Whenever I talk to believers across the country I often hear a similar sentiment among those who want to be a part of an organic house church: “I’m looking for a house church, but I can’t find one in my area, so I’m just waiting to connect with one. I can’t handle church as it exists.”
I’m sympathetic towards people in this spot. I really am. But I’m also often worried about folks who say things like this because hidden within that statement are two harmful ideas.
The first is the idea that the perfect church is something that emerges that you don’t have to contribute anything to. In reality, true church is built on everyone participating and growing in Christ as they interact with each other. Waiting until organic church appears means you’ve been disengaged in building up the church. My experience is this disengagement carries over into organic church. The same internal mechanisms that caused you to wait for a house church to appear is the same mechanism that will cause you to sit back and watch others participate in the house church. This is a limited “win” at best.
The other idea built into this comment is that is harmful is the idea that the church is a meeting or gathering. It’s not. The church is redeemed people who follow Christ, regardless of what form we meet in. So, you can’t find a group of believers meeting in a home, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t gather with other believers, encourage each other to follow Jesus more faithfully, and even share your faith. If you’re doing this, you are actually already part of a church! These Christians may be a part of other congregations. That’s okay! Jesus loves when Christians act as one church, not as many segregated ones.
So don’t wait! Meet with other believers, whether they are part of an organic house church or not. No, the believers you meet to get together with won’t be perfect. They probably won’t understand you perfectly. But God calls us to care for the church, even when they aren’t perfectly like us. We’re to strengthen the weak, rejoice with the strong, and weep with those who mourn. It won’t be perfect but you will be contributing to others and they will be encouraging you. Or, as the writer of Hebrews says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
If you haven’t noticed already, I have a deep appreciation for the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There’s so much to learn from his life and his musings about Christianity and the church. Recently, I’ve been reading his work “Spiritual Care,” so you should anticipate from time to time an extra post with a quote from this book.
A huge part of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on spiritual care revolve around the church having people who practice confession of their sins. To that end, I stumbled across this quote:
Sin is, in every instance, something quite concrete. It must be recognized and identified by name. Only the demon which is called by name departs. The word of grace cannot be proclaimed and accepted when a person lives in unrecognized and undisclosed sin.
Every once in awhile I think this is incredibly important to revisit. You and I will not always agree. What we do from there is very important.
You and I will disagree.
Most people think this is a problem. I disagree.
First of all, I disagree with myself sometimes. You may think that’s impossible, but as a growing human being, I change my mind sometimes. I think that’s healthy.
Other times, Future Me disagrees with Present Me. Or, sometimes Present Me disagrees with Past Me. So if I argue with myself, I’m bound to disagree with a completely different human being from time to time.
The question isn’t whether we disagree. The question is what we do with the disagreement.
Some disagreement comes from one or more of us not being submitted to Jesus. The fix for that is for both of us to submit to Christ in whatever area.
But a lot of disagreements come from the fact that we’re human. We’ll approach things differently. It’s bound to happen. In those places, the fix is for…
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If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you know that I am a huge fan of simple, multiplying discipleship and church planting. The problem is so few people have seen examples of disciple and church multiplication that I find it helpful to provide examples when I find them. This most recent example came from a new Facebook Friend, Lee Wood:
I trained Edward Kisembo and his 6 key leaders two months ago in Uganda. He Edward has launched 20 groups and last week they lead 103 people to Christ and launched many more groups in homes. Jude is a key leader who started one group of believers who he trained to all start groups. Those 5 groups have lead 12 people to faith and launched two new groups. Multiplying spiritual families (groups) is training every disciple to hear/accept, obey and spread all Jesus’ commandments. They trained this entire group of people to do the same thing in Rwanda the last two days.
All Disciples Are Involved
“The main purpose of life is to glorify the Lord. We can do this best when we know Him most intimately and serve Him most fervently. It is God’s intention is for every disciple to be engaged in ministry. Those who are gifted with the five leadership gifts in Ephesians 4:11-12 are to equip those with other gifts to do the work of the ministry, which results in the building up of the Body of Christ. Though each believer has a different gifting and a unique calling, everyone is to be engaged in living out the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and carrying out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18- 20).
If we are living out the Great Commandment then we will be making reproducing disciples because part of the disciple-making process is “teaching them to obey everything I [Christ] have commanded” and the Commission itself is one of those commands. Hence, every believer should by definition be involved in making reproducing disciples. It is a short step from this toward starting reproducing spiritual communities (churches) because several of the other commands demand a spiritual community to carry out. Reproducing disciples will result in reproducing churches as a matter of obedience.” -Curtis Sergeant
Today is Easter, the day all over the world Christians of all stripes and varieties celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. What I love about this holiday is that it, more than any other holiday that Christians celebrate, is one that pushes Christians to actually reflect on the most crucial elements of our faith.
One of the truths I’ve been mulling over the last few weeks has been the reality of the Father’s role in the death and resurrection of Jesus. For most of us, we’ve come to believe the lie that the Father is some sort of disapproving, hard to appease deity that spent this period of time waiting for Jesus to die, waiting to be appeased with humanity by the death of His Son*. The picture is more of an evil, distant Father than we care to admit. We believe because of a mixture of influences: Some good theology, some bad experiences with father figures, and a little bit of biblical ignorance. Lately I’ve been seeing the Father’s role in a completely different light.
At the moment Jesus died, Matthew records a unique detail:
At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
This tearing of the veil wasn’t just a result of a terrible earthquake or the result of stress on the Temple. This tearing of the veil was symbolic. The veil itself represented the idea that God and man were to be forever separate because man had sinned. To look at God in our sin would kill us. The veil in the Temple protected us from staring straight at God and dying, but it also separated us from God. It meant we had limited access to God. When Jesus breathed His last, the veil was torn to symbolize that the separation between God and man had ended.
