Friday, November 9, 2012

Are You Headless And Don't Even Know It?

  Lately,  I've been struggling with the decision of whether or not to continue writing Backseat Driver.  I'm really seeking to know the direction of the Lord in this.  I'm wondering if it's really valuable and producing Kingdom fruit, or if its time to move on with other things. I hate to think I'm just contributing more pablum to our obsession with teaching, information, endless opinions, "expert" dissemination and constant verbal noise. Maybe I'm just tired, and in pessimistic mood, but I find myself in reading blogs, twitter, and Facebook/Google posts, the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes when he says, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity". 

I'd like "Backseat Driver" to be what Solomon describes when he says, "The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write truth correctly.  The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by the one Shepherd", (Chapter 12:10-11).  However I'm worried that I may be falling into his warning in the next verse along with many others when he continues with, " But beyond this, my son, be warned; the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books (blogs, twitter) is wearying to the body.  The conclusion, when all has been heard, is fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person". Ecclesiastes 12:12-13.

So, going back to my very first blog post from February 2009, which I re posted here - I'm taking a good look in the mirror and wondering if I'm walking around Headless, or connected firmly to the Head. 

 What about you - are you walking around Headless and don't even know it?




Last night I had a disturbing dream where everyone was walking around without a head attached to their body.  Even stranger, was that it didn't seem to be problem or an issue.  I watched them function in all the ways we do naturally, going here and there, living their life.   I was confused because I couldn't understand how they were doing so without their head directing, seeing, listening, processing etc.

Have you ever been driving the car for a period of time, lost in thought, and suddenly realized that you had covered many miles, switched lanes, maneuvered through traffic and not had a consciousness of what just happened?  There was a disconnect from the "head" but you functioned just fine on "auto pilot".

In Colossians 2, the theme is learning how to walk out our being complete in Christ.  In verse 19 it states; " not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God."  

In Ephesians 4:15 it say; "but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ."

How much of our daily lives to we live "without the Head", and we don't even notice it?  When we go on "auto pilot" ?

I know I desire to grow with a growth which is from Christ, and I believe you do also.  To remain connected to Him so that our lives are a living, fruitful and growing reflection of His Will and direction.  No more auto pilot or headless meandering!  Let's stay connected to our Head!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Last of the Questions!!

Q:  How do you handle bad doctrine and those who bring weird ideas?

 For any disciple new or old in their relationship with Christ, it is necessary and paramount to our maturing process to read and know the Word of God and the Word Himself as our teacher. Not only reading, but also in the practice of what we read for it to become a part of us.  Otherwise, it is quickly forgotten and it never takes root within us to bear fruit.  There are no shortcuts to maturity - it takes time and commitment.  It means you listen and obey your way to maturity and discernment.  Hebrews 5:14 says, "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil"

Maturity means your not easily misled.  Unfortunately, we have people misled by false teaching because they don't mature and are vulnerable to any charismatic and forceful teacher.  It will always be so. The Apostle Paul dealt with false teachers and teachings, and those who misled others and comments a lot on the subject in his letters. Jesus said we will have tares grow up alongside the wheat.  We should expect it, and train ourselves to discern wisely.  We should also expect to be misled if we are not reading and practicing the Word ourselves.

When our children were very young, we encouraged them to read the Bible and ask God to teach them what it means.  Of course we engaged with them in the process, but we did not substitute a quick answer for them, and required them to seek out God and His Word for themselves.  They developed a lifestyle of asking, listening and obeying.  That is the essence of any disciple - to know Jesus intimately and do what He says.  We do that with those we disciple also - point them to Jesus.  This doesn't mean they couldn't, or didn't come to us with questions or for counsel, it just meant that God was sought FIRST and the Holy Spirit was trusted and expected to do what He says He does -which is teaching, guiding and conforming us to Christ.

With the MSF motorcycle rider training program we use to teach the basic skills of riding, most of those who take the class have no prior knowledge or skill about motorcycling at all.  At the completion of 10 hours of "on the motorcycle" training, most are doing good quick stops, skilled cornering, tight U-turns and more.  If we can do that with a good training program in two days in our flesh, how much MORE can the Holy Spirit do if we trust Him to train us in The Word - the very thing He is wanting to do?!

 Everyone needs to read the Word of God.  We discern error when we know the real thing because we have familiarity and personal interaction with it regularly. If we only know regurgitated and editorial interpretations of The Word, we will be easily mislead. Weird and false doctrine usually comes through the teaching of one person in the group, and where the group doesn't know it's wrong because they are ignorant.  When we give the responsibility to know the Word to someone else because it's easier for us that way, we open ourselves up to being mislead.  When the group has matured through knowing the Word themselves, they can easily recognize and deal with error.

A great tool in helping people (especially new Christians) read the Bible, are LTG's  (Life Transformation Groups) from CMA Resources (

Q:  Our house church didn't last very long and people went back to the traditional church, why does this happen?

Because nothing really changed, it only shrunk.  We call it the "honey, I shrunk the church" syndrome.  It's as if by leaving a building and then substituting the meeting place with a house, a city park, or a coffee shop, that somehow it's now become a Simple, Organic, Missional church.  In essence and in practice, nothing is very different.  The paradigm of how we view church never changed, only the location.  They are still "doing" church, instead of "being" church.  A very profound difference in theology and practice.  
Many leaders who think they are starting a Simple Church, are just taking people with them from the traditional church where they had faithful relationships who supported their leadership, but who don't have a clue about what S/O/M life really is.   They just are following their leader. When these people  see that the leader is basically leading the same thing in just a smaller (and often more unhealthy) version of church, that doesn't offer them the "perks" that they are used to like child care, short services, professional music, youth activities and such, why stay? 

Understanding the paradigm of Simple, Organic, Missional life and fellowship and how it is practiced 24/7, is crucial.  Some people don't want to make the commitment once they see that it requires more effort, maturity, accountability, involvement and commitment. Many are not willing to make such a lifestyle change, especially if they have found the convenience of traditional church more accommodating at fitting into their schedules.  When they really begin to see what is required of them, they often leave for an easier venue of practicing their faith.

Another point I want to make is that we are used to thinking about church in the traditional sense of going on and on for generations in some town, city or region.  We think of congregations as lasting forever.  In the paradigm of S/O/M Church, fellowships are far more fluid.  They form, grow, die, change, etc. according to the leading of the Lord and His Purposes.  The eternalness of the Body of Christ is always there, but the fellowships and their makeups change.  The Bible says that unless a kernel falls to the ground and it dies, it cannot produce fruit.  The death of something allows for the birth of someone else. Change is healthy and life is transitional (birth, childhood, youth, adult, middle age, old age).  Our fellowships are also transitional, and that's okay!  Our relationships with each other are eternal, and they aren't contingent upon how much or often we gather with each other.

Q:   How do you get the word out in the community about your home church?

I am not supportive of most "attractional" ways to gather people for S/O/M fellowship.  This is the way traditional churches try and build their congregations.  Marketing is a big deal in our culture, and it certainly has affected the Church.  I think that growth should happen naturally through your relationships and contacts, and not through advertising.  

Many put their Simple Church on various websites, name and build networks, advertise and promote their groups to those seeking this venue of fellowship and life.  I'm not a proponent of that.  However, I do recognize that it may have some benefit in the connecting of people, but it feels to me like "church shopping" and artificial addition instead of natural growth through divine connections.  

The best way to "get the word out" is to live your Christianity in ways that those around you ask you questions about your faith and how you practice it.  God will bring you in contact with those He wants you to connect with - that's His job, and He does it well without our help in advertising.

