Category Archives: 3.2 Strategies

Simple Church Adopts an Unreached People Group

[This is a great report from Norm who is a part of House2Harvest Network]

The S. people are refugees forced to live in the desert for the last thirty eight years.  In July and August the roads, where they do exist, get hot enough to melt-down the tires on a car!  Water and food is shipped in by the United Nations.  Most of the men go off either to fight to regain their home land or find work in Spain.  There are about ten national believers in Jesus among the more than 167,000 who live in the camps.

In January 2008 I met a businessman who took a bold leap of faith.  He asked me how much it would cost to prepare and send a worker to an unengaged unreached people group who were oral learners.  I quickly responded with a conservative figure of $30,000 a year.  He responded by saying, “I want to cover expenses to send a team for two years.”  This gave us the capital to begin looking for a people and a team to send them to.  The Lord led us to the S. people.

At the end of the Labor Day 2008 House2House congress I ran into a couple who attended a few of the missions tracks.  While we were talking the Lord knit our hearts and I was able to give them some counsel regarding the call they were feeling.  I never mentioned the S. people.  A few months later Wayne* called me back asking that I mentor them because they have had a burden to work among the S. people.  Wow!

Wayne and Elizabeth* are simple church people in Texas and help lead a network of churches.  They are both around thirty years old.  They traveled among the S. people but now wanted to live with them.  In their network was another couple who soon joined them in their vision.  In November Wayne and Tom* traveled to the refugee camps where the S. people live, to begin the process of relocating their young families.

Since then we have had a few singles share the vision with the thought of joining the two couples.  The vision is simple…  teach English (much desired) in the schools already set up…  develop loving relationships as they learn about the people…  craft Bible stories into the local language with the help of a national…  enable the people to tell these stories to one another as is normal in an oral tradition culture…  develop inductive questions for each story which the people would discuss…  form the people into groups to worship the Lord and build each other up in the faith…  PRAY.  We have an expectation that the work the Lord is sending us to do can be completed after two years.

To help this vision we have developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which enables us to all be on the same page. (I am a firm believer in putting things in writing).  Mentorship is underway and the team will soon be going through various training, including Elijah Company missions training (www.elijahcompany.org).  We are also helping by drilling wells and constructing an agricultural system which could be used to grow food in the desert.

There are risks involved in everything and there is a risk involved in this also.  But when I take into account that big agencies are seeing returns of 50-60% of the people they send, I am thinking there is something wrong.  On the other hand, there are strengths in the sending of people from an organic relational church.

Firstly, those going have been discipled and know how to disciple in the crucible of close relationships.  They know how to do ‘church’ as in magnifying the Head, the Lord Jesus, in the midst of each other.

Secondly, they know how to enter the homes of simple people who may never have the opportunity to attend seminary or have a church building.  Their clusters will be in huts and tents experiencing the anointing of the Holy Spirit as each member does his work.

Thirdly, the resources that normally go to pay salaries, do programs and maintain buildings will now be directly available to reach the unreached people.

Fourthly, they will not be easily forgotten by their sending fellowship because each will have heard the Holy Spirit speak saying, “set apart for me…  for the work I have.” (Acts 13:1-2).  Ownership of the team by the church will be great because they are close family.

For the S. people the story has just begun!  We expect the team to be in the camps within the year.  I am in the process of selecting twelve more unengaged unreached people groups and securing the resources to send teams to them.

The adoption of the S. people by the simple church network illustrates the possibility of replicating the same with others of the 639 unreached people groups.  The House2Harvest network has resources for training and mentorship in culture, strategy, prayer, personal preparation, business and more.  It is composed of people who have been on the field and are now called by God to be part of the sending process for others.

If you would like to know more about the 639 unreached people groups and how your simple church can be involved in sending or going, contact us at the House2Harvest Network or contact me personally as well as Steve or Don.

For the Lord of the harvest,

Norman J. P.

*Names have been changed for security reasons.

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Converging Towards a Tipping Point

There is a convergence happening beyond our imagination. This convergence goes beyond academic or theoretical discussions, but to the point of actually doing the work of the kingdom of God. Those who are part of House2Harvest Network are an interesting group of people. These are folks from from all over the world with various interests and experiences. But one common thread has brought these simple/house church people together, that is taking the gospel to peoples of the world that have never been reached. This is exciting! In the last few weeks we have seen several great discussions started which are still continuing. Now let’s consider what comes next: actually connecting with one another to accomplish missional endeavors.

