Category Archives: Contextualization

Loving Muslims – Three Challenging Books to Read

One of the greatest challenges we have as servants to the nations is the ability to serve those who are of the Muslim faith. There are so many differing opinions on what is the right strategy and posture to take when approaching our spiritual cousins. Let me take a few moments to recommend three great books to read that will not only warm your heart towards our Muslim neighbors, but assist you in how to be a friend and servant to them.

  • The third books I would recommend is: “A Deadly Misunderstanding – A Congressman’s Quest to Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide” by Mark D. Siljander. Siljander shares his story of seeing Muslims as an enemy to a people who are seeking God and are open to learn from those who are also seeking to know God. His historic encounters with Muslim leaders around the world will encourage and enlighten you so that you can also be a friend of those who are Muslims in your neighborhood. You may find that many of them desire to follow Jesus and learn from Him. I had the opportunity to sit down with a few other friends and discuss his book and simple church several weeks ago. It was an honor to meet him. Be sure to check his website – A Deadly Misunderstanding.

These three books may be quite controversial to some, but I highly recommend them. They have certainly kept me from growing cold and disinterested in loving followers of Islam. In fact, they have helped me to be obedient by “loving my enemies” in a real tangible way as Christ has command us to do.

Simple Churches Doing Missions

As we begin to dialogue regarding simple churches doing missions, I would like to share a few things to lay a foundation for our discussions in the future. Recently at the 2008 National House Church Conference we held three sessions of the Missions Track. In our first session we discussed some foundation issues. Here is a summary of those sessions:

Session One: Why are Simple Churches suited for pioneer missions amongst the unreached and why is this the time?

We start with the assumption that simple churches as best suited for pioneer, frontier missions (the unreached) therefore now is the time to do it!

First, let me lay some foundation:

  • House/Simple/Organic Church: It is not about the gathering but our understanding of being the Church: relational, organic, and simple.
  • Unreached/Least Reached People Groups: A people group within which there is no viable indigenous church movement with sufficient strength, resources, and commitment to sustain and ensure the continuous multiplication of churches. To reach them is pioneer/frontier missions.
    • The world’s 6.3 billion people are made up of 11,259 people groups. 55% of them are unreached! (source: IMB) Note the chart below representing numbers of people groups, not individual populations. In regards to population less than 1/3 of the world’s population is unreached.

  • 10% Committed Christians
  • 20% Nominal Christians
  • 15% Non-Christians within reach of Christians
  • Unreached peoples – Out of reach
  • o   How many unreached people groups exist? There are 11,259 people groups in the world today. 4,729 are reached. 6530 of these people groups are unreached. (Source: IMB). These unreached groups have no viable, self reproducing indigenous church able to reach their own population.

    o   Where do these unreached peoples live? 97% of all unreached peoples live in what is referred to as the 10/40 window. 82% of the poorest of the poor live in this region,

    • Where do we (the Church) use our resources? Christians give $15 Billion a year to missions. How is that $15 billion distributed? (Source: David Barrett & Todd Johnson. 2000)

    • Where do we send Missionaries? According to Mission Frontiers Magazine (June, 2000) we see that most missionaries are going to the Christian world.

    Cross-cultural Missionaries per Million in major blocks:

    • Strategic Missions: Strategic missions is when the Church is following the biblical mandate that is summarized in these two verses:

    Matthew 24:14

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

    James 1:27

    “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress . .”

    • Closure: Closure is finishing the task. What will happen?
      • All nations will hear to the point that the gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the entire world as a testimony in all nations (ethne) and then the end will come.
      • The Bride makes herself ready. This is referring to the prophetic promise in Revelation 7:9-10 where we discover that great multitude consisting of all nations (ethne), tribes (phule), people (laos), and languages (glossa) standing before the throne in front of the Lamb.
    • What makes simple church the best tool in God’s hand to finish the task? In our recent discussion in Dallas at the National House Church Conference Missions track we came up with the following reasons during a brainstorming session:
      • Less baggage – not bound to traditional, denominational, institutional models
      • Able to move and respond faster.
      • Understands Simple Church life – since the churches planted in unreached areas are simple house churches who better to plant these churches than those who are already doing it?
      • More Appealing to Post-Modern and post-church cultures.
      • No Denominational administration – free of sterile policies and procedure, but organic.
      • Apostolic (DNA) – Workers sent with a message.
      • Makes Disciples rather than plants churches – When we make disciples, church happens.
      • Financial Ability and Flexibility
      • Realistic Accountability – relational not policy driven
      • No Overhead
      • Kingdom focused – not organization focused. Not “planting any flags” for a denomination or Missions organization. Plus the message is focused on the gospel of the Kingdom, and not a theological grid.
      • No Bottlenecks – Able to be more spontaneous and able to respond to God’s provenience.
      • Relational like other cultures
      • Reproducible – church is simple, and able to be done by anyone regardless of the amount of education. No seminary experts, big budgets, real estate deals needed.
      • Economical – less money is needed.
      • Open to Creative ideas
      • Team driven
      • No Clergy
      • Indigenous believers are empowered and released in their callings and giftings
    • We can Speed the Coming of the Lord! In 2 Peter 3:11-12 we read:

    “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. . .”