****And that's all the questions we're going to address for now!  Thanks for following them in these last few blog posts, and remember if you have some suggestions, thoughts, opinions or disagreements - feel free to post them in the comments section!  

 I named this blog Backseat Driver for a reason.  YOU are the one in the front seat of your own journey with the Lord in this wonderful adventure called Simple, Organic, Missional life and fellowship.  I'm just offering my thoughts on the journey to you in humility.  If you find them confirmed by the Holy Spirit ........GREAT!  God has used me to encourage and ignite you.........

  If not, backseat drivers can easily be ignored.........:)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Questions Continued: What About Financial Support?

  • In the process of organic church planting, how does the person support his family?

My quick answer?  By working a job or jobs, or having a spouse who works to financially support your family's income needs. 

I find that most of the time this question is asked by those who have been financially supported in ministry by receiving a salary from a traditional church or ministry.  Simple, Organic, Missional ministry is very different.  There are a few instances that I know of where a denomination or an organization who is seeking this direction of church planting is funding the Organic Church Planter because that is how traditional church does church planting in the West.  There are others (a very few) who receive income from their writing and speaking forums in this area. 

The majority of Simple, Organic, Missional Church Planters work secular jobs to support themselves and family in some way.  

For me, between my husband and myself, we have 9 separate streams of income from various jobs - (all but one is part-time and/or seasonal).  It's part of the paradigm change to consider "full time ministry" not as something special, positional, professional, and from which you receive a salary,  but instead where "ministry" is the normal Christian life for ALL of us as we present and live Christ to those around us in our daily journey. Ephesians 4:12 says, we are all called and equip "for works of service" in our normal lives made powerful because of Christ in us.  In this paradigm there are no "secular jobs" or "sacred jobs", where one is holy and special, and the other not. Work is ministry, life is ministry - for everyone.

When we work at a job/jobs, it means that there is not a lot of extra time to "do" ministry in the way we have thought it had to happen in the past traditional sense. This is where we think of ministry only happening in time slotted meetings, prepared orations of teaching, directed study, preplanned activities and organized events.  The Simple, Organic, Missional paradigm is that ministry is not something we do, but rather live, and it fits into our lives naturally in its' various contexts.  It is not something for the "chosen few" professionals, but rather the whole Body of Christ.  It is not "slotted" but fluid, and responsive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. We look for opportunities at work, with our families, in our neighborhood, with people we associate with through our children, communities of activity, in fellowship with other Christians, etc. to live ministry and Christ fluidly and naturally in all contexts.  I spoke with a guy recently who resigned from a pastoral job and went back to school to become a nurse.  He shared with me that he feels he is ministering to others far more through his nursing job, than he did through his weekly church events that were called "ministry".

But what about those in Ephesians 4 who are called to "equip the saints for works of service"?  Shouldn't they get compensated?  

My short answer?  Yes and no. 

Those called to equip the Body are not professions and positional.  They are functional and with a divine authority attached to them that results in effective equipping and obvious fruit.   Not everyone who thinks or calls themselves one of those listed in Ephesians 4, who take an assessment that tells them what they are, or have a seminary degree or title given by others,  are necessarily those described in Ephesian 4 as 'equippers' of the Body.  We should be looking for fruit and the obvious evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit that endorses such a claim.

The Apostle, Teacher, Evangelist, Pastor Paul (all obvious when viewing the fruit of his life) said in I Thessalonians 2:5-9, "For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed - God is witness -nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.  But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.  Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased  to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.  For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not be be a burden to any on you we proclaimed to you the gospel of God."

He speaks of his authority and yet uses the example to describe his leadership as being "like a nursing mother tenderly caring for her own children".  That is a distinctly opposite visual picture to "seeking glory from men, flattering speech, greed" and positional authority.  A nursing mother is quiet, subdued and totally there for the nursing child at her breast.  Certainly no mother expects compensation.  Can you imagine a mother saying, "you owe me for nursing you ten times a day, seven days a week, for two years!"  If we can see true Biblical leadership in terms of good mothering and fathering instead of as a CEO who needs compensation, then we will begin to understand this passage much better.....but that is another future blog post I'll have to write.........

RARELY do we hear and read books about the teaching in the Scriptures of the Apostle Paul (and others) who supported themselves financially WHILE living and "doing" ministry. Why not?  Is it because most of those who teach the Scriptures don't work secular jobs, and they don't want to lose their financial support which would cause them to have to work secular jobs?  It seems to me in reading the book of Acts, that Paul did incredibly powerful effective ministry WHILE making tents. Equipping Aquila and Priscilla, starting churches, teaching principles and doctrine, disciple making of men and women who would go on to plant churches and make disciples of their own. Paul did receive financial gifts at various times, his incarceration being one of those times. While he was in prison the making of tents was likely denied him, but I'd bet if given the opportunity, he would have made tents to support his own needs while he was sitting in jail. 

 I Corinthians chapter 9  is full of Paul's exhortation regarding the right of those who minister to receive financial support, but he also chooses not to be dependent upon it.  In II Thessalonians 3:7-10 Paul says, "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you; not because we did not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, that you might follow our example.  For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order; if anyone will not work, neither let him eat." 

The Scriptures have many verses that indicate that we need to financially support particular leaders who devote themselves to equipping the Body for ministry.  In order to get more of the Body of Christ really ministering like we emphasize in Organic, Simple, Missional life, we need the Equippers to be equipping!  And that might mean supporting some financially so they have more time to do it.  

And, we need more examples of those who claim to be "equippers" working "day and night" and "as a model" to the Body of how to live ministry fluidly in the contexts of life AND work who do not expect financial support as a "right". 

I believe that if there is evidence of fruit and impact, in certain seasons of life, and under certain circumstances, that some should receive financial support at times if they are truly equipping others for service .  We have to follow the teachings in Scriptures that endorse financial giving and working to support oneself - both! Going back to the Apostle Paul, he sometimes got financial support and others times he supported himself and those around him.    

It should be both and, not one or the other.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Questions Continued: What About Stagnant Fellowship?

Question:  We are stagnant in our house church and we don't grow.  Some in our group don't want to grow, and they say we should stay as we are, but others do want to grow. What can we do?

First, let's start with the premise that multiplication is good! Christ in us produces life, and that life produces more life! Fertility is part of our natural, and spiritual DNA.  We are created to overflow the life of Christ into others, and that results in multiplication!   When Jesus called out to Matthew one day as a tax collector who was just out taking care of business, he wasn't reaching out to just Matthew.  Matthew was connected to a whole group of people, and he immediately invited his friends over to hang out with Jesus at his place.  That resulted in many more people coming in contact with Christ.  When Jesus conversed with the Samaritan Woman at the well, she immediately left and shared all she knew about him with others she was connected to in her village.  The Church in Acts grew because they were intentional about sharing the Good News with those around them, even if that meant danger to their lives.  Christ is out seeking and saving those who are lost - then and now.  How He does that, is through our contact and connectedness to others through relationships.
  There are many in the simple/organic church practice that are content to never grow - either by addition or multiplication.  They prefer to remain a nice little comfortable (and usually predictable) fellowship of familiar faces.  Many such people couch this insular focus in sanctimony, or in the belief that they will lose intimacy.  The reality is that many people are just looking for a reason to prefer the safety, security, and the familiarity of stasis. Some people just don't see a problem with stagnation.  In fact, some prefer it.
The word stagnate is a verb, and verbs describes an action or a state of being. Stagnation describes a state of inactivity, or standing still of something.  It is to be idle, vegetate, rust, cease to grow, and to exist in a changeless situation. 
This word describes much of what happens in our fellowship gatherings - traditional or simple/organic.  Why?

