Friday, March 28

Things God is showing us (Part 4 of 4)

Last night while taking home our team leader from a training, Geovanny was sharing with me some of the things God is revealing to him these days. When he mentioned John 12:24, something clicked within as one of the lessons God is also teaching me these days.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The 'grain of wheat' that is falling into the earth and dying is my dream for a genuine church planting movement of simple/house churches here in Guayaquil. For nearly a decade we have labored, studied, prayed for, and dreamed of a movement of multiplying simple/house churches. But after ten years, we are still far from seeing this become a reality in our midst.

So, why am I saying our dream has to be put to death in order to bear fruit? Because that is what Jesus says. As long as it remains our dream, our vision, our passion, there will be little fruit to show from it all.

However, to truly allow it to fall to the earth and die, will ultimately bring about much fruit--maybe even the dreamed of CPM.

So, how is God bringing us to the point of surrendering our dream and allowing it to die?

I am a passionate student of all things related to ekklesia--a return to the concepts and principles of 1st Century Church and Christianity.

Today, many different terms are being used to describe this recapturing of the apostolic N.T. ekklesia: simple church, house church, organic church, emerging missional church, etc.

I devour materials/books by people like Neil Cole, Wolfgang Simson, Frank Viola, Alan Hirsch, and many others, too numerous to mention, who write in this fascinating genre.

David Garrison, Curtis Sergeant, David Watson are my CPM inspirations. I identify closely with House2House, DAWN, CMA, and NTRF. I have benefited from studies/writings/videos by George Patterson and associates, Steve Atkerson, Alan Knox, Jon Zens, Beresford Job, Gene Edwards, Watchman Nee, Rad Zdero and many others whose work has helped shape our understanding of the church and church planting over the years.

Our dream/vision has always been that this would happen as a movement of multiplying house/simple churches. What we are surrendering to the Lord is to allow Him to do things any way He chooses. Even if it means that the churches planted are of the contemporary/traditional kind with all the extra-biblical trappings that accompany them.

What trumps our passion for simple/house church is our desire to see this nation come to the feet of Jesus Christ--to see the Great Commission fulfilled in Ecuador. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal convictions about ekklesia in order for the greater Kingdom good to be realized?

What we are now coming to understand is that God may choose to do the very thing we have prayed for, but may use any number of models or manners of church planting to assemble the ingathering of new disciples:

-house/simple/organic churches
-satellite churches
-traditional/institutional churches
-cell model
-mega church
-multi-congregational model
-mother churches with daughter missions
-independent pioneer model
-colonization model
-missionary model
-denominational models
-etc.

Surrendering the first on the list is what is difficult for me. It is almost like if we can't have it our way, then no way at all is acceptable. This is what God is gently showing us--it is not about us planting churches using the "correct biblical model", but His way. This is His church we are talking about, not our church. Once we surrender having things our way, then He will be free to do things any way He pleases.

So, what do you think about these things?

24 comments:

Manuel Sosa said...

Mi querido amigo,

What do I think? I think the Spirit of the most Holy is definitely working in and around you.

That is what I have always believed and preached, that which Wade Adkins, in Pioneer Evangelism has always said. Our job is to obey and let God and His Holy Spirit decide how the church will look at the end. (That is my interpretation of what he says).

Obey, letting His Spirit direct the believers to decide what His will is for that group. A lot of good has been done and will be done by all of the manifestations of The Church which you have mentioned and for us to intent to manipulate a local group is just not our calling. Yes we all have prejudices and will teach what we believe and hope the group will follow and must share our experiences BUT the harvest is His. He alone will lead a group, IF, they are receptive to the right way to reach others.

The key word is "IF," of course there are always other forces at work within a group to lead them in ways that are not of the Lord and that without a doubt is always our preoccupation.

"Without faith it is impossible to please God," Hebrews 11:6. Fear demonstrates our lack of faith in the Holy Spirit's power. Our investment in new works is not unlike our investments in our children. They will eventually decide which road to take no matter how much we put into them and how much we would want them to be a certain way. Didn't we do the same?

Ecclesiastes 3:1, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." One situation and a particular time might need a house church while God might want a mega church or cell church in another situation. We give the church planters the tools and maybe even the seeds but God gives the harvest. Sure our efforts can produce some harvest and maybe even larger than God's but it is not a true harvest but a temporary and human one. That is why I believe we should always be open to the Spirit as I personally know you have in the past. The Guayaquil experience has never been a mold or model but a living out of God's direction. Keep it that way!

Sorry for rambling but you know this is one of my soap boxes.

Manuel

jeff w said...

