Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Out Of The Blue by Keith Giles

The other day I received a very unexpected, but very necessary, word of encouragement from God by way of a friend.

I was at home, trying to stay busy while my wife and two sons were away on vacation, and searching desperately for a new job in the meantime, when my cell phone rang.

It was my friend Susan, who I had not spoken to in just about a year. Years earlier, when I had gone to work for Vineyard Music Group to launch their brand-new wholesale department, Susan had been the first sales rep to join the team. Over the next three years we would work closely together and become good friends.

Still, I was shocked to get a call from her, especially on my cell phone since I wasn’t sure how she’d gotten the number. Wendy and I had moved recently from Tustin to Orange and our home phone number had been changed. My cell number was one I’d had for only a year or so, so getting a call from Susan was a surprise.

After a brief time of small-talk, Susan told me why she was calling. She said she had been praying that God would make her an encouragement to someone. As she was reading her Bible, she came across Deuteronomy 8:7-10 and immediately thought of me, so she began to search around to see if she could find my phone number.

As I listened to Susan, she began to read this verse out loud to me. “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land- a land with streams and pools of water…a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…”

It wasn’t until I told Susan what we were going through that she even had any idea how appropriate her verse was to our situation. I told her about how I’d been out of work since the end of June. I told her how Wendy and the boys were away on vacation, leaving me alone in the house for two and a half weeks, to search for a new full-time job.

God had spoken to me, through a friend, and through His word, at a time when I really needed to hear some encouragement. Over the last few weeks, I have returned to this verse again and again to remind myself that God is near and that His intention is to bless me and to lead me to a better place.

So far, I’ve submitted applications and sent resumes to countless organizations. I’ve contacted friends, acquaintances, and total strangers seeking leads on new jobs. I’ve registered with two different temporary agencies (and neither one has called me back about an assignment).

I’ve posted my resume at Monster.com, searched for jobs on two different Non-Profit Job Search Engines, and sent out my resume to jobs I found listed on Craig’s List.

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I applied for Unemployment.

I am officially out of ideas. I have done everything I know how to do and so far I have nothing to go on.

What is it that God is trying to say to me? What am I supposed to do next? I have no idea.

Wendy and I have been through something similar to this once before when I was laid off from Vineyard Music after three and a half years. I was out of work for over a year and a half. I pray that this time around the time spent searching for employment is much shorter.

Until we discover the will of God in all of this, I will continue to seek God’s face. I will continue to trust in Him alone. I will hold on to the promise that He intends to bless me and to bring me into “…a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing..”

He is our only hope. In Him will we trust.

Conversatio Morem!

Monday, August 28, 2006


“The House of Eleven Windows” by Keith Giles

A few months ago, long before anyone really knew that Wendy and I were planning to leave our staff positions at a local church and start a crazy house church, we were guests in the home of an elderly couple who had once been missionaries themselves in Mexico many years ago.

The wife’s name was Ethel. She was someone who had a reputation for having a prophetic gift. Meaning that, rather tell the future, she would often have words of encouragement for people that referred to a specific situation or event. This evening we were having dinner in their home because she had informed us that she had something important to share with us.

After dinner she began to tell us about something that had happened months earlier during the Sunday morning service when Wendy and I had come and sat down in front of her and her husband during worship. She began to tell us how, during the worship, she kept seeing a large, three-story house with eleven windows all over it. She kept seeing it in her mind every time she closed her eyes and so she started to pray and ask God what this picture meant. God spoke to her heart and said that it was because Wendy and I were going to be leaving and that we were going to start a house church.

Sitting there at her dinner table, Wendy and I slowly turned to look at each other in amazement. No one at our church was aware that we were leaving to start a house church at this point in time. This was quite an on-target word of encouragement to us.

She wasn’t finished. She said that she then asked God why there were eleven windows on the house. God spoke to her heart again, as we were standing in front of her worshipping, that the eleven windows stood for eleven windows of opportunity that He was about to open up for us in this new ministry.

At the time, Wendy and I didn’t know where we would end up living. The news had come only weeks earlier from our landlord that the house we’d been renting for over 3 years would be up for sale and that we had to move out. This word encouraged us because it meant that we’d have a house church where God would bless us in many ways.

Soon enough we moved out of our old house, stored our belongings in a storage unit, and began searching for a new house. In a few weeks we moved into our new house in Orange, a few miles away from our old house. After a few more months we began our first house church meetings and called it “The Mission”.

It was only a few months ago that we started a “Kids Club” in our new home for the kids in our neighborhood, sharing the Gospel with these four elementary-age children as part of our calling to be missionaries in our culture.

One night, I couldn’t sleep and I got up to pray. It was about three o’clock in the morning. I went into the den where we normally host our house church gatherings and have since started our “Kids Club” services. As I prayed, God revealed something very practical to me. I began to pray about that word He gave us through Ethel months earlier, about the eleven windows of opportunity. I prayed and asked God to show me more about what this really meant. Then I realized something amazing. I started to mentally count how many windows there were in this new house we were now living in. There were eleven windows here. I mentally did the count in my head again, adding up the windows in each room one more time to be sure. Again, the number was the same. Eleven windows.

The simplicity of this realization washed over me like a flood of emotion. I sat on my couch, in the dark and began to shake my head in wonder and disbelief. All those months ago, long before anyone knew we were even thinking of starting a house church, long before we ourselves even knew where we’d end up living next, long before we’d ever started to walk out our calling to be missionaries in our city, God had this house in mind. God held this place for us. He intended for us specifically to be in this neighborhood, to minister to these children, to lead the house church in this very place. He even counted the windows and told us about it months in advance so that we’d know we were in the right place at the right time.