I believe that most people naturally gravitate to stagnation and we have to intentionally fight against it if we don't want it.  Think of rust forming.  It will eventually form on metal because of the elements in the metal itself and in the environment.   In order to combat rust, you must constantly be doing the things that combat it, or at least, hold it at bay.  The same is true with stagnation in simple church fellowship. The older we get, our love of comfort, our struggles with insecurities and fears, if we are tired and overworked, if we are lazy or complacent in nature - these are just a few factors that inevitably lead us towards stagnation.  Sometimes it is just easier to settle into stagnation, rather than fight against it.  

A few ways to keep from stagnation:
  •   Keep the value of being missional in your fellowship together.  Coming together is NOT just about "us"; the "me" generation.  Fight the tendency towards selfish agendas. The best way to stay missional is to tap into the internal motivations of each person in the group.  God has put into each of us inclinations that are natural missional expressions for us as individuals, and as a group, that He desires to use us in.  I've written a lot about this in past blog posts, one most recently, (see the first post in Common Questions from July 30).  
  • See each member as a potential and likely church planter and act on it.  Most people are able to begin another simple church with the support and encouragement of the current fellowship.  A new simple church can start with couples and/or with their families, using LTG's, affinity groups (i.e. motorcycle riding clubs, scrap-booking clubs, study groups), with apartment residents, neighbors or co-workers.  The possibilities are endless.  As we teach in Greenhouse (, we need to "lower the bar on how to have church, and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple". (Being a disciple means making MORE disciples btw!)  When faith is acted upon, it is contagious and spurs one another on "towards love and good deeds"!
  • Have agreement on starting new simple churches from the beginning.   If you don't do this, people will quickly slide into wanting the simple church to stay "as is" indefinitely.   Starting new simple churches when your around 15-20 people who regularly participate each week, should be a part of your commitment together to grow from the beginning.
  • Be aware of the tendency towards stagnation and exclusivity.  Regularly examine if your simple church is becoming stagnant, ingrown, insular and not a fostering a welcoming environment for new people. We can all relate to the "cliques" of adolescence and sadly, even adulthood!  Many of our simple churches believe they have unique, intimate, close, committed fellowship, and those around them think they are more like a clique or even cultish!  A church I was in years ago, was once accused of being exclusive and elite by other churches in that denomination, and it was true - we were, and sadly even proud of it!                                                                                                               
  • Be comfortable with ending the fellowship.  Scripture is full of dichotomy's - the way to greatness is through humility, the first will be last, pruning for fruitfulness, death that brings forth new life.  Simple/Organic churches are not meant to go on, and on, and on, in the same way with the same people indefinitely.  So much of the paradigm of the continual congregation comes from traditional churches that have been there for decades, mainly because they have a building to support, a denomination that keeps it going, the history attached, and religious behavior that falls into rote. In scripture, we see the fluidity of fellowships that change with life, relationships, and the Spirit of God working in purpose differently and according to His Plans. Our relationship to one another as believers and members of The Body, Bride and Church doesn't change, but our venues for that will and should if we are following the Spirit.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Questions Continued: What About Structure?

What is the structure of the simple, organic home church?
Here in the West, we live in a culture that is in love with structures, systems and manuals of operation. This is a significant factor in our perception and practice Simple, Organic Church.  Not only do we have to consider our culture, but also such things as; personality, age, familiar practices, lives that are scheduled to the max, our work, ages of children, traditions, etc. All these can and do influence our attitude towards wanting more or less some degree of structure when it comes to fellowship paradigms.  I often use a line of continuum as a visual example to explain this thought.  The left side of the continuum represents a point of highly structured practices. Traditional churches, especially those with liturgies would be on this end. The other end at the right, is what I describe as  fluid practice - where there is little, if any structure, and more like liquid or gas that is not dependent upon structure and even permeates around and through it. Much of missionary and evangelism work would be considered more fluid because it is not contingent on a special event or meeting.  Rather it happens spontaneously, and with divine serendipity moments. People find a place of comfort and practice somewhere on the continuum.

  HIGH STRUCTURE---0----1---2----3-----4----5----6----7---8----9----10--- FLUID

  Jesus practiced his fellowship all along the continuum, but remained mostly on the fluid end.  The book of Acts gives us examples of more structured fellowship.  I don't think structure of our fellowship is the main issue, but rather what you do when you come together that is important.  The key to fellowship being simple and organic, is being like Jesus who "only did that which the Father was doing".  So that means seeking the Father for His Will for the simple church.

So the first question to ask is; what is God directing for this simple church in this season of coming together?  

Is it to focus on a deeper understanding of the Word, doing outreach together, maturing new believers, deepening family intimacy, spending quality and quantity time in prayer or worship, ministry equipping, fun and relationship building, releasing others to begin new simple churches?  
Like life, our fellowship should be viewed in holistic terms that change with the rhythms of our lives and the themes that God is working in and through us at this time, and not stagnant meetings which become rote over time.  Once we know what God is focusing on in our lives, and how much structure that requires, we can structure our time together for that to happen.

For example, in one simple church we began, it was apparent to all of us that God was bringing us together for a season of encouraging one another in the specific and unique ways that each of us was feeling led to minister in.  It was a season of "coaching one another" with the truths of the Word, prophetic words, prayer support, encouragement and accountability.  Our structure supported this happening. After about a year, God released everyone to these ministries and the group disbanded.  The relationships are still there years later, but the time of that simple church reached it's end. Another group came together for a season of working on our marriages so we structured our time to include some DVDs that taught on marriage issues, had some great "date" nights together, spent some nights in ministry prayer for specific couples, and we didn't include the children in this simple church.  And in another simple church we led, children were very much a part of it so we structured eating together with "kid friendly" foods, playing together as a simple church with games, stories, toys etc.  We did worship with a ton of instruments that the kids could play (shakers, bells, chimes, drums, etc.),  kept the study of the Bible short and applicable to the kids in the group, and ended early in the evening to meet bedtimes.  In this simple church we were far less structured, and because of having the children participate, our times became quite fluid.

The reason and purpose for the simple church determined the structure and duration of the fellowship we experienced.

Most people who begin to practice Simple, Organic, Missional Church start out by bringing with them all the familiar structure of what they knew in traditional church, i.e. the same time/place each week, someone leading worship, usually the same person doing the facilitating/leading each week, scripture study, prayer time, fellowship time, and it's pretty much the same from week to week.  Nothing much has really changed except they went from big to small, and from a building to a home.  They change very little in what they do and look like from the traditional church they left.  Many call this "honey, I shrunk the church" syndrome and it's very common.

Some of the major strengths of Simple, Organic and Missional church practice is that it is mobile, intimate with God and others, it is done easily by anyone, can change without bureaucracy, adapts to circumstances, and supports everyone in their participation.   As we like to say in  the CMAresources Greenhouse is to; " lower the bar on HOW we do church, and raise the bar on being a disciple". 

Here's my take - If we think of church like a family, then we know that the structure of family gatherings changes with life and the seasons God takes us through to mature.  For example, when my kids were young, we had set times for dinner and everyone was home and around the table. As they grew older and more involved in activities like sports, drama, dance and such, and my husband started working nights, we shifted our meals and lives to accommodate these changes in our life as a family.  The structure of our dinners changed, but our relationships didn't.  What else didn't change was the interactions, involvements, and commitments with each other because our relationships determined our fellowship - not our structure!  We were still family and spent time together but what that looked like changed, and still continues to do so!

