SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles




Organic Church Catalyzers: Staying Focused

Sustaining growthA disciple making movement coach recently gave me a list of “keys to sustaining movements.” I massaged that list to fit the African context where we work with leaders of such movements. Then I decided to massage the list again to fit those of you who are ‘organic catalyzers,’ i.e. catalyzers of organic/simple/missional churches and networks in western contexts. I trust it is helpful:

  1. Keep your focus. Our western culture offers so many distractions from Kingdom purposes.
  2. Let your commitment to reach the lost continue to grow. No time for contentment.
  3. Continue to depend on God rather than your tools. Prayer is the heartbeat of what you are doing. Lack of prayer will catch up.
  4. Keep spending time looking for and raising up other catalyzers. Those who are comfortable to sit and attend can take our attention away from looking for others who will go and catalyze.
  5. Be open to learn. You will hit barriers. You must learn, hear from God, and adapt to cross those barriers.
  6. Get up when you fall down. Admit when something is not working. Stay above the line of accountability and grow, adapt, and make adjustments when needed.
  7. Do not get distracted by negative people or persecutors. They are not worth time defending against.
  8. Model everyday what you want to see in your movement. Your life is what you replicate.
  9. Push for quality disciples as well as quantity. Maturity and depth matter long term. Don't sacrifice one OR the other.
  10. Keep your own joy of God alive.
       
 

His Kingdom Come: Ultimate Motivation

Kingdom-of-GodMy friend likes to say, “Too many Christians have their suitcases packed just waiting to be picked up and taken out.”

In other words, the ‘great event’ of life is a future escape from this world.

But Jesus’ message is the opposite. The ‘great event’ is already under way. His Kingdom is—right now—invading earth. He set this in motion and it is still in play today. And taking part in this heavenly invasion—His Kingdom come—is the greatest privilege and motivator life has to offer.

In chapter eight of ‘Joining Jesus On His Mission,’ Greg Finke does a masterful job describing the magnificence of what Jesus is currently up to on earth and what He is inviting us to participate in.

With the arrival of Jesus who is the king, the invisible kingdom of heaven is now coming into the created realm of earth… breaking in… taking root… taking over (Mark 3:27). The work of this kingdom is to reclaim and restore all created things (Revelation 21:5) but Jesus wants us to know that this “taking over” does not look like what the world would expect (Matthew 20:25)…

And what does he mean by it [the kingdom of God]? A working definition would be: The Kingdom of God is the redemptive presence and activity of God in human lives…

He put into play a plan to redeem and restore the created universe, and people particularly, to himself—or, as the New Testament would say it, to his kingdom. This plan of redemption and restoration is the mission of God…

From now on, heaven has come to earth. There is now overlap. Intersection. Invasion. The kingdom has arrived. The kingdom has come and is now on the loose in our very midst…

For what purpose? To begin what God had promised from the beginning: the reversal of what has become of the created world since its fall and ruin in Genesis 3.

This, then, is now what is in play. Right now! As Finke says, “Game on.”

No more promising or waiting… From now on, Jesus said, redemption is on the loose. The full restoration of all things in in motion. The Spirit of God is on the move in the created world and will not be turned back until all things are made new.

The point is that we are not sitting and waiting for God to bring about some eschatological event. We are joining Him right now in the greatest time in history as He is working powerfully, masterfully, and intentionally to bring about change on this earth that will bring about redemption and restoration in the lives of people who DESPERATELY need it. Today!

What a privilege to partner with Him in this season. What a joy. What an opportunity.

And, finally, the church is meant to be the expression of that Kingdom come. The church is not the Kingdom. It is simply our individual and collective best efforts to live it and express it. Thus we must continually reassess how we live, go, and gather to better align ourselves with who He is, with His intentions, with His kingdom mission, and with His presence. Church expressions that are simpler, more organic, more dynamic, everyone-participating, and always-going are characteristics that reflect, for me, key Kingdom earmarks.

