Tag Archives: Simple Church

Simple Discipleship – Where to Start

[This post was first posted at my personal blog The Dreaming Revolutionary.]

Jesus said; “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (ethne).” This is our mandate known as the Great Commission. He went on to describe how that is done; “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Is that what we have done? If we have done discipleship at all, what do we do, and where do we start?

I have reviewed discipleship materials over the years, some good and some miss the mark altogether. What is usually missing is the part of making disciples that Jesus describes as “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Most discipleship is focused on what the believer needs to do. It becomes a list of tasks that the believer must do in order to be a growing disciple. As the believer progresses, he is then given a list of skills to learn to be an effective servant in the church, many times referred to as ministry skills. This leads to several problems that hinder growth and a healthy relationship with their heavenly Father.

When you disciple an individual focusing mainly on the development ministry skills, that disciple certainly knows what to do in service to the Lord. That is not where we should start; it is insufficient and builds the wrong foundation in the life of the disciple of Jesus. Instead, when you disciple an individual by using the daily life lesson the Lord brings to them in life, that disciple knows how to have a relationship with God and live life as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. This is where you should start and build from there.

The problem with skill based discipleship is that the Church is filled with people whose value is determined by what they do rather than who they are. Their identity is determined by a position in ministry rather than their position in Christ. Therefore you have a highly skilled church that has very little interaction with God and are susceptible to moral failure, chronic disappointment, and an inflated ego that serves self (“my ministry”) rather than others. The idea of a life based on the gospel of the Kingdom is considered to idealistic and unattainable.

The solution is to make disciples through relationships rather than academics; using their life experiences, tragedies, and victories of life. Life itself would serve as the lessons and the curriculum would be provided by searching the scriptures and determining what the Lord says regarding what is happening from day to day. By teaching the disciple to relate their situations to the Word of God and in the context of the gospel of the Kingdom, the disciple’s relationship to the Lord grows deeper and they are able to withstand life in this fallen world in victory and be an example of a disciple of Jesus.

Merely teaching skills such as how to pray, read the bible, conduct a bible study, and even to the level of skills required in most local church positions robs the disciple of the foundation needed to maintain a real relationship with the Lord. It causes whatever relationship that is developed with Jesus to be based on being a servant of God rather than a friend and child of God.

Training and preparing disciples in ministry skills is important and should not be neglected, but it should never be considered the goal of discipleship. Discipleship’s goal is to transform our lives so that we are like Jesus, imitators of Him, obedient to Him. This must be in the area of how we live, our character and how we respond to life and apply the truth of His Word to those situations. Therefore we must be able to hear the voice of our Lord.

Another mistake is creating a dependency on curriculum and other materials to make disciples or to be a disciple. There are thousands of workbooks, manuals, study guides that have been developed for the purpose of discipleship. Though the content of many of these books are sound and worth reading they can never replace the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord firsthand and go to his word and hear him speak to you and teach you his ways. When we depend on curriculum, the believer becomes dependent on external sources for guidance and teaching rather than developing the hearing ear that knows the voice of his shepherd. This is imperative to the new disciple and cannot be put off to a future time.

In discussing discipleship with leaders in the context of simple church, I am usually asked; “What curriculum do you use?” When I state that we do not use any curriculum except the Bible and the life of the believer I usually get that glazed over look of puzzlement. I usually remind them that the new believers in the book of Acts had no Navigators booklets, no Master Life, no Kay Arthur, and no Bill Bright; but they still made disciples! Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for all of these resources. All we need is a kitchen table, or couch or a local eating establishment and we are ready to grow together as we discuss our lives together and draw from the truths in God’s Word.

So what do we do? Start with the basics. What someone gives their life to the Lord – believe it! What I mean is, believe that the Lord is now over their life and what happens is the Lord’s. He IS governing their life and that life IS their schooling. By using the curriculum of their life and the resource that gives life – the Word of God, they have a foundation that can withstand whatever comes their way. Not only that, I doesn’t cost a cent! You don’t need to buy books, furnish a classroom, build and education wing or hire a professional Bible teacher. It is that simple.