The Bible is clear about the things we should accomplish in our relationships with one another as The Body of Christ.  Some of those listed are; encouragement, prayer, the Lords Supper, each using their spiritual gifts, admonishment, confession, the study of the Scriptures, the sharing of resources, and many more!  This happens through the holistic interaction of our lives with one another.  It doesn't all have to happen at a scheduled and structured time every week with a few.

Of course, most of us need some element of structure because we don't live very fluid lives, but rather from "event to event" and pack our calendars full with our time slots.  So since that is how much of western world lives, I'd recommend checking out what my friends Tony and Felicity Dale have put together as a great resource which covers the many details and basic paradigm of having fellowship in the home at the House2House website.  You can find it at 

The next post will be on why Simple Churches don't grow and often become stagnant.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More Questions About Simple, Organic, Missional Church/Life

  • How do you make disciples who make other disciples?
In the motorcycle riding and safety classes we teach, one of the questions during the classroom portion is: "Who is responsible for safety on the road?"  The answer is all of us, those of us riding a motorcycle AND those who are driving cars are all responsible for safety.  The same is true of disciple making.  All of us who are followers of Christ are responsible to disciple others.  We make ourselves available and willing, and God does all the work.

Here is a direct quote from a letter I recently received from Jim in Wisconsin who is passionate about making disciples.  Jim says, "You see friends we are all disciple makers.  In this past week, Linda and I are seeing that those who we disciple, are making disciples, and those people are making disciples.  It is all completed by our loving God.  I stand by my 3 L’s of making disciples; LISTEN, LOVE, LEAD BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. "

Jim said it great! If everyone understands that making disciples is all of our responsibility as those who follow Christ, it then becomes an issue of obedience, and not of "calling", "profession", or someone Else's job. 

So, once that is established...............

Be around those who are not Christians and be available to introduce Jesus in many contexts.
Then you have relationships with those who are not presently, but may become, disciples.  This means you START with those who don't know Jesus yet. The process of making an disciple happens before someone is even a Christian.   Jesus was making disciples out of the rag tag group of men and women who were following him WAY before they even understood who He really was!  All they knew in the beginning, was that this was a guy who made them think differently than anyone else ever had.  He also did some very unusual things, and he was touching their heart in ways that nothing else ever had before.
 My husband and I started making disciples out of our three children before they ever made a commitment on their own to follow Christ.  We talked about Jesus like He was alive and always interacting with us.  We spoke to Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit like they were right there in our midst, and eager for our attention.  We asked Jesus about issues and guidance in decisions, and relied upon Him for healing, safety, provision, etc.  Our children got to know Jesus, The Father and the Holy Spirit in character, love, forgiveness, faithfulness, provision, etc. through the natural challenges, joys and issues of our daily lives.

Making a disciple means having an authentic relationship where you continually bring the truth of Christ and His Presence into the relationship, and that happens from the moment you meet someone.  I have many friends in my life who don't follow Jesus "yet", but still are interested in me praying for them, encouraging them, and sharing truth into their lives and circumstances.  Others don't even want that, but they just like to "hang out" together for the time being.  Either way -  I rest, knowing God is one One who brings men/women to Himself in faith, so I just keep sowing and enjoying the relationship for what it is.  I let God do the big work of revelation, conviction, salvation, and conformation to Christ.  I just make myself available and "ready to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." 1 Pet 3:15.

 I knew a young woman years ago who started coming to the church I was attending, who was somewhat interested in knowing more about being a Christian.  She was living with her boyfriend at the time, and she was watching pretty violent "snuff" type movies as her entertainment. We began a friendship together, and I brought Jesus into it with our conversations.  It didn't take long before she was asking me if she should quit both living with her boyfriend, and watching these movies if she was seriously going to be a Christian.  You might be surprised that my response to her was not what I wanted to say which was; "yes, quit both of those activities right now!" Instead, I said to her, "if you want to be a Christian, that means you have a relationship with Christ that allows you to ask Him what He thinks about these things.  Ask Him, and see what He says to you about it, and then do what He says."  I continued to hang out with her, treating her as a friend and someone I truly enjoyed being with, and waited to see what Jesus would tell her.  It didn't take too long before she said to me one day, "I moved out of living with my boyfriend because I felt Jesus wanted me to".  And then a few weeks after that she said, "I don't want to watch those movies anymore.  I'm not sure why, but they don't interest me anymore like they used to." 
 I was watching Jesus make His own disciple, and was blessed to be a part of the process!  This woman has been very missional over the years in her faith, having many different simple churches in her home, and she has been a light to many in very dark places.

Making a disciple means to point others to Jesus who is the Author and Perfecter of their faith.  To encourage them to listen to Jesus (as opposed to you, or some great book or teacher) and then obey what He says.  Not everyone wants to be a disciple.  Many never made that commitment when Jesus Himself was right in front of them!  However, if we are listening and obeying and sharing our love of Jesus with others all around us, fruit will result from it, and some will chose to follow The Way and The Way Maker. Life produces life.
In the flesh, we have tried to make disciples who follow a denomination, a charismatic leader, a fellowship large or small, a social/political agenda, or something else OTHER than Jesus.  We have the fruit of those efforts - nothing!  Jesus is the only thing that will produce new life - period.

Making disciples is about KNOWING JESUS and teaching people how to do that through prayer and the Word of God, and then obeying what He says to us. There are no special gifts, skills, education, training, certificates, or seminary that is needed to point people to the "author and perfecter" of our faith.  Just a desire to seek Jesus, listen to what He says, and then do it.  Anyone can do that! 

By removing the hindrance of the "necessity of special training" that is needed to make disciples, it sets people free to do what is natural to them if they have a relationship with Jesus and with others. 
When our kids were very young, they were the incredibly good at making disciples of those around them, and we expected and encouraged them to do so!  We didn't say, "bring them to mommy and daddy, and we'll teach your friends how to know Jesus", but we encouraged them do it, and we saw God back them up with His presence and power!

For those of you who love tools, a great one in helping people become disciples who learn to seek God, listen and obey, are the LTG cards through CMA Resources ( Check out their website and order a few.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Common Questions I'm Asked About Simple, Organic, Missional Life and Fellowship

I am repeatedly asked many of the same questions by those who are interested in Simple, Organic, Missional church.  These questions come up inevitably over phone calls, at coffee shops, at a CMA Resources Greenhouse training event I am doing, or while mentoring and coaching someone in this paradigm.  Here are some of these common questions, and my responses to them.

Maybe these are questions you have, or you have a response to share.  Feel free to add your own questions, experiences and/or responses in the comments section below.

  • How do you build an effective outreach dimension to our existing house group? 
What is primary to any gathering of believers in Christ, is that those believers see themselves and others as church planters and missionaries into their own unique realm of relationships and communities to which they belong.  If you look at the explosion of the church in the book of Acts, and now in such places as China, India and Africa, you see that the average Christian is sharing their own testimony of Christ with those they have access to, and relationship with.   My friend Neil Cole likes to say, "the gospel is to be spread on the wings of relationships". Every person has a network of relationships that they engage with, unless they live alone on a desert island!  
When we come to Christ initially, most of us are eager and unabashed about telling everyone around us how great Jesus is, because our life has dramatically changed!  Sadly, most of us lose that natural initiative to reach out to others with The Good News, because we lose our passion, substitute "meetings" for mission, and we "give that job" to someone else.
    God has placed within each person who is in Christ, the Holy Spirit and the power to be effective witness's to Himself.  Each person! In the past, we have looked to specific positions and leaders to do this.  However, Ephesians tells us that leaders are there to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry" - not DO all the ministry.  When only a few do ministry, or what we perceive as valuable ministry, we inadvertently hobble the majority of saints in their power and purpose.  In contrast, when we see each person working in their individual and God given purposes to advance the Kingdom, we see a TEAM come together, a BODY working, and Christ is revealed into ALL communities in UNIQUE manner.

