Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005- the year in retrospect

This year was certainly one of the most challenging ones our family has had to face.

The sheer variety of tests and trials we endured were also significant.

We suffered through a miscarriage, loss of income, had shake-ups at church, went through a move and a house search, had to say goodbye to dear friends, and went through some times of poor health (without any health insurance).

Still, we've grown so much. We've learned more about what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

Most of us go out of our way to avoid situations where we don't have control and don't know the outcome for certain. This is why God forces us into these sorts of tests so that we can walk by faith and not by sight.

God loves it when we keep our eyes focused on Him. He loves it when we put all of our trust in His providence and when we have nothing else but Him to lean on, or depend on, or place our hope in.

He really does love it.

As we look forward to 2006, we still hope and pray that it will involve much less adventure. We do not want to move again anytime soon, or change jobs, or have to receive money from anonymous donors to pay our bills, or suffer through sickness or a miscarriage, or say goodbye to any more of our friends.

But, this is life. Life is unpredictable. Things change. People die and move on. All things are temporal We ourselves are mortal. Everything is in flux. Nothing is certain.

We lift our heads and place our hands into the hands of God, one more time.

2006, here we come!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I am sick.

My throat is killing me.

I've gargled with salt water, whiskey, and had more honey, lemon tea than is necessary to kill an elk.

I've taken massive doses of Vitamin C, eaten grapefruits, had hot coffee, taken garlic pills, and the last four days I've lived on alternating cups of Dayquil and Nyquil (the coughing, aching, stuffy head, oh my gosh how did I end up on the kitchen floor medicine).

I still hurt.

A few seconds ago I took two ibuprofen and one of my Mom's sleeping pills. If this trails off before the end you know what happened.

So far our trip to El Paso has been great. Seen old friends, ran into a few by surprise, ate some great food (Chico's Tacos!), and some not-so-great (Whataburger...better in the old days), and even found time to go shooting in the desert for a few hours with my Dad, my best-friend and his Dad.

Hopefully pictures will be posted here soon.

Wendy and I have a tough decision to make this week. Please pray for wisdom and that we'll hear God's voice and see His hand clearly on this issue.

At this point, I don't have a good reason to say no to either of my options, so I'm thinking of saying "yes" to both....unless God stops me, that is...

For now I fall into the comforting arms of catatonia......
...maybe I'll have a dream...?



Monday, December 19, 2005

[subversive underground] UPDATE

As part of this blog, I've started a little email newsletter thingy called the 'subversive underground'.

Part of me feels like it's insane to send out a regular e-newsletter a couple times a week on top of posting articles here two or three times a week, and still try to keep up with my personal journa writings, and the occassional sermon, etc.

But honestly, I love the accountability this newsletter affords. It means that I have to keep writing. I have to keep putting all these thoughts down somewhere, and I have to share them with others to find out if they're good thoughts or garbage.

That's the other part I love- the feedback. Several of you have taken time to respond back to me with encouragement or to further the dialog offered by the [subversive underground] broadcast.

I crave that.

So far I've got around 30 people signed up for this little experiment. I get a few new ones every other day.

For those of you who are not sure if this is for you or not, here's the first one I sent out about a month ago.
welcome to the first edition of the subversive underground.

this is will be an email newsletter/stream of consciousness/random thoughts signal sent out at various times each week. i will not bombard you, i promise.

so, let's start by a definition of what it means to be subversive:
What is “Subversive”?- It’s a systematic overthrow of one system or power by those working from within.

Jesus came to announce that His Kingdom was coming, and that, even now, is available to all who know Him. This was the Gospel message.

Now we, the followers of Christ, are compelled to make a difference in the old order by working from within, changing one person at a time, advancing this new kingdom with every tool, talent and resource available.

This is what I hope to inspire. This is what I personally aspire to.

Just last night, while watching the semi-dreadful "American Music Awards" I had this thought: "No one gives a crap what we believe. Show us your convictions in the way you live, not in the words you speak."

I think this is one of the main reasons that I love working for Soul Survivor, because they're mantra is 'actions speak louder' and they operate from this assertion.

We have to stop pontificating. We have to begin to simply love, not just with words, but in action and in truth.

We have to question. We have to ask why. We have to be willing to take a chance, to risk for the sake of the world that waits to see with their eyes if what they've heard with their ears is possible.

I hope that there's a growing number of people who are willing to make it possible.

