SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles

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!


Prayer as the Main Thing - a Potential Organic Movement

Prayer_silenceSome things don’t change. We may seek new wine skins. We may adopt new methods and tools for seeing God’s Kingdom come. We may give up worn out programs, systems, and paradigms. We may adopt the newest and most ‘in’ way of making disciples, living incarnationally, or gathering together.

But the most significant thing does not change regardless of where we are in our journey with church, life, and ministry: we love God and we spend time with Him. This is the heart, fire, fuel, and foundation that is the indisputable center of a meaningful, purposeful, God-infused life.

Our own prayer life may need to go through some retrofits of its own.

Perhaps we have become stale or neglectful.

Perhaps we need to seek new ways to connect in deeper intimacy and to intercede with more faith.

Perhaps solitude is calling or a new encounter with Scripture is needed to stir up our faith-muscle in intercession.

Perhaps the New Year will spark in us a new desire to get back to the main thing as the main thing and find ways to be near to the Father.

Let’s not replace intimacy with knowledge, or the pursuit of ministry, or good activity. In fact the former will lead to the best activity as we seek His presence to live out of and His voice as our guide.  As David and Paul Watson say (Contagious Disciple Making), “A culture of prayer creates an environment and spiritual posture God can use to mobilize His people to do His will and catalyze complete social and spiritual transformation in a community.”

Perhaps this will be a year for an organic prayer movement that starts with each one of us and spreads to others until transformation, real transformation, is taking place in and around us.

Is God stirring you in this way? If so... share with us!


The Joy of Adventure

Step-Out-in-Faith_EditAs we gather a new group in our online course (Simple/House Church Revolution), I find myself surrounded by enthusiasts who are daring to experiment, step out of old boxes, and risk trying new things for God.

My feeling is, ‘these are my people.’  It’s not even about trying to fit people into a different “simple/house church” box.  It’s about being with the explorers, the risk-takers, and those who are willing to follow a God who is often messy and untamed (as one course participant wrote).  It’s about saying to God, “You lead, and I will follow even when I often do not understand what that will look like.”

My prayer is that none of us lose the joy of adventure that the life of faith is all about.

Perhaps if our life as a follower of Jesus has become tedious and mundane, it’s time to consider if we are willing to listen—really listen—to whatever step of faith God may be calling us toward.  The mundane life that leads to rest and restoration in the embrace of our beloved is wonderful, and even important, for a season.  But when that season turns into boredom and lethargy, it might be time to resuscitate our risk-faith muscles and turn our ears and heart toward the vision that God is wooing us toward.

Because the course participants I mentioned are stepping out of well-worn systems of church gatherings, their sense of risk and faith is palpable as they leave comfort zones and push into some unknowns with nothing but a dependency that God is leading.

This stirs and encourages me to a fresh openness for today.  I want to be open to any and all places in my life as a follower where I have substituted a life with routines and ruts that are no longer serving His cause.  I want to be open to His voice without any filter—a voice that always woos me sweetly into those places where risk and faith lead to the joy of adventure with Him.

By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. Nehemiah 9:19