Three years ago a trusted friend with a lot of experience in Africa returned from a summer long stay in Uganda. He began to tell me about a man he met who was willing to risk his life and endure incredible hardship to travel to South Sudan and share the Gospel. He was hoping our house churches would partner with this man to bring the Gospel to South Sudan. This was significant for us because a number of people in our house church network had long been feeling like our involvement in Uganda was for the purpose of reaching north into Islamic parts of Africa, but we’ve lacked a “how.”
Through a long series of circumstances we became very involved with this brother from Uganda (who I will leave nameless for security purposes). We became convinced of both his willingness and ability to share the Gospel and start churches in Africa. We also became convinced of his integrity and his genuine desire to serve. One of the unique things about this brother is he has renounced all forms of a title and position of privilege that are so prevalent in the African church and embraced meeting simply in homes with the converts that he is making in remote Muslim villages.
Last year a team of two men from our house church network traveled to Uganda to see first hand some of the work that is being done. Their report was extremely encouraging. Multiple house churches have been started among primarily Muslim and animistic people. Everyday people were being trained to build up the church into maturity. It was something we had been believing God for, but had not yet seen in our time in Africa.
We are continually being stretched because other needs in this house church network continue to come up. People are struggling with starvation, others are dying and not being buried, etc. We’ve sown a significant amount of money into our African brother to help him and his family while he received training for reaching Muslims. But as we’ve prayed and sought the Lord, we’ve sensed that our brother needs the churches that he’s planted to be strengthened to come up around him and stand with him, both in the ministry of the Gospel and in the material and physical needs of those around them. We strongly value long term sustainability, so while we can continue to send money to Africa, we feel like our best way to help is to empower those we know and love to provide for themselves. In addition, the men of this house church network want to provide for themselves and their families. They want to be able to sow into the work of the Lord themselves. It’s just hard to start from nothing.
Which is why I’m writing. Currently, my friend Josh is running a campaign to help raise money for some of the men in this house church network in Uganda. The money is not to support these men or their families. Rather, we’re hoping to pull together enough money to help each of them start a small, sustainable business. As each business gets up and running, we believe that the overall effect will be a much more stable house church network able to support our brother and others on apostolic missions beyond their borders as well as take care of some of their more immediate needs.
This is where you come in.
Would you or your house church (or heck, even your traditional church) consider helping one or more of these African brothers start a sustainable business? If you’d like to get involved, click here. It will take you to a YouCaring crowdfunding page where you can make a donation and read more about these future entrepreneurs. Also, we’d love it if you helped share our story so others can take part in the Gospel going forward and house churches being started across Africa.
Thanks for taking the time to read this story and for doing whatever part the Lord directs you to do!
Photo Credit: Ugandan House Church Network by Josh Hulme
“In 1937 Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave the world his book The Cost of Discipleship. It was a masterful attack on ‘easy Christianity’ or ‘cheap grace,’ but it did not set aside—perhaps it even enforced—the view of discipleship as a costly spiritual excess, and only for those especially driven or called to it. It was right to point out that one cannot be a disciple of Christ without forfeiting things normally sough in human life, and that one who pays little in the world’s coinage to bear his name has reason to wonder where he or she stands with God. But the cost of non-discipleship is far greater—even when this life alone is considered–than the price paid to walk with Jesus.
“Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yolk of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul…The correct perspective is to see following Christ not only as the necessity it is, but as the fulfillment of the highest human possibilities and as life on the highest plane.”
-Dallas Willard, “The Spirit of the Disciplines,” as quoted in Devotional Classics
“We ought to make the best possible use of God-given opportunities and should not waste our precious time by neglect or carelessness. Many people say: there is plenty of time to do this or that; don’t worry. But they do not realize that if they do not make good use of this short time, the habit formed now will be so ingrained that when more time is given to us, this habit will become our second nature and we shall waste that time also. ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much’ (Luke 16:10).”
-Sadhu Sundar Singh
A week ago I posted a private blog to invite a few folks to read about a project we are undertaking. Because I wanted feedback before I unveiled it to the world, I password protected it.
If you had wanted to read that post or if you want to read about how we’re helping a Ugandan House Church Network and how you can help too, you can now read the blog without a password. You can find it at the link below:
My wife and I were talking before bed a few nights ago. We were reminiscing about the day and she told me about one of the neighborhood kids that had come to our house. Now, it’s not unusual for a neighborhood kid to have made their way into our house. But today, there were several. So, we have a rule at our house: we read before we get any screen time. And because we treat the kids that come over the same as our kids, they were reading with her too.
The short version of this story is one of the kids that was over was the same age as one of our kids. As she read reading with him it became obvious he was significantly behind in his reading skills. SIGNIFICANTLY. Then she moved on to another great ministry opportunity that our daughter had as she walked one of the kids from our house back to theirs. It was obvious that the day was full of both need and ministry opportunities.
And that’s what got us talking. I stood their, almost in shock. I’ve told many friends about the ministry opportunities we see in our lower income, struggling neighborhood. They always seem blown away by how many opportunities we have to serve and love people. And yet, at the end of this day, I was blown away that people could be surprised either at the need or the amount of opportunities. Having lived in this neighborhood for almost a decade, both realities had finally sunk in.
I turned to my wife and said, “You know, if the Lord hadn’t called us to plant churches, I could easily spend the rest of my life going around recruiting believers and teaching them how to do ministry in an inner city context.” And we talked. We talked about how serving in our neighborhood is really easy. We just live life and love people along the way. We open our hearts and our homes. Needs naturally show up and we meet them where God gives us the ability.