 The key is uncovering, unlocking, igniting and encouraging each member to step out into what intrinsically motivates them.  God has purposed each Christian to be His "fellow workers" and He has put a unique enthusiasm within them to fulfill it.

Does someone have a heart for the homeless or poor?  Maybe young parents?  Possibly the refugees and immigrants in your city?  There might be a guy who just wants to help widows, single moms, and those without much income, keep their car in working order. Or someone who wants to visit and transport the elderly who are home-bound and lonely. Does someone has a heart to start a community garden and interact with the community through it?  The possibilities are as numerous as the issues of life that come to all of us.  God has placed within each Christian a strategic empowerment to reach into all the normal realms of life, so that He Himself, can be revealed through the average Christian.
Take the time to discover and learn what each person has inside them that has been dormant, discouraged, disillusioned, or held quietly, in regards to what they are passionate about.  Pray, encourage, empower, come alongside each other in mission and outreach - big or small.  Get excited about what God has placed within each person as a unique extension of Himself to reach out to others!  Each person is an "Esther" for "such a time as this" to bring the realities of Christ to those around them.

When I share this, I like to give people a visual picture of a group (like a simple church) all holding hands in a circle, except as you would expect - your NOT all facing inward, but instead your facing outward with your backs to the center of the circle.  This is a great picture of each person supporting one another by holding hands and covering/protecting the vulnerable "back" of each other, and yet facing OUTWARD. 

What wonderful missional adventure awaits you as you look outward for it?

  • How do I sow Jesus into people's lives who don't know him?
Since most of us have put "doing church" into a slot of Christian activity a few times (at best) each week, we easily forget that we ARE the church every minute of every day - whether for good or not, we are the representatives of Jesus on this earth.  Most of us settle into having only Christian relationships, and I know some people who would be hard-pressed to name a handful of people they invest time in that are not Christians!   The fact is, we have people around us everyday who don't know Jesus, but we just "go blind" to seeing them.  Each day, all of us have opportunities to be the fragrance of Christ to those around us.  Like any perfume - some like the smell, and other people don't, but we are supposed to SMELL, and hopefully your walking in a way that your smelling good and full of Jesus!  The Bible says that we are like salt, and if salt loses it's saltiness, it is worthless even for manure.  We are called to illicit some flavor to those around us so they are curious and want more information about why we "seem different". Salt is enticing, and causes us to crave more.
We are to be a Jesus fragrance to the stink of the world (not always smelling each others fragrance in our Christian fellowships), and to add the enticing salty flavor to those needing salt  -what good is salt if it stays altogether in the salt jar?
 Have relationships with no agendas other than to simply "smell like Christ", add some salt, and be ready to have an answer if they want more information.  If they don't ask - that's okay!  Your still carrying around the Presence of Christ and your sowing may result in someone else reaping.  People are not projects for whom we have an agenda, but rather opportunities to drop a little of Jesus in their path.  Why not see people as relationships that for whatever season, venue, or time you have with them, you have a window of opportunity to be a fragrance and salt that they might see something appealing and different in you, and want more!  Jesus is the One who " draws men to Himself" - we are called to have relationships that allow people get a whiff or taste of Him.

 Here are some tangible things from my own life for those of you who want more practical, rather than conceptual help.  Remember - these are NOT things to do with those in your Christian circles of relationships, (of course you can, but then your not sowing) but rather with those who don't know Christ. 

  • Weed, mow their lawn, shovel their snow, plant a garden, give some flowers/vegetables to your neighbor/s, offer to take care of things when they leave for a vacation, help them with a home building project or car/motorcycle maintenance
  • Have a baby shower, welcome to the neighborhood BBQ, a children's backyard party for those in your neighborhood, sprinkler/water balloon battle with kids/parents in the neighborhood, ice cream cones party for everyone, multifamily garage sale, neighborhood events of all sorts!
  • Encourage, engage, pray for, talk with, and regularly visit the same store clerks/gas station attendant, coffee barristers, etc. building rapport and relationship
  • Take neighbors, co-workers, etc. to doctor appointments when they need someone to drive them or support them
  • Go out to movies, dinners, parties, game night, Farmer' Market's, rodeos, motorcycle events, car races, Pow Wow's, cultural celebrations,  Zumba, and other events with people who DON'T know Jesus
  • Go on vacation, camping, weekend "get-a-way's" with people (again - who DON'T know Jesus) and even offer to pay for some or all of it if they couldn't go otherwise
  • Go to a sports event together (don't just give away your ticket), go to their child's game in support, walk your dogs together, go shopping together, canoe, picnic, or hike, take a motorcycle/bicycle ride together
  • Help tutor adults or children with a need, offer help with finding doctors/dentists etc. in the area, help with find a job, resume upgrades, practice interviewing, help with doing taxes
  • Offer to help with child care (one night or as needed), help the children with homework, food for when someone is sick or after a death, cook a meal together sharing recipes/skills
  • Clean their home for them as a gift, buy them groceries if they would need them, pay a bill for them in a tight month, buy the kids "back to school" stuff, or a new outfit for a job interview

I could continue - but hopefully you'll see something in there that will stimulate you to "love and good deeds" and will help you see the daily opportunities around you to sow the fragrance and  saltiness of Jesus into the people who are living right around you, in your own unique way.

More questions in the next blog post....................................

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Practice & Power of Hospitality

Once we invited our neighboring Mexican family over for dinner to celebrate the husbands birthday.  I knew he had tried roasted prime rib once and loved it, but they couldn't afford it, and didn't know how to cook it.  Of course when I served it for his birthday meal, he lit up like a kid in a candy shop!  "For me?", he asked.  "Really? I have not had anyone ever go to so much trouble before to celebrate my birthday, and you even know that I like this meat best!"  He beamed throughout the meal, and the family was all smiles that we were celebrating and honoring their family in this way.  They stayed well into the evening opening up and sharing personal stories, and allowing us to pray for them before they left.  A door into their heart was opened to Christ through roasted prime rib.

Hospitality is not the kind of spiritual gift that dynamically changes a life in a moment, like the gift of healing.  Nor is it powerful in unlocking understanding, as in the gift of teaching. It is not especially empowering or encouraging like the gift of prophecy.  For all these things that it may not be, hospitality is powerful in unlocking and preparing a person/persons for all these spiritual things to take place.  It is like a platform, an environment, that creates an atmosphere of welcome, acceptance, freedom, security and love from which ministry and the Presence of Jesus can flow and accomplish His purposes. Living a life of hospitality is also living a life of ministry and mission.  Hospitality is a "one another" ministry to those who already know Christ.  However, when extending hospitality to those who don't know Christ, it then becomes missional hospitality.  Your mission is to introduce and communicate Jesus in tangible and powerful ways, and then let Jesus take it from there. This is one of the best and most valuable reasons for living simple, organic church out of your home.  It's a powerful venue if you understand and make us of it's power.