Today I am searching for a new full-time job. I have no idea where we’ll get the funds to cover rent and groceries in the next few weeks. I have done all I know how to do in order to find a new job, any job, that could cover our bills and provide our needs. As I sit here writing this, in the house with eleven windows, I do not know what God is about to do next. I do not know how God will provide. But I do know that God has us in the right place. I do know that God has seen the end from the beginning and I know that He will carry us in His arms, as He always has before.

Just this morning, I got up to pray again. I went into the den and knelt in front of the same sofa to pray. I again remembered the word about the eleven windows. Then I started to count the doors in our house, just out of curiosity.

Can you guess how many doors there are in this house?

God is faithful and He speaks to us and reveals His faithfulness to us in mysterious ways.

Conversatio Morem!


Saturday, August 26, 2006



I just read an interesting article the other day about how Jesus avoided the religious and political agenda of His day in favor of a radical system called "The Kingdom of God", which was intended to transcend religion and politics and drive straight to the heart of the individual person. His revolution was about personal "regime change", not political reformation or even religious. Jesus was concerned with how you and I, how everyday people, needed to experience an internal revolution where they surrendered their kingdom to His.

I've already written about the difference between political agenda/parties/candidates and the sort of social system that Jesus was interested in - The Kingdom of God. This was not a political party or system, but a way of life that transcended culture, social systems, politics, religious affiliation or any other form of human sociology.

The Kingdom of God is God's Way of life, not our own. We must conform to the Kingdom, we must NOT conform the Kingdom to fit our ideology or system.

This is why I disagree with Jim Wallis when he takes his message of social justice and alligns himself with the Democratic Party (all the while claiming that "The Right doesn't get it and the Left gets it wrong"). Because when Jim Wallis makes the issue a political issue, and not a moral, ethical, or Christian issue, he gives people permission to dismiss him as a Liberal and therefore, dismiss the overtly Biblical Mandate from God Almighty to care for the poor.

To be clear, I love Jim Wallis. I've interviewed him twice and I love what he has to say to the Church about their Biblical mandate to care for the poor. When he's on that soapbox I'm cheering all the way. It's when he turns political that I leave the scene.

At the same time, I disagree with people like James Dobson and Pat Robertson (and all the rest) who try to make the Republican Party equal to the Kingdom of God. Their message seems to be that, to be a good Christian is to be a good Republican. I disagree. Very much.

Again, just so I don't get a lot of hate mail on this, I love Focus On The Family. I love what they do for families and for encouraging Moms and Dads to parent in a more loving and intentional way. What I take issue with is when their founder steps into the media spotlight, shares the stage with political leaders, and makes declarative statements as if he were speaking for all of Christendom. I disagree with the idea that all good Christians are Republicans.

Many Christians in America will be shocked to discover so many Democrats (and even, "gasp", Green Party Members) living next door to their mansions in Heaven. Heck, we'll even see Socialists and Communists there too! Oh my...

First and foremost, I am a follower of Jesus. My only allegiance is to Him and to His Word and to His Kingdom. I am a citizen of this Kingdom and all that it stands for. I am a stranger here. This world is not my home. (You know the songs).

I care for the poor because God commands me to, and because when I exercise compassion to others, I am following in the footsteps of Jesus Himself. It is not about a political system or party. It's about Jesus.

I do think it's a good thing to be involved with politics when appropriate. Call your Congressman, ask them to vote for the right House Bill and to deny the wrong agenda. Yes. Do that. But do not get confused about where the real solutions lie. Do not allow your mind to get blurred between that and what it really means to follow Jesus.

If you vote for the Green Party, but you never personally care for the environment in your real life...(ie.- you don't recycle your paper and plastics)...you are not actually someone who practices what you preach.

If you vote for the Democratic Candidate who wants to improve the welfare system and up the minimum wage, but you yourself never get in your car and spend any time with the poor, you are not someone who cares about social justice.

If you vote for the Republican Party because they support an anti-Abortion platform, but you never even pray for unwed mothers, or take the opportunity to show compassion to an actual under-age pregnant girl, you are not someone who values an unborn life.

Our actions, our everyday, actual actions, are what really determine what we believe and what we value. Our votes, our political affiliations, our bumper stickers, do not communicate anything more than an opinion or a position.

Furthermore, as far as our faith, if we say we love Jesus and we hate our brother (or any other human being), we are liars. Are we practicing love? Are we actually working to show kindness and compassion to the poor, to our neighbors next door, to our own, irritating family members? If not, we are not really "Believing" in Jesus, because the word "Believe", as Jesus (and Paul, Peter, etc.) uses it refers to listening and then putting into practice.

"Now that you KNOW these things, you will be blessed, if you DO THEM" - Jesus (JOHN 13:17 - emphasis mine)


Thursday, August 24, 2006


Some of you know I've been out of work since the end of June.

We made it through last month due to the great genorosity of our Mission House Church members and also because we cashed out an old 401k account that had about $2,800 in it. This is how we covered rent and bills up to this point.

Now things are getting scary. I've been searching for a job, preferably in the non-profit/ministry side of things, but the way things are looking, I'd be happy to wash dishes if it meant I could cover our bills.

As a favor, a friend of mine recommended me to his boss as a potential telephone sales rep. I've done this sort of work before, so it didn't seem that difficult. Plus, the pay was very good and we certainly had no other options open, so I took the chance.

