Friday, February 01, 2008

When You Come Together - Video

The video link below captures wonderfully the House Church answer to the questions I raised in When We Gather Together.

When You Come Together - Video

Added Links

When I first created this blog I wasn’t sure why I was doing it or even if anyone else would read it. Since the comments section is pretty quiet I assumed only a few family members ever visited. Recently I discovered Google Analytics, which revealed that many people have found my blog from search engines or referrals from other blogs. While I can’t be sure what brought each of you to this blog, I’m sure that at least some of you must be interested in this spiritual journey that some call House Church or Simple Church – although its really about so much more than the model of how we do church.

When God first began to churn my spirit and shake up my spiritual worldview I honestly wondered if I was the only one who thought the way I did. I have now discovered that there are many who are putting the lessons I’ve learned into practice, and are doing so with great wisdom and humility. Therefore I’ve decided to add links to the blogs and resources that I’ve found most helpful. I’m so tempted to describe each one for you and tell you how its been helpful to me, but perhaps it would be better just to leave as an area to explore.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An Awakening

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Mathew 6:9-13

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?
John 3:1-9

I drove to work that morning praying the Lord’s Prayer. I was completely oblivious as to what was about to happen. Looking back I can see that the Lord had prepared me for what he was about to do by making me more available to him. He did this in two distinct ways.

The first thing he did was free me from ministry obligations within my church. I had served as a teacher within my church for over 14 years when I was asked to step aside to allow others to teach the youth group and Sunday school class. In addition, a retired minister had joined our congregation and I was no longer needed to fill in for my pastor during our Sunday morning or mid-week services. In his kindness God had prepared me for this sudden change by telling me in prayer a year earlier that I would not always be teaching my Sunday school class. When that happens he had told me, don’t look within the church for another position to fill, but look outside the church for ministry.
I first asked God if he wanted to me start up some home Bible studies as I had often done in the past, but the Lord said no. Then I suggested writing a book or doing something on the Internet, but again the Lord said no. Very clearly I felt him tell me not to focus on educating people who were already Christian but to minister to those who were not yet his followers. To be honest I didn’t have a clue how to do this, nor did I know anyone else who did. I then felt the Lord direct me to take a look at what my brother’s and sisters outside my denomination were doing to reach the lost.

The second thing God did to make me more available to him was to deepen my commitment. If you knew me at that time you would probably say I was already committed to Christ. I know I certainly thought so. Does it seem odd to you that God would remove responsibility and obligation from off my shoulders and then ask for an even greater commitment? Yet that is exactly what happened.

While relaxing one evening before bed I picked a book at random from my bookshelf, opened it to the middle and began to read. The book had been given to me as a Christmas gift some years before but I had never gotten around to reading it. The author described our relationship to Christ as falling within one of three broad categories. We could be whole heartedly sold out to God with Jesus sitting solidly on the throne of our life, we could be without Christ with Self sitting solidly on the thrown of our life, or we could be trying to serve two masters in some sort of unworkable compromise where Christ and Self share or compete for the throne of our life.

Now, clearly I had to be the first type of person who had Christ solidly enthroned in their heart. Nevertheless, I felt God asking if there wasn’t anything in the other descriptions that I could identify with. I had to admit that maybe I wasn’t absolutely sold out. I mean I certainly gave my life to God, but I have always had a project I was working on whether it was a hobby or a dream of starting my own business – that diverted my emotional energy and competed for my time. I had two wills – mine and the Lords, and I was submitting mine to his but not always successfully. So I made a radical commitment. I prayed that his will would become my will, so we would have only one will to work with. I set down my hobbies and my dream of resurrecting a failed business venture. He now had my time, my will, my emotion and my mind. That commitment would be tested.

In fear of revealing too much immaturity I will admit that having made this “radical commitment” I expected God to respond in kind by giving me some great awesome work to do in his name. You can imagine my disappointment when God instead directed me to passages of scripture that instructed me to rest in him, and that he is the one who does the work. I was his project, and not the other way around. Instead of feeling joy and relief at these scriptures I can actually remember feeling frustrated because I wanted something to do. I the teacher clearly had a lot to learn.

And so I was driving to work one morning praying the Lord’s Prayer. As I did, I became fixated on “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done…” I prayed that God’s Kingdom would come to those who don’t know him. I asked why our church hadn’t grown above the 50-70 member size it has always been, and I asked what I could do to help make it grow. I prayed that God’s will would be done and his Kingdom would come, and not our own wills. I told God that I wanted to build his Kingdom and I asked him what he wanted me to do.

Then God answered me. He answered with this question. “Whose Kingdom are you building?” What? What? Whose Kingdom was I building? I was totally unprepared for what God began to show me within my own heart and within Scripture. Indeed, I was entering a tempest.

Nicodemus recognized Jesus as a teacher from God and came to acknowledge him. But he was totally unprepared for the complete change in thinking required to understand Jesus’ message. Nicodemus was a well-respected Bible teacher and a leader in the religious organization of his day. He had given his life to God and no doubt thought he was already advancing the Kingdom of God. But from Jesus’ point of view however, Nicodemus didn’t even know what the Kingdom of God was and he hadn’t yet entered it himself.

Like Nicodemus many of us know the Bible and are leaders within our churches. We believe we are building the Kingdom and advancing the cause of Christ. Like Nicodemus however, Jesus showed me that many of us have lost sight of what the Kingdom of God really is and therefore much of our efforts have more to do with building our own kingdoms than they do His. This is a hard saying to accept, and it caused no small amount of turmoil within my own heart.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Great Men of God

Several weeks ago I told my wife that God had given me clarity that like Abram we had left Ur, but got stalled in Haran instead of going to Canaan as we had been instructed. To this my wife replied, “You’re no Abraham.” A few days ago someone asked me for the details about how we were going to accomplish the work that God has called us to. I replied that when God sent out Paul and Barnabas they didn’t have a detailed plan about everything that was going to happen. God opened doors for them after they obeyed and went out. To this I was told, “Don’t compare yourself to Paul. You’re no Paul.” I’m currently reading a book in which the author happened to interview a man who advocates polygamy. The man suggested one way to convince your current wife to support adding additional wives was to show that the “great men” of the Bible had multiple wives.