But who tore the veil?
I can’t point you to a verse that conclusively says who tore the veil, but here’s what I believe: the Father Himself tore the veil. I believe that from Eternity He sat waiting to restore communion with mankind. He had longed to fellowship with man just like He had in the garden. So the very moment that Jesus breathed His final breath, the very moment the price was paid to cleanse us from our sin, that very moment, God the Father Himself tore down the veil that seperated us from Himself.
It was almost as if the Father was saying, “FINALLY!”
God had been wanting a relationship with His family this whole time. He wasn’t the neglectful Father turning His back on His Son. He along with Jesus had hatched a plan from the foundation of the world to draw us back into fellowship with Himself. The cross was the culmination of their planning and at the very first opportunity, the Father ripped down everything that separated us from Himself.
Today is Easter and the resurrection of Jesus is real and an enormously big deal. But I want to ask you a question: Is God your Father who wants a relationship with you so much that He tears down everything that separates us from Him or is He someone else to you? The answer may just shock you, but if we can believe rightly that the Father is seeking to tear down everything that separates us from Him, then we begin to see Him as He really is.
And then we are changed.
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Paul, 2 Corinthians 3:16-17
*Note I do believe that Jesus’ death satisfied the wrath of God against sin.
If you’ve hung around with people who have been part of the house churches for long, you start to hear various terms for the same thing being thrown out: “House Church,” “Simple Church,” and “Organic Church” are the most common. These are often used inter-changeably as if they mean the same thing.
The problem is that when you really listen to what people in these conversations are saying, they don’t mean them as the same thing. Many who use the phrase “organic church” say that a church can be organic at any size. Obviously most people using the phrase house church are talking about a church of a certain size. So what do we mean by these terms and how do we reconcile the two?
Organic church is a phrase that means a church built around the life of Jesus Christ manifesting in a gathering of believers. Many people also read into the phrase organic the idea that it’s church unaltered by man-made forces, much like you would expect when you go out and purchase organic fruit. The debate about what is “man-made” depends on who you consult with, but the list can include the following: religious tradition, hierarchy, discipleship models, evangelism tactics and more. Simply put, true organic church is based on around the life of Christ emerging within a church the way God designed it.
House church is a phrase that usually brings with it the connotation of size. These are small churches that generally, but not exclusively, meet in homes. Believers who are part of house churches don’t argue that the life of Christ needs to be central to what they do. But these churches tend to have reasons for meeting in smaller groups: The early church met this way, it helps them practice the “one anothers” of Scripture, the stewardship of finances, etc.
So, are these two the same thing? I think the answer is they can and should be. But how does that work? What does that mean for the churches who aren’t? These are the questions we’re going to look at in the coming days.
Yesterday, I wrote about my journey of writing (almost) daily for the last 100 days or so. Today I want to take a minute and address how Jesus frees us to be truly creative.
Before I get too deep into the subject, though, let me be clear. I’m not what you typically think of when you think of an artist. I write. And for a long time because there were no “beautiful works of art” out there that I had produced, I could never relate to a conversation about being an artist.
But you may not even write. You may be a business owner or a construction worker or a house church planter or a housewife. And in each of those fields where God has called you, you produce art, you just don’t see it that way. Your art is the effect that you leave on those who view your work. And so whatever field you are in, no matter how artistic it feels, you are an artist. The key is accepting that fact.
For me, it was Seth Godin, a practicing Buddhist, who pushed me into the work of art*. His book, The Icarus Deception, pushed me to a place where I realized that I had been created to write. Art, according to Seth, is what happens when we get beyond our fears. My biggest problem was getting over the fear–not necessarily the fear of being rejected, that was there–but also the fear of having nothing to say. Maybe the biggest fear of all was that I would show up and pour out my heart and it would be met with a resounding yawn. Those of you who would be traditionally known as artists know what I mean.
This is where Jesus frees us to be an artist. Jesus comes to us in our lives and His goal is pour out the love of God in our hearts to such a degree that we are free from fear (1 John 4:18). Can you imagine what you would create if you were free from fear? Not just from the fear of rejection but also the fear of the yawn? The fear of no one caring? Jesus can even free us from the fear of not making an impact. In Jesus, none of these fears can keep us from creating, because our goal is not to please a man or a crowd–our goal is to love Jesus and obey Him. This is more rewarding than click counts and awards.
I’m still learning in this process. I still get that feeling in my gut–you know the one–this might not work…this will probably start a fight on the internet…my audience might hate this and this will be the one post that gets no traffic ever**…but I’m learning that as much as that feeling is designed to stop me from creating, it’s also an indicator. It’s an indicator that I may be onto something that no one else has been able to write because of fear. And so lately, as I’ve been feeling that fear, I’ve been taking it to the Lord. And He frees me from the need to be relevant and popular, from the need to make an impact, and from the need to be right. He loves me and that is enough.
So I want to invite you–whether you call yourself an artist or not–to join me on this journey. You don’t have to be a writer. You don’t have to write everyday if you are. You don’t even have to follow my path. But Jesus can free you–yes you–from the fear of what will happen once you hit “publish” in whatever world you are in. And that freedom releases you to be the creative agent you were designed to be.
*The irony of a Buddhist marketer inspiring me to create for the Glory of Jesus is not lost on me. Christians through the last few centuries have had a name for this phenomenon–Common Grace.
**Ironically, that last feeling is how I feel about this very post.