House2Harvest Network has been online since early November, 2008. We then updated the networking tool of the site to include the “Ning” site in early February, 2009. There are presently 76 members of the network, with about 20 who still have not made the transition from the old networking website system. We can make a tremendous difference towards the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14; to take the gospel of the Kingdom to every people group in the world. There are more than 6,000 of these groups that are still waiting to be reached. The task is not too great, but it will take your partnering and networking with folks on this network and beyond to bring it to pass.

God has brought about the convergence of a family that is simple church, and missions minded to love His creation in areas of the world that still do not know him. This convergence is approaching a tipping point that will cause several of you to establish partnerships with one another so that synergy will arise and the gospel will reach into the most difficult areas of the world. This will be done as you connect with one another to accomplish ministry ventures, businesses for mission, community development and just simple missionary work.

One example of this is aquaponics. Several of us have been researching this tool to see how we can serve the poor, develop business models for those in needy areas, as well as business models in urban areas where we live. What is aquaponics? It is basically the merging of aquaculture and hydroponics. For more information about aquaponics, go to the “Aquaponics Group” on the House2Harvest Networking site. Here you can enter into a discussion on doing aquaponics and partnering together. If you Google aquaponics, you will get all kinds of information.

Imagine several members of the network catching the vision and then partner together to:

  • Take it to poor villages around the world.
  • Set it up in orphanages for food source and income.
  • Bring it to areas where simple church folks can use as a business model for income.

At present, those researching aquaponics are in the “dreaming” stage. They are now ready do secure some funding, get some training, and build some prototypes.

If you have firsthand experience regarding aquaponics, be sure to go to the House2Harvest site and join the Aquaponics group and share your experience with others. Who knows, we may even see house churches from around the world partnering together providing fresh fish and vegetables to their neighbors and those in need.

This is just one example of how this network can converge on a project, a ministry, a task, a strategy to reach the nations. The tipping point is at hand!

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.

A Shift in Definition of Unreached People Groups?

Do we need a new definition for the people groups that are unreached? Has this term been so misused that it must be redefined? Should the shift in our understanding of church, ecclesiology and mission reflect in this definition, not to mention our actual practice when reaching the unreached?

Here is the classic definition that many as well as I have been using: “An unreached people group is a people group or ethnic group, within which there is no viable indigenous church or churches with sufficient strength, resources, and commitment to sustain and ensure the continuous multiplication of churches.”

Here is my proposed new definition –

“An unreached people group (nation/ethnos) is any people group where there are no followers of Jesus who are making disciples within their own people group.”

I think it is time to change this definition. My reasons for this is that this new definition:

  • Kingdom of God Focused. It will deter those who are doing missions in order to promote Christianity or their brand of Christianity rather than relationship and submission to Jesus Christ as king. There are several attempts of large denominational missions organizational to define the unreached as being those who are not aligned with them theologically, organizationally or historically (see the example discussed here – http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/when-the-reached-are-unreached). In reference to my own experience, I was serving with a large church in an Asian nation several years ago which was made up of a major ethnic group within that nation. At the time this ethnic group was listed as unreached by a large missions organization. After corresponding with them, it was concluded that this ethnic group was on the list because there were no churches of their “brand” among them. This was arrogant and sectarian at least. As this error continues, it justifiably brings the unreached people group strategy to question. Possibly an adjustment to the definition of unreached will deter this self-gratifying strategy of building one’s own kingdom within a people group will be exposed and possibly thwarted.
  • Acknowledging all followers of Jesus. Many are ignoring the huge numbers of followers of Jesus that have chosen not to align themselves with historic or organized Christianity, evangelicalism or denominational organizations. This definition will include them in the body of Christ, though separate from organized Christendom.
  • Focuses on making disciples. This new definition emphasizes the mandate from our Lord to make disciples rather than plant churches. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded to plant churches, but to make disciples. Jesus builds his church – and he can do it without the help of human organizations. Simply, when disciples of Jesus are being made, church happens! The beauty is when it does happen, Jesus is the head, and the community of believers continue on the context of their culture rather than becoming an oddity or foreign.
  • A simple, organic definition. This new definition is based upon the organic and simple multiplication of disciples through the means of relationships. This will focus reaching the unreached on knowing Jesus rather than militaristic strategies, marketing schemes, or tactics to convert from one religion to another (rather than relationship with Jesus). There will be little chance of misunderstanding the intention of the gospel messenger that many times sees them as a foreign threat that may bring colonialism, foreign religion, cultural destruction or worse, but plainly introducing the simple gospel of the Kingdom of Christ by lifestyle and dialogue.

After walking through a huge paradigm shift in my own life and way of thinking I have grown more and more uncomfortable with the definition (see above) for the unreached peoples and other similar versions.

