SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles

A Discipleship Lifestyle Lived in Community With Others

Follow-JesusMy 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


Empowering and Releasing New Believers

Bird_From_NestOne 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).

I_do_you_watchJesus’ 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.


Swapping Steeples for Sofas

House-church-nprIt'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.


Blurring the Lines in Our Definition of Church

SteepleblurWe used to have a term for mission organizations that worked outside of the traditional church. We called them ‘para-church’ organizations as if they were not quite the substance of church but, instead, ministries that came alongside the ‘real’ church.

Over the years, most of us have realized that those ministries which we called ‘para-church’ were often more ‘church’ than what we traditionally called ‘church.’ In other words, the efforts made to take the Kingdom of God to people in the world through rescue missions, homeless shelters, and inner city ministries is a wonderful shape of the apostolic church.

God has blurred the lines in our definition of church to help us innovate, re-focus, and discover the essential elements of a church that looks more like Jesus-in-the-world would look. As a result, we now use many terms to describe the living church: simple church, organic church, missional church, where-two-or-three gather. The point is that this blurring and, perhaps, refocusing on the true nature of church is giving rise to many innovative expressions.

Spencer Burke, as an example, is experimenting with an incubator to help people shape ‘common cause communities.’

We’re blurring the line between ministries and churches. We are at the forefront of the transition from "teaching-centric" to "service-centric" church planting.

It is an exciting time as God continues to re-shape His church to look more like Himself in a world that needs Him more than ever.


Keep the Principles; Change Methods if Needed

PrinciplesI see many people get tripped up because they do not understand this basic premise: keep the principles, change the method if necessary.

Principles are the foundational concepts that you believe are Biblical. They remain the bedrock of all that you are doing. They do not generally change.

Methods, on the other hand, are the ways and how-to’s that you use to implement those principles. There can be many different methods that support the basic principle (examples below). Methods may change. You may try one and decide it’s not working for you in your context. You don’t need to abandon the underlying principle, but you are always free to change, adapt, or find a new method to use that works better for you.

This is so important because often people adopt a method as the new “key” to church life. They find a method from someone, adopt it, and when it does not work according to their expectations, they then abandon the entire principle and feel let down that it ‘didn’t work.’

Keep the principle, but find a new or different way to implement it (method).

Example 1:

Principle: Everyone participates when the church gathers together (priesthood of all believers and ‘each one brings’ as in 1 Corinthians 14:26).

Method 1: No formal gatherings. Gathering with believers and unbelievers happens informally and sharing takes place through conversation and relationship.

Method 2: Meet with others at a regular time and place and everyone waits on the Holy Spirit together and seeks to simply follow what He puts on their heart to do and say.

Method 3: Meet with others at a regular time and facilitate times of worship, word, breaking of bread, etc, in which everyone has the opportunity to participate (more structure then method 2).

Method 4: Work toward formal small discipleship groups of 3-4, larger gatherings of 12-15, and network gatherings all of which are facilitated to provide participation at every level. (More structure still).

Method 5: Adapt, add to, change, modify, or combine any of the methods already mentioned or design some new methods.

The point is that the principle is sound, but we may find different ways to implement that principle depending on our own gifting, calling, and context. The key is: don’t give up on the principle if you have not yet found a method that suits you!

Example 2:

Principle: The church, at its core, is a going church. (Go into all the world. As the Father has sent me, I send you.)

Method 1: As you live life daily, look for where God is working and build relationships.

Method 2: Go to a particular area or neighborhood and begin prayer walking with a friend. Seek opportunities to pray for people and discover a person of peace in that area.

Method 3: Find a need in your community or somewhere in the world and begin to serve people. Build relationships and begin making disciples from those relationships.

Method 4: Draw together a group of believers who will join together, as a missional community, within a specific neighborhood or area or cause to work together to bless/serve others and reach them.

Method 5: Many other possibilities!!!!

The point is that the principle is sound, but we may find different ways to implement that principle depending on our own gifting, calling, and context. The key is: don’t give up on the principle if you have not yet found a method that suits you!

Example 3:

Principle: Make disciples! (Go and make disciples…)

Note: Each of the following methods assume that you have already reached out to some people through serving, relationship-building, and/or sharing and they are responding with a desire to know Christ.

Method 1: Disciple only through the informal process of relationship. Let the relationship and the leading of the Holy Spirit define all conversations and sharing.

Method 2: Use a curriculum (there are many to use) to disciple the person and equip that person to be able to do the same with others.

Method 3: Life Transformation Group.

Method 4: Discovery Bible Study.

Method 5: Any combination of methods 1-4 as well as many other options that are available or that can be designed.

The point is that the principle is sound, but we may find different ways to implement that principle depending on our own gifting, calling, and context. The key is: don’t give up on the principle if you have not yet found a method that suits you!

Many people agree on some of the basic principles behind simple/organic church life:

  • Church is people who live the 24/7 lifestyle of following Jesus
  • Loving God and listening to Him is where life comes from
  • Loving others comes out of that life-with-God
  • As the church walks in love for God and others, it becomes missional, ie, caring for the world and the lost
  • Disciples are made life-on-life
  • Gatherings are participatory, Spirit-led, where everyone’s gift matters and can take place anywhere and any time
  • Serving and empowering others is the core of leadership

But, the models and methods that these principles give rise to will vary greatly!

If you are convinced of certain principles based soundly on God’s word, keep them! Build your life on them! And don’t give up on them when your method does not work as expected.  Adopt and keep the principle. Adapt and change methods when needed.

This is how new wineskins are shaped!