I have spoken and written about the following statement over and over in many different ways:“Simple church is not about ‘doing church differently,’ rather it’s about a way of life, the Jesus way of life, and supporting that way of life through simple, organic gatherings.”In other words, the “way of life” really is the primary focus while the structure, format, or type of gathering is completely secondary. Our communities/gatherings must consist of people who are living or learning to live dynamic, purposeful, intimate, prophetic, missional Christian lifestyles rather than just being house-sized containers for passive Christians to gather in.
Tom Sine, in The New Conspirators, comments: “We are concerned that fewer than 10 percent of the believers we work with in North America have any time outside of home and church to work in ministry with others.”
I am concerned that meeting simply and in houses has not actually changed this. We are spending less time in church meetings and programs, but has this really translated into more ministry outside the walls? Has our way of life changed?
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Roger Thoman is Re-Thinking House Church and has a good warning "of just 'doing church' rather than living out the type of ministry and lifestyle that Jesus modeled."
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I wonder how many Christians identify faithfulness to Christ as faithfulness to church services/programs. Kirk Wellum presents The Need for a Grander Vision.
Although this model of church life is presented as "biblical" I worry that it represents what might better be called a "pastor-centered approach" to church life which is something less than biblical. It tends to reduce Christianity and church to participating in church services and programs. The idea that "cultivating the priority of the local congregation in the lives of individual members will help curb our selfish individualism and cultivate an attitude of humble servanthood" is self-serving and reductionistic. It is true that this is one way to produce humility but it is by no means the only way that God humbles his people. And this is one reason why I think this model of church life is becoming less attractive and less satisfying to many Christians.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Alan Knox writes about Discipleship by Example:
Modelling and example ... are a major aspect of biblical discipleship - of teaching people what it means to live as a child of God. Notice that throughout Scripture we are taught to follow those who actually live as a child of God, not those who speak about or teach about being a child of God.
Of course, in this idea of discipleship by example, there is a built in assumption: the people involved in the discipleship relationship must have access to one another's lives. Furthermore, this access can't be a surface level access. This type of discipleship requires sharing life together, both the good times and the bad times, both the high points and the low points, both the good examples and the bad examples.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Todd Ahrend writes about Finding Your Role in World Evangelization. The title is a little misleading. The article is not so much about specific roles that different people can play as it is about missions-related habits that we can all cultivate to some degree.
Ingrained in the minds of many Christians is the idea that to be involved in mission work means one thing only: living overseas long-term. This is an unhealthy way to approach missions because it excludes most people. Even those that go long-term will eventually come home and need to appropriate their vision in another way. If it is an attribute of God to desire the redemption of all nations, then it must be cultivated into every one of His followers as an attribute. That is why it is vital to the Church that other avenues of involvement are explored. The following five habits are not to be viewed in terms of "which one is for me?" The idea is that a person who prioritizes God's global plan will do all or most of them.
The main habits are:
Sunday, April 13, 2008
David Fitch and Jamie Arpin-Ricci have Some (helpful) Church Planting Talk. Here's a summary of Fitch's advice for church planters:
DON'T DO IT ALONE. In today's post-Christendom, I believe you must have at least two other couples or single people to be ministry partners in this, equally committed to the leadership and development of this little community over a span of five years.
HAVE A VERY CLEAR UNDERSTANDING THAT MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES require several years to germinate, and so success will not be measured by numbers. That the real incredible stuff happens after fostering a life together of support, encouragement and discernment of where God is calling you to minister in the neighborhoods.
HAVE A SURVIVAL PLAN. Finances and visions of grandeur destroy church planters, their health, marriages and well being. Live simply, have a way to support yourself that is sustainable (bi-vocational maybe?). Plan so finances won't be a huge drain on you all the time.
LEAD THROUGH HUMILITY, GRACE AND MODELING SERVANTHOOD. Always be ready to minister prayer and the forgiveness of Christ. Don't be afraid to show anyone the way of dying to self that leads to life, even the poor.
INVEST IN OTHER LEADERS walking with them, praying with them, guiding their imaginations towards God and His Mission. This multiplies ministry exponentially.
MAKE REGULAR TIMES OF PRAYER (that can last at least an hour - say on a long walk) out of which you struggle to give up your dreams and allow God to work in whatever small seeds you're planting that day. You'll look back in 5 -6 years and can't believe what God did.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Sinclair Ferguson on Christ-glorifying preaching:
When an undergraduate, I remember reading [C. S. Lewis'] book A Preface to Paradise Lost (on Milton’s book). And that wee book is not a well-known book of Lewis’s, but it is a great wee book with some stunning quotes.
In that book Lewis discusses what I had noticed in the kind of discussions as a student: Why is it that in Paradise Lost, if you ask who the hero is, just in terms of the literary power, Satan turns out to be the hero? And the literary critics had discussed this a good deal. But Lewis said it very simply. He said it’s far easier to portray evil than it is to portray perfect good.
And the more I thought about that, the more I realized: For preachers it’s much easier to seek to bring about conviction of sin and expose sin than to magnify and glory in the Lord Jesus.
Friday, April 04, 2008
It was very good to read the article on One-to-One Ministry by Tony Payne. It would be great to see this (and triads) become more commonplace in the church.
A concluding challenge:
While both large public meetings and small groups do provide teaching and encouragement that is applicable to each individual, they cannot possibly be as effective as one individual meeting with another. Here the word of God can be applied to the unique situation of each person; topics can be addressed according to each person's stage of Christian growth; the gospel can be shared personally with someone who is not yet Christian; and prayer can be focused on the individual's concerns and needs as they relate to God's kingdom.Payne defines this ministry as follows: "It is forming a relationship with another individual for the purpose of mutual growth in Christian understanding, obedience and service of others.
A concluding challenge:
There are few more pressing and strategic avenues of Christian work than one-to-one ministry. Yet many Christians sit in churches week by week thinking, “There's nothing for me to do in this church. I just can't get involved. All the jobs are taken.” This is akin to sitting on a battlefield with a gun in your hand and the enemy on all sides and saying, “There's nothing for me to do. All the sergeant's and captain's jobs are taken. Until someone specifically invites me to get involved, I guess I'll just have to remain a passive onlooker.”
All around us in church are individuals floundering or stagnating in their Christian lives. With an open Bible, a prayerful heart and a willingness to share our lives with others, we have all the weapons we need to have an enormous impact on other's lives.
Can you see the possibilities?