Now I am not naive to the point that I think the “big guns” will immediately change their definition of the unreached. This would mean that their strategies will be reexamined, their methodologies will be in question and the “main thing” will be changed from planting churches to making disciples.  But I do hope that as I change my vocabulary to match what I strongly feel the Lord is saying to his people in these times, it will bring greater clarity and mission in my own life.

What do you think?

Being Friends With Refugees

One of the Strategic Church Network (our regional simple church network focused on missions in Hampton Roads Virginia) house churches has begun to make friends with several refugee families from Myanmar (Burma). These families just arrived in the USA a few months ago. This is such a strange country for them, and this house church is sharing the love of Jesus with these families. Teaching them English, helping them find jobs, assisting with the medical needs and showing them how to live here in the USA.

But more than that, these followers of Jesus have become best friends and even family to these Muslim refugees. (See there blog at Servinghrrefugees) Doing far more than could ever be done through an institution or program. They go and spend time in the homes of these refugees, eating, laughing, and just being friends with them.

The amazing thing about this is that there are thousands of refugees in cities and communities here in the USA, but they have very little contact with the Body of Christ. In fact, most churches only want to work with Christian refugees! Did you know that in 2008 that over 60,000 refugees came to our Nation for asylum. Most of these refugees come from areas of the world where it is very difficult to send followers of Jesus to love and serve them. The Lord is bringing these least reached peoples to our cities so that those who follow Christ and his teachings will reach out to them and show his love to the strangers in our land.

Do you have refugees in your community? If so, this is a great opportunity to reach the nations without ever leaving home! Now go and be a friend to those who are without a country! If you need some help, let me know!

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.

    To Fund or Not to Fund Indigenous Workers and Projects

    There has been a little discussion regarding the funding of indigenous missionaries with western support off the blog via email so I thought it may be a good topic to bring to the forum here on the blog. Let me suggest two books that can help in this area. These books are a must read in regards to this issue, and they balance one another out quite well. They are: When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement by Glenn Schwartz; AuthorHouse 2007; and To Give or Not to Give: Rethinking Dependency, Restoring Generosity, & Redefining Sustainability by John Rowell; Authentic Books 2006

    We as westerners are so blessed financially that that we desire to be a blessing in areas where funding is lacking. But this causes concern as discussed in both of the above mentioned books. The first problem is when we give without considering the repercussion it can develop an unhealthy dependency upon the more prosperous portions of the Body of Christ which leads to a “colonial” type of relationship. What I mean by this is that we give generously and then put restrictions on the recipients and force them to be subject to our goals and standards. This can get even more complicated as time goes on. Second problem or “other side of the coin” (pardon the pun) is that if we do not consider the blessings in which the Lord has given us and use these funds to spread the gospel through our brethren’s efforts in other parts of the world we tend to become stingy.

    Jeff Gilbertson shared in an email a quote from the Acumen Found CEO/Founder Jacqueline Novogratz;

    “Dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth.”

    Jeff also refers to Schwartz when he states;

    The healthiest parts of the Christian movement are those where local believers know the joy that comes from supporting the work to which God has called them, governing their own ministry and caring for their own outreach. They can then justifiably feel ownership of the calling they have before the Lord.”

    To illustrate the conundrum, I recall John Rowell sharing at the recent UPG Consultation in Dallas the story of when he was meeting with some national leaders in an eastern European nation and some western church leaders. The western church leaders were wanting to inform the eastern European brethren that it was now time for them to grow up and take care of their works with their own resources. The illustration that was given was that the western brothers had taken care of them as a father cares for his children and it was now time for them to step up to maturity. The eastern European brothers replied they were not their children, they have only one father and we eat from the same table. All they ask is that the brothers from the west “pass the potatoes.”

    As you can see this is not an easy subject. I certainly cannot cover both sides of the issue here, and I would recommend that anyone planning on funding indigenous workers and projects take careful steps so that when that funding ends (or begins) that the Kingdom of God is advanced. There is no reason that these two opposing sides of the issue should be at odds, but that the issues they raise will cause us to act with wisdom and generosity.

    The Lord has a solution for every one of the issues that funding indigenous workers may create. We must rely on His wisdom as we venture into other cultures and assist them in reaching the ethnic groups around them. That is why we must keep a open ear to the Lord through prayer and study of His Word. It would be foolish to depend on” doing what we always do” when we do missions in other cultures and economies. There is no pat answer for all situations, but there is the promise of wisdom when we ask for it, for we will surely need it when we partner with brethren from other cultures to preach the gospel of the Kingdom.

    Any thoughts? Wisdom? Ideas?