SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles

Contagious Disciple Making -- the Book

ContagiousDiscipleMakingI am excited that David & Paul Watson’s book is finally available entitled Contagious Disciple Making.  Their material has helped to shape our work, particularly in East Africa, for years.

The first part of the book lays out some key principles for seeing the Gospel multiplied (the mind-set of a disciple-maker) while the second part of the book outlines practical strategies and practices.

Here are a few key thoughts from the book:

Disciple-makers deculturalize, not contextualize the Gospel.

The role of the cross-cultural worker is to deculturalize the Gospel—presenting the Gospel without commentary, but with the question, “How will we obey what God has said?” If it’s not in the Bible, don’t introduce it to the culture.

Disciple-makers plant the Gospel rather than reproduce their religion.

We must never equate religion and spirituality. Religion is about how we do church. Spirituality is about how we live out our relationship with God and people in such a way that we, our families, and our communities are transformed. Lost people are mostly repulsed by religion but inexplicably drawn to spiritual men and women.

Disciple-makers realize how hard completing the Great Commission will be for strategies and organizations built around branded Christianity.

What we realize, however, is that organizations that promote a particular brand of Christianity will have difficulty completing the Great Commission.

Disciple-makers realize the structure of the community determines the strategy used to make disciples.

If you believe in only one brand of church, or if you are familiar with only a few different brands of church and allow these tool structures to determine your tactics, then you will fail more often than succeed in disciple-making. Success will be found in creative and intentional diversity of tactics and churches.

Disciple-makers understand the importance of the priesthood of all believers.

The doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers is incredibly important to disciple-making. It affirms the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers; it affirms the ministry potential and responsibility of all believers; and it empowers all believers to function as needed for the church to minister to the people who are not a part of the body of Christ as well as those who are part of the body of Christ. This one doctrine opens the door and fuels the passion for any believer to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist (better understood as disciple-maker), and pastor/teacher. It moves Christianity from a profession to a lifestyle. It empowers the ordinary to do the extraordinary. It makes the church relevant and essential to a healthy community. And it appears that much of the modern church is throwing this doctrine out the door.

The practices of a disciple-maker are each discussed in relevant detail which I simply outline here:

  • Thinking strategically and tactically about disciple-making
  • Be a disciple who makes disciples
  • Prayer
  • Engage lost people
  • Finding a person of peace
  • Discovery groups
  • Establishing churches
  • Leadership
  • Mentoring

An excellent read and guidebook for unleashing today’s church throughout the world!


Categories for this post include house church, simple church, organic church


When Disciple Making is Broken, the Church is Broken

The-calling-of-disciples-of-ChristThe church, of any form, is made up of disciples, followers of Jesus.  When disciple making is not taking place, then the church consists of converts rather than followers.

Too often we provide substitutes for disciple making:

  • Church attendance
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Listening to our favorite teachers

All of these are good things, and some of the processes for making disciples may even take place in some measure. But too often we provide mediators for the word of God rather than invite people to discover and engage in the word of God for himself.

Disciples are formed as they engage with Jesus Christ personally.  We make disciples by modeling this and by inviting people to:

  1. listen to God through His word and Spirit – discovering what God is saying
  2. act on His word by faith
  3. experience His person and power as a result of those faith-actions, and thus encounter the living reality of God

A personal relationship with God develops through this process and believers become followers.

A key example of this type of disciple making is found in the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) approach.  Such disciple making is simple, it keeps the word of God at the center, and it allows the Holy Spirit to speak to the person without mediation from others.

Restoring the simplicity and powerful reality of disciple making is key to seeing the church-universal come in to her designed glory in a greater measure.

David Watson has a 30 minute talk here on the importance of disciple making that keeps the word of God central, removes filters, and makes room for the discovery process.


Categories for this post include house church, simple church, organic church


Five Things I Learn from Traveling in Africa

Travel_AfricaHaving just returned from another two month trip through Africa, I paused to reflect on what I learn from traveling in another continent among people from various cultural and socio-economic backgrounds:

1. Starting small does work.  Jesus’ example of beginning with only twelve disciples reflects his many examples of how the Kingdom grows from a single seed or small lump of yeast.  I have seen a single ‘good seed’ (a key person of peace), with a heart for God, begin to multiply his influence among one and then another and then another until, over time, many around him had also become good, fertile, reproducing seeds.  I have seen hundreds and then thousands of people’s lives touched that started with such a single seed, seemingly small and insignificant, but patiently planting the Kingdom life in others.  As an aside, such an impact generally involves keeping processes, such as church gatherings, as simple and unencumbered as possible.

2. The DNA of obedience to Jesus does lead to multiplication.  I don’t want to divorce disobedience from a love relationship with Jesus as I believe these go hand in hand.  But when that love for Jesus translates into the obedient longing to go and invite others into the Gospel life, this becomes the core for seeing disciples reproducing disciples, simple churches reproducing churches, and leaders reproducing leaders.

