Why All This Attention on the Unreached?

Many years ago I became aware of unreached or least-reached people groups and it changed my whole view regarding my purpose and calling. I would like to share with you how this came about, but first let me give you a simple definition of the unreached (also called least-reached). According to Joshua Project and many others who have also embraced this definition, it is

“An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group”.

Now a people group is simply a group of people who have a common affinity with one another in which the gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding and acceptance (also from Joshua Project).

I was serving as pastor of a small church that we planted in 1983 in West Chester, PA. After about five or six years we began to prepare ourselves and others in the congregation to take a team into inner city Philadelphia to plant a church in the Kensington/Northern Liberties area of Philly. I enrolled in the Center for Urban Theological Studies in Philly (part of Geneva College) to hopefully prepare me for the road ahead. I had always had an interest in missions, and it was during that time that I subscribed to Mission Frontiers magazine. One of the issues I received contained a chart of all the unreached people groups in the world. As I began to read the over 7,000 names of these people groups from nations around the world I began to weep and desired to know more about what it would take to reach these who know nothing about Jesus, and no one is going to them to tell them about Him. I also had “ears to hear” when I read Matthew 24:14 which says:

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (NIV)

It was not long after that that I received and invitation to go to Indonesia and serve in the development of a recently established indigenous bible school. My strategy to go to the inner city and plant a church became pointless since there are thousands of churches in Philly, but my heart was now consumed with the fact that there were over 7,000 people groups that had no gospel witness available to them in the form of a church in their own language and culture.

Within two years my family (my wife and four daughters) moved to Indonesia to serve for the primary purpose of assisting the students of that bible school to focus their efforts on those people groups in Indonesia and other nations who have no gospel witness. Our adventure in Southeast Asia began and continues on to this day even though we do not presently live there.

Over the years, we have found ourselves involved in ministries overseas as well as here in the states that have reaching the unreached as their primary task. But lately, another passion has developed while serving in Asia assisting others to reach the unreached; and that is, seeing the church function in a more simple, organic way that focuses on making disciples. While training workers to go into the unreached areas of Southeast Asia we had to first “un-train” them regarding how to do and be the church and learn how to make disciples in a simple, organic way that fit the culture and understanding of the people they were reaching.

Upon returning to the states, I was “ruined” for church as I had always known and even served as leadership in the past. I longed for a more simple, organic expression focusing on making disciples rather than all the other “stuff” churches find themselves invested in.  So I began to familiarize myself with those who are part of the simple, organic and house church movements here in the USA. What a blessing to meet those who had come to the same conclusions as I had regarding church. But something was lacking: the zeal and burden for the unreached. This new direction caused me to be involved with many who have no present tangible desire to reach the unreached. Fortunately, I had met a few who were personally sacrificing and doing what they could to reach unreached peoples in India, China, and other nations, but these individuals are few, and congregation and networks are hardly nowhere to be found although I am sure there are some out there.

This is why in 2007 we started House2Harvest Network to serve, network and assist simple, organic churches and house churches to do strategic missions in order to finish the task of reaching all peoples with the gospel. Needless to say, the results have been slow. Unfortunately I have not been able to devote as much time as needed to accomplish our goals, but we are praying that this will soon change. I am still deeply moved when I read the list of unreached people groups, and I pray that our role in the near future will become more productive in seeing hundreds of teams from the simple, organic, house church movements take the gospel to these pioneer regions and begin making disciples where there are no disciples.

You can find the most recent list at: Joshua Project’s Unreached Listing

Will you weep with me!

Race With His Benediction

In the times that we live in, it is easy to drift away from the Lord and his direction in our life. We can get overcome by circumstances, disappointments and doubts. We can get caught up in theological debates, or trying to “do church” the right way, that we miss the basics. In our reaction against a system that can be abusive and controlling, we can easily enter into a state of self-centeredness and forget the call to reach those who have never heard the gospel, or have not heard the complete gospel of the Kingdom. The important thing is that we run and finish the race that our Lord has set before us.

Several years ago I heard this illustration (I forget the source, so I apologize if I get some of the details wrong.): During the Olympics in Mexico there was an amazing track and field event where a runner from Africa arrived to the finish line, which was in the stadium, long after the race was finished. He came limping into the stadium barely able to walk. He had fallen during the race and broken his leg. His arrival into the stadium was so late that everyone was packing up and cleaning. There were less than 1,000 folks left in the stands. The runner refused to stop and makes his last lap of the race around the stadium track. As he approaches the final turn, people stopped what they were doing and begin to applaud. Everyone left in the stadium gave him a standing ovation. Years later he was being interviewed about his experience in the Olympics. This runner, who was a poor farmer in Africa, was asked; “Why did you insist on doing that final lap around the stadium that day knowing that your leg was injured and you were the last to arrive, and it was very late? This humble African farmer answered; “My country did not send me to the Olympics to start and run a race, but to finish the race!”

