Monday, January 23, 2006

JOIN THE UNDERGROUND

STATUS REPORT: "THE MISSION"

Last Thursday evening Wendy and I hosted our first "Interest Meeting" for the new house church called "The Mission".

We had around 14 people RSVP'd for the evening, and there were 2 others who surprised us (in a good way) when they showed up too.

The evening was very sweet. Wendy and I took turns sharing how we arrived at the House Chuch model, explained our vision for the group and how our goal is to let the Holy Spirit be our leader and our most important member.

What was most surprising to us was how effortlessly we shifted from talking about how we wanted to operate into actually just spontaneously moving with the Spirit into sharing, caring, and praying together. Even as I was becoming aware of it I could only marvel at the phenomenon and smile.

There seemed to be an almost unconscious assumption among us that we were already the church and the formality of saying it out loud became unnecessary.

Still, as a pessimist at heart, I have to reserve my presumption that everyone who attended this meeting will return and become part of the regular weekly meetings of "The Mission". Only time will tell who is genuinely called to this way of being church.

We asked each person to take the entire next week to pray and ask for God's direction and guidance about whether they are called to this way of church or not. We recognize that this isn't for everyone and it's very important to us (Wendy and I) that only those whom God calls actually become one with us in this endeavor.

In just the last few days there have been several other people who have also expressed interest in coming to see what we're doing and to pray about whether they might also be called to this.

So, we're trusting God to build His Church, as He promised He would. We're committed to allowing The Holy Spirit to be the leader, founder and inspiration for this Church.

This is all in His capable hands.

Our first official meeting will be Feb.2nd, 2006.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

GOING ABOVE GROUND

In order to be subversive, sometimes you have to go above ground with your message.

Here are two recent transmissions to the masses:
(you'll have to cut and paste these links, sorry I'm html challenged)

WHAT IF? by Keith Giles
(an article posted on the Ooze' 'SEED STORIES' website for emerging church planters)
http://www.seedstories.com/articles/article.cfm?id=18

I AM A CHRISTIAN ACTIVIST (the podcast version)
I've recently become an assistant pastor at Soul Survivor's congregation in Costa Mesa and they have podcasted my message from Sunday evening. You can download it here (if you have ITunes):
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=117593278&s
=143441
*MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEY is the title they gave my message. It's a testimonial of sorts about God's hand in my life and a statement at the end about who I am and my personal manifesto.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

LIVING STONES

Just last night it occured to me that the early Christian Church (from Acts to the first 300 years of History) never used property or land for a building or a facility so that they could stop meeting in those house churches.

In fact, we do know from the book of Acts that the early church did receive property and land all the time. If they had wanted to use this land to build a large facility where people could meet, they certainly could have done so. At least we do know that they had the opportunity.

Instead, they consistently sold the property and gave all of it to the poor.

In 300 years of church history, beginning with the Biblical, New Testament Church itself, we never see the church using property, funds or resources for the building of their own empire.

They were interested in compassion, in the building of the Kingdom and in serving the least and the lost around them.

Just interesting to me....

THE MISSION: DAY ZERO



Today is Tuesday, January 17th. In two more days we will host our first "Interest Meeting" for our new house church, The Mission.

Right now we have around 10 people who have RSVP'd and some are bringing friends along with them who are interested or curious about the house church model.

I'm trying to organize my thoughts, think of how best to describe just what a house church is, and in some ways, trying to think of ways to creatively talk people out of joining us.

Yes, that's right. I'm subconsciously trying to think of ways to convince people that this isn't really what they're looking for.

I think the reason why is that most people don't really know what they're getting into. I'll do my best to make it as clear as possible what this will be, and what it will not be, but I know that inevitably some will come along for all the wrong reasons.

Some are coming because they like us, they love our family, they want to support us, etc. This is awesome, and we're grateful, but for this house church to become what it must become, we really need people who are committed to the house church and who are going to be excited about doing church (or "being church") this way.

So, what this will not be is a home group. Although there will be at times elements of this group that resemble a home group such as worship time, fellowship, a short Bible study, etc., this is not a home group.

This is also not about taking what happens in a traditional church on Sunday morning and creating a micro version of it in our living room each week. We will not have an emphasis on a select few leaders and a larger group of followers. We are all followers, and we are all leaders.

See? I told you it's not something that we intuitively understand in today's culture.

I'll do my best on Thursday night to explain our vision for the church, to describe in detail the sorts of things we will be engaging in for the house church meetings, and hopefully inspire some good questions from the group about what the heck I'm talking about.

Last night I sat and read a chapter in "The Church Comes Home" about how to begin a house church. It talked about what to do and what not to do. It gave excellent examples of how the group should organically develop over time, how the first few meetings should differ from the later meetings, and then how the mature group should shift focus and begin really taking form.

