SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles

Hearing God For Ourselves Or Depending on Others

ConversationswithGodSo here’s the problem…

Either we press into an ever-deepening, hearing-from-God relationship, or we settle for someone else’s voice as the primary authority of our lives. It is a simple choice.

I have been enjoying a fresh read of Dallas Willard’s Hearing God in which he addresses this issue as squarely as I have heard it:

From the humility and generosity of his great heart, Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” (Num 11:29). But this might be a mixed blessing, for one further serious objection to individual believers’ living in a conversational relationship with God comes from a feeling that this would lead to chaos in the church, the community of believers…

Such logic drives toward a hierarchy of authority and subordination and naturally results in one person’s speaking for God and thus enforcing conformity.

Willard goes on to say that the ‘redeemed community’ is meant to be made up of ‘living stones’ who live ‘in conversation with God.’ But, due to the hierarchy of religious structures, we too often find leadership is focused on ‘getting others to do as they are told.’

They [such leaders] will invariably turn to controlling the flock through their own abilities to organize and drive, all suitably clothed in a spiritual terminology and manner.

And, let us be honest, this happens because so many followers prefer giving this authority to someone else rather than take responsibility for the supreme task (and joy) of learning the ways and voice of God through our deepening relationship with Him.

As Willard says, “God has created us for intimate friendship with himself—both now and forever.”

When we grasp this, it becomes the central focus of our lives as we take on both the challenges and joys of developing such a friendship.

Today there is a desperate need for large numbers of people throughout various arenas of life to be competent and confident in their practice of life in Christ and in hearing his voice. Such people would have the effect of concretely redefining Christian spirituality for our times. They would show us an individual and corporate human existence lived freely and intelligently from a hand-in-hand, conversational walk with God. That is the biblical ideal for human life.

Isn’t this the very heart of the spiritual revolution that God is after for his people, the church, in this day?

Leave a comment on your thoughts or share how your own conversational relationship with God is developing!


House Church: Not Real Church

HousechurchI’ll confess that when I first heard about the idea of house churches, I thought, That’s not real church. I thought the only reason a congregation would meet in a house instead of a larger traditional or contemporary church would be because they couldn’t afford a building or they didn’t have the vision or ability to grow into a “real church.” I knew, of course, that the early church started in homes. What I didn’t understand was why anyone in a free country would continue to do so when larger churches with exciting youth programs, riveting preachers and spectacular worship music are not hard to find.
Now, here I am, starting house churches.
An excellent primer post by Dave Barnhart on house churches. Key benefits of house church: intimacy, hospitality, leadership development, discipleship, missional, and good stewardship.

Links, Posts, and Quotes - August 2016

Stay-current-social-mediaOn living radically for/with Jesus:

‏@bradjoegray The #Christian life isn't a mountain climb, it's a cave dive—a plunge into all the unimagined and undiscovered fullness of Christ.

Living in Faith and Grace in a Polarizing, Angry World, Ann Voskamp: “Turns out what we want most is someone to just sell us some certainty about who is who, and what is what, so we can have this sense of knowing what’s safe — instead of knowing Who is the Savior who calls us to love in dangerous, upside-down ways.”


On simple/organic church

20 Truths from The Church as Movement by JR Woodward and Dan White, Jr.: “The Church as Industrial Complex is a resource-driven form of church that has a gravitational pull that unintentionally turns spirituality into a product, church growth into a race, leadership into a business and attendees into consumers.”

"What would the church look like today if we really stopped taking control of it & just let the Holy Spirit lead?" -Francis Chan


On discipleship and movements

“I don’t think you have a movement unless you have grandkids and great grand kids you don’t know...” What the Global Church Taught Bob Roberts About Church Planting.

@Mike_Breen If you make disciples, you always get the Church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.

Keeping the Word at the center of movements. Steve Smith in Mission Frontiers. “Perhaps the central tenet of why CPMs emerge is that they emphasize returning to biblical norms of discipleship.”


On taking the Gospel to the nations

@SteveSilkRoad If your church planting strategy in a foreign culture is not fully reproducible by locals without your help, you're doing it wrong.

Six-word lessons to help believers live missionally. David DeVries. Examples: "Disciples Make Disciples Who Make Disciples." "It’s His Mission, What’s My Part?" "Think and Act Like a Missionary."


On caring for the poor

@randyalcorn When will we learn that God doesn’t give us more to increase our standard of living, but to increase our standard of giving?

@povertycure …the poor, no matter how destitute, have enormous untapped capacity; find it, be inspired by it, and build upon it.”


Just Keep Loving People

ILovet’s easier to go to church or join a church then… just keep loving people.

