Make disciples who are followers of … Jesus.
Not followers of doctrines, opinions, or church visions.
Not reciters of creeds or religious points of view.
But followers of the One.
Followers who follow because they know Him. They have tasted, touched, and encountered Him and now they want to continue to develop that closeness, intimacy, and relationship with Him. They know no greater joy.
They are not turned into members of denominations, attenders of services, or clones of the latest way to do Christianity or church.
They remain His and they pursue Him and they follow Him and obey Him out of a loyalty and passion that comes from deeply knowing Him.
They learn His voice because they love Him.
They lay down their own, personal agenda because they value Him.
They take up His vision to see the restoration of His Kingdom come to all people because they experience His everyday encounters that restore and free their own soul and they are driven to see this love transform others.
They know Him, they have found life, and they continue to find life through Him.
And because they know Him, they love Him.
And because they love Him, they follow Him…
Thanks to Guy Muse’s blog, I was reminded of Reggie McNeal’s book “The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church.” Although this book is over ten years old, it still addresses key issues that the church, if we are willing to be honest about who/what we are meant to be, must continue to face head on.
1. The collapse of the church culture.
- Wrong question: How do we do church better?
- Tough question: How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?
2. The shift from church growth to kingdom growth.
- Wrong question: How do we grow this church?
- Tough question: How do we transform our community?
3. A new reformation: Releasing God's people.
- Wrong question: How do we turn members into ministers?
- Tough question: How do we turn members into missionaries?
4. The return to spiritual formation.
- Wrong question: How do we develop church members?
- Tough question: How do we develop followers of Jesus?
5. The shift from planning to preparation.
- Wrong question: How do we plan for the future?
- Tough question: How do we prepare for the future?
6. The rise of apostolic leadership.
- Wrong question: How do we develop leaders for church work?
- Tough question: How do we develop leaders for the Christian movement?
I am particularly struck with #4 and the way we have churned out ‘members’ en masse over the past thirty years rather than active, passionate, intentional, risk-taking followers of Jesus. The church has paid the price! We have too often become comfortable rather than comforters, guardians of doctrines and traditions rather than advancers of the Kingdom, externally religious rather than internally passionate, and generally sleepy rather than alive in Presence and Spirit.
McNeal’s challenges are still relevant and will, hopefully, continue to propel us toward the center of God’s purposes for His bride on earth.
My friend shared his experience with simple/organic church and discipleship in the context of authentic community life. There is nothing like real-life examples to draw from:
"What does a "living" gathering look like verses a sterile "man-made" gathering look like?" I'm not sure there is a standard "look" to this. It's more of a lifestyle lived in community with others.
The way it looks for me/us currently (the Lord may change this) is this: The Lord, through business and a few other avenues, grew relationships with me and a few other men who share the same desires to make disciples and BE the church. We began just getting together when we could, over coffee, lunch, at each other's office, etc. to discuss what we see God doing in and around us which led us to pray specifically for others. As we began this, He has led us to other "men of peace" so to speak.
Just because of our desire to spend time together, our families now gather at least once a week, sometimes more, to break bread, fellowship, share struggles, victories, a passage that the Lord may be highlighting in our life, etc. This "gathering" has just naturally come together with likeminded believers.
As we leave from this time together, we are all encouraged/spurred on to go and make disciples, share Christ, and serve those in need throughout the following days each week.
As we go, we are in constant communication with one another. The ladies are talking with one another through the week and the men are talking through the week.
The heart of our group is for each individual family within the group to open our homes each week to unbelievers (or believers that need to be discipled). Then as we build relationships with them, at some point, as the Lord leads, we may invite them into the fellowship of the larger group. We don't do this immediately because we don't want to "invite them to us" as we did in institutional church. Only as we see that they are desiring the community that we have within our group do we bring them into the "church." I think we see this in scripture. As we share the gospel and as the Spirit brings to life a new believer, then they are brought into the fellowship. This is just how things look for us… -- Clint
One of the marks I have personally seen of rapid disciple making movements is that new believers are empowered early to do the work of ministry.
Simple church is less about gatherings and more about developing disciples who make other disciples which I write about here.
Part of that process is that we see disciples released early to active ministry and touching the lives of others.
Richard Rohr offers this confession which I have to admit to being guilty of:
After trying to teach the Gospel for over forty years, trying to build communities, and attempting to raise up elders and leaders, I am convinced that one of my major failures was that I did not ask more of people from the very beginning. If they did not turn outward early, they tended never to turn outward, and their dominant concern became personal self-development, spiritual consumerism, church as “more attendance” at things, or to use the common phrase used among Christians “deepening my relationship with Jesus” (most of which demands little accountability for what you say that relationship is).
Jesus’ disciples learned while doing. He discipled them on-the-job using the age-old practice represented by the diagram: I do you watch, I do you help, You do I help, You do I watch. Disciples were apprenticed from the start rather than classroom educated and held back until they ‘knew enough.’
By engaging and employing disciples early on, we can begin to see a whole new generation of outward-facing, disciple-reproducing, world-impacting followers. And such empowered and released disciples are at the core of an unleashed and relevant church.
It's always interesting to see the press covering expressions of house church.
This article is called "House Churches Swap Steeples For Sofas, And Say They've Never Been Closer."
With new church construction at its lowest point since 1967, and with more religiously unaffiliated Americans than ever before, many congregations say they've become more committed communities by losing the pews and stained-glass windows of a central building.
During their new church's meetings, anyone can call out a song suggestion or read a Bible verse. Instead of a sermon, everyone just talks about what's been weighing on them that week. This group says that the only guidance they need to run a church can be found in the New Testament.
Full article here.