The owner met with me and informed me that, the way they handle new hires is to give them 3 days to produce using a purchased phone list of potential clients and see how they do on the phones. We call this "Cold Calling" in the sales biz. It's the worst kind of sales you can do, in my opinion.

Still, it didn't look that difficult so I took the challenge. Three days to prove myself. No problem.

The first day I hit the phones hard. I made around 55 phone calls and never sold a single item. It was grueling work actually. The psychological and emotional stress it takes to pick up the phone again, and again, and to call total strangers and rip through a pitch (all the while making it sound very conversational and "non-sales-like"), is very hard on the ego. But, oh well, I thought. Maybe I just had a bad day. The next day was sure to improve.

But the second day, after 77 phone calls, I had a blank sales sheet. Not one single person had taken our product. Of course, more than 40% of my calls had gone to voice mail, or been wrong numbers, but of the 15 or 16 people I actually spoke to, most were uninterested or already had a source for what we were offering. I was frustrated. I felt like a failure. Worse, I was partially angry at my employer-to-be for handing me a crap list of prospective clients and expecting me to turn lead into gold. I felt as if I was set up to fail.

At the end of the second day, my friend Greg, (who helped get me in the door at this place), called me at home to inform me that his boss had mentioed that he expected me to sell six or seven items on the third day if I had any hope of being hired on full-time.

I wanted to spit. At the rate I was going, using their garbage phone lists, I was convinced that even Harry Houdini couldn't pull a sale out of that hat, much less six!

I told my friend that I'd rather have a root canal than to return to another day of non-stop calls and empty results at that place.

Then, that next morning I woke up around 5:30am and started wrestling with God over it. I thought of the Children of Israel who refused to enter the Promised Land just because there were Giants. I told God it would take a miracle for me to get 6 sales in a single day when, after 2 days, I couldn’t even do a single one.

Then I told God how much I really, really, really, hated this job. How it was like pulling my soul through a cheese grater. I thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, how he asked if the cup could pass from him, yet nevertheless, he did as God commanded.

I remembered that I’m writing a book on the power of weaknesss; about how when we are weak, God is strong. I thought that if I didn’t at least give God an opportunity, I’d never know what could have happened.

I also thought about the fact that rent is coming due, along with a lot of bills, at the end of this month and the first of next. I know we’ll need cash and at least I’d get paid around $100 just for coming in and taking one last swing at the phones.

I got up. I got dressed. I made coffee. I prayed some more. I asked God for the strength to get back on the phones and I confessed my weakness.

Maybe this was another way for me to learn to die to myself, to take up my cross and to follow Jesus? Maybe this is how real faith works, I thought.

I also thought about how I would have to tell my sons that I quit the job I was doing just because it was too hard. I also thought about how a failure is really only someone who doesn’t try.

So, I got in the car and drove to work.

On the way, I prayed. I sang worship songs. I cried. I asked God for strength.

I realized that this was an opportunity for me, to let go of what I wanted in order to be a good provider for my children, my wife, my family.

I walked into the office and headed for my desk, and that phone, facing possible humiliation at a third day of zero results.

I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and whispered a prayer to God for help. Then I picked up the phone and started to make my first call.

After about 3 hours I made about 30 calls. All zippo. Not a single sale.

My boss came over eventually asked me if I just wanted to call it quits and I said, “Yes”.

So, I got a check for about $260 and said goodbye to my friend Greg and walked out to the car.

Strangely, I felt invigorated. I had faced my dread in God's strength. I had failed to produce results, but at least I discovered what I was made of. At least I didn't take the easy way out and quit.

Now, I'm back on the job trail. Seeking God's face and listening for His voice, which, I believe, is really what God wants most of all; to hear my voice calling out to Him and to know that I am putting all my hope and trust in Him alone.


Thursday, August 17, 2006


Through Ken Eastburn I met Bob Sears, the author of this article. He's leading a highly-missional group in Long Beach and here he gives us a snapshot of what one of those meetings looks like. I can't wait to visit one day and see for myself.

Here ya go...

Second Reformation by Bob Sears

Nine, then ten of us, stuffed into a tiny, second-story Long Beach apartment or an “open discussion” of spiritual issues; Five Christians and five “non”.

After getting acquainted, I transitioned with this hopeful firestarter- “If you could ask God a question that you knew He would answer right way, what would it be?” The skeptic’s replies were pretty diverse:

*”I’d ask her if she was real.”- Leanna, 24, our hostess and our original contact
*”Is there a right way to believe?”- Mark, 25, the host who lives with Leanna
*”Are there aliens on other planets?”- John, 33, the heavily tattoed, non-pot-smoking Rastafarian who hasn’t cut or combed his dreadlocks for 14 years
*”Why? Why did you start the world? Why are things the way they are? Why?!”- Drew, mid 20’s, outspokenly agnostic.
*Why did you create this whole thing that just dies over and over?”- Brendon, who showed up near the end of our evening

How I would up with these people is an object lesson in the power of prayer. When 50 Christian friends and supporters joined me for dinner on March 26 (which delighted me, by the way), I asked everyone to please pray for my ministry during the last ten minutes of our time together. The next day I kept an appointment with Ken Eastburn, a Southern Baptist pastor who recently led his church of 90 to sell their building in Brea and start meeting as seven house churches. I had been referred to him by a mutual acquaintance several weeks before.

Ken and I hit it off. Especially when he mentioned that his goal was to start 100 small house churches in Orange County, the exact same goal I had publicly declared to our group the night before.