Now let’s get started! Go and make disciples!

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A Three Stranded Cord

Yesterday I met with a few guys that I meet with regularly to stir up vision, maintain some accountability, and simply dream together. When we get together we usually talk about how we can serve our Lord faithfully and help the body of Christ here in our region of Hampton Roads Virginia become focused on the unreached, make disciples and be more missional in house/simple churches. Our conversation yesterday focused on the combination of three major aspects of what the Lord is speaking to his Church around the world.

They are:

  • Having a simple, organic church life.
  • Focusing on unreached people groups in mission – being pioneers in mission.
  • The 24/7 prayer movement – becoming a people of prayer seeing the house churches equipped to become houses of prayer.

What we discovered as we talked about this these three aspects of the revolution within the church is that we need to be sure that we steer away from the institutional traps and hierarchal bondage, hype and turning the work of the Kingdom into a business plan, self-serving ambition and wanting to “plant our flag”. It seems that these three threads of the Lord’s leading could become a “three-stranded cord” that will facilitate the making of disciples as never before. What do you think?

Another observation from yesterday and our regular meeting every week is that we need to meet together with a few good brothers or sisters in Christ and allow the” iron to sharpen iron” in order to keep us in check. It is so easy to fall back into the patterns of the old carnal life as well as the religious life of Christendom. We need each other to be sure our steps are “ordered by the Lord and that he would delight in our ways.”(Psalm 37:23) So, here is another three stranded cord, a “band of brothers” or as Neil Cole calls them “Life Transformation Groups.” The Word says that a three stranded cord is not quickly broken! (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

If you do not have a few fellow servants of the Lord to hang out with and be honest with your struggles and your ambitions, your ability to walk in integrity will be hindered. As the Lord leads you to make disciples of all nations – be sure that you are being discipled as well. You are never so mature that you don’t need someone provoke you to do the will of the Lord.

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 Part 2 – Keeping Missions Simple

In my previous post I discussed a very involved process regarding doing missions, specifically when reaching into the least reached regions, among the unreached peoples that still need to know about Jesus. After posting it I realized that “man, that’s not very simple is it!” (Thanks to a few comments from some folks.) But really it is. Here are a few ways we can keep missions simple;

1.       Only do what you see the Lord doing. The process takes time (the chart in my last post could take 5-20 years to accomplish reaching a people group). So go slow and listen to the Lord as you go doing what He is doing and not being driven by a program or plan.

2.       Network with other simple churches. It’s not all your or your house church’s responsibility to know and do everything. This is why we need to network.  It may be that your house church may take on just one element of long list of what would need to be done.

3.       Take personal responsibility. Simple churches are fluid. They may meet together for a short period of time or for years. Take what the Lord has revealed to you to accomplish with you wherever you go. Be a champion for reaching that unreached, least reached people group.

4.       It’s not our work; it’s the King’s work. Continually remind yourself that it is the Lord’s work. There is a delicate balance between being sensitive to the Lord’s leading, carefully following Him, and taking the “bull by the horns” and making it happen. It boils down to obedience, not ambition or strategies.

This may not be exhaustive – if I continue with the list, it starts to get too complicated.

We need to know what we are doing, and the scope of the “big picture”, but we also must keep it simple.

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.

    Do the Dialogue – Your Comments are Treasure!

    This is just a reminder that the articles here are for you to not only read, but post your thoughts, testimonies and ideas. (See list of posts on the right) Don’t worry about being redundant or brief. This will help us get an idea of what everyone is thinking in regards to House2Harvest Network and its formation.

    So read through the previous posts and jump in and share with us your ideas, plans, experiences, concerns etc. We only have one month till the conference (2008 National House Church Conference, August 28-31), so let’s get some more treasures from your experiences and ideas.