Okay….okay…I get it. It’s not as catchy nor anywhere near as intense as Shark Week. I mean, who in their right mind would try and top Shark Week? I did want to announce, though, that in October (one month from today) we will begin Starfish Month here at Pursuing Glory.
What’s Starfish Month, you ask?
Well, nearly nine years ago this October, I was part of a conference that was hosted by some dear friends in Kansas City. These friends had invited a long-time inspiration of mine, Wolfgang Simson, to come and share about what he felt the Lord was doing in the Earth. Wolf, as some of you know, wrote Houses That Change the World and at that time was putting the finishing touches on a new book that he eventually published himself called the Starfish Manifesto.
Houses That Change the World helped birth the idea of house churches in the hearts and minds of many early adopters within the house church movement. The Starfish Manifesto was kind of a next step. Where Houses was a micro level view of how churches should function, the Starfish Manifesto was the macro view of how a movement of house churches could reach the world for Jesus. It was next level thinking beyond anything I had come across at that point.
Also during this conference, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes here and there chatting with Wolfgang. I remember him saying very firmly at one point that if we wanted to understand the true nature of what the Lord was doing in the church in that hour, we had to go and read a secular book called “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. When the conference was finished I hurriedly ran to my nearest bookstore and picked up a copy with a gift card I received. The book, which was all about the power of leaderless organizations, blew my mind and changed the way I’ve thought about the church ever since. Don’t let the fact that this is a secular book throw you. There is so much here gleaned from history and nature that you will quickly see the Lord’s inspiration in this book, whether the author’s meant it that way or not.
Needless to say, that month of October all the way back in 2008 was a formative year. Much of what came from that time formed the basis for what was to come as we worked to plant and raise up house churches here in Iowa. Every October, as the weather gets colder here, I look back sentimentally on that season and wish I could share it with you all. So, this October, I plan to do just that.
Starting Monday, October 2nd, I’m going to host a sort of book club here on the blog. Mondays and Thursdays in October I’ll share a brief synopsis of a chapter here on the blog with my thoughts on the content. Tuesdays and Fridays during October, I’ll take some of the thoughts and apply them to how they relate to the church. Throughout the week in October, I’ll also be sharing short excerpts from the condensed version of Wolfgang’s Starfish Manifesto, the Starfish Vision, on my Twitter feed. All of this adds up to us talking about how Jesus designed his church to function like a starfish.
Why am I telling you all now? To get you prepared, of course. First, I would love it if one or two of you joined me in re-reading “The Starfish and the Spider.” If that sounds interesting to you, now is the time to pick yourself up a copy of the book. You may also want to jump straight to Wolf’s Starfish Vision booklet and dive into what you find there. Regardless, I hope you join me in Reformation month reading and thinking about how there is still more reformation left ahead for the church and strategizing about how we can be part of it.
It’s not Shark Week…but it might just cause you to change the world.
Yesterday I spent some time talking about the issues of pride within house churches. In that post I suggested that receiving the love of God and letting that free you from comparison drives out pride. Today I’d like to focus on a practical method of dealing with pride: confession.
If, when I talk about confession, you start to see pictures of confessional booths and men with collars, you’re probably thinking of the wrong thing. When the Protestant Reformation happened, Luther and his allies announced that all believers were priests and therefore you didn’t have to to a priest to get forgiveness of your sins. But the unfortunate side effect of the Reformation is the practice of confession was all but lost to Bible-believing church.
The apostle James, who as the brother of Jesus obviously believed in direct access to God and the priesthood of all believers, encourages believers to confess their sins to one another because it results in both spiritual and physical healing (James 5:16). At least one aspect of spiritual healing that confession offers is the ability to be healed of our pride. If we are honest with ourselves about our sin, it’s hard to be judgmental towards others.When we expose the darkness in our own hearts to another human being, it becomes much harder to create masks of greatness that feed our pride. If we do, we have brothers or sisters that aren’t deceived by the masks we wear.
Now this is a bit of a chicken and egg sort of problem: Does confession create humility or does humility cause someone to confess their sins to another person? I would tell you the answer is “Yes!” Obviously humble people confess their sins to others, but there are times when confession becomes an act of the will and true humility is birthed in the heart of a believer afterwards. It’s both/and. I can tell you, though, that those who are transparent and honest about the weakness are generally some of the more humble people that I know.