    As the Lord fulfills Matthew 24:14 with us in partnership with Him, we speed the coming of the Lord!

    This session ended with a testimony and discussion regarding doing missions locally and reaching unreached Muslim populations in the United States.

    Session Two and Three: How Simple Churches can do Missions.

    This session was mostly interactive starting with a brainstorming session talking about:

    1.       What do simple churches need to do in order to reach the unreached nations?

    2.       How do we accomplish these things?

    Here is a chart illustrating the results of this brainstorming session (each item does not necessarily correspond directly to the opposite item in the column):

    What We Need to Do: How we can Accomplish these things:
    • Cast Vision and maintain awareness.
    • Identify the people group to reach
    • Go/Send to make Disciples of all ethnic groups
    • Do research
    • Understand Cultures & cross-cultural communications
    • Mobilize our house churches
    • Pray for the unreached
    • Be led by the Spirit
    • Stay Informed
    • Do missions here cross culturally
    • Take short-term trips
    • Pray
    • Develop our simple churches into missional communities.
    • Hear God – Only do what we see the Father doing.
    • Network together with other simple churches
    • Get training – take “Perspectives” and the like.
    • Gather resources
    • Read missions books
    • Develop funding plans, collect $ and send to the need.
    • Develop Business as Mission opportunities
    • Train missionaries, or facilitate their training
    • Learn the Language
    • Develop Partnerships
    • Model simple church being missional
    • Prepare for Church Planting Movements at home.
    • Do research on the field via short term trips.
    • Learn and adopt successful strategies
    • Live simple lifestyles
    • Talk and get to know simple church missionaries

    We then heard several testimonies first from a missionary couple planning to go to Asia and their challenges in regards to securing a support network in a simple church network setting. We also heard more about a network of simple churches regarding how they were reaching the Muslim community in their city.

    The discussion carried over to the next day as we discussed the following process and how simple churches can develop into a missions movement reaching the unreached.

    Steps Towards A Mature Missions Movement in the Apostolic Simple/House Church Network

    Mobilization Stage

    Phase I. Training

    Phase I. Training
    1.       Provide training and learning experiences. Contact House2Harvest Network for more information.
    2. Begin to develop Strategic Components of an Acts 1:8 Church in your simple church and/or network. a. Prayer
    b. The Lord raises up a champion for the cause of reaching the unreached and fulfilling the desire to be an Acts 1:8 church.
    c.  Clear written strategic guidelines
    d.  Adopt a Least/Unreached People Group
    e.  Giving Plan, Funding Plan
    f.  Short-Term Trips
    g.  Events focused on serving the nations.
    h. Begin Servants to the Nations Preparation
    3. Develop Local Cross-Cultural Ministry/Outreach.
    4. House Church network sponsors further training, coaching and consulting in understanding missions. This can be provided by ministries such as House2Harvest Network.
    5. Key Leaders attend World Christian Perspectives Course offered through the U.S. Center for World Missions
    6. Constant reading of missions books and articles.
    7. Finish the development of the Strategic Components of an Acts 1:8 Church (see #2)
    8. Identify Servants to the nations in your House Church Network.

    Phase II: Planning

    Develop a plan to reach the UPG
    1. Identify other churches and networks that are targeting your adopted UPG.
    2. Develop a preliminary budget – measure your potential financial resources.
    3. Partner with other churches and organizations in the USA a. Conduct or attend a UPG consultation
    b. Coordinate prayer efforts and information
    c. Assess organizational capacity of partnering churches
    d. Determine level in which churches can partner
    e. Formalize partnerships and networks
    4. Identify National Churches that are potential partners
    5. Partner with key leaders in national churches
    6. Conduct a short-term research trip in a region where the UPG lives.
    7. Write out your plan to reach the UPG based on your research etc.