We met several weeks in a row and decided to start following-up on some of his leads. Leanna in Long Beach was one of those leads. Ken and I had dinner later on with her and her room-mate Mark to share our ideas for an open discussion of spiritual seekers and agreed to meet in this way with those they invited two weeks from that time. That all occurred on June 4th.

On June 11th we tackled the question of why God created everything when he knew in advance how messed-up things would get. I gave everyone a (slightly paraphrased) copy of Colossians 1:15-22 to use as a reference during our interaction. Paul highlights two answers in that passage:

#1 – God has always planned to establish Jesus as supreme head over all creation and all of history is the outworking of that plan.

#2 – God’s actions to reconcile people to himself through Christ reveals his eternal desire for a vital relationship with us. That’s what he made us for.

I didn’t offer these two insights until the last few minutes of our group discussion, but they listened intently, then expressed readiness to give the next topic a shot after Father’s Day.

Two Sundays later, we had a rousing discussion about whether or not there is a “right way” to believe. Most in our group began by answering, “No, there is no right or wrong way to believe. Everyone is equally right and all opinions are equally valid.” But, of course that belief/opinion claims to be more right than other beliefs/opinions, so it reveals itself as ridiculous after just a little probing. (A good book on this is “Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly In Mid-Air” by Beckwith and Koukl). Most of our group quickly caught on and saw their problem. In fact, Leanna dismayed herself by wanting to be tolerant of all views, then realizing she simply can’t be and remain logical. Some things are just obviously right and wrong. Her conclusion: Human morality must have been imparted to us by a Creator.

A lesbian newcomer named Yvonne also admitted to inconsistent beliefs, but she loved how “carefully listened to” she felt as she discovered that fact. (She also commented that our discussion had been so deep that she might fare better next time if she comes “high”. Yeah. That’s help.)

But not everyone was impressed. Drew is much brighter and better trained as a philosopher than I; the kind who can make you doubt if even “you” exist! He asked me to read part of a book he loves by Friedrich Nietzsche so I could better understand his take on the issue. My conclusion, after reading it, is that Satan also attends our meetings and has a firm grip on some of their minds there (see 2 Cor 4:3-4). There’s no chance of my influencing them unless Jesus is present in power and supplies my responses.

On Sunday, July 2nd, after discussing why each of us do-or-don’t believe that God exists; we analyzed Jesus’ reply to Philip’s hare-brained request to see the Father. “Don’t you yet recognize me, Philip, even after I have been with you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking to see Him? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10).

I can’t tell you how much impact the scriptures I choose for this group are having, but I can tell you that God is giving me favor with them. They like what we’re doing and now want to continue meeting at least through July (a month longer than originally committed to). So, please pray that God will open their hearts to receive His Truth, and that He’ll give me Christ-like clarity and wisdom so I can milk this opportunity for all it’s worth. I’d give an arm to see a new church birthed with some of these folks, and it’s not too much to ask.
Still stirred up about all this,
Bob Sears


Friday, August 11, 2006


I forgot to mention that, the other night at "The Mission", my friend Jason saw another person at the same stoplight as Tommy a few months back. This time it was a woman so, when he got to our meeting he quietly grabbed a plate of hot food and went off, with his wife Heather, to share with this woman.

While they were talking and praying with her, Jason asked her about Tommy. She knew him and said that he was out of the wheelchair now, on crutches, and was living in an RV or Motor Home now.

Praise God!

It's awesome to hear that he's not living on the streets, or by the riverbank, anymore.

Thanks to everyone who was praying for Tommy. Everytime I drive by that intersection I look for him and say a prayer for him. Now I know that he's not around because God has blessed him and taken him out of that lifestyle.

Isn't God good?


Last night at "The Mission" (our weekly house church gathering) we were blessed with first-time visitors Brent and Clara from Fullerton. (Brent discovered our house church listing over at "House2House.com").

During our meal we had a wonderful discussion about something that I've been meaning to write about for a while now and this is a good time to do so.

What we began discussing was the tendency in our traditional churches to centralize certain people as leaders and, in turn, we disqualify everyone else from participating.

For example, most pastors and on-staff ministers can relate to the fact that only a handful of people do all the work and ministry in the Body while 80% to 90% sit back and do nothing. This creates frustration, burn-out and, honestly, a large group of underdeveloped disciples.

Brent's comment was that he realized in his church that it was like a classroom of people from various levels of maturity who would never graduate. So, the First Graders and the Twelfth Graders (and everyone in between) must sit through the same lecture each week and there is no homework (so the pastor/professor cannot ever really tell who is listening or putting things into practice or not) and the fact is that no one ever graduates from this "Class" and becomes an instructor themselves.

Here's a great solution: Teach your people to become teachers. If you are in the habit of training others to become trainers of others (this is a very basic principle of discipleship), you will eventually end up with a church full of teachers and trainers who are training others to also be teachers and trainers. Over time your church will become so full of mature ("Graduated") leaders and disciple-makers that your small staff will act mostly as facilitators and not the one's who must always be "hands-on" for every single event/class/lesson/bible study, etc.

I have personally been shocked to see a lack of basic trust among most lead pastors to "give away the ministry" in this way. Many pastors are too afraid to actually empower and release others to do their job. Why? Well, it's pretty obvious that this threatens their authority and job security. But, it doesn't have to. I believe any pastor who actually put this into practice would quickly become the envy of other pastors in their community. They'd get phone calls from other pastors asking, "How do you do it?" and "Can you show me how to do this?"

