A couple of days ago I wrote about serving people in a way that makes it obvious that God is real and active, not just serving people in a way that an atheist or agnostic can serve them. Some of the examples I gave are praying for the sick to be healed and hearing things that only God can speak to people and sharing them. You’d be forgiven if you thought I was making an argument for the supernatural. I was.
But there is another “tool” we have that the Buddhists, Atheists, or other “ists” don’t have: The Gospel. This retelling of the life of Jesus as the doorway for God drawing near to mankind isn’t just a story we tell people to convince them God is real. It *is* the power of God. Literally telling people the story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return unleashes the power of God in the lives of those you tell it to.
When we do share the Gospel with people, we unleash Christ’s power to transform a person. This story of God offering His leadership in spite of our sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus is the story that will fix every human issue. It will fix poverty, because it fixes the brokenness of the human heart hat causes people to be unproductive, greedy, and wasteful. The Gospel heals the sexual perversion that is killing us because it tells us about a God who loves us despite what we’ve done or what’s been done to us. Literally, the Gospel is a seed of life that transforms a person from the inside out.
Now, people share the Gospel all the time and nothing happens. Sometimes, it’s because the Gospel isn’t shared from a heart of faith and encounter. No one will believe you’re message of transformation if you haven’t tasted the transformation in your own life. But other times, people remain under the power of the evil one after hearing the message. Jesus told us this would happen (Mark 4). But if we share the Gospel from a heart that has been changed by its message, we will inevitably see it give birth to new disciples.
So you may not be good at praying for the sick. You may not think you hear God well enough to tell people what He’s saying. Both of these things are things you can (and should try to) get better at. But everyone can share the Gospel. Everyone can share what Christ has done in their lives and connect it to what Christ has done for humanity. Every time we do this, it’s an open door to access the power of God to see a broken human life transformed.
Do you want the power of God? Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. Share it.
Often in pursuit of a more missional, incarnational lifestyle we spend a lot of time serving people. We feed the poor, help where help is needed, and act as family for people who are not yet part of God’s family. Our hope is that in doing these things, people see the love of Jesus, hear the Gospel, and turn to Christ. This is good and part of God’s plan to draw people to Himself.
Let’s not forget, though, that Buddhists and atheists feed the poor, help where help is needed, and even act as family to those who aren’t part of God’s family. While these are all things God’s word instructs us to do, they are also things humans can do.
Without stopping doing these things, we should also begin to seek to do the things only God can do. We can listen to the Holy Spirit while we are serving people and see what He is saying. Then say it. One word from the Holy Spirit will unlock someone’s heart. If we’re serving someone and find out they are hurting or sick, we should pray for them, right then and there. God can and does heal and healing is a sign that the Kingdom of God has drawn close to people who are far away from God.
So don’t stop being servants or feeding the poor, but in all your doing, make room for God to do the things only God can do. Let’s introduce people to a God who can do more than just what nice humans can do. Let’s show them Christ who can do what only God can do.
“House churches should stop arguing with the institutional church and start planting Kingdom gardens.”
I wrote this over a week ago in my journal about ideas for this space. It’s been the running theme of everything I’ve been writing from “The God of the Mustard Seed” to “The End of the Argument” to “How to Share the Gospel Without Inviting Them to a Building.” The point is this: Instead of crusades against the past and other believers, let’s focus on Jesus and His Kingdom, making disciples and reproducing house churches.
How do we plant Kingdom gardens? We sow the Gospel message among our friends and neighbors, always combining Good News with good deeds. We invite those that respond (because there will be those who don’t) to become disciples of Jesus. As these new believers respond to the invitation of discipleship we continue to encourage them to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit, love others the way that they have been loved, and share the Gospel with others they know who don’t know Christ.
There is so much here to talk about. Very little of the house church movement focuses on growing up in Christ and what that looks like, but most of the New Testament focuses on this reality. That topic is too large for one post, but the effect of growing up in Christ and growing out through outreach and discipleship is a Kingdom garden. What started as tiny, laughable seeds has blossomed in the right soil and taken over some desolate patch of earth in order to beautify it.
These Kingdom gardens are the proof God is working in our midst. They speak more than our arguments. They speak more than our judgments on the rest of the church that doesn’t do things the way we do. The fruit and the beauty of what God is doing speaks for itself.
My prayer is that we, as house churches, can plant Kingdom gardens and leave the old arguments behind.
Recently I wrote about the need to stop fishing for new converts among people who are already followers of Jesus. This is especially true among house churches who are often more at ease converting people from traditional churches than they are talking to the lost about Christ. But not everyone is comfortable sharing their faith and very few people really know how to share their faith without inviting them to a building.
There are lots of reasons why sharing our faith is difficult. Fear, insecurity, lack of training, “not having lost friends,” and complacency are all culprits that keep us from sharing our faith. But these can be overcome, if we are willing. Many of these issues made it easy to invite people to a church building to hear a message preached from the front. At that point our job was done and it was the pastor’s job to take over.