It’s easier to prepare a sermon or listen to one then… just keep loving people.

It’s easier to share an opinion or bash the opinion of another then… just keep loving people

I am preaching to myself…

It’s the simple basic command of the Gospel that Jesus spoke of and demonstrated… just keep loving people.

We all know people who are good at this in different ways. Some of you are great at loving addicts and alcoholics. Some of you are great at loving your neighbor, or the lonely, or the infirm. And some of you are great at carrying your love across cultural and/or geographical divides to love people from different places and different backgrounds.

Sam Riviera has a great post, from his own experiences, on how to love homeless people. As Sam says in his article:

I remember that old adage “I don’t care what you think until I know you care about me.” I probably misquoted it, but you get the idea. Another way of stating the same idea: We must earn the right to be heard. Our currency is caring and loving.

The church and Christians lost the right to be heard in many peoples’ lives long ago. Instead of finding caring and loving, they found disinterest at best, meanness, hatred, anger, and judgment at worst.

Our friends, be they the homeless, the poor, our neighbors, or our gay friends, want to talk. They tell us their stories. We listen. They ask us questions. We answer their questions, talk with them, shake their hands, hug them, and in the case of the homeless give them some water and maybe an orange and a pair of socks, a tarp, or a warm coat.

Sometimes when we’re on the street and we answer their questions with “We’re here to show the love of Jesus to the folks here in the neighborhood,” they start crying. I don’t remember how many times this has happened, but it’s not unusual.

Just keep loving people… and do it your way!. As Mother Teresa said, “Find your own Calcutta.” It does not get any more real, organic, and fruit-bearing than that!


My Personal Winding-Road Life Journey

WindingroadI'm sitting on a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to meet with a group of International mission leaders and find myself thinking about the God-process that brought me to this place. As I reflect back over decades of experiences I sense that many others have had similar journeys and milestones. Here is what my 'winding road' has looked like:

1. Passion. Nothing matters like passion from start to finish. When God found me, changed me, and filled me with Himself, I had no greater desire than that others experience the same. The reality that there were whole people groups who never would have this opportunity unless the Gospel was taken to them caused me to be smitten with the longing to do just that.

2. Vision. From passion it seems easy enough to develop some sense of vision and even an action plan. The challenge is that the early years are often a mixture of a lot of my own ideas sprinkled in, maybe, with some of God's. Think of Moses trying to free his people by killing the slave master or Joseph trying to explain his dreams to his brothers. Well-intentioned, but...

3. Faith Steps. The vision is initially walked out with steps of faith that are “certain” to lead to God's blessing on life, ministry, family, and all areas of life. So, with confidence I launch out. And, indeed, God always honors our faith and some wonderful things do happen because of it. He is faithful, but He is still in the business of shaping me big-time!

4. Vision thwarted. Somewhere along the way, the early vision and faith-steps encounter obstacles and, despite the fact that there may be some fruit from it, eventually it comes to a standstill. The resulting disappointments are so confusing. I was certain that I was 'the man' fulfilling 'God's calling' so why are things not working out as I had planned and envisioned?

5. Patience, Perseverance, Character Growth. This is the most difficult season of all. It seems to be a time of just slogging it out one step at a time. The vision has dimmed, the glamour of it all is gone, and the way seems dark at times. In my own life, I went through a series of painful, personal seasons that seemed to make the way darker, dimmer, and more confusing than ever. Yet this often seems to be the most important part of the entire process as God shapes the heart more fully for Him. It was a time when my identity became less about 'the vision' and more about simply being the child of God. It was a painful, difficult, necessary, growing-up phase.

6. Contentment. This may be the fruit of step five through which God becomes greater, being-with-God becomes more the point than anything else, and there is less of the push to 'do something' or try to 'be someone.'

7. Vision Renewed. The final step (to-date) is a vision that is re-shaped by all of the steps mentioned. It is more of God and less of Roger. When I begin walking the faith steps this time, doors open, things happen, and it is much more about Him. He has re-formed everything in a way that I could have never imagined nor done on my own. It is a vision that He has inspired and then placed me in the right places to see it come to pass. Challenges still? Plenty? Heartbreaks and disappointments still? All the time. But coming from a place of deeper surrender and clearer dependency, there is the sense that God will do what He needs/wants/plans to do. I can let go more than ever and just be part of His ride. And, at the end of the day, He will indeed work all things together for the good of his purposes, for my good, and for His glory.

It has been quite a ride, without a doubt, yet when looking back it so easy to see the way God has masterfully and miraculously coordinated every part of the journey. He is an amazing God to do life with!

Have you experienced something similar? Share!

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