Here's a quick reference of how to empower others contrasted with how to expoit others. See where your church fits in this matrix:

*Give them something to do / *Give them something to attend
*Believe in them / *Make them believe in you
*Delegate authority / *Require submission to your authority
*Further God's plan for their life / *Make them part of your plans
*Invest in them / * Use them
*Love them and show it / *Love the task more than the people
*Give them what you have / *Take what they have
*Provide resources for growth / *Harvest their resources for your own use
*Discuss with them / * Preach at them
*Spend time freely with them / *Require appointments
*Give them the keys now / *Hold back until you retire
*Serve them / *Get them to serve you
*Praise them / *Accept their praise graciously
*Transfer masterhood to them / *Demonstrate your masterhood to them

**Modified from Wolfgang Simson

Brent and I also discussed a bit about Barna's book "Revolution" and how, in the next 20 years, he predicts that the traditional church will decline and "organic" or "house" churches will flourish. I agree with Barna, however, I think as this begins to gather momentum many "smart" pastors will begin to look around and say, "Hold the phone! Why are all these people leaving the church? What is it they are hungry for? How can we modify what we do to provide the same opportunity?"

Most of those "smart" pastors will shift from an "Exploit Others" methodology to an "Empower Others" methodology. Many of the smart ones already have...

Brent and I both shared testimonials of how we've seen requests from church members to start Bible Studies or Prayer Meetings in their homes have been told "No" by their lead pastors because there wasn't a recognized pastoral figure who could oversee such a meeting. So, this means pastors are actually discouraging their members from meeting and praying and studing the Word of God together because they're not qualified to do so.


What happened to the Priesthood of the Believer? What happened to opening the Word of God and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth?

Sadly, our practice betrays our heritage of The Reformation and the liberty offered to us by God to empower every believer to become a committed and devoted disciple who, then in turn, goes and creates other committed and devoted disciples.

I've mentioned it here before, but the goal of an apple tree is not to produce more apples. It's to produce more apple trees. This is the organic purpose found in nature, and it's the organic purpose of the Body of Christ as well.

Let's go and make disciples. Let's empower every follower of Christ to go and exponentially create as many Bible Studies, Prayer Groups, Spiritual Discussion Groups, etc. as the Holy Spirit desires.

It's time to unleash the untapped potential of the Priesthood of Believers, empowered and released to "be the Church" and not just "attend the Church".

It's time to start the act of service and stop going to a service.

"Let it fly!"


Tuesday, August 08, 2006



In the last few years, God has been speaking to me about the connection between loving and serving God and loving and serving others, especially the poor.

I've learned a lot from spending time with the poor. They've taught me about humility and about courage. I've known the joy of bringing hope to someone who felt forgotten and alone. I've seen Jesus in the face of the elderly, the poor, in children who are hungry and dirty. I've discovered the truth that the Gospel is about being "Good News to the poor" as Jesus said it was.

In all my passion for serving the poor, I've hosted conferences designed to educate other Christians about the connection between how we love God and how we love the poor among us. I've written dozens of articles all over the internet and in print magazines about how God is calling each and every one of us to express His genuine compassion for the poor in our everyday life. I've taught workshops on this. I've preached sermons on this. I even have several t-shirts which loudly proclaim my passion and my concern for the poor.

But lately I've begun to learn something else about caring for the poor which goes beyond advocacy and activism. It goes beyond giving a hug or befriending the lonely. It's called "The Discipline of Secrecy".

A quick search through Richard Foster's great classic, "Celebration of Discipline" provides a few short paragraphs about this concept, but I think it's a lost art and worthy of more attention.

This little-known, or practiced, discipline is found simply in the teachings of our Lord Jesus, Himself.

In Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 through 4, Jesus urges His followers to practice an uncommon discipline of secret charity. In verse 2 of chapter 6, Jesus says, "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." - Matt 6:1-4

Recently this passage has come to convict me of my previous attitude and behavior towards the issue of poverty and my (very public) response to it. On the one hand, my talent is to write. I've made an intentional choice to surrender my writing ability to God so that the Kingdom may be advanced and so that the Truth of the Gospel might be proclaimed. That's what I've been focusing on these last few years of my life with this website, my newsletter, and the various book projects I've got going on at the moment.

But, as I read this verse in Matthew, I begin to question my motives a bit more seriously. When I write my articles giving testimony about how God has revealed Himself to me through my service to the poor, don't I take a bit of pride in my state of enlightenment? Well...honestly, yes...maybe just a little bit. And as I wear my t-shirts which proudly shout "Actions Speak Louder" or "You Have One Life, Do Something", aren't I basically saying, "Hey! Look at me! I care about the poor and if you don't you're not as smart/holy as I am!"? Perhaps...

In my defense, I think my earlier passion to write down what I was discovering along these lines, was mostly sincere excitement and an honest desire to share with others about what I was learning. I wanted, and still want, to inspire others to get out of their comfort zones and to begin to love the poor that God has put in their path. It has made a serious difference in my life and I know it will make a serious difference in the lives of others who also decide to follow Jesus in this way.

But now I am discovering a new facet of caring for the poor; The Discipline of Secrecy.

After reading this passage in Matthew, and after having the Holy Spirit roll me around in the dirt about my attitude in this area, I decided to change my behavior and to modify my acts of compassion.

For example, in the past, I would learn something great or experience something awesome in the process of serving another person and I would immediately craft an article about it and post it online somewhere for all the world to see. Again, in my heart my hope was to inspire others to get out of their comfort zones and to express the love of God to the poor in tangible ways. That's a good thing. However, I've begun to imagine what it might be like to spend an hour of time with a homeless person, buy them a meal and pray for them, without ever saying a word about it to anyone.