       
 

Calcuttas Are Everywhere

From Simple/House Church Revolution book:

Calcuttas everywhereKnow Whom You Are Called To

When someone enquired about visiting Mother Teresa to help with her work among the poor of India, she encouraged the person to find their own Calcutta. In other words, each of us must discover who it is that God has put on our heart to love and reach out to. This makes it personal and meaningful.

As we listen to God’s voice, we will begin to sense that we have a particular heart for a particular group, or several groups, of people. Jesus, in his human experience, was called to the people living in Israel. He knew his focus. In the same way, God has given a focus to each of us, and we will find great joy in our love-life towards others if we accept whom we are called to.

The most obvious focus for us may be those we are already living among: our family (church always begins at home), our extended family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends. At the same time, we may have a particular concern for a nearby people group: homeless, youth, prisoners, children, elderly, etc. It may well be that God has put this group on our heart because we are specifically called to them. Finally, we may know the stirring for a people-group that does not live near us, i.e., the unreached of Africa or the inner city poor.

Knowing who we are called to and being willing to position our lives so that we can readily love those whom God has given us to love will allow us to begin expressing the passions and gifts that we were made for.

       
 

24/7 Radical Christian Life

Perhaps the most important paradigm shift for all of us is the simple awareness that God has brought us into a fulltime, 24/7 life with Him. This is the heart and soul of being His follower and being His church in the fullest sense of the word.

This reminds me of John Michael Talbot's book on Francis of Assisi and this quote:

He Was Radical

For many people, being "Christian is roughly equivalent in time and emotional commitment to being a member of a neighborhood bridge club, having a regular seat at the local Elks lodge, or getting the family car serviced every three thousand miles.  Unfortunately, this type of Christianity is often viewed as just another civic affiliation, acquired habit, or social ritual.

Not for Francis.  In him, the spark of divine love ignited a bonfire that burned away all his indifference and sparked a radical, uncompromising faith.  His was not Christianity Lite.  He worshiped at the altar of not watered-down deity.

Francis's minute-by-minute desire was to follow God ever closer...

       
 

Re-Discovering the Organic Power of the Word

PowerOfseedOrganic, as in ‘organic church’ means that there is something inherently alive about God’s church. And the genesis of that life is in the seed itself, the word of God.

When we lose sight of the organic, living nature of the church we can also lose sight of the power of the seed. In our institutional frameworks, we have spent so much time developing the professionalism of the farmer that we fail to realize that the DNA and power is still the seed itself and that the seed, the word, is incredibly dynamic.

Here are three simple examples of this.

A friend of mine, recently hanging out with a family member, said “Can I tell you a story?” “Sure,” came the reply. My friend then recounted a simple story from the Bible and asked a couple of questions. A conversation ensued which ended in the family member saying, “This is really interesting. I would like to discuss this more.” Previously this person had insisted that he was not interested in spiritual things, but the power of the Word was prompting something in him.

In another instance, a friend of mine had several opportunities to discuss with a co-worker his enthusiasm for God’s word and how it had changed his life. Without saying much about it, this person went home and spent the next year reading through the Bible with his wife. He was not going to a church and he was not listening to TV teaching. But, sometime later he caught up with my friend and told him how his life had been changed! So much so, that he recently invited an acquaintance of his to begin doing the same thing. Two generations of spiritual transformation based solely on the power of the seed—the word of God.

Finally, we see movements throughout Africa, in our own work there, based primarily on the Discovery method of Bible Study. This means that even non-believers are given the opportunity to discover who God is simply by reading, or hearing Bible stories, that present the major truths of Scripture without commentary or external teaching. They discover together who God is by reading, listening, and asking one another questions about what they are gleaning about God, about humankind, and what it means to follow and obey the Word they read.

It is the seed that fell upon the good soil that brought forth thirty, sixty, and one hundred fold. If we do not have confidence in that seed, then we may invent all kinds of ways to try to bring forth fruit or manufacture life that is unnecessary at best and perhaps harmful at worst. Furthermore, there is something incredibly freeing and easy about trusting in the power of God’s seed.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. Mark 4:26-28

At the very core of being the organic/living church that we really are is the trust that the seed itself does bring forth spiritual life dynamically and beautifully.

       
 
   
 

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