Friday, June 02, 2006

BRAIN DUMP

MINISTRY TO PROSTITUTES
So, last weekend I took a small group of people from Soul Survivor to the streets to minister to young prostitutes on Harbor blvd., but for some reason we only met one girl on Friday night and saw zero on Saturday morning. So, I guess we need to do some more research before we move ahead.

Two months ago there were around 8 to 10 girls out there on the same stretch of road, so it's a little confusing as to why things have changed in so short a time. Potentially it's because the issue is getting media attention now and this has caused Police to crack down more, chasing the girls somewhere else.

As I've researched this issue I've learned a lot about the problem of prostitution (more than I ever cared to know, trust me) and I can begin to see that the only way to really impact these girls and provide serious ministry to them involves setting up a complete ministry to them, not just a monthly service project.

For example, there are no ministries in Orange County (that I can find) set up to help these girls specifically. There's Teen Challenge with two women's homes about 50 to 70 miles away, but they are for girls with drug or alcohol dependency issues. They also only take interviews for potential residents to their program on Tuesdays at 9am, which is very inconvenient to a girl who is trapped in prostitution and wants out asap. Plus, Teen Challenge requires the girls be at least 18 and have a social security card and a driver's license, however many of these girls on the streets are under 18 and have no driver's license. Other girls are here illegally, some against their will, and have no social security card or license either.

It just seems ridiculous to me that we could find a girl who wants out of this oppressive lifestyle (prostitution) and if she's under 18, or never got a license, we have to say, "tough luck" and kick her back to the streets. That's not an option to me.

So, I'm learning that up the road in LA county there are a few ministries that do reach out specifically to prostitutes and under-age girls trapped in this lifestyle. One is The Dream Center and the other is Children Of The Night (which helps under age children of both sexes trapped in prostitution and living on the streets). I think I need to meet with these organizations and see what it would take to either set up OC versions of their ministries, or at least learn from them how to replicate what they do down here in Orange County.

This, of course, is bigger than any of us ever bargained for...and yet I do think that God really is calling us into this ministry. Especially since no one else here in Orange County is doing anything to reach out to these girls and offer real world solutions and assistance to them, in the name of Jesus.

Is that what I'm called to do? How much of a role do I take in setting this up? Am I only here to help someone else get it going?

I'm not sure yet.

HOUSE CHURCH UPDATE- "The Mission"
The last few weeks at house church have been so great. God has spoken to me in so many ways, and I am seeing Him work in our midst in amazing ways. I wish I could explain or describe all the nuances of what it's like to be in fellowship with other followers of Jesus, and AT THE SAME TIME to be in fellowship with the active presence of God in the form of The Holy Spirit, while He is moving and speaking and blessing and healing and ministering to each of us, through each of us. It's breath-taking. It's called "Koinonia" and it's real. I am so blessed by God that He has called us to this sort of community and faith in action and a life of faith that goes beyond "playing church".

Last night we had a smaller gathering as some of our brothers and sisters were on vacation or home sick or in meetings, etc. We enjoyed our evening meal together as usual, shared communion, worshipped in song and shared very openly and frankly together about our personal walk with Jesus. We sat there in my den and shared and prayed and talked and encouraged one another until 12am. No one wanted to leave. It was so, so sweet. I mean, there are seriously no words for me to express to you the intense love and mercy and "life of Jesus" that is present with us in those sorts of moments. It is something I have never experienced in my life before.

We spent a large portion of the evening encouraging one of our own dear sisters who has been dealing with bitterness and struggling with certain areas of her relationship with God, and also with the Church itself. I think it was one of the most earnest and open times of sharing we've ever done. At one point our sister said, "Thank you for not rushing over and trying to put me back in my little Christian box" (after she shared her struggles with us). It was great to talk openly with each other and share our own struggles and put to death the "performance" aspect of our faith, and to exchange that for honesty and real-world experience, peppered liberally with the Word of God, encouragement and prayer.

Sometimes all we need to do is shut up and listen. How often does that happen in most church meetings or gatherings?

Personally, I am liberated by the fact that our house church isn't built on me. I do not deliver the sermon or submit the Bible Study. We all come ready to share something equally. In fact, I think the group could easily go on and have a healthy, complete spiritual life without me. Because it's the Holy Spirit who leads this group, not me or anyone else. It's so refreshing to simply open my front door, invite people in to share a meal, pray for the Holy Spirit to have His way, and then actually allow Him to do just that. Imagine! What a concept.

THE MOVEMENT?
Earlier this week I met with a local house church network pastor who helped me to imagine how I might play a larger role in the OC house church movement. I've never thought of it before, honestly. But after meeting with this guy I started to pray about how God might want me to interact with other house church pastors here in Orange County. I started wondering about how I might encourage them, or learn from them, or help this guy (Ken Eastburn) as he tries to put together magazines or websites or area conferences/gatherings for other house church pastors and members.

I have to admit that as I meet more and more people who are doing this house church thing I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is genuinely up to something. I call the house church thing a movement because I keep meeting people just like me who came into this thing as the result of God's specific calling, feeling that they were the only ones doing so, only to realize (after they'd taken the step of faith) that there were hundreds of others just like them who had heard the same calling and resonded in the same way.

This guy Ken also shared with me how he's met with regional denominational representatives from around the country who report that their traditional church-planting efforts are failing. How existing churches are dieing slowly, buildings sit empty or are sold to others to cash out their debts. But in the house church movement things are exploding. People who would never darken one of those church doors are open to sharing a meal and talking about Jesus with their neighbors.