I hope that together we can spur one another on to live a life of simple obedience to the words of Jesus.

Welcome to the underground.


simply email me at keith at soul survivor . net (without all the spaces, and remember to use the @ sign, etc.) with the subject heading of UNDERGOUND and ask to be signed up.

I'll do the rest.

i will also not duplicate articles from the blog on this email. for the most part you will receive "fresh and new" thoughts, from my brain to yours.

Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful Christmas and that 2006 is the best ever.



Friday, December 16, 2005



I've had to eat some crow the last few days.

So much of my attitude of late has revolved around feeling that, in general, the contemporary church has it all wrong. The solution, of course, is to go back to the beginning and to re-visit the values and the vision of the early church, before things got so corrupted.

I know that God still loves His Bride as it is today. I know that, by the Grace of God, people are still touched by Him, lives are still transformed and the Gospel is still preached, and often, even actually reflected in the lives of those who call themselves Christian.

But, I have felt frustrated, even angered and deeply disappointed by most of what is called "Christian" today. I do feel that Church has become an event that must be paid for, not a life that must be lived. I am saddened that our churches today focus more on putting butts in the seats than on actually helping people in need, discipling young Christians and putting feet to their faith.

Still, as I said at the top, I have had to eat crow.

What happened was, I was visiting one of the families in the motel this week where our Church has been ministering and I began to see the amazing fruit that has come in their lives. Granted, yes, this compassion ministry into this motel was something I had been working on for over a year, but the recent advances in their spiritual development I can mainly attribute to their involvement in the traditional church I've been part of for 3 years.

Because of the ministry through prayer that these guys received at a recent Sunday morning service, they experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They sat and told me about how they had never been to a church like ours before, where people didn't look down on them because of their poverty, where people actually cared for them and shared the love of Jesus in real ways.

"We love our church," they said. "We want to have our kids baptized and we want to come every week now, no more excuses."

I was forced to admit that our church, our contemporary, traditional church, had accomplished something truly amazing in the lives of my friends.

I have to admit that God is able to do whatever He wants with whatever system of worship is available to Him. Whether it's a system that takes its cues from the big business world, or the mega-church model, or the simple, early home church version, God is able to produce fruit and transform lives, no matter what.

Of course, on one level, I 'knew' this already. I haven't ever said or felt that the over-riding methods of "doing church" were evil or bankrupt, although I do feel that changes towards a more relational, community-focused sort of gathering are more likely to impact the culture than the system we've got.

This brings up another subject I want to address. Most of the house churches that I've looked into are characterized by their common hatred of the modern Church system, and most often directly defined by how much they are not like the church they all left to form their gathering in protest.

I really don't want our group to be defined this way. In fact, Wendy and I have promised each other that we will be vigilant to cut anyone off who starts spewing out negative monologs about why we're better or why that "other church" has it all wrong.

What I want is to focus on what we're called to do and to live out the convictions we have, without defining ourselves as an "anti" church.

So, in the future, whenever I write about the failures of the modern church, or critique the methodology of American Christianity, please keep in mind that God is still at work in all of the various forms His Bride might take and that He loves, and redeems, and is completely in love with us all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I always find myself chewing on the concept of what it means to follow Jesus. How do I deny myself? How do I take up my cross daily? How do I seek first the Kingdom of God in my actual, everyday life?

I teach about it, I talk about it, I write about it and yet I seem to always find myself "stuck" at square one.

It feels like I'm 39 years old and yet still at the very beginning of my Christian walk and experience.

Just today I had to pray and ask God to help me be a better pastor. I feel like I blow it so often with people. I second guess myself afterwards and wonder if I should've said this or done that.

Do I ever move on to Phase 2? Will I know it if I do? Is the character of Christ really being formed in me? Am I being transformed by the renewing of my mind?

Will this growth come about by reading more and more books, or deeper thinking or more doing of the works of compassion? Does any of that really matter? Will all of this ever result in the changing of my heart or character?

Maybe I don't sense any progress because I don't practice the spiritual disciplines? Do I need to pray more? Or meditate?

As I think on this more, I wonder if it isn't really the Grace of God that prevents me from being aware of any spiritual progress or success in this area of discipleship to Jesus. To have an awareness of growth might open the doors for pride, and God knows how I struggle with that.