Here are some tangible ways to communicate the value and worth of people as we welcome them into our homes and ultimately our lives. Whether it is for one day, an evening, or a few days, the basic principles are the same in practicing hospitality.
  • Greet people at the door when they enter, and see them off when they leave.
  • Don't ignore your guests and get busy with other things.  Once they enter your home, they should be your focus.  If you have children, involve them in serving them also. This is where the team of husband and wife can "tag-team" together so the guests don't feel ignored and left to themselves.  Of course you can always involve them in preparations that still need to happen.
  • Research your guests and know some information about them. They will notice that you made an effort (however small) to attend to their uniqueness and that will immediately communicate their value to you. Things like certain foods and drinks that they enjoy, putting dogs/cats in other rooms if they are afraid or allergic to them.  Find out any particular comforts that will mean a lot to them, like a glass of water near their bed, the particular snacks they like, extra blankets, etc.  Fine tune your hospitality to meet their needs.  When I visit with my friend the Dale's, they always turn the jacuzzi on in the evenings because they know it is a treat for me to use it since we don't have one, and I love to sit in the jacuzzi!
  • Serve your guests. Especially in the beginning until they feel comfortable in your home. For some people this may take awhile, and for others this can be pretty quick, but look at it as an opportunity to serve them while they are with you and not to teach them independence and autonomy.
  • Let them have the best you have to offer.  We have a large leather recliner that is the most comfortable chair in our home, as well as some comfy couches.  Instead of securing the best spot for ourselves, we sit in the least comfortable places, giving preference to our guests. 
  • One thing I learned from my friends from other countries, was to provide a small gift on occasion for those coming over. Chocolates, a card, something personal in their guest room, all communicate (with the power that giving gifts uniquely does) how special they are to you.
  • Listen, ask questions, be interested in their life!  I can't tell you how many times I have been a guest in someones home and I have not been asked anything about me, my life, my family, etc. That alone communicates loudly that you are really not interested in them, and to only talk about yourself and your life exemplifies it!
  • In our culture, and depending on the region you live in, the practice of "dropping in" is regarded as uncomfortable at best, and rude at worst.  But if we want our home to be a hospitable place, folks need to feel that they can come by anytime and we will be happy to receive them.  This was hard for me because I was the type of person who wanted the house nice, clean and everything prepared when someone came by. I wanted to feel "ready" for visitors. We have a Laotian friend who is deaf who would stop by at the worst times.  He'd walk in the house while I was napping, dressing, getting ready to leave, just sitting down to dinner, disciplining our get the idea.  But we got over it, and we learned to love his interruptions of our lives, and enjoy his company for the time he spent with us.  Repeat and repeat that you're okay with people "stopping by" unannounced, and then when they do - receive them like your okay with it.  If your not, then don't do this, but realize that may cause people to see that you have "conditional hospitality" that is based upon their pre-scheduling their visits.
*A note about this if your wanting to reach your neighborhood with hospitality. Kids in our neighborhood always have the invitation to come into our house anytime during the day or early evening, and we encourage them to experience our home as an inviting and safe place, and as a refuge if they needed it.  Many have done this, and some powerful times of sharing, prayer, and counsel between them and our kids, and with Tom and I, have occurred over the years.  A couple times instead of running away, they came to our place instead because they felt comfortable coming into our home.

The bottom line of hospitality is to communicate through your words and actions - love.  God wants to use our lives and homes incredible ways, if we understand the power that hospitality holds and make diligent use of it.  The Bible says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13: 34-35.

 Let's be known for showing love and using hospitality as a venue to do so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Men and Hospitality

Let's be honest.  Especially here in the West, if we think of hospitality at all, we immediately associate it with the female gender.  We've been socialized to think of the home as the female domain and even use the analogy of a bird in commonly calling the home "her nest". No matter that in almost all bird species, the male is just as active in building, maintaining and incubating the nest as his female partner, and in some bird species even more active and involved than the female!  This gender linking to hospitality generally prevails in our minds here in the West, even if the female works outside of the home most of the time, and/or has little interest or inclination towards it .  This paradigm has been changing in the last couple decades, and of course there are a few guys here and there who are the exception when it comes to this, but generally speaking, women are still given the role and expected to be the primary hospitality person over a man.  Of course, in most other areas of the world, hospitality is very much a man's role.

Biblically, hospitality is not gender specific. Both men and women are given the responsibility and charge to be hospitable in the Bible. The Bible gives clear examples of both men and women practicing it.
I believe, as in a healthy Biblical family where there is both a male/father and a female/mother who each have unique and specific contributions in the parenting and family life of the home, so in hospitality there is also a unique contribution that men and women make that is often quite different from each other in how it is practiced and the value it imparts to those it is dispensed upon. 

I believe that men are given the initial responsibility for hospitality and have a unique influence to create the atmosphere of welcome and inclusiveness for those who enter their home. 

I gave a number of examples of men in the Bible doing this in the first post with; Jesus (our final banquet host), Abraham, Lot, Jethro, Elders/Overseer's, and in addition there are more examples with;  Cornelius, Matthew, the Jailor (who invited Paul to his home), Publius (at Malta), the father with prodigal son, Phillip in Caesarea, and Joseph with his brothers.
These are all men (although a case could be made for women elders - but that's another post), who acted as hosts and initiated hospitality to welcome and serve those who were their guests. 

Men create the initial atmosphere of welcome, value, affirmation and the sense that you are important as a guest in their home in a special way that can be quite powerful.  Like an affirming father who opens heart and home, and says by word and action; "I am so glad your here!"
 It doesn't matter what age you are - you feel valued.  That's powerful hospitality!

Here are two examples from my own life to use as illustrations as to the value and importance of men in the initiation and operation of hospitality.  The first one illustrates the lack of hospitality, and the second one the impact of it operating fully.

Once we were invited by a man who was a leader in his region to his a home for a few days to minister. When we arrived, the male host had someone else meet us at the airport and take us back to his home.  We were shown our rooms by the wife, and then left on our own while she went about her responsibilities of that day.  After a few hours of sitting around entertaining ourselves, we were all pretty hungry and didn't know if we would be eating soon, or expected to fast.  Eventually we were told, "help yourselves to whatever you find", which was very uncomfortable for all of us as we searched through the kitchen spurred on by the rumbles of our stomachs. After finding some leftovers, we sat around eating and talking with each other because there was nothing else to do.  We saw the host himself only for a brief quick greeting at the end of the day, and then we wandered to our rooms to wonder if we had done something to offend our hosts. We imagined there must have been an emergency or something that came up to pull the attention of our hosts from us as guests, and silently hoped that soon we'd be shown the hospitality that would cause us to relax and feel welcomed. This was not to be.  Our team was uncomfortable in this home for the few days we stayed there even with the wife of the host doing her best to offer us some hospitality even while she was busy working a job outside of the home.  It felt like we were intruding, even though we had been invited. Ignored and left on our own for most of the time, we tried to find ways to minister and make use of our time there.  Some on the team found other lodging. Our hosts treated us in the antithesis of true hospitality.  I can only assume they believed that hospitality was to supply a room and kitchen.  Unfortunately, their actions communicated loudly to us that we were not worth their time and effort as invited guests. I have never been back.

In contrast, on another occasion we experienced the power of hospitality done right.  Our host welcomed us into his home by being at the door and giving us the biggest hugs as he was proclaiming, "I've been waiting for you, and I am so glad you've finally arrived! Welcome to my home!   We are so excited to have you here with us!"  He introduced us to his wife and family, and he led us into a simple but warm and readied home.  Wow!  That was enough for me, I was good!  Whatever happened from there on was icing on the cake!  However, our host was just getting started.  He knew what foods and drinks we enjoyed and had them in supply for our visit.  He and his wife both served us throughout our time there.  They were sensitive to our needs, initiated conversation, but also allowed us some "down time" to relax and not socialize.  They treated us like honored and special guests who were not imposing, but rather blessing them by being there.  It was very impacting and humbling.  It felt like Jesus Himself was our host, loving and serving us through this man and his wife.

