Friday, June 11, 2010

Third Shifters; Bringing Impact

Recently I received a publication from an organization that plants churches in Iran called Elam Ministries ( or Here is something I want to share with you from that brochure:

"While it is safer to plant a church in the West, it may actually be simpler to plant one in Iran. Go to a church planters' conference in North America, and you will hear about budgets, programs, marketing campaigns, and the need for a good worship set. Attend a conference for Iranians, and you get a different picture. They'll talk about starting by sharing Christ with friends and family, gathering new believers for a weekly Bible teaching and fellowship, and then encouraging and praying with them to go and share with their friends and family."(Elam Ministries, Issue 2, 2010)

Let's look at the points they make:

1. Start with friends and family
2. Study the Bible together
3. Get together for fellowship
4. Empower, encourage and pray for each person to go out and share Christ in their "okios" (spheres of influence)

Simple, Organic and Missional. Every believer in Christ can do it.

This is the way the Kingdom has been extended since the book of Acts, and the rest of the New Testament, was written for our instruction and encouragement.

The Apostle Paul, Barnabas and others as "First Shifters", carved out through their missionary journeys "The Way". They pioneered new territories and laid foundations.

Then, those like Timothy, Titus, Apollos and others "Second Shifters" began to build on those foundations.

It was the "Third Shifters" however, that I believe created the impact and real expansion of Christianity and the Kingdom of God. The masses of normal, regular people living out their faith and commitment to Christ in every day life.

The names of most of these people we don't know. Although the Apostle Paul does from time to time in his letters, acknowledge some of them and their faithful work in the Kingdom.

It is these nameless, faceless, empowered, obedient Believers in Christ that God really works through in profound and powerful ways. This group of people multiplies itself over and over, causing transformation in neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries. This is the group of real impact.

Here is a testimony from an Iranian couple who have gone into a deeply Islamic city from the Elam article;

"We started with two people who were Christians, but had no Bible teaching. We met with them and began to disciple them. The Lord blessed us and now we have twenty faithful believers".

Another church planter who oversees over 20 house churches says:

" Our churches grow through our members. We started with one family in Tehran. We would visit them in their home for worship and fellowship. We taught them the Bible and encouraged them to share Jesus with their friends and family. They did, and the church grew." (Elam Ministries, Issue 2, 2010)

Felicity Dale, a friend of mine, recently posted an article called; 15 Reasons Why We Don't See Harvest ( In it she offers some suggestions as to why we are not seeing a lot of harvest that I would encourage you to read and contemplate. Even better, join in the conversation!

In my opinion, we will not see the results that are seen in China, India, Iran and other places until the Third Shifters begin to faithfully, simply, organically and missionally walk out their faith in the natural rhythms, circumstances and oikos' of their lives.

"But you are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a People For God's Own Possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light" 1Peter 2:9

Start proclaiming, and let's see the Book of Acts come alive in our own time and lives!


  1. Thank you for developing the 'shifters' thought to recognize seasons through which the church moves.

  2. THANK YOU! Trey, for helping in giving some timely clarity to me when I was sifting through some of this in my thoughts. Your input was invaluable and very encouraging!

  3. Not that this is a terribly important question, but I'm interested in how you see people today. Are we "third shifters" or are we laboring to see "third shifters" arise in our communities?

    My point. Paul & Barnabas were the 2 sent to the gentiles to prepare the way for Jesus. As they reaped the harvest, we see more harvesters join their journeys (ie. Timothy, John Mark, etc). Again, the new pairs go out and prepare more for Christ. The people Paul acknowledges in his letters are beginning to tap into the "third shifters," or perhaps "third generation" of believers as a result of Paul's ministry.

    I'm new to the simple church movement, and a friend of mine (whose done this for almost a decade) is mentoring me through any snags that come up. Our community has never seen the likes of discipleship in a house church context. So... are we "first shifters" in our community or an extension of Paul's missionary journeys? Just some food for thought.

  4. Great question and comments Ivforbb!
    Personally, I think we are "laboring to see "third shifters" arise in our communities" as you said.

    That said, of course the Kingdom is always multidimensional - and God working with people on different levels and purposes and also uniquely in their environments and oikos.

    I believe, overall, we are moving out of the First Shifter time and are mainly in the Second Shifter era. Second Shifters as I argue, are those who make the message useful and palatable for the masses. They build on the foundations and set the stage for the majority of work to be accomplished (Kingdom speaking) by the Third Shifters. Timothy is a great example of a Second Shifter. Philemon, the Jailer, and others good examples of the beginning of Third Shifters.

    Again, it's not so "cut and dry" and I want to be careful in making it sound as such. But the overall movement, as I see it right now, is at this place. We ultimately need to be investing in the Third Shifters (which by the way, we ALL should be in essence Third Shifters, sharing Jesus within our spheres of influence), encouraging, releasing, empowering, supporting the "families of God" that will ultimately be those making disciples and raising them to maturity.
    Thanks for your efforts in your own oikos to be such a person!!! May God continue to lead you and guide your steps and give you divine connections as you do your part in His Kingdom! May your light shine, and your influence increase for His Glory and Purposes!!!

  5. Outstanding Katie - this is exactly what its about. If Jesus (hypothetically) started a church it woudl all be relational and simple. If a contemporary church leader did - for all the efforts, he would still fail to reach the depth or scope of what Jesus would achieve. There are churches in Africa that meet under trees - and are more church than most modern concept of church can ever hope to be.