Guy,

Again, you have some great thoughts.

I believe that you cannot look at the church in US compared to the NT church and not believe there is a problem. But the problem is not with Jesus. Who does that leave?

There are a lot of ways to "do church" - some I like, and some I don't like as much. But, it is His church and He is able to do it in any form or format He desires. It is good to be reminded that He can take almost any format and bless it - if He desires to do so.

I believe that one of the issues we face is that we tend to read the NT with certain "understandings" (or a worldview) of what church is and how God works. We assume that our reading is "His meaning" and, therefore, anything that someone does which doesn't match up with what we understand is wrong, liberal, legalistic, and the words go on.

I do believe we need more people who will look to heaven and say "Father, what do you want at this time and place" and then obey. But then, again, I tend towards being a rebel.

I thought that Strider and Tales from Middle Earth was good on this point today.

Jeff

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

Thanks for your comment on my blog, weird how we were writing about the same thing at the same time.

If we could BE church and NOT DO church... that would help us go a long way toward following a New Testament model, no matter what form it might take. We are His body outside of the gathering! We are church when we scatter. We are still part of the body of Christ... His hands and feet in the world, whether gathered or scattered.

GuyMuse said...

Manuel,

Mi querido amigo, your soap box is my soap box, so I don't mind a bit. In fact, I think you are right on in what you are sharing. But it isn't as easy to live out as it is to acknowledge with our heads! How I wish a bunch of us SCs from SAM could just sit down in the same room and share all the things we see God doing, and learn from each other. I think I'll add your The Guayaquil experience has never been a mold or model but a living out of God's direction as another of the famous Manuel Sosa quotes. That is so true!

Jeff,

You wisely say,
I do believe we need more people who will look to heaven and say "Father, what do you want at this time and place" and then obey.
Such may not always be what we would anticipate, but then it is HIS KINGDOM after all, not ours. I am beginning to see that it is going to take ALL of us working TOGETHER to bring in that final harvest of souls.

BTW, I did read Strider's latest post and totally agree with you!

Tim,

Oh that we could learn to BE the church (as you say) and not just DO church. I am reading Alan Hirsch's "The Forgotten Ways" and have been so impacted by the insights therein about the very things you have written in your latest post, and what I have taken a shot at expressing. I urge all those reading this comment to click on to your own post here for an excellent read on a very similar take to what I write above.

Nigel said...

I think this is a real revelation - not to stop encouraging the model we believe is appropriate, but also to train and release others to engage in the task as God leads them, better equipped for the task.

GuyMuse said...

Nigel,

Looks like we are having a GMT family reunion here on this one! Earlier today I spent the morning out in Samborondon with a local pastor who has a vision for reaching the 120+ closed/gated communities that make up this canton. After not saying anything for nearly 2 hours, and just listening to him and his passion, it was clear to me that God has given him a clear vision as to how to reach this difficult area. There was very little for me to add, other than encouraging him and offering to help him in a couple of small ways. Sure, it is not the way I would do it, but I am not there--he is--and the best thing I can do is get on his band wagon and help him achieve the vision the Lord has given him.

Strider said...

I just leftt this comment on Tim's blog so, with apologies I wont retype something new but respond here as well.

I have mixed feelings about this myself. I too have seen God do things not according to my plan but it seems that everytime a house church wants a building, or a strong single leader, or whatever else not in the 'model' it is for all the wrong reasons. Most house churches in my city here in Gondor don't want to be house churches. They want a big building and a bigger budget. They want a leader to tell them what to do and they want outside funds to make it all happen. That is harsh perhaps but it is what I see. I will not stop striving to see small groups of people gather to see God glorified in their country. Just this year one young pastor friend of mine turned a corner and realized that it didn't matter if his little group of ten NEVER grew as long as they were obedient to plant other groups in some nearby towns that they had relatives in. I love some of the bigger groups here, and I love that God uses them for His glory but I will not stop working towards seeing Churches that want Jesus as their King instead of some trained outsider, Churches that want to see God glorified by their obedience instead of by the archetecture of their cathedrals

Cindy said...

I don't know much about CPM methodology, but I do know that anytime I seek what I can do for God rather than seeking God Himself, I am heading in the wrong direction. (I say I have learned, but I must be reminded of this lesson almonst constantly!)

Darrell said...

This Internet is the coolest thing. I have been up and down this subject countless times in my longing to see God's Kingdom here in my corner of the globe. My experience has been consistent with Strider's. I would love it if things changed and all the "versions" of the church were making in roads into the enemies turf. The reality here is that by and large all the current mainstream churches are dieing and have been for at least ten years. I understand that folks who are part of these churches are likely never going to be able to do or be church any different then they have...thats fine...The problem is that almost none of them are making disciples. The mentality of most Christians here is one of a consumer. The typical church treats them as consumers. So people are looking at church as another thing they buy and the churches are striving to provide the best products.