At first I was curious about whether or not I could actually do this. I mean, could I really stop and spend time with someone who was in need and could I serve them and then never talk about it in public? Better yet, would I do this if I knew that no one would ever know about the details of my benevolence?

These are the hard questions that Jesus asks of us in Matthew chapter 6. This is the hard question that the Holy Spirit is asking me now. Maybe He's asking you the same thing?

Could I actually develop an ongoing ministry to the poor where every week I am actively involved in providing compassionate response to someone in need, and yet never write or talk about it to anyone?

Honestly, the idea of doing this excites me. I'm eager to start a ministry of secret charity to whomever God puts in my path. I can't imagine that such a habit could do anything less than draw me closer to the heart of Jesus and begin to change my heart for others in ways I have yet to even begin to understand.

So, does this mean I won't be writing any more about the importance of caring for the poor? Probably not. Does it mean that I'll not be leading any further conferences or workshops where I educate and train others to see the poor around them and to respond in the way that Jesus commands us? No, it does not mean that. I will continue to devote my time, talent and energy into caring for the poor and for preaching about God's heart for the poor.

But, what will change is that I will begin to develop an area of my life where I spend time with the homeless, and I care for the poor God puts in my path, and I will purposely guard the details of that service from everyone except God...and my wife.

There is joy and freedom in knowing that only you and God are aware of your acts of service to others. It clarifies whom we are trying to please and it glorifies only the One who deserves any glory.

I can hardly wait to begin on this adventure of secret service, and I wish I could report back to everyone about how it's going and what I'm sure to learn...but I can't. You'll just have to start your own secret service time and experience the joy for yourself, I guess.


Friday, August 04, 2006

LIVING STONES by Keith Giles

*DISCLAIMER- In the article below I am sharing insight on what the Scripture and Church History reveals about the way the first century Christians thought of Church.
This information reveals a contrast between the Church then and the Church now.
My hope to communicate the truth and to share my fascination with the genius of how God built our faith on the family from the very beginning. My desire is to encourage a restoration of this sense of family to the Church today. - kg

LIVING STONES by Keith Giles

The New Testament speaks a lot about the Church building. In context, however, the building is revealed to be the people of God, not a structure or a facility where believers gather to meet, and the process of building this Church is the work of God Himself.

Paul the Apostle refers to the Church as the “Body of Christ” which is made up of many parts. Each part of this Body of Christ is identified as an individual follower of Jesus with a diverse set of gifts and talents bestowed upon each by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up and encouraging the entire Body. (see 1 Cor 12:12)

Peter the Apostle also refers to the Church as being made up of living stones as he says in 1 Peter 2:5 “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

The Church, then, as Paul and Peter describe it in their epistles, is made up only of people, not some structure built by human hands.

The early Christian Church, for the first 300 years of its history, never used property or land for a building where they could meet. Why is that? We do know from the book of Acts that the early church did receive property and land all the time. (Act 4:34-35) If they had wanted to use this land to build a large facility where people could meet, they certainly had the means and the material wealth to do so. At least we do know that they had the opportunity and the means, but apparently not the desire.

What we see instead, is that the early church consistently sold the property given to it and gave all of the money to the poor. Their focus was on drawing people to Jesus, not on drawing people to their facility, or to a place where they all could gather.

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. What they were interested in was continuing the compassionate ministry of Jesus, plain and simple. The Apostles were dedicated to building and advancing the Kingdom of God and in serving the least and the lost around them, not in building facilities and hoarding funds for themselves.

The only “building” ever referred to in Scripture, as it related to the Church, was used to refer to the people themselves. People, therefore, were more important than property or facilities. Land and property were quickly liquidated in order to care for people, first and foremost.

I believe that when the Disciples and the early Apostles set out to build the Church in those first, formative days, they took their cues from Jesus himself, and were guided by the Holy Spirit to pioneer a form of Church which had never been seen before.

If they had wanted to, Peter, James, John and the rest could easily have fallen back on the Jewish Temple system of worship, or they could have used the Tabernacle model as they built the Church of Jesus. To be honest, such a format would have made a lot of sense, being that they were all Jews themselves and most of them had grown up thinking of Church and worship in such a way.

My question is, “Why didn’t the Disciples, who were Jews, use the most familiar system of worship and gathering known to them?” or better yet ,”Why did they invent a form of worship which had never been known to anyone beforehand?”

I believe the answer is simple. The house church model was divinely inspired by God, and Jesus himself was the one who taught those first disciples how to go about planting such churches.

The Gospels reveal to us where the Disciples of Jesus came up with the concept of a church built upon people and centered in the home. It was Jesus himself, of course. As we see Jesus sending out the seventy-two in Luke 10:5-7 we notice that Jesus commanded them to go out two by two, but he commanded them not to go house to house. Instead, he specifically orders them to find a house where they are made welcome and to eat and drink whatever they are given and to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to that family and to heal the sick in that place.

Also, in Luke 9:3-5, when Jesus sends out the Twelve, we see a startling set of instructions. “Take nothing for the journey- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.” Here Jesus plants the concept in their minds that The Gospel of the Kingdom takes root in a home, within a community, and from there the message spreads outward.

The testimony of Scripture, and of History, is that this simple, humble and familial concept of Church was wildly successful in evangelizing the known world.

I recently heard a wonderful analogy about the nature of the Church.