    Deployment Stage

    Phase III:Team & Partnership
    Phase III: Team, Partnership and Networking
    1. Develop a support mechanism for cross-cultural servants to the nations.
    2. Identify servants to the nations and missions organizations already targeting the UPG.
    3. Train Your Servants to the nations.
    4. Develop potential Apostolic teams (if this is part of your plan.)
    5. Identify strategic locations and partners working among the UPG.
    6. Get to know the Apostolic/CP teams you are going to support, partner and network with.
    7. Revise your missions policy statement if needed.
    8. Begin to develop your cross-cultural disciple making strategy.
    9. Evaluate the readiness of the apostolic team and/or servant to the nations you are sending
    10. Conduct a Pre-Field Orientation and then place the teams among the UPG

    Engagement Stage

    Phase IV: Making Disciples

    Phase IV: Making Disciples
    1. Apostolic Team finishes pre-field Orientation.
    2. Apostolic Team does (and/or finishes) Language and Culture Study
    3. Disciple Making Movement Strategy Formation a. Training
    b. Development of a plan
    4. Strategy Implementation begun a. Resources Mobilized
    b. Team is implementing strategy
    5. Initial converts discipled
    6. Disciple Making Movement oriented church(es) planted a. First church planted
    b. Second generation of churches launched.
    7. Churches reproducing spontaneously (3rd and 4th generations)
    8. Saturation church planting underway
    9. Celebration! UPG Reached – Other UPG’s Targeted by churches planted.

    Missions Movement is Underway!

    (You can download this chart here:steps-towards-a-mature-missions-movement-in-the-apostolic-house-church-network1

    This brings us to where we are now in this process, and your involvement in the dialogue. This blog site is designed to facilitate the networking of simple churches to accomplish their desire to be the church where people live, taking the gospel to the nations in your neighborhood, your nation, and to other cultures.

    The “TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION” listed to the right at the top of the House2Harvest Mission Weblog is where you can go to discuss specific topics and learn, network and discover from one another so that we can reach the nations together!

    I am looking forward to hearing what the Lord is saying through you.

    Cultural Baggage – What do we leave at home, and how do we leave it at home?

    One of the major concerns in missions is the historic tendency to influence cultures more towards who we are (Americans, Koreans, Westerners etc.) rather than the Kingdom of God. Jeff and Maria Gilbertson discuss this in an excellent post on this site under Training For Pioneer Missions. At Jeff’s suggestion, It would be good if we make this a topic of discussion rather than being buried in another thread. Let’s read it and then let’s talk about it!

    Here is what Jeff wrote:

    Dear All,

    If we are to be fruitful sending house churches / apostolic teams from the western world into the last remaining unreached people groups, I believe that we must look at the “unknown/unseen” baggage that most westerners will carry with them. My wife and I call it: “the White Man’s Burden”. (WMB)

    Simply put the WMB is: “the supposed or presumed responsibility of white people to govern and impart their culture to nonwhite people.”

    In an excerpt from a speech by William Jennings Bryan, a gifted speaker, lawyer, and three-time US presidential candidate, basically sums up the position that there is such a thing as a the “white man’s burden”.

    No one can travel among the dark-skinned races of the Orient without feeling that the white man occupies an especially favored position among the children of men, and the recognition of this fact is accompanied by the conviction that there is a duty inseparably connected with the advantages enjoyed. William Jennings Bryan — July 4, 1906

    This speech, made on Independence Day 1906, was not that long ago. You see in his own words that he is not joking and that he really believes that the white man has an “especially favored position” vis-à-vis, the dark-skinned. YUCK!!

    You can’t argue with success, Baby.

    “Success is probably the highest value in American life. It relates to so many other characteristics of American life — individualism, freedom, goal-setting, progress, experimenting, social mobility, making money, pragmatism, and optimism.” Stan Nussbaum

    We have seen the visible signs of this “burden” from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. As white missionaries enter poor nations they automatically, like “default mode” on your computer, enter in with ideas of how they can help, “What this country needs is . . .” etc. Most of the time they simply transpose what works in their country to the country they are in, with little thought to what is indigenous or reproducible at the local level.

    One example from our experience is the effort made to bring into a poor nation in Central Asia “solar ovens” that would help poor villagers cook meals so that they would not further deplete their scarce wood supply. Well, as things actually worked out, the solar ovens – which can be produced with local materials although the concept is foreign – are not being used to cook meals at all but are used by some to boil water for tea.

    I guess this is a “hybrid type” of success story but nevertheless the principle of “what worked for us is what will work for you”, carried on by the power of the WMB, still remains alive and well on planet earth!

    I have read of poor African nations almost being forced by Western governments to purchase huge farm tractors to jump start their “deplorable” economy. Well, a few years later the tractors are converted into “city taxis” and farming goes on as it has for generations. But now the country suffers under more debt to rich nations for purchasing the tractors in the first place.

    Your feedback would be much appreciated.

    Jeff and Maria Gilbertson