Friday, March 8, 2013

Why Are We Not Seeing Greater Impact In This Movement?

We've been living Simple, Organic, Missional life in Christ for awhile now, and frankly there is no other choice for my husband and I.  We are completely convinced this is the way Jesus lived, and that's good enough for us.  We've raised our three children to young adults in this paradigm, and we've seen the fruit of it in their lives, and those who have joined to us along the way in this journey.  I encourage, coach, and mentor all those I can in this paradigm because I am committed to it.  God showed us the potential of the Simple, Organic, Missional paradigm to exhibit His Presence, Power, Purpose and Love to the world through it.

Before I knew anything about S/O/M, I was committed to missions and outreach to those who don't know Christ, because I wanted others to have what I have in Jesus.  It's that simple.  To me, it all boils down to the fact that God sent his Son, so that we might have fellowship with Them, and so He sends us for the same purpose.  It just isn't anymore complicated than that.

 So if this is true, why have we seen such little impact of a movement that has all the elements of going viral because in principle, all the participants are sent on mission?

Because the majority of those who are living Simple and Organic paradigms are not living Missionally.  Sadly, it's just a "buzz" word for most, the latest "cool" thing to talk about, but with very little reality or practice in their lives.

Let's get to it, and those who have ears to hear, let him/her hear.

First of all, let's look at what we're doing pretty well; the First Leg - The Fellowship Leg of The Table vision, has some good stuff happening.  Let's look at some of it:
  • We have various styles and types of Simple and Organic church.
  •  The essence of church as a family is happening. 
  • We are doing a much better job at all of us reading, studying and understanding The Word.
  •  People are exploring, practicing and growing in their gifts with one another.
  • We are getting better at understanding that leadership is more like a mother and father, and less like a CEO.
  • We are enjoying playing, eating, and learning together, making our fellowship experience more like normal life and it's ebbs and flows.
  • We are learning that Christian life and fellowship is not what we "do" but who we "are".
  • We are understanding that there is no "secular" vs "sacred" - but we serve God holistically in all areas of our life.
  • We are understanding there is no laity or clergy, but all of us are called to listen, obey, serve and minister.
  • We are finally learning that the 5-fold gifts of Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist are for the equipping of the saints for the real ministry, and not for platforms of notoriety, fame, power and prestige.
 Okay! That's worth celebrating and thanking God for!  In the advertising slogan of a long ago cigarette commercial; "you've come along way baby!" But, and you knew a but was coming, we have not come far enough.  It is not enough to get better at having Christian fellowship - as good as that is! We have to live missionally to really BE like Jesus.

The truth and reality is that not many of us are truly reaching out to those who don't know Jesus, and living missionally.   Why not?  I've heard such explanations like; we need more intercession, it's not God's timing yet, we need more S/O churches to mother/father all the New Believers that will result, we are not called to mission (because that is "works") but rather to Jesus alone, we need persecution to force us, we live in a different culture, we're too busy to invest the time and commitment it takes.  Heard or said any of them yourself?  Maybe none, some or all of these are true, and I've even said a few myself trying to understand why we are not reaching out in mission.  However, in seeing that the life and vibrancy of the First Leg of The Table vision stemmed from their being connected and invested in the Second Leg of The Table which was made up of those who didn't know Christ, and seeing how the church in the Book of Acts grew, and in places like India, China and Africa is growing today - I don't think those reasons hold much merit.  I think the truth is we are afraid, discouraged with previous attempts, too busy, too self focused, lazy, expect others to do it,  and find excuses for our lack of mission and make it sound spiritual so we can let ourselves off the hook.

Am I being too harsh?  I'm hoping to exhort you to fulfill the whole purposes of God in your life to use you to bring the light, the fragrance, the saltiness of Jesus to those He has destined you to reach.

When I teach about S/O/M church I do the following visual:  I have a few from the group come and stand in a circle, holding hands.  A good and familiar picture of what we do pretty well in our Christian fellowship.  We are together, supporting one another, linked and joined in community.  All good.  Yet we are only looking at, and are focused on each other as we face inward.  No wonder our groups become ingrown, unhealthy, and full of the elements of the flesh we are warned about in Scripture. 

Now, flip everyone around, so that each is facing outward.  Still holding hands in support, linked and joined together, covering each others' backside.  But the difference is that the focus is outward.  Each person is gazing outward from the group at a slightly different angle than those on either side, into a unique and specific journey of mission that the Lord has destined EACH of us to walk in.  The Word says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10).

Living missionally means we are continually sowing Christ into the lives of people all around us.