Part of me is terrified. I've never done this. It is so far outside my comfort zone that I tend to want to grasp at those systems and patterns that I am so used to operating in, but if I do that then I short circuit what the house church is really meant to be.

I'm realizing that the most important member of our house church is the Holy Spirit. He needs to be at every meeting. He needs to have the complete freedom to speak, to encourage, to rebuke, to move and to, in fact, lead this group where it should go. I am the co-pilot, if that. He, the Holy Spirit, is the One who must build this Church, His Church, and lead it where it should grow.

Maybe my fears are centered here. I must be comfortable with being out of control. I must make it my practice, as the leader, to lead in a way that I have almost never observed anyone else leading before; with a "hands-off" approach and the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to have His way, no matter what.

So, I welcome your prayers for this endeavor. I know that the Enemy hates the Church, and I know that the opposition to something intended to be as pure and as Biblically-based as this will be great.

"Your mission, should you decide to accept it...."

BEEP

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON POVERTY

In my last [subversive underground] e-newsletter, I referenced a story I had read on MSN about how the poor in American aren't really poor because they have color tvs, microwaves, refrigerators, etc.

My reaction to this, in the article I sent out to everyone, was centered on how the article really had no intention of dealing with the very real problem of poverty in America, but was more about justifying our own apathy towards the poor who live among us because, "Hey, they're not as poor as those in Mexico or India, etc.".

I actually got several great responses from people on the list (which is the cool thing about the e-newsletter format...people can talk back!) and so I had to expand on my thoughts and really dig down on this issue of poverty in America and our Biblical mandate to respond.

Here's a little of what I sent out to those who responded:


I guess what I was saying about the article was that it really wasn't trying to actually deal with the very real problem of poverty in America. It was actually trying to make us feel better for not helping at all because "they're not REALLY poor".

Secondly, and mainly, I'm trying to say that there's a Biblical difference between the poor in another country and "our poor". The poor in India, Mexico, Ethiopa, etc. are seriously, desperately poor. No one argues that. This is why I'm on the board of Arms of Love (armsoflove.org), a ministry that builds orphanages in the poorest nations of the world to provide homes for street children who live in the city dumps and are forced into prostitution, etc. I'm not saying don't help the poor "out there".

But the poor in your city, in my city, down the street from me, they are "our poor". What we're called to do, Biblically, is to do something about it. Not to solve poverty. Not to cure it. Not to erase poverty forever, but to do what we can to help a few, in the name of Jesus and with the compassion of Jesus.

The quote from Jesus in Matthew about "the poor you will always have with you" was Jesus referencing Deuteronomy 15:7-11. You should seriously read this passage. The point is that God, the Father, is commanding the Jews to not have a hard heart or a closed fist towards the poor, the stranger, etc., but to give generously, freely to the poor among them. At the end of the passage, God say, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."

That's what Jesus means when he says what he does in Matthew. He is not suggesting that, since we'll always have the poor with us, why bother?

Read Matthew 25. At the Judgement Seat of Christ the one criteria is whether or not those who call him "Lord" had any regard for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the prisoner. The Sheep almost unconsciously care for these poor, not because they think it will get them into Heaven, but simply because they have genuinely been transformed into the people of God. The Goats, who also call Him "Lord", have the same unconscious attitude, but towards the existence of the poor or their needs.

The people of God, redeemed by the Blood, saved by Grace, seem to have an inability to walk past someone who is naked, poor, hungry, thirsty, lonely, etc. and do nothing. They cannot do that. It's not in their new nature.

We have a Biblical mandate (and it's alllll over the Scripture, both Old and New) to care for the poor..."our poor"...and that takes more than writing a check.

Again, this is my very biased conviction. I've been hammered by God on this issue and I cannot let it go because it won't let me go.

Do you know what the sin of Sodom is? Read Ezekiel 16: 49. It's not what you think.

"Now this is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen."

Wow.

How about this one?

Galatians 2:10- "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."
(Paul's response after being sent out as the first missionary by Peter, James and John).

or...

{God is speaking of King Josiah:}
"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16)

Wow.

"Is that not what it means to know me?"

What does it mean to "Know" God? This verse suggests that it means to care for the poor and the needy.

and of course we could also look at, Isaiah 58:6-7, Amos 5:21-24, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:14-17, etc., etc.

I just wanted, in the article, to make the point that God has called us to care for the poor, not to justify their poverty or our lack of compassion by comparing them to the "actual poor" in Third World countries.

Still, I'm new to this whole thing. I'm still trying to work out my own calling in this area too.

Thanks for letting me rant.