Here's what I've discovered. There is no Phase 2. There is nothing after seeking first the Kingdom or dying to self. There is only the constant, daily surrender, the 'moment-by-moment' obedience to Christ.

Even Paul the Apostle admitted he had not yet attained the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. It is an ongoing race we run and the moment we "arrive" is the day we take our first glimpse of the Resurrected Jesus in the flesh with our own two eyes, our first day in the physical Kingdom of God itself.

The way is the cross and the cross is the way.


This boggles my mind.

Read this carefully and then meditate on the implications of this.

Amazing stuff.

“Through the cross, God has created a body that has within it the economic resources to provide affordable housing, long-term community development, and primary health care to everyone who needs it. Universal primary education would cost $8 billion a year- roughly half what the world spends on arms every four days, or half of what parents in the US spend annually on toys for their children. This might mean that, as believers, we will have to break rank with consumerism, live more frugally, and do church more simply- but this will only help us to express the type of community we are committed to become, a community which lives sacrificially, gives away generously and resources those bereft of their basic human rights”

- Ray Mayhew, “Embezzlement: The Corporate Sin Of Contemporary Christianity?”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005



As my wife and I begin to move into this new phase of our calling to start a missional house church in a new neighborhood, we've been reading a lot and studying up on the early church and how they operated.

Our goal is not to copy the early church verbatim, but to glean from them a basic method of operation and to understand the core values they embodied.

In this process, I came across a quote that stirred me to think in a new way.

In discussing the way that the house churches exponentially grow outward via a process similar to organic cell division, one author noted that "The goal of an apple tree is not to produce apples."

This made me stop and re-think what I understood about nature and about church.

If the goal of an apple tree is NOT to produce apples, then what is the goal of an apple tree? And more importantly, what the heck does this have to do with planting a house church in the O.C. today?

Here's what I discovered. If an apple tree only produces apples all of it's life and dies, what has it accomplished? At first glance, a lot. It's provided the world with nutritious food and fulfilled one of the basic design elements inherent in its nature. But is that really all that an apple tree is really designed by the Creator to do?

That's when I realized the mistake we all make when thinking of organic structures, as compared to the living Body of Christ. If the apple tree dies without having produced another apple tree, it has failed miserably. Mainly because future generations will never taste of the fruit.

Unless an apple tree produces more apple trees, it is a total failure.

In a similar way, if the Church only makes converts, or even true disciples, and not more churches, then it has failed.

Look at the early church as an example. They quickly spread throughout the known world and "turned the world upside down" with the Gospel. How did they do this? Not by simply making converts or disciples, although this is an important part of the process, but by making more churches just like itself.

What made this process ingeniously easy and effective was the fact that the church was a family-based, household of faith. To plant a new church just like itself all it had to do was outgrow the largest room in the house it was currently meeting in and send out five or six to start meeting in another house in another part of town.

These churches then grew exponentially as each house church sent out more and more groups who then also sent out more and more groups, they quickly took over a region for Christ.

The beauty of this system is that it inspires community, allows the full use of the gifts for the building up of the body, and it costs nothing. In fact, these house churches not only cost nothing to maintain, they could only create funds through the gifts and offerings of the members who gave on a weekly basis to the poor among them, both inside and outside the community of faith.

The early church was known, even by its enemies, as a radically inclusive group that cared for the poor and even buried the dead of the pagans in their city whose families couldn't afford it.

Of course, the Church must produce disciples. It's our mandate from our Lord Himself, but if all we do is create more and more disciples and never plant new churches, we're not fulfilling our organic, natural, God-designed calling as the Body of Christ.

I could write another article all about how, for the apple tree to produce another apple tree, those apples have to leave the tree and then to die in order fulfill its mission. Much like the follower of Jesus is called to die to himself/herself and take up the cross daily to be a productive disciple.

In John 12:24 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

Now, let's go plant some apple trees for the Kingdom.

Monday, December 05, 2005


There's an old song by a band called 'Daniel Amos' that always makes me cry. It's called "If You Want To" and it's written from God's perspective as if He's singing to us and inviting us to to take His hand and dream with Him.