“The Church that we have on Earth very much depends on the kind of God we have in Heaven. It’s a reflection on who we believe He is. If we believe God to be a Professor, then Church would be very much like a classroom, like an auditorium where we listen to a lecture for an hour and then go about our lives. If we believe God is like a Judge, Church would be very much like a Police Station or a Court Room. If God is like a Doctor, our Church would be like a Hospital. If we believe God to be like a General, then our Church would look very much like an Army. But, if God would be a Father, then Church would look very much like a family.” – Wolfgang Simson

This resonates in the deepest parts of my soul. Do I believe God to be a Father? If so, why isn’t our Church more like a family and less like a hospital, a court room or a lecture hall?

I believe it is no mistake, no accident, no arbitrary choice of metaphors that the first Disciples used language like “Family of God”, or referred to one another as “Brother’s and Sisters in Christ” or ate together daily in their homes, or shared all things in common. This is what a family does. This is what the early church took literally, and the fruit of this philosophy is seen in the Acts of the Apostles and the history of the early Church itself. It transformed the world.

Many modern opponents to the house church movement will usually argue that the house church model is too open to heretical doctrine and abhorrent teaching. We need the traditional form of church, it is argued, in order to preserve the orthodox Christian faith.

The truth is, the early and original New Testament Church met in homes for over three hundred years and, lead by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, they helped to preserve the orthodox Christian faith, creeds and doctrines which were later set down to paper under the rule of Constantine. The Councils of Nicea, Trent, etc. did not create the orthodox doctrines we hold so dear today, they simply put in writing what was already held in common by the Universal Church and Body of Christ. The humble, and divinely inspired, House Church triumphantly preserved the core doctrines we now call Orthodox Christian Faith.

In contrast, over the centuries, it is plainly evident that all major heretical doctrines and abhorrent, cultic teaching have originated from the individual, charismatic leader who stands up before his followers, proclaims his particular version of the Truth and allows no one to oppose his teaching.

In the house church, which is a peer-lead group of Christians where everyone shares leadership and ministry responsibility, such a person would be shouted down, or at least humbly corrected by all other members of the group as each member opened the scriptures and engaged in open dialog with such a teacher.

In the traditional form of church, however, only a few leaders are ever allowed to speak to the crowd, and after these messages are spoken, everyone stands up, goes to their vehicle and drives home, without ever questioning, or challenging or engaging anyone else in dialog about what has just been taught.

Of those two forms, it is the traditional form which invites the most opportunity for error and heretical doctrine to be preached without challenge.

If the early model of church, meeting in homes, breaking bread together, sharing all things in common, and living as a family, was able to “turn the world upside down” in just 300 years, given the intense persecution and opposition it faced, just imagine what a similar church could do today given modern technology, less hostility and a generation of people hungry for more of God?

Just imagine…


The American house church movement is growing in North America. According to a recent Barna survey, which places the house church movement about halfway between the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention (which is the second-largest denomination in the U.S.), the movement is no longer a “fringe” section of American Christianity.

Here are the results stated in five ways:
* In a typical week, 9 percent of U.S. adults attend a house church.

*In absolute numbers, that 9 percent equals roughly 20 million people.

*In a typical month, about 43 million U.S. adults attend a house church.

*All told, 70 million U.S. adults have at least experimented with participation in a house church.

*Focusing only on those who attend some kind of church, 74 percent of them attend only a traditional church, 19 percent attend both a traditional and a house church, and 5 percent are hard-core “house church only” attendees.

The study counted only attendance at house churches, and did not factor in small groups ("cells", “Home Groups”, etc.) that are part of a traditional church.

Barna predicts that within 20 years, Revolutionaries (those who attend house church or simple churches) will comprise 65-70% of U.S. Christianity, leaving only 30 to 35% meeting in the traditional setting.

These are solid numbers. George Barna, the leading U.S. church pollster and perhaps the most widely quoted Christian leader in America, is the author of the figures quoted. They are based on a four-month scientific survey of 5,013 adults.

As with all Barna Research Group studies, this report employed industry-standard, professional safeguards to ensure tight results. In the case of this specific study, a sampling error of +/-1.8 percent was recorded.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I've got more ideas and articles and interviews in the pipeline now than ever before. Is it something in the water? Is it all the free time I have now that I'm out of work? Not sure...but here's what I'm working on for future articles and [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] issues.

*DEREK WEBB- I just got off the phone with Derek after an hour long interview. Great stuff. Can't wait to write it all up and post it somewhere.

*DALLAS WILLARD "THE LOST INTERVIEW"- About a year ago I interviewed Dallas Willard for the second time and this was his final interview due to a self-imposed period of silence while he works on his next book. I've been sitting on this one too long and it's nearly complete. Watch for this one soon.

*LIVING STONES- a look at the house church movement historically, and scripturally. Honestly I've already written the first draft but I'm trying to go back and say the same things as graciously as possible because this subject always ends up starting an argument and I want to find a way to speak the truth, but in love.

*BOB SEARS- My friend Bob is a miracle. He's currently leading an insanely missional spiritual discussion group in Long Beach and recently he sent me a testimonial that blows my mind. I want to share it with you guys so that will end up here eventually.

*THE OOZE- This is kind of funny. I got an email from someone at TheOoze.com this week letting me know that my article "In Control" will be published online as part of their "Faith" section. Look for it in March of 2007. Yes. Next year! Wow.

*GOSPEL: FOR HERE OR TO GO?- Currently this six-part series on mission and evangelism is running on both Ginkworld.net and also at Neil Cole's CMAResources websites. Those of you on the [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] will receive the final installments over the next 2 weeks and then I plan to add new material and publish it as a small booklet somewhere.

*BOOK PROJECTS- I'm on the last 2 chapters of "The Power Of Weakness". These are the 2 hardest ones to write. Please pray for me that I can finish these up soon. After this book is complete I also want to compile my previous articles and interviews in a series of books that will cover Spiritual Formation, Compassion Ministry, Missional Life, and also a compilation of my interviews with guys like Barna, Willard, Redman, Hughes, Hunter, Fischer, Webb and others.

and now...back to my writing!

Stay tuned for all of these articles and interviews and more very soon.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A WORD FOR JOSH - A Mission House Church Update

“A WORD FOR JOSH” by Keith Giles


A few weeks ago I had the honor of welcoming my friend John and his wife Lisa into our house church meeting. They were both in Orange County to play as part of the band “West Of Verona” during the weekend conference I was overseeing for Soul Survivor called “Momentum ‘06”.

John and Lisa are dear friends that my wife and I have known for many years. To see them again was a blessing, but to have them join us in our house church was an even greater one. So, when they arrived that Thursday evening, (all the way from Washington), they brought along the rest of the band, including the drummer’s wife, Angela.

As usual, we opened in prayer, filled our plates with food and sat around sharing together. I discovered that Josh, their bassist, was a huge fan of “The Lost Dogs” and we shared our love for this band over dinner, swapping stories about live shows, favorite songs and personal encounters with band members.

Afterwards we moved into the den and everyone sat around on the sofas while John and his band lead us in a time of worship. It was a bit of a divine appointment for them to be there on that specific evening because it was the first night we were missing our regular worship leader, Mike Yang, who had been sent overseas to serve in Iraq that same week.

After worship time, as usual, we asked if anyone had any words of encouragement to share with the group, or if God had given anyone a scripture or a word during the week to encourage us. One person read a scripture verse from 1 Peter about how God wants us to “cast our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for you”. I asked if anyone felt that this verse was encouraging to them and everyone in the band raised their hands. So, I asked if we could pray over them and encourage them and they said “sure”.

Several of us gathered around John and Lisa, and the others and began to pray over them. Eventually one of the women in our group, who name is Lo, began to have a prophetic word for the drummer and his wife about their marriage and about their ministry together. We prayed for them about this, and later learned that they are both involved in counseling others in the area of marriage and that they once nearly got divorced before reconciling and then responded to God’s call to minister to other couples.

As we continued to pray, a few other words of encouragement and prophetic blessing were spoken over my friends John and Lisa about writing songs and being parents to their children.

Soon I started to realize that everyone was receiving a special word from God, except for Josh, their bassist, whom I was standing behind. With my hand on his shoulder I silently prayed and asked if God would please provide a word of encouragement for Josh, since he had been left out up to this point. What I meant by praying this was that I wanted God to give a word through one of our more prophetically gifted members so that Josh could be blessed. I didn’t expect what happened next.

Almost as soon as I prayed this, a verse of scripture came to my mind where Jesus tells the disciples to allow the little children to come to him and then says that, unless we also come to him as little children, we cannot see the Kingdom of God. With one hand on Josh’s back and the other flipping pages in my Bible, I began searching for this passage until I found it.

As soon as there was a break in the prayer going on, I explained to everyone what had just happened as I was praying. I warned Josh ahead of time that I didn’t know if this was from me or from God, but that I had noticed everyone was receiving a word of encouragement except him and that this verse had come to my mind as I was asking God to give us something for him. With that disclaimer, I began to read the passage of scripture out loud. Immediately I was overcome with emotion. I could barely even speak the words of scripture out loud. I had to read very, very slowly and force each word and syllable out of my mouth because of the incredible sorrow I felt at reading these words.

Before I could finish the first verse the drummer’s wife, Angela, began to sob out loud. As I continued to read this verse, I could feel Josh sobbing also as my hand was on his shoulder. I continued to read the passage and Angela began to cry uncontrollably. I had no clue what was happening, or why Angela was sobbing, or for that matter why even I felt such sorrow as I was trying to read this simple passage of scripture.

When I was done reading everyone was silent, except for Angela’s sobbing and the sniffling of noses from Josh and myself and several others in the room who were also now in tears.

I prayed for Josh, honestly having no clue what specifically to pray for, but knowing in general that he needed some comfort from God at this time.

Afterwards I sat down next to Josh and said, “Well, you don’t have to share with any of us what that was all about if you don’t want to, but obviously something was going on there.” Josh nodded and then explained to all of us that his youngest son had died in his sleep a few years earlier. When he came in to wake up his son they found him dead. “His heart just stopped,” said Josh, “No one knew why.”

Josh began to tell us about how his heart had really been tightened up towards God because of this. He had two other sons who were older, but losing his youngest had been a devastating blow to his faith. He thanked me for sharing that scripture and thanked all of us for encouraging him in this way.

After Josh shared his story, another man in our house church, Bryan, began to share his own pain at losing custody of his only son several years earlier. Because Josh has been so open in sharing his pain, Bryan now felt free to share his anger at God, and at himself, for not doing everything in his power to fight for his son. Now our attention shifted to Bryan and several of us gathered around him to lay hands on him and pray for God’s healing in his heart about this incident.

At the end of the night, Josh and the other members of the band stayed late to talk about their first experience at a house church. They were each amazed that God had spoken to them through this group of strangers in such specific ways, for healing, encouragement and direction. Truth be told, no one was more amazed than I was. Especially that God had spoken something through me to bless this man Josh who I had never met before in my life.

Time and again God has surprised me with His presence in our house church. When we invite Him to come and to lead us, (and then when we actually get out of the way and allow Him to lead us), He is faithful to do so.