we stop clinging to our quest for easy traditions, we become more open to the Person who is drawing us into a much deeper, real, and fully-alive life.
No Superstars in the Kingdom
There are two truths championed by simple/organic church paradigms that are vital to the health of the whole church:
- There are no superstars in the Kingdom of God. Rather, spiritually speaking, we are all superstars equally filled with the Spirit, equipped with gifts of the Spirit, and called to a vocation of serving others.
- When ministry is recognized by worldly standards (size, scope, media recognition) this has no bearing and is often counter to actual Kingdom impact.
This is on my mind because it seems the news is filled with the misbehavior of political and Hollywood ‘stars.’ And more significantly, the church as we know it, in regards to those who are publicly recognized, is not far behind. Without making comment or judgement on anyone in particular, it is enough to note that super-stardom is a difficult role to handle. It is rare for humans to handle worldly honor well. But, for the church, the point is a simple one: worldly acclaim is not a Kingdom marker.
Now, to be fair, almost all of us are guilty. Either we have allowed worldly acclaim to get to us in some measure personally, or we have looked to certain other people with a measure of veneration because of worldly markers. Or both.
Thus it might be a good idea to re-look at the most influential individual in all of church history who described his ministry this way:
I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
He concludes this self-examination with this statement:
If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. (1 Corinthians 11)
Now, Paul has given us markers to aspire to and to measure others by. Further, I am reminded that the power of the church is found in everyday believers (the only kind there are) stepping by faith into their gifts, their calling, their spiritual vocation and serving others with no expectation of being recognized for anything other than their utter weakness apart from God.
Let us each aspire to be all that we can be in the Kingdom by faith (embracing whatever challenges and persecutions God has for us) while avoiding all trappings of veneration in this world. The church will shine more brightly and the world will be impacted more powerfully.
Choudhrie's Challenges Re-Visited
There is nothing like Victor Chouhrie to keep our compasses pointed true-north and to… well... challenge us. Victor has one of the most fruitful ministries ever with thousands of churches planted and hundreds of thousands of baptisms in India.
You can read all 21 of his steps in a paper entitled “Mega Church to Meta (Beyond) Church.”
Here is just a taste:
- Rewrite the job description of professional clergy from a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer to a shepherd who feeds his flock to be healthy and reproducing by encouraging them to practice priesthood of all believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men…
- Move from meeting in temples to gathering in ‘houses of peace’. ‘God does not dwell in temples made by human hands’; rather He dwells in human hearts…
- Phase out programmed Sunday ‘services’ while implementing informal, small gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day, not only for a couple of hours a week, lest she become unfaithful…
- Replace professional music with believers speaking to each other in psalms and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord...
- Shift from spectator-oriented church to ‘metastasizing’ interactive, participatory, prophetic church...
- Infect barren Bride with the multiplication virus. A healthy mature female (Bride) implies that she is ready to have babies...
- Unglue from the pews all those Christians who sit, soak and stagnate and send them to heal the sick, raise the dead, tread on snakes and scorpions (expel demons), bind the ‘strongman’, plunder his possessions and demolish the gates of Hell...
- Empower every Sunday school, bible school, prayer cell, women’s fellowship, and cottage meeting, by calling them full-fledged, authentic churches. They must make disciples who baptize, break bread, equip laborers and send missionaries…
- Filter out selfish-goat church members who come only for hatching (baby baptism), matching (wedding) and dispatching (funeral), and replace them with sheep who take care of the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and prisoners….
- Simplify disciple making. Get a Bible and invite a couple of truth-seekers for a meal where the main dish is - The Lamb. Redefine authentic church as wherever two or three friends meet to eat, gossip the gospel, and to multiply…
- Reorient your own personal paradigm. Your business, workplace or home, wherever you spend most of your time, is your ‘primary nuclear church’. It matters little whether you are the CEO, or the janitor or the kitchen queen, you are a full-time minister there and accountable…
- Re-set your priorities to preach Christ where He has not been named. For this you do not have to go to church from Sunday to Sunday nor work from paycheck to paycheck. You are “ordained” to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill your home/workplace/neighborhood and the city with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea…