Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stories From the Trenches 4

The Apostle Paul, in exhorting Timothy to purposely multiply himself in ministry, said these words; "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." 2 Timothy 2:1-3

What characteristics do we look for in finding such men and women?
Certainly character, a history of faithfulness, a knowledge and practice of the Word of God, consistent prayer and service to the purposes of God. I'd also add a hungry and passionate desire for more of God and His Kingdom made manifest.
We like to think that finding such men and women is easy, but after living many decades, I can attest that they are not so easily found. Complacency is far more common than hunger in most people. Faithfulness is rare. Initiative even rarer.

I think Jesus addressed this issue when he taught his disciples the following;

"Then He said to His disciples, " The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." Matthew 9:36-38

I pray this regularly, and I recognized answered prayer when I met Matthew and Elisa.

I met Matthew and Elisa a year and a half ago, as they were in the process of deciding how to step down lovingly and gracefully, from a leadership position at a traditional church they attended. They had done some reading and were intrigued with the simple, organic approach to church. What is commonly called "being church" as opposed to "doing church". They felt like the Lord was leading them in this direction. Like sponges, they soaked up the concepts of simple, organic and missional life and soon were off and running with it.

Elisa, being raised upon the mission field is passionate about living a missional life. Where as many people don't have a natural outward focus, Elisa sees everyone as a potential Kingdom family member. She is giving, intuitive, warm and reaches out to people with ease, making them feel like they have value. She has the ability to cross cultures and build bridges of commonality into peoples' diverse lives. Independent, confident, and a risk taker, she is not afraid to experiment and try new ways and venues that enter into the lives of those around her. Every aspect of her is apostolic.

Matthew is a self described "geek". Where as some of us are 2 or 3G (high speed data transmission capability), Matthew's more like 4 or 5G (do they even make 5G yet?). He is smart on so many levels it could be intimidating, except that there is nothing about Matthew that would cause you to feel intimated. Instead, he's more like a familiar brother; warm, welcoming and incredibly patient with those who have a bit slower "processor", like myself!
He is a deep thinker who loves to contemplate concepts, principles and their implications to life in Christ and how to manifest these Kingdom aspects with purpose and longevity. In spending time with Matthew, you come away feeling like you've been challenged to "go a bit deeper" into understanding the mind and heart of Christ and His Word. He may be "brainy" but often times he seems led by his heart, and it is obvious that his heart is led by God.

I like to say of Matthew and Elisa that "no grass will ever grow under their feet!" They are a couple with purpose and initiative. They are intent on producing lasting fruit and giving their lives in service and honor to the Lord.

In just a year and a half, here is some of Matthew and Elisa's Great Adventure.......

Matthew led a coworker to the Lord, discipled and baptized him in apartment swimming pool and per request of this new believer, celebrated with Martini's (see the whole story @ http://www.cmaresources.org/article/a-cocktail-party).

Elisa established a friendship with an Iranian woman (not a Christian) in her apartment building, and asked if she would allow her to pray to Jesus to heal the woman's 2 year old son who was not able to walk at all or sleep through the night. Elisa prayed, the child was healed, and the two days later he was running around like any normal 2 year old, and sleeping through the night for the first time. The woman acknowledged Jesus healed her son, and even witnessed to her Muslim husband about it. Elisa connected her to some Iranian Christians who were able to speak Farsi with her and continue to teach her about Jesus. This woman is now back in Iran, hopefully sharing with other Iranians how Jesus healed her son.

Elisa has reached out to a number of her apartment building neighbors of various ethnic backgrounds. Sharing food, cooking tips, parenting advice, marriage/relationship counsel, prayer, practical help and more, she has created bridges for them to Jesus.

Elisa and Matthew have both started a number of LTG's (Life Transformation Groups) that have been instrumental in people coming to know the Lord and being discipled in Him. Elisa, like most women is relational. So she adapted the concept of an LTG into a more relational form that fits how women interact with each other and thereby taking a tool and adapted it to her environment. Totally missional.

They together, have started a number of simple churches, experimenting with such things as: the gathering of established believers who know each other already, the gathering of those who don't know each other, or a mix of pre Christians and established Christians. They have tried to "turn" a group established already, into a more organic expression (it didn't work), and have gathered people to study various aspects/books/concepts in simple, organic, missional life.

They put up a website (www.rawreligion) to be a place to connect and disseminate information, testimonies and stories for those interested in the simple, organic, missional life.

Matthew has begun to form relationships with those on the same journey to network and co-labor with them in the area. He offers himself as available to those who are seeking to know more about simple and organic church, even though he himself is new to it, he has learned enough already to impart to others valuable insight. He told me recently that when he is asked how to "do" simple, organic, missional church, he replies; "it's characteristics you walk through and not a model you follow". Along this line of teaching and training others in simple, organic, missional life, they are planning a Greenhouse Training weekend in the near future.

Did I mention that they have been on this journey for just a year and a half? I know people who have walked this journey for years and have not learned, practiced or born the fruit of this young couple.

And did I mention, they are parents, (their second child due any day now), Matthew works full time, and in addition is studying in an intense program for Cisco certification?

In a recent conversation we had together, they made this comment; "we have such itchy feet, and we want to be more involved with Kingdom work than we are able to right now! It's frustrating!"

Here is my prayer;

Lord! Give us more Matthew's and Elisa's!!!

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