In both my examples, the men set the tone of what kind of experience of hospitality we would have in their homes.  It was the men who initiated the first impression on whether we were wanted or just tolerated.  Their influence was profound and powerful in what and how it was communicated to us.

There is something uniquely honoring about a man welcoming others into his home and family, and then being attentive in serving them.  Hospitality is not just for women!  It is for all of us who seek to use our homes as welcoming sanctuaries for all we are privileged to welcome inside. 

Brothers, all I can say to you is; "Man up, and walk in the powerful tool of hospitality to communicate worth, value and The Father's great love to all who enter your home!"

*****The next blog post will be suggestions, ideas and specific things you can do to communicate hospitality .........

Till then,

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hospitality and Sardines!

In the previous post I laid the foundation of the Biblical emphasis of hospitality and it's incredible value in the Kingdom of God. In this post and a few future posts, I will give you some examples from my own life, and from the lives of those around me, as they use the power of hospitality to bring people into relationship.

Have you ever considered that playing games together can cause people to feel welcomed into your life and family?

 On what was my first of many visits to the home of Tony and Felicity Dale, I had hardly arrived before I was told we were playing the game "Sardines" with some of their family members who had come over for the evening.  Okay, I thought, I was up for games, but I didn't know at the time what kind of game Sardines was. A nice quite board game, or perhaps cards?  Not quite. An adult version of hide and seek - Dale style!

Tony and Felicity live in a very large, rambling old Texas home that was once a brothel.  It has rooms inside of rooms and all sorts of small closets, hidden passages, and wonderful crawl spaces.  It's a child's dream house of exploration and adventures!  This home also becomes very dark once the lights are all turned off.  In the game of Sardines, all of the lights are turned off, and everyone scrambles to find a hiding place.  The "finder" then makes their way through the house trying to find each person who is hiding - all in the dark.  The last person found wins the game.  Now, you may be thinking - that's not so hard! Remember,  I had never been in their home before, and within an hour of arriving, expected to find a place to hide in the dark - in this massive sprawling home!  Let me tell you, that was a bit intimidating! However, it also sounded like a challenge, and I like challenges. To my surprise I began to feel the excitement building to play this childhood game, in a new adult style! Game on!
 I wandered along in the dark, feeling my way into what I thought was a closet, hunkered down under some blankets, and waited.  I had no idea where I was in the house, but I figured they wouldn't lose me!  I eventually was found (next to the last by-the-way), and joined the others waiting for the winner to be found (who had crawled into a bookcase!)   I had a blast! It was the most fun I'd had in years, and through it, I felt like the door had been opened wide for me to be welcomed into this family as we played like children together.  It was a powerful demonstration that playing with one another, as we did when we were young, was incredibly inclusive and relationship building.  It was also a way to say, no area of my home is off limits to you as my welcomed guest! Super hospitality!

Scattergories is a board game that our family loves to play, and if your around our home for any amount of time you'll be invited to play along with us. Plenty of other board games, card games and such outdoor stuff like Volleyball, Badminton, water balloon fights, camping trips, spontaneous picnics, are all ways that we have shown those invited over to our home our hospitality, and the message of inclusion into our lives.  We want to play with you!

When I had a number of speakers come to a conference I hosted here a couple years ago called Living The Mission, I had rented a couple squash courts to use at a local fitness center where we had fun playing each other in the game.  It didn't matter that most of us sucked at the game, it was part of the fun laughing at each other trying to return a serve! Afterwards, we all came back to my home for barbecue and relaxation before the evening meetings at the conference began. 

There is a special bonding that happens when you play together.  When you have fun, laugh, tease, win and lose together.  It communicates some of the aspects of being a family.  It serves someone by opening the door to more "exclusive" family activities, and communicates their belonging in powerful ways.  It's hospitality.

We have invited neighbors, and those we are sharing Christ with, to the Driver Family Cabin which Tom's parents own about an hour from Minneapolis for a weekend of relaxation, boating, fishing, and swimming.  We serve them with all they need for a nice weekend, and we have seen the power of this hospitality open their hearts towards us and the realities of Jesus. 

Jesus himself shows us the value of playing together when He did His first miracle by turning the water into wine at the wedding of a friend.  He became the "host of the host", as he served the event with great wine so they could continue in their fun and celebration!  One of my favorite "Jesus movies" is the one done word for word, through the book of Matthew called, "The Visual Bible: Matthew (1993)".  In this version, Jesus laughs, wrestles, teases and plays with those around Him. It is powerful and great reminder of the joyful and fun Jesus, who enjoys life and sharing it with people!

So I challenge you to find your own version of Sardines, or whatever is your own way of playing together, and invite some of your neighbors, co-workers, and those the Lord is prompting you to build relationship with, over to do it with you!  You may find that in sharing your home and playing together, that it will open their heart to you in ways you never fathomed.

Do you have any stories of playing together in hospitality that you can share? 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Importance of Hospitality in Simple Church - Part 1

I can't emphasize enough the importance of hospitality as an element of simple church life.  If you have come from traditional church paradigms, your used to thinking of "the gift of hospitality" as referring to those women who laid out the coffee and donuts after a service, or put together a meal after a funeral.  Possibly, your experience might have included "home groups" that met for fellowship and possibly a Bible study where the host/hostess provided some snacks and drinks using her "gift of hospitality" on you.  That is NOT what I'm talking about!  That's a western, and completely water-downed version of what Biblical hospitality really is.  The Scriptures are clear that hospitality is far more than what we usually think it is, and it's not just the gift of a few women.  In fact, it has as much to do with men as with women - but that's another blog post for the future......

The real practice of hospitality makes people feel they belong. It makes people feel special, important, and and warmly welcomed into your life - not just your home!
 It's receiving strangers like they are family, and communicating through your words and actions that they are well worth your time and effort.

One time, on one of my trips to Brazil,  we stopped at a house to inquire if anyone wanted prayer in that home.  The residents were unfamiliar to us, but warmly welcomed us inside and quickly found us some chairs from a back room to sit upon. I gazed around at the simple surroundings.  This household was poor, and they had little beyond the very basics of life.  I expected them to tell us what we could pray and minister to them in, but that didn't seem to be their priority.  Instead, they were going to minister to us! Soon we had drinks in our hand, and we were informed that we were to stay for a meal. Meal?  Well, okay.   I thought the meal would be some leftovers that would be warmed up and served to us within a short time.  In fact, the host sent his older children to go a purchase some food and more drinks, and then proceeded to entertain us while his wife cooked us a full meal from scratch!  We spent an entire afternoon in the home, being treated like passing royalty, probably consuming the family's food budget for the month, with the meal they provided for us! 

I experienced the Biblical practice of hospitality that day, and it was more powerful than any sermon or teaching I'd had in years!  I felt loved, honored, valued, welcomed, and a part of their family.  Wow!  If we could get this practice operating and maturing in the Body of Christ - we would be powerful in communicating Christ to each other and the world.

In our western culture we have lost most of the centrality of hospitality to normal life. We have minimized it into cookies and coffee. In the Middle East, and certainly during the times of the Old and New Testament, hospitality was a central cultural norm of behavior and it was frequently illustrated and exhorted. For something to be talked about as much as it is in the Bible, it must be very important, powerful and a practice that we should be paying attention to.

