Category Archives: Church Life

What one newly forming simple church wants

In the past couple of weeks we have found ourselves in the middle of a new church group that is suddenly coming together. I described one of the first meetings in my last post, “Cool stuff about Wednesday’s meeting“. We met on Sunday, and I asked the group to share their vision of what they want the group to be all about. The most common theme in the discussion is that they really want to reach people who need to know God. They recognize a number of reasons that many people won’t ever become part of a traditional evangelical church. They’re not critical towards traditional churches, but they want to do something different that will connect with people outside of traditional churches. Here’s a list I made during the meeting, based on their responses. It is written in the voice of the group:

  • There should be a change in our lives. We will first and foremost focus on our own spiritual growth. Seeing us changing for the better is what will draw new people into the group.
  • After I shared that we missionaries are only there to support and empower the group and not to lead or control anything, the group agreed. One woman said, “When people see foreigners up front leading a church, they say, ‘That’s a religion of foreigners. We don’t want that, because they already conquered us.'”
  • We want to help people who are hurting and have problems and needs. Lots of people won’t ever go to a traditional church, but they will come to a meeting in someone’s home. For this reason, we’re not particularly interested in building a church building or having rigid, formal meetings.
  • We don’t want to create a strict regimen of religious rules and lots of pressure to show up at every meeting. Instead, we want to have an internal commitment with one another and most of all with God that impels us to participate and do things.
  • Our schedules can make showing up to church meetings very tough. We want to schedule these meetings at times when people can come, and we want to keep it flexible and change the time and location whenever we need to in order to accommodate people.
  • Church people tend to get labeled by those on the outside. Outsiders say things like, “I don’t want to be part of that, because then I’ll be an ‘Alleluia'”. This is because we sometimes do strange things or use strange language that people on the outside don’t understand. As much as possible, we want to use simple language that people understand, and avoid doing things that unnecessarily separate us from people.
  • We want to have a humble attitude. We don’t want to be proud and stuck up with people who don’t know God.
  • We want fellowship and conversation to be defining characteristics of our meetings. We don’t want to just sit quietly and listen to one person preach all the time and not ever talk to the person sitting next to us.
  • We want to create an atmosphere where people feel like they’re with family and feel like they can ask any question. For example, lots of people have questions like, ‘I worship the Virgin Mary, but does she have power?’ We want people to feel like they can ask those types of questions, and we’ll be able to guide them as we go along.
  • Dave, Rhonda, and I emphasized one more point, which is this: Everything we do will be based on the Bible, as taught to us by the Holy Spirit. The Bible contains the truth of God. Without the Spirit to teach us the Bible, we’re just dealing with man’s interpretations, which is what leads to so many different religions who all say they practice the Bible. Each person in the group will be equipped to study the Bible and hear from the Holy Spirit. We will not depend on one certain teacher; everyone at different times will be able to teach others something, based on revelation given by the Holy Spirit.

We’re pretty excited about this list. It’s not quite a comprehensive expression of all that a church is and does, but it’s a great start for a simple new church that is being founded on some really good desires.

Team or church?

Erin and I had an interesting conversation about our church planting team along these lines. Is there a difference between team and church? We often assume the two play by different rules, but is that how God sees it? Something changes in my mind when I start calling our team our church instead. I find it easier to want the Spirit to lead us rather than grasping for control.

I have a hunch that one day when we know how God sees things, we’ll be surprised. I think we’ll find He never saw a team when He looked at the group of us in Mexico, He only saw a church. I bet we’ll find He never saw Young Life or Campus Crusade or Jews for Jesus, either. He only saw churches.

I can’t think of who to credit (can anyone help me?), but I know I’m not the first to say this: One day, the current church/parachurch distinction we have today will be viewed as an anomaly in church history.

Going a step further, when God looks at our family, does He see a church? What changes if I think of my family as my first and most important church body?

I’m enjoying looking at everything through the lense of church. I’m not talking about the big institution, I’m talking about two or more gathered with Christ as the head and roles and gifts of the Spirit distributed according to the Father’s will.

How about you? What groups could you consider churches? What changes if you see them that way?

Lions Set Free

I have an ever-growing desire to see followers of Christ everywhere be the Church, rather than going to church. We were meant to be the hands and feet of Christ, not sit passively in a pew! That’s why I loved the analogy developed in the article below. What would it take for us to see more spiritual lions freed from captivity?

Thanks to Frank Viola for sharing the following by Milt Rodriguez:


Lions Set Free

by Milt Rodriguez

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not be entangled with the yoke of slavery again.” Galatians 5:1

A friend of mine recently told me about a conservation group in Zimbabwe that is taking captive lions and rehabilitating them back into the wild.

This is a difficult, four phase process, but they are having success with it. The rehabilitation process has many snags involved because of the effects of captivity on an African lion. When lions are bred and raised out of their natural habitat, some very abnormal patterns begin to develop. In short, they become domesticated. Yet lions were born to be wild.

In captivity, the lions basically forget that they are lions. The forget how to hunt. They forget how to live in the wild. And they forget how to live in a pride. The “pride” is the name for a community of lions. Lions are by and large social creatures and do not do well as loners.

The Effects of Captivity

You and I were born (again) to be spiritual lions. That’s who we are, but we have forgotten our true nature because of our captivity in the religious system. Captivity has conditioned us to believe things that are just not true. We have become something less than our true calling and destiny because of this conditioning. We have become domesticated.

We have become isolated pew warmers; a mutated race that sits and listens instead of participating and functioning. The clergy/laity system has made us passive and spiritually lazy. In other words, we have sold out our birthrights. Just like Esau we have sold out for the comfort of a bowl of lentil stew, that is, our warm and comfy pews. We no longer wanted to bother with functioning as members of the Body of Christ, so we sold out and instituted the clergy/laity system.

We Have Forgotten How to Hunt

This is definitely one of the most important aspects of a lion’s life. Without the act of hunting, how will you eat?

How will the pride eat?

We have forgotten how to hunt for our own food. Part of our conditioning has been that everyday (or every Sunday!) someone opens our cage and throws us a piece of meat. This bypasses the whole hunting process.

Who is this person that throws in that piece of meat? Where did he get it? Apparently, he went and hunted for it himself. But that is not my prey! And I never had to hunt for it myself.

Hunting is much more than just killing an animal and then eating it. There is the encounter of the hunt itself: finding the right place and time; having the right equipment; getting very quiet; smelling the prey; stalking the prey; taking aim, etc. Sometimes you come up empty handed, but the actual engagement is the thrilling part.

As believers, our food is Jesus Christ Himself! Not just teaching and doctrine about Christ, but the very Person and experience of Christ. You need to hunt for this “food” yourself. Sharing someone else’s food is alright at times. But there is nothing like you going out on your own “hunt” and capturing some new revelation or insight into your Lord. This is exciting. This is discovery. This is how you were born to live!

But then what? What do lions do after they have captured the prey?

They bring it home and share it with the pride.

As I said before, lions are very social creatures and they live in a pride. But in captivity there is no hunt and there is no pride. Lions are thrown their food everyday and they do not live as a pride. They are just individual lions living a mutant life of individualism.

A lion in captivity never has to hunt for his own food. He becomes lazy and complacent. He actually believes that this is normal. He believes that someone else is responsible.

We Have Forgotten How to Live in the Wild

“Because we do not regard the things which are seen but the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” II Cor. 4:18

There are two kinds of realms that exist. There is the unseen realm (or the eternals) and there is the seen realm (or the physicals). Both of these reams exist together at the same time.

One realm is spiritual and unseen. That is, it has no physical substance or what we would call matter. It has no size or dimension, and it exists without time or space. You could say that this spiritual realm is totally “other than” the seen, physical realm.

Of course, we know that the seen physical realm does have matter, energy, space, time, and dimension. Science tells us all about electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms, and molecules. We seem to know a lot about the seen realm. But the scriptures tell us that this realm is only temporary.

It is the unseen realm which is eternal, and yet, we really don’t know much about that realm at all. How do we live in that realm? How do we live in spirit?

The Creature of Two Realms

As lions, we are called to live in two realms at the same time. But we should live mostly in the unseen realm. This is the “wild” for us. And it is mostly unexplored. It really is the “wild.” It is our natural habitat. And we can never be fulfilled with anything less. And yet, because we have forgotten who we are, we have become comfortable in captivity. We have become comfortable in the seen realm. We actually start believing that the physical realm is everything and then we start investing our lives into it.

Yet we have a Lord who is both Lion and Lamb. He is definitely gentle. But make no mistake about it, He is not tame! He is as wild as they come and the wild realm that is our home is inside of Him (Eph. 1:3).

But our natural habitat is not lived alone. This is a place of community. This is the place of the pride.

We Have Forgotten How to Live as a Pride

The “pride” is the social unit for the wild lion. They do not live alone. They interact in small groups know as prides.

Dear believer, a very important part of your natural habitat is the spiritual “pride.” This has been lost to us as well. Lions in captivity don’t live in prides. That is a special feature only found in the wild. When you discover that you are already free and begin living in the other realm, you will see the need of community life. This wild life is a shared life. Shared with your Lord and shared with His people.

But we are not used to sharing our lives with others. We have been isolated (held captive) for so long that we have forgotten that this is just the normal life for wild lions. In a true pride, you all share your food, share your joys, share your sorrows, and share everything in life with one another.

The big question is: how do we get to this place of freedom? How do we remember how to hunt? How do we remember how to live in the wild? How do we remember how to live in a pride?

Our great God has already provided a solution to this situation. And this solution was in force as early as the first century.

God’s Solution: Walking with Lions

As I told you in the beginning of this article, there is a conservationist group in Zimbabwe that is successfully rehabilitating lions back into the wild. But how do they do it?

They take the young cubs for walks everyday in the wild. An experienced lion “handler” (not trainer) will take a cub on long walks everyday to introduce the young lion to life in the wild. Eventually, the lion’s natural instincts will begin to kick in. They will begin to respond to their natural prey and eventually begin to stalk them. Then, one day, they will learn to hunt for themselves. The lion handlers will also introduce them to a pride in the wild so they can be socially integrated.

God does the same thing with His people. He re-introduces His “lions” back into the wild by the use of “handlers.” These are men and women who are called, prepared, and sent by Him for this difficult task. They do not become caretakers of the believers, but their job is to be re-introducers. Then the believers re-discover their spiritual instincts and habitat that has been long forgotten in captivity.

We can see these people at work in the first century. They were sent out by God as itinerant apostolic workers (or church planters) to lay a foundation of Christ for the assemblies of believers. Their job was to work themselves out of a job. Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Timothy, and others did this work or re-introducing God’s people to the wild. Then they would leave them on their own to live as wild lions! Every one of these workers had already experienced true “pride life” for themselves and knew about the hunt, the wild, and the pride by personal experience.

In the Zimbabwe program, the handlers have less and less contact with the lions. The goal is to completely release them to the wild, not to control them and keep them domesticated.

Christians are leaving the religious institutions in droves. They are seeking more reality, a deeper spirituality, and freedom. They are being set free from the captivity of the religious system and it is a beautiful thing to see. But that creates an altogether different problem.

Now that all of these believers are being set free from captivity, what will happen next? How will they now be re-introduced to the wild? How will they remember how to hunt? How will they be introduced to the “pride” life?

God’s own rehabilitation program must be the answer. We need to pray that God will raise up many “handlers” who have been called, prepared, and sent to walk with the lions.

You are a lion and you have a divine right to be free in the wild with His pride!

Could any of these ideas work for your church?

Guy Muse, one of my favorite bloggers, is a missionary to Ecuador who is currently on home assignment in the U.S. He recently shared some thoughts he has since being reimmersed in traditional North American churches after a long time away. I thought he had some interesting ideas that someone just might be crazy enough to try. Here is some of what he said:

After now sitting through three months of worship services and Sunday School classes in half a dozen different churches, what follows are a few observations coming from someone who has long been out of practice of “going to church” as is commonly practiced here in America.

Sunday Morning Sermon. Instead of preaching 30-45 minutes and then everyone going home and promptly forgetting all/most of what has been so conscientiously prepared, why not share a reduced 15-20 minute message and spend the balance of time allowing interaction by the congregation? This personal interaction with the message would bear far more fruit than simply listening to a good man preach. Depending upon the size of the church and seating layout, this could be done in several different ways:

1) The pastor could end with a few key questions that get at the heart of what he was trying to share. As people begin to respond back to the pastor a dialog could ensue amongst all those present. The pastor could facilitate the discussion as several share their wisdom and understanding from their rich experience.

2) People could be encouraged to break up into small groups and share with one another what they sense God is saying to them through what has been shared through the Word.

3) Ask people to share how they intend on applying what they have learned from the Word. What specific actions is the Spirit of God impressing upon them in response to the message? Wouldn’t 10-15 minutes praying for one another and applying the message with their individual situations have a more meaningful impact than simply one person doing all the talking?

It is strange that week after week so much effort has gone in to preparing good Biblical messages, only to be concluded with an invitation which usually has nothing to do with what has been preached. Sometimes 2-3 people will go forward during the invitation, but rarely does it have anything to do with the preceding 30-45 minutes. Why is the bulk of time given to one brother speaking week after week while the remaining 99% just sit and listen? Is church primarily about the message preached by the pastor? What happened to the exhortation by the writer of Hebrews, And let us consider one another, to incitement of love and of good works, not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves, as is the custom of some, but exhorting, and by so much more as you see the Day drawing near?

Read on to hear his reflections on the offering, Sunday School, singing and praise, and prayer.

Scripture as we live it

Alan Knox, who is an excellent blogger in my opinion, has been doing a series entitled “Scripture…As We Live It”. You can find the entire series here. Is it as convicting to you as it is to me? Here’s one example of a passage of Scripture he has “remixed”:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind unless they’re wrong, having the same love unless they’re wrong, being in full accord and of one mind unless they’re wrong. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit unless they’re wrong, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves unless they’re wrong.
(Philippians 2:1-3 remix)