We talked about the ministry that many try to do in our neighborhood. We talked about how Christians come to our neighborhood to serve and then leave. We’re thankful for their heart, but we know how they don’t really touch the true need here. How they don’t provide male role models for the boys that don’t have any. How they don’t teach the kids that don’t know how to read. How they don’t mentor the single mom who is stressed from working a job how to love and care for her kids. How they can’t show and sow the Gospel in a way that relates to the people, mostly because they can’t earn trust in such a short amount of time.
I’m not claiming to be an expert. I’ve had a ridiculously poor success rate at reaching people in my neighborhood. But I do see the need. And I’ve learned that I have more opportunities when I’m here more. The more I become part of this neighborhood, the more opportunities I have.
So I dreamed with my wife. I talked about going around to many of the other churches in my city and maybe even other cities to tell them about what I see: about the epidemic fatherlessness that is plaguing our inner cities; about the power that love and faithfulness can have on small children when they see it regularly and not once or twice or even 12 times a year; about how believers in Jesus can help. And then I would call them to come and live there. Notice I didn’t say do something. I would call them to come and live.
And as they live and experience life and pray about what they see, they would be able to respond to the Holy Spirit and meet needs where they could. They could become the guy that reads with a seven year old who should be farther along. They could work with the guy struggling to get off drugs or teach the 19-year-old who was never parented well how to drive her first car. And before they knew it, they would be sharing life and sowing the Gospel.
That’s when reality hit. As weird as it may sound, recruiting people to live in the inner city is not my calling. Planting house churches that embody apostolic Christianity is. So while I can do my part with those around me, spending my life recruiting others to live and serve the inner city would be stepping out of God’s will for my life. I can’t afford to do that.
But what I can do is say this: Some of you this will resonate with this. Some of you reading this will sense the Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder as I describe the need. Some of you already know that Jesus has been talking to you about this very subject. If that’s you, then my advice to you is to give in to Him. For most, that will mean selling your current house and moving to a needier neighborhood to do what I’ve described. I say “most” because the kind of ministry I’m describing is not a drive-by type of ministry. It’s not something you can do one Saturday afternoon a month. For most it will involve leaving one place and joining another. It’s a costly and time consuming process.
This is where many will start to argue with me. Having nodded your head through the entire post, you’ll immediately begin to defend your status quo. You could be right, God could be wanting you to be where you are to do ministry there. If so, let this spur you toward be awakened to the need around you. But be very clear that the Lord has called you in this direction. It’s always tempting to play it safe and call that decision “the Lord’s,” but my experience has been safety and the Lord’s calling rarely go hand in hand.
For those who have heard the Lord clearly enough to surrender the arguments, come join me, not in my city, but in the context of need that plagues our inner cities. God will meet us there.
I leave you with a quote from Theresa of Calcutta (better known as Mother Theresa):
Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right where you are…You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society – completely forgotten, completely left alone.
Have I told you I believe in dreams?
A few weeks ago I had another dream. It’s been a little while since I’ve had a dream I felt was significant enough to share. This dream was both significant, and, in praying it over, I felt like the Lord directed me to share it as broadly as I could. So here goes.
In the dream I was in a home that I remember from my childhood. It was in a small town with a very religious background. I was meeting with a house church in the home and two people who I know currently were meeting with the house church. This couple is older than me and I love and respect them both personally and in the Lord. However, in real life, several years ago, they were hurt by the church that they were part of and since that time have not been active any church, house church or otherwise.
We were sitting in a circle in the living room of this house talking about different things affecting this house church. The time was late. It was definitely dark outside, so we were probably meeting at 9:00 PM or even later. This wasn’t our normal time to meet. In fact, in the dream I knew that there had been a last minute re-arranging of our meeting time in order to make sure that everyone who was a part of our fellowship could be at the same place at the same time.
The problem was that it caused pain for some in our house church, particularly the wife of the couple I described earlier. This was compounded by the fact that I hadn’t done a great job at getting the information to everyone in a timely manner. My poor communication had caused people to make sacrifices to be there and it was inconvenient. As the conversation became more awkward, there was a knock at the door. That seemed odd because of the hour of night it was. I went to open the door and when I touched the knob, I woke suddenly from the dream.
Immediately after the dream ended, though, I had a sense of urgency that alerted me that this dream was from the Lord. Two verses immediately came to my spirit:
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
As I’ve prayed about this dream, I feel like it has serious consequences for the body of Christ. We are currently in a season when many people are walking away from the body of Christ and are trying to pursue Christ apart from other believers. Many share frustration with the politics and hurt they’ve endured from the body of Christ. And in many ways, I’m sympathetic toward their complaints.
But we are coming into a season where in the Earth where it will be crucial to be a part of the body of Christ in a true and connected way. And this will require us to love each other in ways that will be inconvenient. We (like the house church in my dream) will need to be intentional about meeting with other believers, even if it requires great sacrifice. While this is not the full scope of laying down our lives, it’s the initial step. It’s hard to lay down your life for another believer if you aren’t willing to be inconvenienced for their sake.
But I feel like their is a promise in the dream: For the people and churches willing to love one another and lay their lives down for each others, there will be others (the knock at the door in my dream) who will begin to see us and understand that we are the true followers of Jesus. This will be part of (but certainly not the only) way that we will reap the great harvest.
Friends, the days ahead will require us to be a part of true fellowship. This true fellowship will be costly. It will mean going out of our way to include each other. It will mean giving up our safety and preference to include others. But the reward at the end of the day will be a life full of love that is noticeable to the outside word. Some will see it and hunger for the reality of Jesus in our midst.
Will you join us? If you’ve left the church because of hurt or disappointment or fatigue, will you surrender your rights to Jesus and join a fellowship where you can lay down your life? If you haven’t left a church, but have kept your life as your own, will you surrender yourself to Jesus at a new level and lay down your life for your brothers and sisters? I guarantee it will not be easy, but it will be worth it.