Christian culture can make us comfortable and affect our ability to reach people who don’t know Christ. And often we have to be willing to leave our comfortable subculture behind to share the gospel with the people who need it the most. But the good news is we don’t have to go there alone. There is someone there who has gone before us and made the sacrifices we’re talking about. His name is Jesus.
If you think about it, Jesus had the best set up in existence. Before becoming a human He existed in communion with the Father in a way no man since Adam had ever tasted. There was no pain there. No difficulty. Perfect fellowship. There was peace and joy and goodness constantly surrounding him.
But He loved us.
And because He loved us and because it was the Father’s will Jesus left Heaven and endured a world that undoubtedly was harder than the one He left. Pain was there. Heartache ran rampant. He would hunger for the first time. He would be tempted for the first time. He would become the only just man who had to endure suffering. Most important of all, He would leave the immediate fellowship with the Father and submit to living life like we do.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
and John, speaking about Jesus coming to Earth says:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
John 1:14, The Message
And He did it all out of love.
But Paul (and I’m sure John) tells us these details about Jesus’ life for a reason. Just before Paul begins to tell the Philippians about Jesus renouncing His privileges, he says this:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Paul’s point in telling the story is that we’re supposed to be inspired to do what Jesus did. He left aside the privilege of fellowship with God. He laid aside all the rights of Godhead. He didn’t count equality with God as something to be held onto at the expense of us. Instead He became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
And we’re supposed to do the same. Out of great love and humility and servant-heartedness, we will need to lay down some of the “joys” we have as Christians in order to participate with the mission of God. Just like Jesus had to leave the comforts of home to win the hearts of people who didn’t know their need, so do we. He has gone before us, has been the example to encourage us, and now calls us to join Him outside the camp.
Will it be easy?
Is it always fun?
But Scripture tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus so that we don’t grow weary and give up. And if leaving the comfort of the Christian circle you’ve found yourself in is hard, then fix your eyes on Jesus who did it first. He is both our motivation and example.
Will you join Him there?
Maybe I haven’t said it before. Forgive me for not being more up front.
A major reason that I write is I believe God is calling many, many more people to the front lines of the harvest. It starts by leading unbelievers to Jesus, discipling them, training them to reach others, and in the process organic churches are formed.
Think of all the people that don’t know Christ. I know in the West we think everyone is a believer, but they’re not. Not even close. And the more relationships you build outside of the church, the more you realize there are more broken people far from God than you could count. But many of these people want Christ, they just have a misunderstanding of who He is. The harvest is gigantic.
The church as it exists cannot handle the harvest that could come in if the lost truly did come to Christ. Imagine a church of two hundred that meets in your city or town. Now imagine that church growing by another two hundred new converts. It would be chaos! The nets that we currently have aren’t strong enough to hold the catch.
But imagine a church of ten or fifteen disciples who have their hearts fixed on Christ and are growing as disciples. That church can add ten or fifteen new converts and become two or three house churches quickly without much difficulty. And as those new converts grow, they have the ability to start a house church just like the one they are part of now.
But the workers are few. I’ll tell you even though the harvest is great, the number of people actually following Jesus into the harvest, working among the lost, and discipling new converts is small. And if the harvest is truly great, we don’t have enough laborers.
So, don’t be surprised, if every once and awhile I look around at my followers on the blog and say, “Why haven’t you started a house church yet?”
There might be some good answers. But there might be some good excuses, too.
Jesus. Mission. Church.
We all know these are the priorities. What we don’t understand is this isn’t just a random list of priorities. It’s our priorities in their order of importance.
Jesus- Jesus is Lord. He is God’s final word to mankind about what He is like. He holds everything together by the word of His power. And while the worship of Jesus is central to Christianity, He often can quickly become a lesser priority. The goal is to keep encountering and obeying Him, day after day until days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years. He is the priority.
Mission- The mission described here is the one that Jesus Himself came with–to bring the whole world under His leadership and repair the broken relationship between God and man. Jesus was a man on the move. He constantly was moving from one place to another, declaring the Kingdom of God, casting out demons, healing the sick, and performing signs that invited lost humanity into the newly near Kingdom. But He didn’t turn the crowds into mega-churches. He kept moving. And after the resurrection, His command was still to go and declare the same Gospel He had preached. Acts and the New Testament are the echos of Jesus’ command to continue on in His mission.
Church- Church is the gathering of believers under the leadership of Jesus and in relationship to each other. Jesus said He would build His church and that even the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against it. Nothing could stop it. And so each church that is built by Jesus becomes another weapon in His war against the darkness oppressing humanity.
But great damage happens when we confuse these three priorities:
A church where Jesus isn’t first is quickly in danger of losing it’s place of ministry (Revelation 2:4-5). No one says that Jesus is less important than mission or church. We just continue to show more concern for mission or church than we do for connecting with Christ. The result is usually burnout that ends in moral failure.
Mission comes before church. That’s a controversial statement, but it’s true. Church is the fruit of mission. Emil Brunner said “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He did not leave a church. He left a mission and that mission was accomplished through the establishment of churches. Every time the church began to get comfortable, Jesus would scatter the church so mission could continue (see Acts 8:4, for example). Mission was the next priority.
