Recently I received a publication from an organization that plants churches in Iran called Elam Ministries (www.elam.com or www.iran30.org). 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 (www.simplychurch.com/2010/06/12-reasons-why-we-dont-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!