The sad thing is that most pastors of traditional churches reject this movement because it threatens their own job security, or it questions their method, or it insults their tradition, etc. and so most of us who have left to follow God's calling to plant house churches are feeling left alone, rejected and "banished". This makes me realize the very real need to encourage other house church pastors and planters. Also because I see an alarming trend among house churches for bitterness towards those brothers and sisters who have rejected them. I firmly believe that this movement needs to take the high road, to forgive and to bless those who curse us...even our own brothers and sisters in the traditional church.

What I wish the traditional church could see is that, all that they need to do is to bless this. Supporting a house church movement doesn't involve spending one single dollar. House churces cost zero to build, promote or maintain, yet they offer so much of what is missing in the traditional church today. Community, fellowship, ministry of the Holy Spirit, Discipleship, lifestyle evangelism, hospitality, service to others, etc. are all natural byproducts of the house church. Why would you want to cut off your church from its own fruit? Even more, ask yourself what happens when you cut off all the fruit from a plant? Doesn't it stop producing fruit?

All that the traditional church would need to do would be to bless these house churches, meet once or twice a month with the pastors of these house churches and pray for them, encourage them, resource them. It would only cost the church one lunch special a month and a cup of coffee to say "Yes" to what the Holy Spirit is doing across this Nation.

I guess we can only pray that some pastors will decide to do this as we go forward.

More later.

Peas,
kg

7 comments:

Momsflowergarden said...

Why would you want to cut off your church from its own fruit? Even more, ask yourself what happens when you cut off all the fruit from a plant? Doesn't it stop producing fruit?

Here's my attempts at answering these important questions:
What happens when you cut off all the fruit from a plant. This is what you do, it's called harvest, a natural rythmn in sync with seasons. It is what we do. We enjoy the harvest and next year at the same time we enjoy another crop. We make wine, we dry fruit (raisins) so we can enjoy the luscious fruit year round. The plant doesn't die or shrivel up, it goes onto produce another crop. This is what we are called to do as the Body of Christ, as people abiding in the Vine, our source of life.

Now I would also answer: Why would you want to cut off your church from it's own fruit?

This unfortunately is what I see many home churches doing, cutting themselves off from their vine, their roots, a good source (a God source)of nourishment, of encouragement, of protection. Alienation in any form creates distance. You allude to the fact that home churches planters feel a lack of support. . .

Meeting together is what The Church does. Where it meets, in homes,in a big buildings or small, in parks, in places of business, should not matter. A church is not merely a building but a group of people. A building does not grow, but a vibrant community does, the church world-wide grows in creative, life-giving ways.

Keith Giles said...

actually, it's a common mistake but the truth is, the goal of an apple tree is not to produce an apple. It's to produce more apple trees.

If the apple tree never produces another apple tree, it has failed.

The Church is called to "make disciples". That means teaching others how to teach, not keeping them on the milk forever so that they can never learn for themselves.

Still, it's very exciting for me to see what God is genuinely doing across the Nation as more and more people are sensing this same call of The Holy Spirit to "be the church" and not to "go to church".

I call this a "movement" because it's not built on any one person, book, conference, or personality. It is sincerely a Spirit-breathed movement of people without any other connection other than the prompting of the Holy Spirit to step out into the void and do something extremely "counter culture" (both in the Church and outside the Church), and yet, it's not so "new" at all. The book of Acts and three hundred years of Church History bear out the fact that it works!!

Kelly B said...

It seems as you write, though, that you feel strongly that "doing church" one way is far better than the other way. I love the idea of a home church and indeed, this is what the early Christians did in Acts. However, the Holy Spirit has certainly moved in the hearts of believers in ALL kinds of Christ-centered churches throughout the years. I would recommend using caution with your tone--possibly I feel a bit defensive as a "traditional" church goer, but your assumption seems to be that THIS home church movement is what is right and holiest for a true believer without leaving room for the belief that the Holy Spirit can and certainly does still work wonders in "traditional" churches. When you approach pastors, if they sense what I did as I read this article, your ministry could be slowed if you do not very carefully and prayerfully temper your passion with love and respect and the knowledge that God isn't bound by one idea or movement. What you are doing is exciting and I love the challenge to my own thinking of traditional church. May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Keith Giles said...

KELLY B: I'm doing my best to communicate both ideas, actually. First, that, yes I do have an opinion that the house church is amazing and second that, yes, God is very much at work in all forms of Church.

I am very much convinced that God loves His Bride and His Kingdom is advancing, no matter what.

I have written articles that deal with this and express how God has shown me this balanced truth and I'd invite you to read those too.

Peace,
Keith

Keith Giles said...

My article "LIGHT VS HEAT" (which is all about the tension between the various forms of Church) is posted online now at: www.seedstories.com

Check it out and let me know what you think...
kg

Kelly B said...

Great article (Light vs. Heat). I have a hard time reading something before I trust the author. "Light vs. Heat" went a long way to build that trust; so, thanks. Where do you have more written about why the home church is such a good thing, do any of your writings address "Frequently asked questions," or common concerns about this big shift, and finally, how would you respond to the Christian hesitant to move to a home church because of the potential for corruption (a.k.a. cult-like behavior/following) when there is not a common, corporate set of beliefs? Thanks for taking the time to respond. I really want to "get" your viewpoint fully.

Kelly B

Keith Giles said...

KELLY B: I have written a few posts here about our house church under various headings. Maybe I'll re-post a "best-of" at the top of this page as a new article meant to address some of your questions about our house church, FAQ's, etc.

Thanks for reading and thinking!

Peace,
kg