In the end I cannot do anything about all the existing churches or Christians. I encourage them if I can. In fact just last week the head worship pastor of the largest mega church in the area told me that our conversations had caused him to have serious questions about his church and he was looking to do something different that would allow him to make disciples.

All I can do is focus on making disciples that make disciples. I will give these new followers the best of what I know to be able to be and make disciples.

Dream or no dream that is all I can do. Guy I read about what God has done in your part of the world and I would be grinning from ear to ear to see that here!

The mystery of CPM's to me is all the parts that need to happen that I have no control over. I can't make people love Jesus, I can't make people obey Jesus, I can't give people faith in Jesus. So much is up to me...but so much is completely out of my control.

If God wants to use church "x" "y" or "z" great! I hope He does. I know that the I will not lead the new believers into those forms and practices of "traditional" church because I know that it will make the job of making disciples and reaching this place for the King even harder then it already is.

GuyMuse said...

Strider, Cindy, Darrell,

I am running out the door for a full day of prayer and training...will answer you later tonight or tomorrow. Thanks for your good comments.

Tim Patterson said...

Darrell,

First, you know that I support what you are doing and pray for you. I just want to say that God can use any form of church He chooses to make disciples of all nations. I don't think it is the form of church that interferes with making disciples, it is our disobedience.

I heard the stat somewhere that only one percent of the institutional type churches here in the U.S. are actually reaching and baptizing lost people coming from outside of the church (not trading sheep)... and that they are growing, not losing people out the back door (discipling them). The only good news about that is that one percent of hundreds of thousands of churches is a good number and nothing to sneeze at. So, God is using models of church other than the house church model to expand His kingdom.

Also, I have seen where most of the house church movement in the U.S. is made up of people leaving the institutional church, not new believers (I don't remember the percentage, but it is very high). Again, I don't think it is the form of church that will make the difference, it is our obedience to Jesus' commands, under the direction of the Spirit and the Word.

Tim Patterson said...

Strider,

Since you reprinted your response here... I will do the same ;^)

Strider,

I agree that the best way to start is small. But I don't think the only way for reproduction and multiplication to take place is through pouch chrchs or cells that REMAIN small.

We cannot control what structures of organization indigenous chrchs will gravitate toward, and should not try to impose our preference for structure... when we do, it almost always leads to blocking the natural organic progression for spiritual reproduction among that people. Every culture has natural leadership and community structures. Instead of imposing our structures, we should allow the H.S. to use their indigenous structures to form the chrch, leaders and expand kingdom among that people.

Thanks for commenting, I love what you are doing and pray for you.

Anonymous said...

Guido,
Hello! I am afraid that even those of us who really want to walk and live in the Spirit at times get overly focused on some kind of methodology. During some very difficult times in my life I learned to pray the Lord’s Prayer and pray it with sincerity. Yes, it is all about His kingdom and His will.
I have been working for 4-5 years on a Bible Storying idea. I believe that God gave me the initial inspiration but I have been stuck or even worse distracted at times. A few weeks ago I participated in a conference sponsored by another mission agency. During the week there were times when I was really and truly frustrated. The organizational culture was different and I was uncomfortable. However, during that crucible experience God spoke to me clearly and gave me the necessary new ideas on how to finish the project I have been working on for a long time.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”Isaiah 44:18-19 (ESV)
You, as well as anybody, know how I like to have my “ducks in a row”, but the Christian life really is a boat on the Sea of Galilee adventure.

Esteban

GuyMuse said...

Strider, Cindy, Darrell, and Tim,

All good and helpful comments, thanks for sharing. I agree with all of you! but allow me to try to explain a bit more what we believe the Lord is teaching us these days...

Strider says, I will not stop working towards seeing churches that want Jesus as their King... This too is our passion. We certainly have no intention of changing course in what we are doing. What God seems to be showing us, though, is the need to work closer with those who don't yet "see the light" yet want to engage a lost world and make disciples of the nations. These are the ones who will, as a grassroots movement, begin to move the church back into more of a missional mode, and less the attractional/consumer mode that she has become.

Another aspect of what we believe God is showing us is that, one of the missing pieces in today's church is the need for a strong prophetic voice that isn't afraid to challenge the current state of Christendom which has lost her focus and reason for existing.

Darrell writes, The problem is that almost none of them [mainstream churches] are making disciples. True, many have lost their focus and reason for existing. But what if we are given access and a voice to these churches? What will our message be? What if through our limited influence and understanding of these things, we can be used of the Lord to "cut the clutter" and get back to the basics of going, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching?
Shouldn't we jump at the chance, even though most will ignore or dismiss what we have to say?

Fellow believers in Christendom's "consumer/attractional" churches (and there are plenty of those here) are increasingly growing restless with what they know in their hearts is a ship that has veered off course. In our context, there are literally thousands of believers in Christendom who are willing and wanting to "jump ship" and brave the wild seas in tiny row boats as they venture out to rescue the lost and dying.

It is these "row boat" people who don't have all the answers, but are willing to take the risk to leave the security of the ship, that we want to work with and help. To fulfill the Great Commission in this generation it is going to take all kinds working together.

I just walked in the door from a 4-hour training held in one of our very conservative/traditional Baptist churches. After several weeks together going through our CP training, the "light" has been turned on in their heads. They are feeling discomfort and the scary realization that things will never again be the same for them. They are now faced with trying to decide what they are going to do with what they have come to understand about being on mission with God, how His church was meant to be, and how all this will impact their lives if they should "take the red pill."

I can't help but think that if we were more prophetic, and not afraid to speak out in love those things the Lord has shown us, a grassroots revolution might truly begin to take place amongst the many frustrated Christians out there, who can't put their finger on the cause of their discomfort with Christendom, yet know something isn't quite right.

GuyMuse said...

Esteban,

You have my curiosity antenna up wondering about what this storying idea of yours is all about. One of the things I hope to share in one of the "parts" of the things God is showing us these days, is a post about how important it is that we expose ourselves to others who are different than ourselves and see Kingdom matters from a different perspective. I too am learning so much by sitting down and talking with those who are way out of my comfort zone. Paul says in Thess. "Examinadlo todo, retened lo bueno." There is a lot of "bueno" out there if we will just open our hearts to all the beauty that exists in the greater church of Jesus Christ. Many of the "missing pieces" that we are lacking are often found in other's backyards. Stay tuned. I hope to share more about this in future posts.

GuyMuse said...

Michael,

Thanks so much for the incredible response you sent me via email to my humble post. Your response was ten times more edifying than what I am able to reproduce here at the "M Blog".

For anyone reading that would like to read what Michael--a fellow missionary here in South America--has shared, write me at my email address in my profile, and I will share with you Michael's email to ask him for a copy. Trust me, it is worth the read and says so much better what I was attempting to express in this post.

Darrell said...

Tim thanks for your perspective. I agree that God and does use all types of churches. Even churches with fishy doctrine and I believe God has even used the cults to bring people into His Kingdom. I whole heartedly agree that it is disobedience that is at the heart of all our problems. I could not agree more that the majority of "house churches" in my part of the globe are not reproducing. However for me that does not mean that the type of church is not an important factor. It is much harder to make disciples in the context of a traditional church then an small simple one. In fact my observation of the house churches here is that most of their problems stem from the traditional church they grew up in. I believe that methods and forms make a big difference. Yes God CAN and DOES use any, but that does not make me feel free of responsibility in guiding new disciples to methods and forms that will keep them from the hazards we know exist in many methods and forms of church.

I am glad for the 1% you mention churches that are making a dent in the darkness. However Tim I read that and I want to scream NOOOOOO! Jesus deserves better then 1%. I believe the forms will have to change if we are going see that number more like 99% making disciples. How much proof do we need that the way things are are broke. The disobedience is just happy and content with the way things are. When believers are ready to repent and put the Kingdom first methods will change radically.

God bless you Guy if you are getting asked to speak to all types of churches. Without a doubt you better go and speak the truth in love. I cannot imagine something like that here. For a year I met with all kinds of ministries and churches trying see how we could mobilize the believers where I live. I got nowhere and felt like I wasted that year. There is no doubt that we should do everything we can to see God's Kingdom advance.

I am for God's Kingdom. I pray that every flavor of Christ's body in existence joins the battle. So when it comes to the EXISTING churches and believers lets take what we can get and help. However shouldn't we encourage new disciples by the Word and our example toward methods and forms that will give them the greatest chance of multiplying?

Alan Cross said...

Guy,

We share affinity with the same writers! They have spoken to me deeply as well. But, when it is all said and done, I end up sacrificing my idealism for the cultural reality as it is. What I mean by that is, I think that if we connect people with the Holy Spirit and try and take the values of those writers seriously, then God has a culturally appropriate expression for the church where we are. I'm not quite sure that I'm right about that, but it just seems like we spend so much energy trying to get the form right, that we forget that it is the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the believer that is most important. Let the form follow the functioning of believers together.