Are we prepared to finish the race that the Lord has set before us? One of the portions of Scripture that speaks to me that helps me is that Psalm that is used many times in traditional services that speak a blessing over the congregation as a benediction. This is usually spoken at the end of a service, but it is really the Lords blessing over us as we are sent out with his blessing, his benediction! It reveals our Lord’s desire for his people.  In these short seven verses God reveals his heart for the nations and his desire to involve you in the process by blessing you.

Psalm 67.

v.1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah

The Lord give you grace and he blesses you like an affirming parent, looking at you with endearment. Why does he do this?

v.2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

He blesses us so that His ways will be known on the earth, this includes all nations. The result of this promise or this blessing is found in verse 3.

v.3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

The nations will praise God because his kingdom has come to them. Will you reveal Jesus to them?

v.4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.  Selah

v.5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

When this is happening, great things happen! Harvest will come!

v.6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.

v.7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

The race set before us is really the Lord’s race, and we run with Him to take his gospel to the nations and to our neighbors.  He blesses us to be a blessing to the world around us, not forgetting the nations. Are we willing to finish the race regardless of how we perceive our condition, or our position in the race? As a proponent of simple, organic church life, let us not forget our Lord’s purpose for blessing us.

What should we do? Where to do we begin? This is something we do together with those we fellowship and serve. Do you need help finishing the race? That is why we need one another, provoking one another in love to do the Lord’s will. If you or your fellowship needs some help in this area, I would be glad to correspond with you or come to your group and talk about it. May you be blessed to reach those who do not yet know Jesus! You can contact me at dondavis@house2harvest.org

Blessings to You!

Don

Networking Simple, Organic House Churches to do Mission

[This was also posted at The Dreaming Revolutionary]

Many who are involved in simple, organic, house church soon come to the conclusion that there is tremendous value in networking together. (I will be referring to this as “simple church” for the remainder of this article, but certainly include those who prefer to describe themselves as organic or house.)  How this networking is administrated is usually the sticky part. We don’t want to establish some hierarchy, a “good-ole-boys (and gals)” network, and head down the path of “death by institution.” But we do want to link together with our family in Christ to accomplish those things that may be too difficult for one simple church to do.

If you are involved in a simple church you know that there are many things that you can freely do now that was impossible to do in the more traditional or institutional church expression. But there are a few things that cannot be done in a small gathering by itself. That is one of the reasons why it is important to network. Some of these reasons would be; sharing the five-fold (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher) giftings in a region, building relationships from church to church for encouragement, training events, celebration events, fellowship and holiday events, and assisting one another through tough times and situations. I am sure there are others.

One of the greatest values of networking is the ability to pool resources, both financially and with members of the body to accomplish mission both locally and internationally. Now it is my conviction that mission is at the core of the church’s cause. Therefore it should not be such a strange thing to consider being missional, or doing missions or simply obeying Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all . . .”. The question is, how do we apply what we believe? Isn’t that where we usually have the most difficulty!

The networking of simple churches will lead to an increase of sending, and supporting mission teams. How do we do this? What will it look like? How do we guard from forming something that will lead us away from the main thing? How do we balance our intentional goals and dreams with the leading of the Lord as we obey him by doing only what we see him doing? These are not easy questions. They cannot be answered in a vacuum. As we seek the Lord together and dialogue regarding what we have heard and perceive we can come to some consensus and serve our Lord together in varying degrees of relationships. For clarification, when I speak of networking, I am merely referring to connecting together relationally to the point where we are willing to share resources, and ideas in order to accomplish the Lord’s will.

Therefore, I have an idea or a proposal that may help us accomplish this networking among simple churches. What if we had a “roundtable” face to face get together? Why do we need to do this?

Several reasons:

  1. To strengthen our relationships for the purpose of doing mission together.
  2. Learn about what we are doing in mission.
  3. Discover how we can improve what we are doing in mission via our networking and partnering relationships..
  4. Discover what is acceptable in regards to raising funds and mobilizing individuals for missions projects and sending teams.
  5. Establish some clear guidelines regarding how we can effectively fund the missions effort via simple churches and networks.
  6. Spend some quality time listening to what the Lord is saying (via prayer) to us regarding what we should be doing together.
  7. And I am sure there are other reasons.

This would basically be an informal roundtable/retreat setting, possibly over 2 days at most. Of course there will be some costs involved regarding lodging and facility, but I think we can secure a reasonable location. No dates are being considered yet. We have discussed this on the simple church and missions networking site: House2Harvest Network, and there has been nothing but a positive response to this idea. It would be great if you could share your ideas, concerns and such as we begin to make plans to have this gathering.

Please remember that there is no desire to gather a large number of people, but the right people. It will not be a preaching or presentation time, but dialogue, discussion and sharing what we are hearing from the Lord.

What do you think? Let’s share our thoughts together here are go to the House2Harvest site and reply in the forum section. You will have to join the network in order to interact with others on this topic and many more. Logistically we will not be able to cater to everyone’s geographic, calendar and economic preferences, but by the end of December we hope to have a time secured as well as a location.

