SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles




Defining Simple/Organic Church

DefinitionWe like to say it this way.

Rather than:

1. A service or event I attend
2. A denomination or organization I become a member of
3. A program I participate in

Simple church, real church, is:

1. A way of life (extravagant lovers of God engaging the world 24/7 with love, power, and word)
2. A simple community (a spiritual family that gathers with full participation)
3. Natural, organic multiplication of Jesus followers who, in turn, engage the world

Let's keep it simple, but seek His power and presence in all things! May His Kingdom come!

       
 

Jesus Without Religion

TozerQuoteIt’s not enough to root religion out of our systems of church, we must get religion out of ourselves.

This is no easy task as religion offers a subtle and powerful substitute for deep relationship with God.  It can be so easy to wrap our life with the externals of duty, performance, or ‘right living,’ and ignore the fundamental reality that we were made to deeply know and encounter God.

Perhaps I can best stir our hearts on this by quoting from A.W. Tozer and his landmark book, The Pursuit of God:

“The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.”

“The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition.”

“David's life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ.”

“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God.  The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate.  The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire.”

“If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity.  Now as always God discovers Himself to ‘babes’ and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and prudent… We must put away all efforts to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood.  If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.”

“When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself.”

May God awaken, today, our first love for Him and Him alone.

       
 

Living Your Faith into the World

What-if-the-churchThe light of Jesus shines through us from the simple lifestyle of living with Him and loving others.

That said, I love hearing how others are living their faith into the world they live in.  Here is a short list which I hope you will add to.

  • One friend started a golf league in his neighborhood that often involves over a dozen people meeting together regularly around… golf… and life.
  • 50 years ago a couple began inviting friends to a neutral setting to share and discuss the Gospel.  This has led to a network of churches throughout that region.  Read more here
  • Many people form missional communities that collectively own the well-being of a specific neighborhood or community.  Good article here.  
  • Prayerwalking and engaging new neighborhoods by seeking persons of peace is a core biblical, lifestyle strategy.  I love this video, and I also enjoy what these guys at Newforms Resources are doing.
  • Seeing Jesus at work in everyday life is at the heart of living as salt and light.  I have blogged before regarding Greg Finke’s book (and there are many other great resources).

The ‘church’ is meant to be a going, 24/7, unleashed expression of Jesus.  Therefore this small list is only scratching the surface of what the people of God are meant to look like as we live our faith into the world.

Please share your own experiences and resources.

       
 

Discipleship Does Cost

Let me be blunt.

Pick_up_your_Cross (1)There is a lot of discussion these days about disciplemaking.  And I’m glad for that.

I believe the church comes closest to its intended shape when Jesus-followers are loving God, loving others, and learning how to disciple people who will disciple others.

Meaningful, organic, simple gatherings are meant to come OUT of the process of disciples making disciples and to support that process.

But there is one key that must not be missed or we will just be out trying to put together yet one more model and method of Christian living: We are called first and foremost to be a disciple ourselves… and there is a cost.  Jesus said it quite bluntly:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)

At the very core of the church and at the very heart of disciplemaking, is the disciple who has eyes on Jesus and hands not grasping for the things of this world.  And it is the freedom, love, and joy that comes from being such a disciple that is at the heart of relating to others in a way that they, too, become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Yes, discipleship does cost us everything.  This cost is not about putting on a religious cloak of self-flattery, false-self-sacrifice, or pharisaical self-righteousness.  Rather, there is the confession that my soul wants to cling to things that keep it from the full embrace of the most amazing lover and the only true infuser-of-life.  When I daily seek to give up pig’s food for the Father’s grasp, I am a disciple who has found real life unlike any other.  And such disciples are at the heart of disciplemaking.

       
 

Living Organically

In our old way of doing church life, there were some markers, structure, and programs that gave definition to our life as Believers.  We could at least check off the following areas and know that we were ‘on the right track:’

  • Go to church on Sundays.  Check.
  • Read the Bible and pray daily.  Check.
  • Attend a small group or Bible study.  Check.
  • Serve in the church somewhere.  Check.
  • Give a tithe.  Check.

But what about this living, organic church?  How do I know if I am moving in the right direction?  Sometimes we revert to an old way of thinking:

  • Meet with a house church.  Check.
  • Meet with a smaller discipleship group.  Check.
  • Pray and reach out to others.  Check.
  • Read the Bible and pray daily…

But maybe we are still missing the true nature of being organically connected to Jesus.

I do believe that we can see markers in living organically, but they are more like dance steps rather than program to-do lists.  They are more about lifestyle that integrates with all of life rather than simply a list of sacred activities divorced from the rest of life.  They happen internally which are then reflected externally rather than the other way around.

I have often used the diagram below to describe the organic lifestyle, but it’s easy to try to turn these (or any other organic methods) into program again so let’s be clear.  This is a lifestyle that begins and rests fully on a listening relationship with Jesus.  Only He can lead us in the life of spiritual power that we are meant to live in.  Further, each part of this process is not a step but a lifestyle that grows out of that intimacy with Him and which deepens as our life with Him deepens.  We reach out to others, with our own abilities and gifts, as He leads, inspires, guides, and empowers.  We ‘make disciples’ by assisting others to have a similar, personal walk with Jesus.  We gather in ways that come naturally out of the other steps (we don’t gather and then try to make the rest happen).  And we facilitate others to do the same because we want them to experience His full and fruitful life.

Living Church Cycle

For the sake of providing some guidance on the organic lifestyle, I sometimes use a series of questions.  They are designed to encourage us to listen to Jesus and, as we move deeper into Him, walk with Him naturally into the Kingdom, organic lifestyle that He draws us into:

  1. How is He calling me to root myself more deeply in His love?  (This is the core question for all of the rest so that our life and motivations are all about loving God and then others, not some dutiful, religious activity).
  2. What field(s) has He assigned me to sow in right now? How?
  3. Who am I called to personally disciple right now? How?
  4. Who is already around me, that I am discipling or being discipled/encouraged by, that I am called to build one-another community? How?
  5. How am I empowering my disciples & community to do the same (#1-#4)?

What does ‘Living Organically’ mean to you?

       
 
   



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