Just a thought. Thank you for praying for my son last month, by the way. He is doing so well. Praise God!

Strider said...

To be clear here I too think that the form is secondary. The point I made was about the motivation for the form that was being sought. I am not about controlling anything when it comes to CP. Our team's motto has been that it is our job to tell the good news of the Kingdom and it is Jesus' job to build his church. So, I don't say to house groups, "Hey, I wont allow you to build a building!" No, what I say is that following Jesus is a change of heart not a club you join. I don't care where you meet as a group big or small but the Church MUST GO HOME with you or it is not real. So, for us we don't talk about buildings or meetings at all- seriously- we talk about Jesus as Lord. If you meet at home with others that is great but if you meet in a large auditorium then be careful not leave Jesus there when you go home. That's all I am saying.

GuyMuse said...

Alan,

I end up sacrificing my idealism for the cultural reality as it is. That is what happens here as well. There is an "ideal" of the NT church, and then there is the reality of "what is." What God is showing me is that we are to strive for the ideal, yet work within what we have on hand.

Strider,

Our team's motto has been that it is our job to tell the good news of the Kingdom and it is Jesus' job to build his church. This is the same thing we talk about as well. It is our job to "make disciples" (Matt.28:18-20), it is His responsibility to "I will build my church..." If we are faithful to do our part, He will be faithful to do his.

Darrell,

I am for God's Kingdom. I pray that every flavor of Christ's body in existence joins the battle. Me too, Darrell. We are for God's Kingdom, and seek that above all else...more than our denominational ties, more than our clear understanding of what a NT church is about, more than anything we want to see God glorified in the nations and especially here in Ecuador.

jeff w. said...

Guy,

I have to say that the old adage "where you stand depends on where you sit" is often true. I skimmed many of Darrell's posts on his blog and see where he is coming from - he has no need of any of the trappings of the traditional church. From what I can read between the lines about Strider's work area, a traditional church really wouldn't work there. I suspect that Tim is leading a more established church to be a missional church. Each sees the problems and issues from where God has planted them to work. And for each, they often see the "traditional" model as a hindrance to their work.

I think that we often spend a lot of time frustrated at how other people "do church" - I know I have. I appreciated your post because it is an admission that God can do it anyway He wants - even using things I think are wrong. For many years I kept a short news article from the Baptist Standard that described a move of God in a little church that "did it by the book" - an old fashioned revival meeting using all the methods from the 50's. It was a reminder that God could use methods that I would never consider.

We can and should learn from each other, but really I only have one job - be obedient.

Jeff

GuyMuse said...

JeffW,

Some good observations on your part. I think you summarize well what all of us have been trying to say with your words, We can and should learn from each other, but really I only have one job - be obedient. I have a lot of respect for those who obey what it is they know to do, and aren't distracted like a lot of us who are constantly trying to "get it right" yet are doing very little in the way of obedience. Yesterday we heard the testimony of a very simple brother who hasn't mastered all the theory, yet had traveled to a neighboring town and used the little he does know. As a result a new church has been planted, and he was on cloud nine telling us about all the neat things God is doing in their midst. I'd rather have three guys like that than 300 who have all the right theory/methodology but don't actually ever find the time to get on a bus, walk in the mud, make the visits, evangelize, disciple, baptize, and begin meeting with the new believers.

David Rogers said...

"What God seems to be showing us, though, is the need to work closer with those who don't yet "see the light" yet want to engage a lost world and make disciples of the nations."

"There is a lot of "bueno" out there if we will just open our hearts to all the beauty that exists in the greater church of Jesus Christ. Many of the "missing pieces" that we are lacking are often found in other's backyards."

"What God is showing me is that we are to strive for the ideal, yet work within what we have on hand."

Guy, I am so encouraged by what you write here in this post and comment string. I know each one of us must hear God for him/herself. But what you write here resonates within my own heart as God's heart for us as his people. As the motto for the Lausanne Movement states: "The whole Church taking the whole gospel to the whole world."

GuyMuse said...

David,

In a sense, the Lausanne quote of "The whole Church taking the whole Gospel to the whole world" summarizes what must take place if ALL are to hear the Gospel. I seem to remember Wolfgang Simson saying something to the effect that it will take ALL of us together to win the world for Christ. He talked about a rope of three strands being stronger than a single strand. The three being: the traditional church, the global house church movement, and the cell church concept. These three working together will achieve far more than any one expression by itself.