3. Heart, passion, and kingdom vision trump big money and big programs every time.  Africa is filled with big money that has been thrown at big programs and projects.  I am not demeaning any of these efforts.  I’m simply commenting that the Gospel was never an enterprise that required money to spread, influence, and change lives.  And I am continually impressed by how much power is in the Gospel to do just that when faithful people, armed with nothing but the Word of God and the Spirit of God, move and work by faith.  God is more able than we sometimes give Him credit for.

4. Living with a clear view of eternity is a dynamic and thrilling way to live.  Many of my friends in Africa simply live closer to eternity than many of my friends at home (myself included).  Much of this is no mystery since they are people who are less encumbered by the things of this world and very aware that their lives, here on earth, will never be filled up with material goods. They simply have less.  But the result is that their passions and visions are often highly focused on Kingdom concerns and it shows in the way they organize their lives around those things that make an eternal impact.  To miss a meal, for example, because of a God-assignment is often no big deal.  The latter easily outweighs the former.  Or to take risks for the Gospel that we might consider unwise or unsafe is often not even questioned.  The result is a life of faith-living that often goes beyond my own comfort level, but which clearly results in a deeply satisfying, God-engaged kind of life.

5. Blessed are the poor in spirit for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.  Wherever such people are found, you can be assured there will be a harvest.  Certainly, in Africa, there is a great abundance of those who are poor and poor in spirit.  Such people represent a very fruitful harvest field.  But I believe the same field exists in every part of the world, including our own neighborhoods, if we are willing to seek out such people.  They are in our backyard and they want/need the light of the Gospel.


Categories for this post include house church, simple church, organic church


Life Must Precede Form

(Note: reprinted from 2007)

Followjesus One of the most difficult things to communicate regarding simple/house church is that we really, really do not want to just re-invent a new (or ancient) form of church.  Instead, we are seeking to re-capture the essential “church life” that Jesus taught—a way of life.  We are, at the core, radical Jesus-followers lived out in the context of everyday life, not church-goers.  The form (when and how we gather) should, simply and fluidly, support the dynamic life that Jesus’ lit-up followers are living and not replace it.

Andy Zoppelt wrote the following in an email:

"We have an obsession for form. We find some new truth and we quickly create a form. In the past 41 years I have experienced every form possible, all of which is designed to replace the life and power of God. Today it is the house church form. Everyone is seeking some aspect of the New Testament to restore the church…

"If there is a method in the NT church, it would be one based on life: humility, brokenness, love and faith."

Frank Viola stated the same thing:

"When we raise up a church, we rarely if ever talk about form. We do not talk about the wineskin. We give the people the wine. We preach Christ. We give them Christ. We show them how to know Christ.  Out of that emerges naturally the ekklesia."

We have been programmed in our mechanical culture to do just the opposite.  “Build the structure and the people will come.”  Planning, building, and organizing is so engrained into our way of life, that we are certain that if we put the externals in place then life will flow. 

The result is that when people want to learn about simple/house church, what they come wanting to learn is how to structure the thing.  They want to start with form.  They want to know how to get this thing “right”—referring to the external “how tos.”

I am not saying that we cannot learn a thing or two, from one another, about how to gather: letting the Spirit lead and releasing the spiritual gifts of the entire community.  But I am suggesting that we cannot start there.  I am suggesting that when these “how tos” become the focus, we are back to elevating form and we will snuff out the life.  Structures are meant to support life.  When they become the focus then we will soon find ourselves following an external form of religious practices instead of following Jesus.  Before long, the structure itself replaces the living relationship and power of the Christian life.

Let me ask it this way.  How much time did Jesus spend teaching on what to do when you gather for worship or prayer?  How to do a Bible study effectively?  What to do when the church gathers together?  Conversely, how much did Jesus spend on the “way of life”:

  • Love God with your whole heart
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • Let your light shine
  • Do what you see the Father doing
  • Give (live generously)
  • Go into all the world

Following Jesus is life.  Following Jesus is the way of life.  Want to know how to do simple/house church?  Do that: follow Jesus.  Make it a lifestyle.  Then find some friends who want to do the same thing.  Then find some friends who do not know Jesus and help them to do the same thing.  Then the rest will fall into place:

  • You will learn how to share life with one another—building authentic community
  • You will discover how to fully appreciate every person’s spiritual gift that you gather with
  • You will continue to live missionally individually and as a group
  • The dynamic life of a Jesus follower will multiply from one disciple (follower) to the next.

Voila!  Simple church is birthed.


Categories for this post include house church, simple church, organic church


The Secularization of Ministry

WayoftheHeartI just wanted to revisit a post from 2007 which I titled 'The Compulsive Minister' based on a chapter from a Henri Nouwen book.  I find this post, still, very relevant as it challenges me to look deeply at the motivations behind my 'service for God.'

Today, I might name this article, "The Secularization of Ministry."

Read the post here!