Here are the lyrics:
If You Want To

I'll pick you up
I'll set you down
We'll fall in love
If you want to

I'll stay right here
Or I'll go away
We'll live forever
If you want to

I'll block the door
Or I'll step outside
We'll change the world
If you want to

I'll turn the key
I'll start the car
We'll drive off into the sunset
If you want to

If you want to
If you want to
If you want to...

from the album "Kalhöun"

Words and music by Terry Taylor
©1991 Twitchen Vibes/ Brainstorm Artists Int'l.. ASCAP/BMI

Friday, December 02, 2005



The other day someone at church was praying out loud about how we need to live the victorious Christian life. Something about this bothered me for some reason. I started to wonder what this is all about.

Does the victorious Christian life mean I never experience frustration, suffering, temptation, or spiritual warfare? Does it mean I experience rest, comfort, and plenty because I’m a child of the King?

When I look at the life of the actual “Child of the King” Himself, I don’t see a life free from sorrow, opposition, temptation or pain. Far from it.

What about the cross? Didn’t Jesus say that it was impossible to follow Him without taking up my own cross daily?

Maybe I just have a knee-jerk reaction to statements like this because it smacks of the same old “easy believing, kick-ass” versions of Christianity I rebel against with all my being.


When I think of following Jesus I think of Paul’s statement that the power of Christ is revealed in our weakness, not in our success, or talent.

Where do we locate the victorious Christian life in our weakness? We forget that the soaring with eagles promise comes only after we’ve endured the long season of waiting upon the Lord, which everyone hates passionately.

I think what I am concerned about when I hear the success driven, prayer of Jabez stuff is that we are living within a culture where we attempt to shortcut true discipleship.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life
for my sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25

Maybe being a “loser” is the better life after all?

We want the joy, the peace, the fruit and the anointing without actually spending any time at the feet of Jesus, enduring suffering as He did, serving others without accolade, waiting for the answers, praying with bitter tears and holding on to Jesus like there’s no tomorrow.

I think our focus, too often, is on the good life that we think God owes us because we have prayed the prayer and paid our dues, instead of on the simple loving trust in God with our whole lives, no matter what.

David Ruis makes a great comment about how Jesus said He was sending us out like lambs among the wolves. But, we want to be the one’s who swagger in like the movers and the shakers, we want to snap our fingers and have God rain down fire from heaven. We want to pray in faith and receive the bounty of plenty, to the awe of our heathen neighbors.

That will show them.

We are enamored with the way of the wolf. Yet Jesus said he was calling us to be like sheep among the wolves; The weaker ones, not the ones with sharp teeth; The humble ones, not the ones with the cool factor; The vulnerable among those who snarl.

Does this mean we have to hang our heads and accept defeat? Not at all. But, if we are to actually learn to live a life of victory in Jesus, it will be found at His feet, in our weakness, shouldering a cross day in and day out, with our focus on the One we love, not on the victory party in the executive suite.

We must embrace the Truth. The Truth is that every life has moments of bliss, moments of joy, and every life has moments of pain, disappointment and sorrow.

So, rather than seeking after the elusive “Victorious Christian Life”, maybe I’ll settle instead for a walk beside my Master who said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the World.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Sorry it's been a while since my last post.

I've been busy at work, trying to get the new Soul Survivor Summer Camp website up and running. With the help of my brother Lito, it's finally (mostly) done:

My son Dylan has Chicken Pox. We're not sure if we want David to get it or not..but if he does we'd like it to be quick so he can get it over with.

Last night my Dell laptop, which I use for work and for posting on this blog, just died. It's either a virus, or something in the hard-ware. Not sure which is worse.

For now I'm using a craptacular Toshiba laptop built in 1977 that takes about 30 minutes just to power up.


But, I suppose I should be thankful that I have a back-up option or I'd be really screwed.

The third "issue" of the SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND (sign up info below) just went out the other day. So far I think it's going ok. I've received a few comments back from people and most are thought-provoking. No "unsubscribe" email notices...yet.

I'm trying to judge what sort of things should go on the UNDERGROUND email newsletter as opposed to the SUBVERSIVE1 blog.

For example, my last UNDERGROUND was a full-blown article which probably belonged here moreso than on the newsletter...and this little entry on my blog is probably something I should be sending out on the newsletter...or whatever.

I'll write more later. Don't want to ramble.


Monday, November 21, 2005

LESS IS MORE by Keith Giles

LESS IS MORE by Keith Giles

Moving is one of the most painful and emotionally draining experiences imaginable. I do not recommend it unless absolutely necessary.

Having recently endured the suffering of relocation, I have several observations to share.

The first one is the fact that I have entirely too much.

