So, today is the big day. The book that you all have heard about for years and that I have been working on for even longer is finally available today! If you’re wanting a copy, you can pick it up here.
We’ve been encouraging everyone to pick up a copy today if possible, in order to help boost visibility on Amazon.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the book, my good friend Sean Hughley will be interviewing me tonight on Facebook live at 7:00 PM CST tonight. You can find my Facebook profile here.
So what is “Stick Your Neck Out”?
I’m glad you asked. The body of Christ has been going through an amazing change in the last two decades. One of those changes I see is that the church is becoming simpler, more relational with Jesus, and more relational with each other. Instead of being caught up in the every day busy-ness of running a 501(c)3, keeping an organization going, and keeping a building open, more Christians are opting to meet in small groups outside of the church building and outside of the “traditional church.” These churches are more like small, spiritual families, full of people who want to obey the commands of Jesus and be a part of a community of faith that is simple and hands on. We have traditionally called these gatherings “house churches.”
But aren’t there a lot of books on house churches?
Yes, there are. Books like Organic Church, Houses that Change the World, and Letters to the Church have done an amazing job at describing these changes taking place. “Stick Your Neck Out” does two things a little differently:
1) Stick Your Neck Out is about activating the body of Christ to do the things they’ve read about in books like these. In so many circles, I meet people who are stirred by the ideas of house churches, but they are waiting for someone to start one so that they can join. But friends, it’s time to stop putting off the things God has put in our hearts. House churches aren’t hard to start but they do require you to take a risk. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe lots of people will show up and that will bring with it its own set of difficulties. Regardless, “Stick Your Neck Out!” So, while you won’t need to have read all those other books (I’ll catch you up), this book is a call to do something with all those thoughts about house churches.
2) Stick Your Neck Out is short. Most of those books are 150-200+ pages. While this length provides tremendous depth, it doesn’t help someone feel like house churches are easy to start. My goal in writing was to keep the book short and simple so that anyone picking it up would have a hard time being intimidated by it. If house churches are as simple as we tell people, we shouldn’t need a tome in order to start one, just a few quick pointers. I’ve been in so many conversations with people who have wanted to start house churches where I wanted to leave them something to encourage them and point them in the right direction. “Stick Out Your Neck” is that.
If you’re a house church person, grab yourself a copy. You might learn a thing or two. But more realistically there will be a brother or sister that God will give you to pass it on to so it can encourage them in their journey.
If you’re not part of a house church right now, that’s okay. Maybe you will be! And definitely, if you’ve longed for a chance to be a part of a house church, but one hasn’t popped up around you, pick this book up. It will help.
Lastly, if you’ve read this far, could you help me out and share this article or the link to the book on Amazon today? It would really help.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re just joining us, we are in the middle of reading through “The Starfish and the Spider” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. Each Monday and Thursday I’ll summarize a few important principles from a chapter in the book. Each Tuesday and Friday, I’ll apply those principles to the starfish-shaped church I believe the Lord is building in the Earth.]
“A Sea of Starfish” was the book’s attempt to give us a number of contemporary examples of starfish organizations to better get our minds around the possibilities of decentralized organizations. Skype, Craigslist, Apache, and the Burning Man festival were all profiled in order to highlight how decentralized organizations can operate without being chaotic. While all of these are “secular” organizations1, the underlying lesson this chapter teaches has much to say about how we can be faithful to how God designed the church.
The one key principal that allowed for these groups to thrive without a centralized leadership is what the authors call an “open system.” In an open system, an organization is established where everyone is allowed to participate. There is an implicit trust in the participants that they will mutually care for the group and participate in its health. Many of the decisions for open systems are decided by the participants themselves and not by a leader or an executive committee. In an open system, care for the members isn’t directed by a leader, but by other members as they see needs.
Imagine a church that operates like this. A church as an “open system” would have meetings where everyone who came could and should participate (1 Corinthians 14:26). It would trust the ministry that is often expected of one person to the whole body (Romans 12:4-8). I have to believe that such a church would continually emphasize the “one anothers” of Scripture. It would put the church in the hands of the church and in so doing, put it in the hands of Jesus.
This church wouldn’t necessarily exist without leadership. First, and primarily, each member would be individually submitted to Jesus and operate out of that submission. He will act as the true leader in the midst of such a church, orchestrating a grander plan than any of us could imagine. Because the church is an open system, mutual accountability to each other in light of Christ’s Lordship would be practiced (Ephesians 5:21). Any time a believer began to operate outside of submission to Jesus, one member within the church would correct the other. Members within this open system that are known for their submission to Jesus over time would even be given authority to protect the system but not control it (1 Peter 5:1-5, Acts 14:23, James 5:14).
This type of church is possible, but it is also messy. We get skittish the first time someone who isn’t “trained” addresses the group or they speak for way too long. The first time heresy is taught by someone within the group, we start to want to go back to the good old days. People with messy lives will be seen more often and those who are a bit more mature may be seen less. Over time, however, a church like this would grow together. They would learn how to love each other, bear with one another, correct each other in love, and everyone would gain a greater appreciation for the lordship of Christ and the truth of the Bible.
This type of “open system” church is possible, but we need to be able to embrace “the mess.” God is a God of order, for sure, but His order looks more like a forest or an ocean than like graveyard where everything is in rows. The life it produces is infinitely more valuable than predictable “meetings” with very little life. We have to trust that Jesus is able to lead every member of His body, not just a select few.
Open system churches are possible. They are biblical. They exist. What’s stopping you from being part of one?
Or even better, what’s stopping you from starting one?
1The Burning Man festival is especially not known for being a center of righteousness. While I can’t endorse everything that goes on there, I want to point out that Jesus specifically found examples of the Kingdom in every sphere of society, especially in places the religious elites never would have assumed it could be found. This is where we have to be very careful to eat the chicken and spit out the bones.
Other Entries in this Series Include: