Solitude and Listening
An excerpt from the Simple/House Church Revolution book:
Solitude and Listening
If I were to point to one great need for us, as God’s people, who desire to experience a deeper intimacy with God, it would be the need for more solitude out of which comes a more available listening heart. Henri Nouwen speaks to this:
Solitude is being with God and God alone. Is there any space for that in your life?
Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It's important because it's the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you "my beloved daughter," "my beloved son," "my beloved child." To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being...
Solitude is where spiritual ministry begins. That's where Jesus listened to God. That's where we listen to God.
Pressing In for More of God
The call for the church is to always press in to more of God even when this means letting go of the very forms and formulations that got us to where we are. We always want to settle down into the structures and rituals we have designed for ourselves—our religious ways—rather than go after a deeper relationship. This is a tendency and temptation that we must be aware of no matter where we are in our journey and no matter how non-traditional (or traditional) our church expressions currently are.
Ruth Burrows puts it this way:
I cannot understand a love that is not always wanting to know more of the beloved so that it may love the more. `Who are you, Lord?' should surely be the constant urging of our hearts. But is it so? It seems more likely that we are afraid to get to know more, as though if we did so our building would collapse. This is because we are putting our security not in the unfailing God but in our meagre conceptions of him, in the formulations, neat, satisfying, water-tight which we have contrived. Many of us see the church and the faith, as we call it, like an insulated, armoured, electrified carriage in which we can sit secure behind curtain windows as we hurtle through the dark forests. We don’t have to see the frightening forms outside, don’t have to see the abyss into which we might drop, don’t have to see the poor beggars and forsaken ones crying in the night. We can hurtle along safely to heaven. How different from the reality! `Do not think I have come to bring peace but a sword. I have come to cast fire on the earth.' The true experience of faith is more that of an assault on Everest with its effort, its perils, its frightening decisions.
Can we relate to holding to our religious buildings (figuratively speaking) in order to avoid the current adventure of stepping out and pressing deeper into the heart and adventure of walking with Jesus? Do we possess the courage to press on to all that He has for us when the ledge we have arrived on is quite comfortable indeed?
Just One Disciple This Year
We can hear stories of thousands of disciples multiplying thousands of more disciples and wonder how that relates to our own situation.
As someone who spends nearly an equal amount of time in Africa as in California, I understand this. In Africa we work with teams that are reaching, baptizing, and multiplying disciples—yes, thousands of people reached. But, in California, not so much.
But this brings to mind some thoughts:
- The key is that I take my place in the church that is ‘going’ rather than the church that is sitting/gathering regardless of what context I am in. By this I mean that my joy is to be able to influence another person to more wholeheartedly follow Jesus. This ‘going and discipling’ is the true shape of the church and it is where I find life even though I, personally, am not a typical evangelist.
- The speed in which disciples are made and reproduced is not really the issue. Jesus spoke of fruitfulness but never the speed of reproduction. The latter is not normally under my control.
- It only takes one disciple this year. The concept of disciples making disciples is so profound that we often miss it. I get to influence one other person toward becoming a wholehearted follower of Jesus. Such a lover of God will, inevitably, do the same. If ten people begin to do this in one year, and this good seed reproduces in like manner, do the math:
Year 1: 10 disciples
Year 2: 20 disciples
Year 3: 40 disciples
Year 4: 80 disciples
Year 5: 160 disciples
Year 6: 320 disciples
Year 7: 640 disciples
Year 8: 1,280 disciples
Year 9: 2,560 disciples
Year 10: 5,120 disciples (now the size of a large mega-church)
Year 11: 10,240 disciples
Year 12: 10,480 disciples
Year 13: 40,960 disciples
Year 14: 81,920 disciples
Year 15: 163,840 disciples
By year 20: over 5 million disciples
By year 26: over 320 million disciples (roughly the population of USA)
Remember that this is all based on only making one wholehearted follower in one year who can then do the same. And, we only began with ten disciples doing this whereas one could easily imagine thousands doing the same in our own country alone.