So I put a shout out to any of you, if you have or know of a retreat center that is available at a very low cost that would not be difficult for folks to get to from throughout the USA please let me know. Also, if you would like to attend and there are some dates in 2012 that would be impossible for you to participate, let me know those dates as well. We will try to choose a date that fits the best. Reply to me personally if you would like at dondavis@house2harvest.org

Hope to hear from you soon!

Don Davis

Missions, Money and Simple Church

[For the sake of full disclosure, I have a selfish motive regarding this subject, I am involved in missions work traveling to Asia from time to time. My wife and I plan to do this in a greater capacity as soon as possible, therefore we are seeking more funding than we presently receive.]

Now with that out of the way, I want to share with you some of my observations regarding missions, money and simple church. (When I speak of simple church, that also includes organic and house churches in varying degrees) ].

One of the factors that convinced us to be more simple in our way of being the Church is that we do not have to raise funds to pay for buildings, big shots, programs, staff or parking lots. What a freedom to be relieved of these burdens. Of course most of our local mission to make disciples takes very little money at all; the cost of a cup of coffee, a meal, or just doing life together. The funds that are now available to us are certainly greater than before and we can be a blessing and help those who are normally forgotten, and left out of typical “church budgets.” Our income that is available in our simple churches and networks can do great things with just a handful of folks who give sacrificially, cheerfully and generously. (see the article: “Assessing The State Of Simple Churches In The USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing The Great Commission” by Steve Lyzenga for a thorough look at this subject). So what do we do with our money now? We certainly have needs that arise within our simple church or network that needs attention. I am making the assumption that you are already making sure that no one in your simple church lacks and that you are following the pattern we see in Acts when a need arises. Mission also includes taking the gospel to all nations (people groups), and some of these groups still have no access to the gospel. How do we fund these efforts to reach the nations?

Here are a few questions to ask yourselves as you seek the Lord’s leading in these areas:

In your simple/organic church how are you doing missions?

  • What about those who are connected with folks in the church who have not yet become believers but have material needs, how are you meeting those needs?
  • Are you seeking the Lord regarding how you can now use the funds you have to minister to those in the “household of faith” so that none among you lack?
  • What about the unreached, or out of reach nations? There are over 6000 nations (ethnic or people groups) who are out of reach and have no opportunity to hear about the gospel of the Kingdom. (For more information and statistics about unreached people groups go to: http://www.joshuaproject.net )
  • Since we no longer have up to 90% of our budgets going to serve ourselves, are we supporting apostolic servants of the Lord who have been called to these unreached groups?
  • Are we sending financial support to those who are training others who live near these people groups to reach them?
  • Are we funding apostolic leaders and teams to go into an area to make disciples of a few new believers in an unreached area that will train them to be disciple makers seeing churches planted among their own people?
  • Who is better equipped to go and make a handful of disciples in an unreached area and prepare these disciples to go and make disciples seeing churches planted? I believe it is those who are now function as part of a simple, organic church are prepared for this hour to reach the most difficult nations (people groups) around us. Are you seeking the Lord as to how He would have you do this?
  • Is your network ready to prepare a team to go to these unreached areas and send them with the proper funding, prayer and training?
  • Are you part of a regional network that can link together in order to accomplish more than one single simple church could? If not, are you willing to be a part of one and if there is not one to be the catalyst to start one?
  • If you are already sending teams to the unreached nations and/or serving the needy in your community, are you willing to share your story with others?

I challenge all who are involved in simple, organic churches and networks to seek the Lord regarding what you should be doing regarding taking the gospel of the Kingdom to the unreached nations as well as to those in need around you. Remember, Jesus said: “This gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations (people groups), and then the end will come.” Matt 24:14. Let’s remember that the purpose of the church is not for our needs, what we can get out it, but to reach out and serve the lost and fallen world around us. We exist for others, not for ourselves.

I would love to hear about what you are doing or plan to do as well as how you are processing some of these questions so that we can learn from your experience. One way you can do this is to go to www.house2harvest.com and then click on the “Relationship Room” link and sign up to be a part of a network of folks who are simple church folks interested in doing mission and tell your story. Or you could just send me an email and tell me your story (dondavis@house2harvest.org ) I have a feeling that more is going on than we know.

….oh, and by the way, regarding my selfish motives – if you want to partner with my wife and I or want to know more about what we are doing let me know and I would love to share with you what we are doing and what our needs are. Send me an email at dondavis@house2harvest.org or you can comment here.

Development of a Strategic Plan for Reaching Muslims in Hampton Roads, Virginia

I have posted a recent blog at The Dreaming Revolutionary regarding reaching Muslims in our region.

A few months ago we (several of us in Hampton Roads) held a forum on “Loving Muslims” which became a catalyst for trainings regarding reaching our Muslim neighbors. We then held a training on “Understanding the Muslim Worldview” where over fifty were in attendance. This led us to consider – what’s next?  Click here for more . . . .

Parts 7- 10: Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church

Final installment of the series (Parts 7- 10) Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church: http://wp.me/pc3Ln-3k

Part 6 of 10: Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church

Be sure to check out the continuing blog – Part 6 of 10: Becoming an Apostolic Simple, Organic, House Church: http://wp.me/pc3Ln-3g