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.
From Religion to Childlike Wonder
“For many, Christianity has become the grinding out of general doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts. But childlike wonder and awe have died. The scenery and poetry and music of the majesty of God have dried up like a forgotten peach at the back of the refrigerator.” John Piper
One of the benefits of stepping out of religious, church traditions is that it provides the opportunity for us to renew our love for God and to re-experience the childlike wonder that He invites us to.
However, this is not automatic. We can easily exchange one religious system for another. Just because we have moved big-building church into a home or started meeting in a participatory manner does not mean that the inner life has changed. We might be focusing on making disciples that make disciples, but if we are not passing along the vibrant life of one who has found the treasure and sold all else with joy and awe, then what kind of disciples are being produced?
It is not enough to swap one religious system for another. The invitation of the Spirit, always, is to swap out our religious comforts, including our internal ones, for ongoing encounter with Jesus the Majestic, Living One. May our hearts long for this, like little children, above all else.
Unless you become like children...
I want to share a great passage from some 'simple church' friends in Europe. Learn more about their work here.
The Kingdom of God is built on the person of Jesus, what he taught the disciples and what he instructed them to do. Building a foundation on anything other than Jesus and the Kingdom will not produce multiplication of disciples and simple churches. Jesus is both Saviour and Lord with power over all things visible and invisible. He is Lord of the harvest and head of the Church worldwide and every local church. He cannot and will not be owned by any denomination, tradition, organisation or “ministry.”
The (inherited) paradigm most Christians have is downside up:
-- first, ecclesiology (church, dogma, style and practices);
-- secondly, missiology (mission – how to attract people to our church community or building);
-- and thirdly, Christology (so we can tell them about our church and Jesus).
The Kingdom paradigm is, however, upside down:
-- first, Jesus and the Kingdom (His person, His Kingdom);
-- secondly mission (go and make disciples);
-- and thirdly, church (which is built by Jesus and the consequence of disciples making disciples).
Working from a Kingdom paradigm means people come to Jesus (or discipled to him), continue in transformational discipleship, and church forms out of who they are and what Jesus is building amongst them – not out of a church system that we impose on them. This means that simple churches and networks vary in form and style even though they have a common foundational Kingdom DNA. Consequently, the gospel spreads quickly and naturally through households and people groups without the constraints of restrictive traditional, denominational and organisational boundaries with their religious biases, forms and styles. This primary allegiance to Jesus and the common foundational DNA facilitates unity, cooperation and expansion: simple churches may be different, even within the same network as well as from network to network, but all are disciples joined to Jesus and His Body. Read more.
Kingdom fruit comes out of alignment with Kingdom perspective. What adjustments might this lead to as we look at disciple making and church gatherings?
Methods and Tools vs. Prayer and Obedience
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." 1 Corinthians 1:25
Westerners love methods and tools. I see it in our churches where we plan programs and services that look much the same from one place to the next. I see it in our house churches where we want to know 'how things are done' and then implement accordingly as we seek to follow the methods that others tell us work. I also see it on the mission field where we focus on the currently popular missiological methods.
For example, people love to talk these days about disciple making and disciple making movements. The tools that are taught in this vein are the current 'way to do ministry' that all must follow in order to be 'successful.' In fact, as I travel around the globe, I find that DMM (disciple making movements), and the corresponding tools that are now taught, is the ONLY way that missions is to be done.
Don't get me wrong. I am a proponent of most of these tools and have helped many to implement them. I spend much time training these very methods to others!
BUT, we so often miss the real point in our reliance on the right tool, the right method, the right practice, and the right way to do ministry.
Let me share something that an African woman told my wife. She and her husband are currently working with 1,000 disciples in their area who are actively reaching others. They expect to have 2,000 disciples meeting in house churches later this year and 4,000 by next year. My wife asked her some routine questions about her life and also probed about her spiritual life. This very humble woman spoke about her prayer life without any pride in her voice, "Naturally I am walking close to God and spending much in time in prayer. How else would we be seeing this kind of fruit?"
Oh, right! How else? How else is fruit born? How else is the Spirit released to work? How else is the work of God accomplished? You mean it's not all about methodology and programs?
We love trainings and tools and methods and how-tos. We expect to follow the models of others who are successful in order to be successful. But we can often miss the real point. God is the one who brings the increase and it is not about the wisdom of man! Rather, it is about the power of God manifesting through a praying, love-filled heart from one who longs to obey, and follow, and give all to see His glory and Kingdom come.
Multiplication Begins at Spiritual Birth
An excerpt from the Simple/House Church Revolution book:
Just as every new living thing has in it the power to reproduce, in the same way new believers, who have received Jesus’ new life, have the power in them to reproduce. We want to see this potential for multiplication unleashed at every new spiritual birth.
As soon as someone has experienced new life, we encourage them to share their story with others. The DNA of multiplying what God has put in us can begin the moment a person receives a new life in Christ. By sharing their story immediately with others, they become reproductive quickly and learn that they have unlimited potential to be used by God. A new disciple can begin reaching and discipling others by giving away immediately everything that he or she receives.
We like to baptize people publicly. We find that baptism is a wonderful opportunity to invite the person’s friends and families to a celebration. This allows the person who has experienced a new life to share that reality with others.
Reaching and discipling others can begin from day one. If a person is learning life lessons from his walk with God and his own process of being discipled, he can help others follow the same patterns and grow as well. New disciples can become disciplers by passing on their own experiences and pointing others to the same tools (Scripture, prayer) that are providing growth in their own life.
If gatherings are as simple as they are meant to be, then new believers can gather others. By simplifying gatherings back to basics, those who are new to Christ, and learning from others, can begin gathering other new believers or seekers together and follow the same patterns he is being taught.
When new believers can begin immediately to reach, disciple, and gather others, then the process of multiplication of God’s kingdom can be unleashed in an incredibly powerful fashion.
Empowering others becomes natural to new believers. Finally, we see that new believers can become leaders in the best sense of that word. They learn that everything God gives them can be given away to help, strengthen, and lift up others. Thus they discover, from the outset, to become leaders who know how to serve and empower other people.
If we can see the simple principles of God’s kingdom (reach, disciple, gather, empower, multiply) cultivated into the lives of new believers, then the natural power of God’s life will reproduce itself without the need for human-made systems to control or motivate. This is the wonder of true, organic multiplication.