My point is that we do not need to get overly enamored with the numbers-thing one way or the other. We just get to be followers of the Majestic One and share that joy with another until he/she grasps that there is no greater joy than finding ways to love/reach/care/influence another to live out this ongoing, reproductive life of the Kingdom. Such influence for Jesus Christ is within our grasp and, again I say, there is no greater joy than simply being a part.
What can you/I envision for the next one year?
Francis Chan Shares with Facebook Employees
If you have not seen this article, it’s a great read. I will post a few quotes here, but the whole article is worth the time.
Bestselling author Francis Chan recently exposed his heart to Facebook employees, detailing why he left the helm of his thriving megachurch in California seven years ago.
Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, was drawing around 5,000 people and growing in 2010. But Chan felt the megachurch he founded was not as God intended it to be.
"I got frustrated at a point, just biblically," Chan said during a talk at the Facebook headquarters in California last Thursday. "I'm going wait a second. According to the Bible, every single one of these people has a supernatural gift that's meant to be used for the body. And I'm like 5,000 people show up every week to hear my gift, see my gift. That's a lot of waste. Then I started thinking how much does it cost to run this thing? Millions of dollars!"
"So I'm wasting the human resource of these people that according to Scripture have a miraculous gift that they could contribute to the body but they're just sitting there quietly. … [T]hey just sit there and listen to me..."
His decision in 2010 to leave Cornerstone — which he started in his living room — came as a shock to many, including fellow evangelical pastors. In his announcement to the congregation at that time, he said he had been feeling a restlessness and stirring to let go of the megachurch and take on a new adventure.
He also indicated that he was wary of being "comfortable…”
Today, Chan leads a house church movement in San Francisco called We Are Church. There are currently 14 to 15 house churches, he said, and 30 pastors (two pastors per church) — all of whom do it for free. Each church is designed to be small so it's more like family where members can actually get to know one another, love one another and make use of their gifts.
"We've got a few hundred people now and it costs nothing," Chan explained. "And everyone's growing and everyone's having to read this book (Bible) for themselves and people actually caring for one another. I don't even preach. They just meet in their homes, they study, they pray, they care for one another. They're becoming the church and I'm just loving it and realizing that these 30 guys [are] leading this and the women as well."
The people who join include "guys coming off the streets, out of prison to doctors and people that work here (Facebook) or Google," he said.
He's hoping to double the number of house churches every year so that in 10 years, there would be 1.2 million people in We Are Church. And, he reiterated, it's all free.
Feeling Adrift? It Takes Time?
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." André Gide
For those who left the shores of traditional church many years ago, and also for those who are just now dipping their toes into the water of organic church… the message is the same: it takes time.
Mostly it takes time because we have been so trained into religious and institutional mindsets that we venture out with one foot in both paradigms -- both the old and the new. We find ourselves stuck between two worlds, sometime, for an awfully long time.
My message today is simple. If you feel adrift. If you are starting to feel like you fit in nowhere, if you wonder if you have left something behind and you just can’t figure out how to ‘ignite’ the new thing that you thought would look like this or that by now… take heart. This is common and normal. Keep on.
The journey for most of us is, actually, well… a journey. God does a work in us first as we let go of comfort zones and comfortable ways of doing life and ministry. God continues that work as he turns our heart and listening ear more and more to him and him alone. And God continues that work still further as we find there is a place for us in this world that fits us perfectly, that is not about someone else’s vision, but custom made for who we are and how we are meant to express his kingdom in the world. As all of that takes shape, we begin to discover that we are, organically, living more and more with God, expressing His Kingdom life to others, and then taking part in something that is alive and naturally reproductive. We become a natural and organic part of his process to make and reproduce love-filled, faith-filled, disciples.
It will come. It will happen. But just know that we often have to see the former shore fade away before the new thing really takes shape.