I’ve talked about confession at length here on the blog, both about how confession creates brotherhood and how true transparency births transformation. There are tons of benefits in addition to keeping us humble. The first step is to find someone: another man if you’re a man, another woman if you’re a woman, and begin a regular practice of confession with him or her. If you need a model for this, you can use one we’ve found helpful here.
The point isn’t that you do it perfectly, it’s more important that you start. You may notice a difference immediately, but if you don’t you’ll definitely notice a difference in a year or two. It’s a long game to protect your soul and keep you safe from pride that so easily corrupts spiritual things.
It’s also the place where transformation happens.
[This is part of an ongoing discussion on Financing a Kingdom Revolution.]
Discouraged. That’s one of the words that consistently describes my attitude toward Kingdom finances. The reason? I frequently see much of the money given in the name of Jesus used in ways that Jesus didn’t use money. And at the same time I see a number of legitimate people attempting to follow Jesus but lacking crucial funding that could amplify their substantial work. Somewhere there’s a disconnect when there are starving children in Africa America down the street* and we’re concerned because the carpet on the floor of a church building is wearing out.
It’s a startling fact, but some statistics say 97% of money given in churches is spent on people who gave the money. This means that no matter how much we say we desire the lost to be saved, the hungry to be fed, and the nations to be reached with the Gospel, our money is not where our mouth is. Now I could spend a lot of time debating on the legitimacy of pastors’ salaries and church building budgets, but the truth is that buildings and salaries only consume about 60% percent of most churches’ budgets. My question is where does the other 37% go?
My point in bringing all of this up is this: our giving tends to go right back to ourselves. We give and feel good about being sacrificial, but in reality we are consuming so much of what we give that no radical change takes place. Those who are strategically placed to significantly impact the world and extend the Kingdom of God often struggle with financing very real needs in spite of our overwhelming “generosity.” This is why no matter how much money we give, we fail to see significant Jesus movements take shape.
This is nothing new. Whenever the church has found herself disconnected from her apostolic purpose, she has used her resources poorly, most often for herself. But God has a financial system that is designed to meet legitimate needs and fuel the Kingdom of God. Our part in the process is to stop using our resources poorly, get connected with the purposes of God, and begin to channel money towards people and ministries who are actively pursuing those things that are on God’s agenda.
What if we put our money into the hands of people where God is powerfully manifesting His Kingdom right now? What would happen if we actually supported men and women who were raising up multiplying disciple-making movements in the earth? What would happen if we actually fully funded apostolic teams planting churches and reaching unreached people groups? What if those who were frequently engaged in caring for the poor or healing the sick through the workings of miracles never had to spend time writing another support letter? Would that be better than the new carpet?
*Editor’s Note: Africa (especially) and America in general both have significant needs. By striking them from the record my goal is to show that need is nearby, not that one form of need is greater than another.
For those who missed it, Andrew Jones of TallSkinnyKiwi fame wrote about the unseen financiers who supported the Protestant Reformation. Jones writes about different important “Kingdom Investors” who at various points gave significant amounts of money and resources to aid the spread of the Reformation. Reading the post, I was struck again by the need for a financial revolution that undergirds every genuine move of God.
Wolfgang Simson will be the first person to tell you that much of what you’ve heard about money in church is wrong. We often teach about money in a way that causes us to put all of our hopes in non-Kingdom financial principles. However one thing that remains true is that all Empires (including the Kingdom of God, which is the empire we belong to) have a financial system in place to fund their activities. Not all money given to a church is used well, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use our finances to further this Kingdom revolution.
The truth is that all of us have a part to play in financing the advancement of the Kingdom. I remember reading Brother Yun’s book Living Waters where he described offerings that the Chinese house churches would take for members being sent off as missionaries. Some of the members of the house churches were so broken because they didn’t have money to contribute that as they wept, they would place themselves in the offering sack as pledge to devote their whole selves to the cause global evangelism.
This is the kind of giving that moves forward the Kingdom: Financial giving that flows from a life fully given over to Jesus. That’s what makes the testimony of the early church so powerful. They were continually giving everything extra they had to the cause of Jesus and His Kingdom. This enabled the poor to be taken care of and the Gospel to continue to spread through the apostles and others. Today the Kingdom of God continues to spread, but it does so with little access to the funds that could so enable to spread quickly and without the financial sacrifice that is characteristic of an apostolic movement.
So how do we finance a Kingdom revolution? It begins with giving our very selves to God and letting our finances reflect that level of sacrifice. In our next post we’ll look at where those finances need to flow to. But today, let me ask you this question: What do you think holds us back from joining God in financing the advancement of the Kingdom?