And church. Church is incredibly important. Necessary. But when it becomes the object of our affection it becomes an idol. So many of us are quick to put church before mission and because of that mission never gets accomplished. Church must happen. But it happens best as a form of communitas that is forged in response to the mission of Jesus.
The story of Jesus teaches us the same thing. Jesus first was manifested in the flesh. He came to Earth and encountered humanity. His mission motivated Him to move about announcing and demonstrating the Kingdom while he set captives free. And after (and only after) the mission was finished with His death and resurrection, did He form a church that supported the mission.
Over and over again we see it: Jesus, Mission, Church. But often our lives and what makes us comfortable cause us to live differently than what we see. My challenge to you today is to make sure these aren’t just your priorities, but to make sure they are lived outin the right order.
Whenever I have a conversation about joining or starting a house church with someone who has never been part of one before, there are a number of things I tell them. But I always mention one thing every single time: Be prepared for things to take longer.
Why? Because relationships aren’t efficient. And for those of us who are part of the business world, or part of a highly structured church, or even just those among us with Type A personalities, this can be more than a little frustrating.
But relationships are built on things like trust, respect, and love. All of these elements require time: time to be shown, time to be earned, and time to develop. None of these happen quickly.
Think about your best friend. You’ve probably gotten things done together. But the times you remember best…the times that make that relationship more worthwhile than others…are the times you spent together doing things that didn’t accomplish much outwardly. Whatever those times were they communicated more than just a task. The times you look back on are the ones that say to you “You are important to me.”
A few years ago I had a disagreement with a brother who was part of our house church network about how we were going to make disciples. We went around and around talking about methods, but when we got to the heart of the matter, his real concern was that I was more concerned about our “church” succeeding and not about him. It was a real learning moment for me. I had put our mission above our relationship and I was wrong.
I wish I could say I never made that mistake again. I can say I’ve made it less and I work to deny that part of me that just wants results. But it’s meant letting projects and work take a back seat whenever a serious need comes up. It’s meant stopping a conversation when it becomes obvious we aren’t arguing about strategy, we’re missing each others’ heart. It’s meant meetings that should take an hour or two sometimes take three or four. But it’s been worth it.
I’m not saying things shouldn’t get done. Quite the contrary, we have a mission friends, and that mission is very important. But how we do the mission is just as important. If we devalue people as we pursue it, we invalidate the very mission we set out to accomplish. If we use people to accomplish our mission, we may accomplish a mission we set out to do, but we’ll leave a trail of broken people in our wake.
My goal in saying this is not to persuade you that relationships are bad or that they hurt mission. They just come with a cost that you need to recognize up front. They are time consuming and don’t always move in straight lines. But over the long haul, if you stick with them, they pay off both now and in eternity.
Just don’t expect them to be efficient.
I found this on Facebook and thought it might be helpful. It’s from Roger Thorman.
Kavorting in Kenya:
Roger and Brooks Thoman have a ministry into Kenya, working a lot with orphans, widows and others.
Below is an amazing story of Karen, and how she is reaching around Kenya with discipling and house church development.:
This Christmas season, Brooks and I celebrate you for the work we share together!
Meet one of your partners: a woman of focus & passion
I (Brooks) sat in their humble home one on one with Karen. This tiny woman, as eloquent as any woman I’ve ever known, spoke with passion and intensity as she told me her story.
We train new converts to become disciples of Jesus Christ so that we can reach the world with the gospel by equipping disciples to make disciples through house church movement. The gospel will be spread at a fast pace as each one wins one.
In 18 months this lady has reached 196 women. She has raised up seven leaders within 14 house churches. She and/or her disciples have baptized 36 women. Inside their one room, dirt floor home where she lives with her husband and 8 children there is one thing hanging on their wall: a worn, large sheet of paper where written out is a listing of counties and subcounties in western Kenya. Beside each one are names and numbers. These are leaders and numbers of people who have been reached. Others are blank and yet to be reached.
She lives and breathes her passion to share the transforming power of the Gospel…
Karen is intense. I look at a woman who would never in a million years spend money on hair, make-up, clothes. She has one focus: Jesus Christ and his commandments.
There’s no doubt about if she lives this out. To make it possible, she gets up every morning early to make mendazi (donut like pastry that Kenyans typically eat with tea in the morning), which she then takes into the village market to sell. Why? To use the proceeds of the sales to pay for her transportation on a boda boda (motorcycle) to share the gospel with those who have not heard or do trainings with leaders or check in on house churches.
Not only does she share God’s love with them, but her intention with so many women left as widows or single moms is to help them. She teaches them farming, making baskets, purses. The needs are enormous and she’s desperate to do what she can. Why?
Because she knows, lives, breathes the love of God. In another culture this dynamo of a woman could possibly be President…of a corporation or a country, but in her world, all of her intellect, her wisdom, her passion is used for her King. The price is enormous.
Because of her focus, her drive, her commitment she can do no less.
Thank you for partnering with us and with amazing people like Karen!
Roger and Brooks