The times have changed, though. Our society is less and less willing to darken the doors of an existing church building. As I shared yesterday, existing churches continue to compete for roughly 35% of the population while the remaining 65% goes unreached. All of this means as believers, whether we’re part of house churches or not, will need to become missional in order to reach the lost.
We’ve talked about the definition of missional before. Essentially it means that you leave your world (where many people know Christ) and enter into a world where few, if any, know Christ in order to declare who He is and what He’s done. This going to others with the gospel will be strategic in the days ahead simply because fewer and fewer are coming to us. For those of us who were used to inviting others to hear and are newer to going to those who haven’t heard, I thought I would include a few things to consider:
- Don’t go alone. Jesus said not to, which is a great reason right off the bat. Part of this was for accountability. Going alone could put you in dangerous and morally compromising situations. Having someone with you helps. But having someone who is part of the work also helps you overcome fear. It encourages you when your heart is weary with the work.
- Eat with people. Do it all the time. This is part of the reason Jesus was considered a glutton. He was constantly eating with sinners and those the world wouldn’t accept. There is nothing like food to break down barriers between people. When Jesus sent out missionaries, He told them to “eat whatever is set before you,” (Luke 10:8). Who we eat with still says a lot about who we love, so take time to eat with people who the world thinks you shouldn’t be eating with. It will break down doors and start conversations.
- Tell stories. Jesus was always telling stories about what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. These stories often had twists, turning what everyone thought God or Heaven were like on their heads (See The Story of the Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, or The Pharisee and the Tax Collector). But they also pointed people to the goodness of God and the truth of following Him. I always thought I had to come up with my own clever stories that would win peoples’ hearts. But here’s the good news: You can use the ones Jesus tells! They will win peoples’ hearts all on their own.
- Bring God into the process. One of the things I think we forget when we attempt to share the good news is that God is more concerned for the lost and broken than we are! He delights to draw people who don’t know Him to Himself. So we should invite Him into this process. Pray with the sick who you meet with faith that God will heal them. Ask God to give you words of knowledge that reveal God as real to your friends (1 Corinthians 14:24). God will demonstrate that He is real to those who don’t believe, yet.
- Share the Good News of the Kingdom. Talk often about the fact that the death of Jesus has opened the door of God’s Kingdom to people who could never deserve it. I find that often we believe the Gospel has to be hidden until we really get into people’s hearts. Not so! Tell people the Gospel early and often. If you need help, check out this reproducible way of sharing the Gospel. No one get saved if no one speaks the Gospel, so get good at telling the news. Telling it literally unleashes God’s power to save someone.
There’s always more that could be said about this topic, but this is a good start. If this is new to you, start by doing some of these things. Bringing the Gospel to others can be slow and hard at first, but as you do it more, you will both see people respond and get better at following the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is the one who changes hearts, not you.
It’s through this process of partnering with the Holy Spirit to change hearts that lost people come to Christ. As lost people come to Christ and become disciples, churches are started. All of this is part of the mustard seed process that God is doing all over the earth.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
A Christian who is part of a house church starts a conversation with a believer who goes to a traditional/institutional/legacy church. Soon the conversation turns to what the Bible says about church. The house church believer begins to lead the conversation, hoping to sway the traditional church member to become part of a house church in some capacity. The story ends a hundred different ways: sometimes the traditional church member is offended, sometimes they are convicted, sometimes nothing happens at all.
None of this is especially evil. Christians have had these types of conversations for hundreds of years: Catholic vs. Protestant, Charismatic vs. Cessationist, Evangelical vs. Mainline, etc. My point is that sometimes, especially within the house church movement, we are way more evangelistic with people who claim Jesus but not our “way” than we are with people who don’t claim the name of Jesus at all .
But friends, there is a mission field, full of lost souls that have never seen Jesus lived out and proclaimed in front of their eyes. Some of them (even in America!) have never even heard the Gospel. There are people in your neighborhood who will treat you the same way: Some will be offended, some will be convicted, and some will do nothing if you share Jesus with them. But they haven’t heard and you can share the Gospel with them one more time.
When we started out our first house church, we spent almost no time talking about what a house church was or inviting existing believers to our house church. We did what house churches do and we shared the gospel with people who didn’t believe. Did we acquire some Christians along the way? Yes. Did we inspire others Christians to start house churches? Yes. But we did this by almost completely trying to share the Gospel with other believers and ignoring the potential of growing by adding other Christians to our house church.
Alan Hirsch in his book The Forgotten Ways talks about how most churches in the United States are competing with each other for the 35% of the population that is attracted to a traditional, evangelical church. But there is a staggering 65% of the population in the United States that is not drawn to a traditional, evangelical church and is part of a multicultural, diverse people that are far from God. If America has 325,146,000 people, we are leaving 211,344,900 people who are lost to try and attract 113,801,100 who are easier to talk to about Jesus but are already saved.
Very little of this reminds me of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to find the one that was lost (Luke 15:3-7).