 Let's look at a few Scriptural examples where love and hospitality are placed together:

  • "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  contributing to the needs of the saints,  practicing hospitality. Romans 12: 10-13 (NASB)

  • " Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:8-10 (NASB)
  • "Let brotherly love continue. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it."  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NASB)

  Paul cites exercising hospitality as an important quality and practice for an elder in the church -

  • "an overseer/elder must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to much wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable...." 1 Titus 1:7-8 (NASB)

  In the Old Testament God firmly establishes the importance of hospitality with many examples, here are just a couple:
  • Abraham welcoming the visiting strangers with a wonderful dinner
  • The Shunamite woman giving Elisha his own room and provided for him out of her poverty
  •  Lot offering hospitality to the visiting angels sent to Sodom 
  • Jethro towards Moses 
Hospitality was regarded by most nations of the ancient world as one of the chief virtues. The relationship between host and guest was sacred. (BTW -This is still true today in most Middle Eastern, South American, Native American and Asian cultures.) Our western emphasis on individuality and independence has drastically diminished our understanding and practice of this great and powerful aspect of life together.

When Jesus will demonstrate His hospitality in heaven one day, we will get the royal treatment and a full realization of the importance and powerful blessing of hospitality.  A 'welcome home' banquet hosted by The Son and The Father Themselves, giving us their hospitality in the true way it was designed  Why?  Simply because He loves us.  He wants to show us our value and worth to Him on that day.  Can you imagine it?  We will actually be served by the King Himself - our Host!  I don't know about you, but that simply blows my mind! 

In the meantime, maybe we should be exercising and finding opportunities to grow in this wonderful expression of powerful communication.

In the next blog post, I'll give some ideas and examples of hospitality practiced within the Body of Christ, and with those who don't know Jesus yet just to spur you on "towards love and good deeds"!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missional vs Tradtional

Recently, Tom and I were walking through a community that we had visited many times early in our marriage. We even lived in this community for a summer over 24 years ago.  I had not been back since 1990, and Tom neither, but for a few days last January.  I was surprised at those things which remained the same over the years, and yet seeing that these years had also brought about many changes. One of which was that there were no more outhouses behind each house!  Plumbing and sewers had finally eliminated their necessity.

 The wind was blowing the dust of the street into our faces and the clouds were threatening rain. It was cold for May, even this far north. We had the endless series of dogs guarding their section of the street, running up to our heels sniffing to determine if we were friend or foe, and also the occasional "Hey Tom" or "Katie!" from some window or doorway, causing us to wave back and take a few minutes for a visit as we'd make our way over to their home.  We walked into many homes during our long weekend there.

Our purpose in our walk was not to check out the new changes, but rather to make ourselves available to people and God for encounters that would hopefully lead to prayer, encouragement, affirmation, healing, counsel, correction and sweet fellowship between old and new friends.  We had wonderful visits!  We saw the Spirit of God among us working to strengthen those who belong to Him, and gently "woo" those who had not yet joined the family of God. We saw Him heal wounds and encourage hearts. We saw Him draw people to Himself. We spent most of our days like this - seeking out opportunities, listening and watching for what God wanted to do.

God is a seeking God - and is always at work (Jesus words), so those of us who follow Him must be doing the same.  That is being missional.  It's not anything else - and trendy as the word may be these days, it is simply getting OUT THERE and letting God use you to touch people with His Presence.

That's missional, simple and organic.

In the home we stayed in, there was another visitor. This man had also been invited up by our hosts as they were exploring what simple, organic and missional life and fellowship looks like, and had invited us up to share on it.  They wanted this man's input about what we were sharing.  He was familiar with the community, having come up previously a number of times to do the classic "outreach meetings".  These are meetings with the usual mission protocol -i.e. billed with a speaker who is known for: healing, teaching, signs and wonders, deliverance, etc. etc.  The message is "come and encounter Jesus at this meeting!" (Now, I'm not saying these mission venues are wrong or bad.  I have done them, and will likely will do these style meetings again at some point if that is what God directs.)  My point is not to trash these venues - but rather challenge the paradigm a bit.  

The paradigm of sitting in one place waiting for people to come to you.

This man sat in the house for 5 days, with the exception of a of couple long fishing trips, mostly talking with the couple who were hosting, their kids, Tom and I, and a couple of people who came by one day for a barbecue.  His paradigm was, "I'm here, come to me".  Few did.
In contrast, Tom and I had the paradigm of, "We're here, and we're coming to you!".

Traditional verses missional.

Now, please hear my heart.  I'm not trying to trash this man, his ministry in serving God for many years, nor any fruit that may have come from it.  But the contrast of his sitting in the house day after day waiting for some opportunity to come to him, and Tom and I walking out of the house many times during a given day to go and SEEK those opportunities is the point of this blog post today.

So much is being said about "missional" these days which is convoluting the real meaning.  Let's get it straight - missional means "get out there!"

See what God is doing and join Him in His mission "to reach those who are lost", bringing the Presence of "Christ who lives in you to will and work according to His good pleasure", and to "strengthen those who are struggling".

That's simple, it's organic and completly missional.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Last Plug on Coaching

Most people have heard of Michael Jordan.  Even if they know nothing about the game of basketball, it is likely that they would know that he was one of the best players to ever play the sport. Was it just his natural ability that propelled him into this position? Did he innately have everything he needed to become one of the world's best athletes, or did he achieve his his potential partly because of something else?

 Basketball experts have said that Michael Jordan, as naturally talented and gifted as he was, didn't reach his potential until he was coached by Phil Jackson.

What was it about coaching that did this? 

  • Coaching helps people focus on what they are uniquely designed to be. 
  • Coaches are helpful change experts who push you to think, act and become what God has already put within you. 
  • Coaching affirms our maturing and discovery process.
  • Coaching affirms failures as great learning moments. 
  • Coaching is listening and asking good questions.                                                   
Can these things happen outside of an "official" coaching relationship?  Absolutely, and it does every day! In bits and pieces throughout our lives, we hopefully have people and experiences that resemble the above list.  This is not some new phenomena, or limited to those of us coaching as a profession and ministry. Some aspects of what I listed happen frequently in many different contexts of fellowship and our relationships.

 The difference is that the coaching I'm talking about is intentional and skilled

It doesn't just happen here and there, at random, or on occasion. It is the purpose of the relationship.  Just like Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson - they were partners with a specific purpose, and that was to see just how good Michael could become at the game of basketball.

A good coach's gifts and abilities are both given AND honed. Coaching is a skill that is developed and improved with use and time.  It's more than the gift of encouragement.  In fact, I think many times that we need challenge more than encouragement.  Change often doesn't feel so good, but necessary for growth. 

My husband is my greatest encourager, who loves and supports me in multiple ways - but he is not so good at asking me questions that provoke my thinking.  Although I'm sure there are things he would like to change about me or challenge me on - he really doesn't. He is awesome, and he is a wonderful encourager - but he is not a coach.

My friend and coach John White, is great at challenging my thinking and drawing things out of me with great questions - but I'm not always "feeling the love"of encouragment in our difficult conversations.

 One is not a coach, but a great encourager.  The other a great coach, but not always encouraging.

I need both.

 I'm grateful for both of these men in my life, using their gifts, skills and abilities to help me grow and mature in Christ.  Encourager and coach.  If you'd like to try coaching with me, you can begin that journey here  After this post, I'm back to writing about all things simple, organic and missional, and maybe a few other interesting topics on this wonderful journey in Christ.

"Build up, build up, remove every obstacle out of the way of my people," Isaiah 57:14