I’ve finally had enough of this nonsense about “great men” of the Bible. There are no great men in the Bible. Let me say that again. There are no great men in the Bible. There are only ordinary men who had a great God. Because of the greatness of their God, they led extraordinary lives. Throughout scripture God repeatedly sought out the humble, weak and unqualified through whom he could show his greatness.

Not yet convinced? Have you ever cared more about what other’s thought than being true to what you knew was right? Guess what, you are like Peter. He refused to eat with the Gentiles as soon as brothers from Jerusalem came by – and Paul rebuked him for his hypocrisy. Have you ever been filled with righteous indignation and attacked others, only to find that you were in the wrong the whole time? Guess what, you are like Paul. He murdered Christians and forced them to blaspheme until he literally saw the light when Jesus knocked him down on the way to Damascus. Have you ever had trouble accepting the failures of others and giving them a second chance? Guess what, that’s Paul again. He refused to take John Mark with him on his second missionary journey because the young man didn’t see it through on the first journey. Barnabas, the man who risked his life to give Paul a second chance had to leave Paul’s company in order to do the same for John Mark.

The Bible clearly tells us that the stories of men and women in the Bible are for our instruction. We are to learn from their mistakes, as well as take comfort that God can still use us when we fail, even as he used them when they failed. And we are to follow their good example and glorify God with our lives as they did.

So let’s not quibble about little or great men. We are all ordinary men. But we have a great God. Let’s rejoice in him, and allow him accomplish great things in us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

If I Were to Write a Book

While I am finding it hard to write about the past, I am praying for God's inspiration to write about the message he has given me - the message that will define the future. A while ago I made a post in which I listed possible chapter headings if I ever wrote a book. As I actually set down to write notes for each chapter I realized that I first needed to explore what the Kingdom of God really is before I can contrast it with the kingdoms we often find ourselves creating. Below are the current chapter headings. I've got at least some notes written for each section and Lord willing, will actually write this message down.




1. The Tyranny of Self
2. The Kingdom Within
3. The Kingdom in Community
4. The Kingdom in the World
5. Being vs. Believing, Knowing or Doing


6. Church Growth - Our Metric of Success
7. Teaching vs Discipleship
8. Religious Obligation vs Spiritual Desire


9. Has the Bible Become an Idol?
10. Leadership and the Church
11. Money and the Church
12. Church as a Business vs. Church as the Body of Christ


13. Looking at the Pharasee in the Mirror
14. Simply Be

I Can't Seem to Write

There's been a lot going on in my spiritual journey with some major changes about to happen, and yet I can't seem to write about it. I have several journal entries that I have tried to turn into blog posts but I simply lose interest in the attempt. Part of the reason is that writing is more work to me than it is a release. The biggest reason however is than most of these potential posts have to deal with the past, and I am bored with thinking about it. I'm ready to move on. I can't go forward looking back.

Just for fun however, I'll list some of the titles of these journal entries. Who knows, maybe one day I will turn one of them into a post.

My Own Post Secret

The Illusion of Unity

I Do Not Belong in Haran

I Hate Religion

Most recently, I can feel the Lord working to increase the grace and mercy I show others. I can see I've been more critical and judgemental than the pattern Christ is forming me into. Rather than tell you the types of situations in which I find it hard to show mercy and grace, I'll simply say that I'll be glad to be rid of a critical spirit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Its Not About House Church

As I sat at a table sharing a meal with men and women whom God has raised up as leaders in what are commonly called house churches, one man turned to me and asked, “How did you discover house church?” I paused for a minute and then answered his question. As I heard each of the others describe their own journeys I realized that I had been asked and had answered the wrong question.

I am very interested in house church or simple church, and may very well become involved in starting one. However, house church is not the message God has given me. I have not had a revelation of house church, nor do I champion simple church as the best model of church. In fact, I’ve become bored with the whole discussion about models of doing church. The message God gave me is valid regardless of the model or package that we put the church into.

So why am I so interested in house church? Because the men and women I’ve found who have heard the same message I have are the very ones that are starting house churches. Because the message I received has been rejected by the pastor of our local church without any appeal to scripture. Because God has told us that it is time for us to go, but is leading us not to find a new church home but to allow him to create a new one from the harvest. Because simple church offers the greatest hope for us to avoid building a kingdom unto ourselves and hence recreate the very thing God is calling us out of.

So what is the message I received? What is the message that has so shaken me and transformed my spiritual worldview? Here is my best attempt to compress it down to a 30 second sound bite.

Simply Be. To be what God is transforming me into. To yield to his touch and hold the form. To rest in him, be content in him, end striving, to hear his voice and be ready and willing to obey – even if I don’t see a big picture and I don’t take ownership of what God is having me do.

To see the Kingdom of God increase and our own kingdoms decrease. To see the reality of the Kingdom of God manifested not in doctrinal beliefs, Biblical knowledge or activities done in his name, but in who and what we are and are becoming in Christ. To disciple new believers instead of just teaching or preaching to them. To equip the body of Christ for ministry instead of making them dependent on our ministry. To cast off the shackles of religious obligation in order to embrace a life of walking in the spirit by faith. To honor the Word of God by letting it speak to us and mold us instead of speaking for it and molding it. To Simply Be.