Friends, my heart for those of us who claim to be a part of the house church movement is that we start house churches that touch those who are far from God. That there would be a movement of house churches planting house churches among the broken and those who formerly had no interest in God. Who better to reach those burnt out on bad religion and those who would never darken the door of a church than those who have forsaken both? If we love Jesus, we should speak about Him with those who don’t know Him, not just those who do.
We can be a missionary force, if we stop evangelizing each other and start sharing the Gospel.
God is big. Really big. But often God shows up in small, seemingly insignificant ways that we can miss if we’re not looking. His Kingdom is like a mustard seed.
If God brings His Kingdom in small ways, like planting a mustard seed and waiting for it grow into one of the largest plants in the garden, then God’s church must be willing to partner with Him in His process. We can’t try to mass produce and outproduce God. If he’s decided to work through small things that eventually have great impact, He needs a people who will join Him in that process.
He needs a fellowship of the mustard seed.
What is a fellowship of the mustard seed? It’s a people who are content to partner with God in small, seemingly insignificant ways, believing that if they do, it will lead to something greater, either in this age or in the age to come. The fellowship of the mustard seed is those who have abandoned the big show in favor of great faithfulness and love, whether the task is big or small.
This won’t be easy. Our world teaches us to want more, bigger, better all the time. In fact, we spend much of our time trying to amass more- more people to our cause, more money in our accounts, bigger more explosive events that attract the attention of more people.
The point of God’s Kingdom coming like a mustard seed is it weeds out those who are looking for anything besides Jesus. If you wanted to be the center of attention or be known for doing great things, mustard seed starts don’t give it to you. For those of us who are trying to be faithful to the Kingdom, being part of mustard seed beginnings is enough. We don’t gain our significance from our ministry, we gain it from the love of God. And that is enough.
The truth is the way to the big impact is through faithfulness in small things. Jesus tells us how that happens:
If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones.
You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things…
Think about Billy Graham, Bill Johnson, John Piper, or whatever other large scale Christian leader that you think has impacted this generation. Many people want to be like these men, doing great things and being recognized for leading people to Christ and teaching the masses. But hardly anyone knows the names of the men who faithfully discipled these men. They were just faithful men, planting mustard seed-sized truths of the Kingdom of God into soil and hoping that they would grow. These will be true heroes in the age to come.
Think about Johnny Appleseed, a bit of a myth at this point, but he was a real man who walked across the United States sowing apple seeds into the ground. He may have never seen the fully grown apple orchards from the seeds he planted. He definitely didn’t see the other apple trees that grew from the trees he planted. But he believed in the power of the seed to affect human kind, and he’s become famous for that belief.
We have a seed more powerful than an apple seed, but we must believe in it’s power to transform mankind. It might not happen overnight, but if believe in its power and sow seeds wherever we go, our seeds will take root in the hearts of men and will change the course of generations of humanity.
We just need to become the kind of people who trust the power of God’s seed.
I know most days this space is filled with some truth I want to communicate and I feel is helpful for people. But today, instead of doing that, I want to tell you three reasons why my heart is full today.
I have a new friend Frank* who dedicated his life to Christ recently. Frank came into the orbit of our church, started meeting with my buddy Aaron, and as of last night was baptized and joined our churches. Every time this happens, it’s tempting to feel like you’ve seen it before, but tonight it was like having a new member of your family being born. I literally feel like I have a new brother and I’m rejoicing in the idea of that.
Now let me tell you about my buddy Aaron. Aaron went down with some friends a few months ago to a church planting seminar called #NoPlaceLeft and came back excited about the Gospel. When Frank came into the orbit of our churches, Aaron jumped at the chance to talk through the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus. Aaron has been faithful to walk with Frank up to this point, so it was only natural for Aaron to baptize Frank. So Aaron baptized him perfectly all while being himself, which is tough to do. My heart is almost as happy that Aaron has been stepping out on this journey as it is that Frank decided to follow Jesus in baptism.
A few weeks ago one of my best friends in the world called me and asked if I could help move his mom out of her house as she transitions to a new job out of state. That friend is Sean, and while helping people move doesn’t always float my boat, the ability to help my buddy Sean was something I couldn’t pass on. We’ve been like brothers for more than 10 years now, and just getting a chance to help him when he needed it brought joy to my heart. I got to serve another brother and sister in a real need that they had, an in doing so I got fulfill the law of Christ.
Things That Make the Heart Happy…
I think one of the reasons my heart is so full is that these three things are things that are so pleasing to the Lord! A new friend finding his way to God, another friend being faithful on the path of discipleship, and getting to help an old friend in a way feels right, like how family should help each other–all of these are things I believe that please the Lord.
The gospel going forth, disciples being made, and spiritual family happening regardless of distance are some of the things I signed up for so many years ago. Just getting to experience all of them together in one night has been an incredible joy. We aren’t seeing movements of people coming to Christ yet, but there’s reality in what’s going on. This is what we’re called to, saints. The lost coming to Christ, disciples being made, and spiritual family being birthed in human hearts.
It’s the stuff movements are made of.
*Frank’s name is not really Frank.