 In Greenhouse training we learn about the four different types of soils that Jesus teaches us about in Matthew 13. Of the four identified soils, only one of those soils actually produces lasting fruit and real salvation. The problem for us is that we cannot judge by looking at it, which one is the fruitful soil.  Only Jesus and the Father know the soil of a man's heart.  We are called to sow, and sow a lot, leaving the results up to God.  Many times I've sown in soil I judged to be "the good and receptive soil" only to have that person end up just the opposite.  And I also have resisted sowing in some soil I judged to be too hard, rocky and unreceptive, only to have it produce incredible fruits of salvation in the person!  I simply cannot, and neither can you, be accurate in soil evaluations.  Therefore, we have to sow a lot and trust God to do His work, and only His work, in creating a disciple out of the soil of their heart.  I firmly believe that as we are obedient to this, and growing in faithfulness, that we will become more and more like Jesus, who "only did that which He saw the Father do" (John 5:19) Then we will be incredibly effective in our sowing, because we've learned to be great at listening and responding to the Father's voice in obedience.

 What if you asked Jesus to show you three people this week that you could invest in that are not Christians?  Can you commit to living a week of intentional missionality, and see what God might do through you?
Pretend you are just like Jesus, waking up in the morning and turning to The Father and asking; "who do You want me to reach out to today Father?  Who are you working in that I will come in contact with? Let me join you Father, in Your work to reach and save those who are lost, and those sheep without a shepherd."

Then do what Jesus did.  Listen and obey, and see what God will do through you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Third Post of "I'm Hungry" and The Table Vision

It had been there all along, silently, quietly and slowly forming in obscurity all around me.  A little here, a little there, but far from the magnitude and impact of what I saw in The Table vision, and what had excited me to my core! The Table vision had shown me what was possible, and what was in the heart of God - and I was ruined for anything less.

The season of the "D's" was not spent in just praying, waiting and idleness.  In fact, I was seeing God do incredible things on mission and ministry trips in different countries other than the United States during these years.  This caused me to beg God to do what I saw Him do in other countries, here at home in my own relationships, neighborhood, city, region and country!

I've always believed that God prefers to direct our steps as we keep walking, over lighting a match to our butt to get us moving.  So even while walking through desert seasons, and seeing very little of The Table vision manifest, I was starting, facilitating, and participating in many various types of Simple/Organic Churches during this time and through these years.  We saw a lot of fruit from these groups.  No two were ever the same - the make up the participants, the duration of the group, the specific "issue" we might be gathering around, how we gathered, etc. was varied. Some gatherings were scheduled, and others were fluid (meaning they happened without scheduling).  Some met for a year or more, and others a few months, and still others were so fluid that they were far more relational based and they were lived in spontaneity. They were a small example of the First Leg of The Table. However, an example I could tangibly see, and I was encouraged.

 One Simple Church that Tom and I have fond memories of was predominately made up of those with mental health disorders. (I would venture to say that this type of church planting does not get on the list of current church planting books and seminars.) This Simple Church formed naturally as we reached out to a guy we knew who struggled with his mental health, and then he brought others, and so on, and so forth.  This group had some Christians in it, and others who became Christians through the fellowship and healing prayer of group members as they ministered to one another in Christ. Again, it was only a small glimpse of The First and Second Leg of The Table, but it was there.

 I constantly wondered: were there others out there who were also living disconnected from the traditional once or twice a week Christian experience, and programed life of fellowship and ministry?  Were their others who like us, who were living and experiencing fellowship and mission with others without a program facilitating it to both Christians and non Christians?
Those people that had a lifestyle that resembled more than anything else, an unknown adventure of discovery of what church really was, coupled with the  natural expression of the Great Commission as we lived our lives WITH, not separate from, those who don't yet know Christ?  Where were they? How could I find them?

Towards the end of my "D" season, I began to hear of others meeting in Simple Churches.  Although they were hard to find, just knowing about their existence was encouraging. Most were, "under the radar", in the unobtrusive and quiet manner of Simple Church. I was spending quite a bit of my time explaining Simple, Organic, Missional life and fellowship to people, and I saw there was increasingly more and more interest in it.  It seemed daily that God was crossing my path with others who were "looking for more" in their relationship with God and others.  God was drawing people into this paradigm.

