In the early 1990's, I heard someone speak on the radio about the simple way church was done during the early formation of Christianity. They mentioned a series of tapes available from different teachers on the subject, that Jim Rutz had put into an album called, "Open Church: Lions In The Pews". I sent for the tapes, and listened to them many times over. I checked their claims with Scripture, prayed for discernment, and eventually passed them around to all my friends. I resonated with the messages and concepts on these tapes, and soon Tom and I were on the journey of discovery in Simple/Organic/Missional Church.
When I first began to talk to people years ago about this topic, it was challenging to find words and communicate accurately this new paradigm of thinking about church. I struggled to describe and "re frame" for people, this new (but old,) lifestyle of simple Christianity. I used words and descriptions like; "living church 24/7" , "being church", "living like a missionary in my neighborhood, work, coffee shop", "having simple church", "full time but not paid", "I don't go to church, I am the church", "church is relationships not buildings", "release of the laity","church in the home", "fluid church", etc.
I predominately encountered the "huh?" response. In Minnesota, we call it the "deer in the headlights" look. Most people didn't have a clue of what I was talking about! I know some thought I was in major error, if not apostate. Others, I just confused. Painfully, I had a few relationships distance themselves from me for it.
Those were some lonely and often very isolating times. You ask yourself, and God, a lot of questions and usually don't find the answers you want. Such is the life of faith.
However, the unmistakable Spiritual Fruit that we saw in our own lives, the lives of our children, the lives of those we were reaching out to, was a continual affirmation of our direction.
That was then, this is now.
Now, I believe, we are transitioning into different times.
The words I mentioned above, their concepts, and those practicing the life and journey of organic, simple, missional living are becoming more and more mainstream terms. We have great authors who are writing books, blogs and doing regional teaching/trainings to communicate the stories, definitions, and particular aspects of the paradigm.
More and more people are stepping out of traditional churches and exploring this Christianity of less church activity and more God intimacy. Mega churches, traditional churches, multi-site churches are beginning to seek out certain aspects of this movement that they want to incorporate into their expression of church. Major Christian publications are writing and discussing it. Just Google the words house church, simple church, missional, open church, organic church to see the multitude of links!
We've moved into the second shifter phase.
Second shifter is a great description for the natural progression of going from exploration to implementation. Where the ideas, concepts and ultimately a new paradigm of living, begins to take root into the culture as more and more people adopt its principles and concepts. (Thanks Trey)
In the exploration phase, those who function like "Lewis and Clark" discover and set the trails.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with American History; Lewis and Clark were explorers who opened up the western United States to settlement in 1804. They were called the Corps of Discovery. Their journey was short, but of huge significance. They are known to have opened up everything west of the Mississippi for settlement. In just a couple decades, the west was forever changed. They opened the way for the second shifter phase.
The implementers are those who take the information of the explorers and actually use it for settlement. They make it available and useful, giving definitions, application. Communicating these in such a way that allow for the settlement phase to take root.
Communication at this point of implementation becomes far more important because the impact and scope is so much greater, than during the exploration phase. Portability is a necessity. However, there is a lot at stake with this phase. Second shifters have a huge responsibility.
In my next blog post, I'll share some of my thoughts about that...........