I began to pray about how to bring connections.  How to connect the people that I was meeting, and still others I knew must be out there, that I had no knowledge about- but God did.   I didn't know how I could possibly identify, reach and pull people together - but I was excited about trying if God was going to do all the real work!  I had heard Neil Cole at a House2House conference in 2006, teach a workshop called Greenhouse.  Neil spoke the things that had been in my heart and mouth for many years, but he spoke them WAY BETTER !  I contacted Paul Kaak, Neil's co-author of Greenhouse and CMA  (Church Multiplication Associates), to share my story and ask to sponsor a Greenhouse for my region.  That was the first of 5 Greenhouses (GH1 & GH2's) that brought many people together from all over the region and country (and even from Australia for a GH!).  I also developed a conference called Living The Mission, and helped promote and involve people in a House2House regional conference.  These gatherings brought people together who were in different "streams" of Christianity, who lived in different areas, who had no knowledge or connection with one another, but shared an interest in Simple, Organic, Missional paradigms.  They were lay people, paid ministry people, new in Christ or mature in Christ, male, female, young and old.  They shared their stories, encouraged one another, learned from one another,  formed connections, built relational networks, formed new Simple Church expressions or outreaches, or went back to traditional church with new zeal and organic life in Christ principles. The fruit of these gatherings (and this is just a small piece of what the Third Leg represented) was evident.  I began to see, year after year, more of The Table vision form, especially the First and Third Leg, although there is a long way to go in the Third Leg of The Table vision of the Church coming together.  This is just a short synopsis for a blog post.

 Some of you wonder if there are others in your area or region who are living Simple, Organic, Missional life.  Many of you wonder how to connect with those in your region.  Hosting city/regional gatherings of some sort, is one way for you to see God bring people together that you would never had known or had access to.  Greenhouse, Momentum (House2House's regional conferences) or other venues like these are great ways to see God bring connections and relational strength to the Simple, Organic, Missional movement in your area.  Contact for information on sponsoring a Greenhouse, or contact Ken Eastburn at for information about a Momentum conference if your interested.

So what's up with the Second Leg of The Table vision?

Sadly, not much....let's talk........

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Second Leg - I'm Hungry continued....

Yesterday I started to share with you a vision I had about a table and the legs that supported it. If you haven't read this previous blog post, I suggest that you read that before you start this one.

After the formation of the First Leg of The Table, the Second Leg began to take shape before me. This new leg forming before me was very different from the small fellowships of Christian koinonia that made up the First Leg of The Table.  This table leg was the "missional" leg.  I saw that the umbilical cords from those groups in the First Leg, reached over and connected them to communities and people from their lives who didn't yet know Christ.  Individuals and communities that First Leg people had connections with through work, their neighborhoods, interests, family members, previous lifestyles, and other "oikos" from which they came from or presently lived in.  I saw it as The Mission Leg of The Table, because it was through these relationships and connections that the First Leg fellowships grew, and how new fellowship groups were formed.  First Leg fellowships didn't form and grow from each other, or through the shuffling of people around from group to group, but rather through the addition of new believers!

Then The Third Leg began to form.  I saw this leg represent the corporate gathering of the many fellowship groups from the First Leg who gathered together for such things as regional trainings, conferences, corporate worship, teaching, local and international mission projects, and various community outreaches. Those things where the Body of Christ of a region came together in larger community and in corporate unity type of events.  Thus, the Community Leg of The Table.

Then I saw the Fourth Leg of The Table empty and without anything visible, and asked the Lord, "what about that leg?" and He said, "that's not for you to know at this time."

End of The Table vision.

I was stunned. I was amazed.  I was enthralled with what I had just saw. I saw true shepherding, real discipleship, natural evangelism, training and equipping, the "one anothers" of scripture in true community and authentic fellowship, the participation of each member of the Body, and so much more in this vision.  Seeing that everything we needed spiritually, physically, emotionally for such Kingdom life, had been bountifully provided for us on the top of the banquet table, boosted my faith to new levels.  I was ready!  Bring it on Lord!  This was going to be great!

 I prayed and prayed and prayed.  But nothing.  I told people about the Table Vision, and received back blank stares or raised eyebrows.  I drew picture after picture of it on napkins, scrap papers and anything else I could find to illustrate it. Once in a while I got a, "oh, cool!"  My initial excitement began to wane.  Years went by.   I waited, watched, and prayed, and waited some more.

But nothing happened. Only the "D's" - deserts, droughts, discouragement, disillusionment, defeat, dejection, despair, depression, death. For years I prayed and looked for the manifestation of this vision.  It had impacted me so powerfully, and I was aching for it to become something that I could be a part of, or at least witness in my lifetime.  But nothing.  What had started out to be an incredible blessing of insight and encouragement, became to me like a curse.  I began to beg God to take it from my memory if He was not going to allow me to be a part of it, or at least see it come to pass. I prayed and prayed for it to be forgotten and lost to me.  But it didn't go away.  It stood before me daily like a great neon sign advertising something I could not have. 

Then the long season of the "D's" came to an end.  I began to see the Table Vision form around me.

More in the next post........