As we were moving recently, into our new house, I had the very painful experience of moving my stuff into storage for about two weeks and then moving it back out of storage again.

As I went through this process, I found myself repenting of my materialism every few seconds. Finally, those who had come along to help us move even asked me to stop apologizing for all the stuff I had. Maybe I was making them feel guilty about all the stuff they were hanging on to, I’m not sure.

Seriously, I think that if most of what I own were to go up in flames, I’d be a happier person.

Last week, as I was unpacking one of my many boxes, I re-discovered an article in Print Magazine that reviewed the book “On Brand” by Wally Olins. His book took a look at brand identity and our consumerist culture.

Here’s a bit of the article for review:

“Our personal identities are so entwined with brands that it has become difficult to distinguish our preferences from our beliefs. Olins (the author of the book) says that brands have “a kind of spiritual power…In a sense, brand affiliation seems, in our individualistic, materialistic, acquisitive, egocentric era, to have become a kind of replacement for or supplement to religious belief.’

“Olins cites the book ‘Lead Us Into Temptation’ which draws analogies between consumer behavior today and the behavior of individuals in a more conventionally religious era, (imposing) the shopping mall as cathedral, the designer label as crucifix, and so on.

“He asserts that brands have replaced religion…yet answering this question is essesntial. Why have we replaced our spiritual beliefs with products that provide social confidence? Why do more and more of us affiliate with consumerist clubs and with churches, temples, communities- or each other?” – (from the review of the book “On Brand” by Wally Olins; Print Magazine, May/June, 2004).

Why indeed?

It makes me sad to think that, as the Church has retreated from its God-given role in society, the vacuum has been filled by shopping malls, advertising and materialism.

It's like when I was a little kid I'd want that new toy so badly, and a few weeks after I got it I'd realize that it didn't really make me happy. Then I'd see another new toy and want that one, yet once again the disappointment would follow after the initial excitement of acquisition.

The toys never made me happy.

Our society has elevated the act of purchasing, owning and acquiring material wealth above the virtues of giving, sharing or being content with what we have.

Maybe I’m overreacting again? I know that many of my friends accuse me of taking things too seriously, and maybe that’s true.

But, I have learned to take the conviction of the Holy Spirit seriously these days, and as I look at the piles of boxes in my garage, I am cut to the heart. Some of these boxes are actually labeled “Junk”.

Maybe what I’m feeling is a combination of guilt over my materialism, and a genuine shame for having so much, when I have friends who have so little?

One of the little girls at the motel where we serve was in our Kids Rock class this last Sunday. Our lesson was about being thankful and not complaining, as the Israelites did when God continually provided manna for them to survive on.

This sweet little girl, who shares a single room with her parents and her little brother at a local motel, raised her hand and shared with us how she would not complain that way if it was her. “I would be happy that God gave me food to eat and a place to sleep,” she said.

I almost asked her to come up front and finish teaching the lesson while the rest of listened. If anyone understands what it means to be thankful and not to complain, it’s this little girl.

What do I know about feeling thankful? What do I know about being content with little when I have so much? Maybe even too much?

I’m reminded of a section in the book “Fight Club” where Tyler Durden says, “I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the great power of my spirit. The liberator who destroys my property is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free.”

Earlier on in the same book, the main character is chided by the doorman of his building on the evils of materialism. He says, “A lot of young people try to impress the world and buy too many things…a lot of young people don’t know what they really want...if you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t”.

I think maybe now I’m beginning to understand what it is that I want…what I really want…and even more, what I really need.

Maybe that’s why I secretly wish that I could just ditch all my ‘stuff’ and live a more simple life?

Didn’t Jesus warn us that it was possible to gain the whole world and yet lose our soul? Didn’t Jesus say that the man who finds his life will lose it, and the person who looses his life for His sake will find it?

Yeah…I think it was Jesus.

So, should I take a vow of poverty? Should I start donating all my most valuable things to the local Thrift Store? Should I drag my junk out onto the driveway and post a giant sign that says, “Free Stuff”?

Wait a minute…I’m still thinking about this one.

My wife and I have vowed to spend at least one night each week going through at least one box with the intention of getting rid of junk we don’t need and donating things that are superfluous to us but might be of use to others.

It’s not as dramatic as lighting the match, or renting the dumpster, but it’s a start.

“Everybody has one, and one is enough for anybody” – Willy Wonka


Friday, November 18, 2005

THE EXTRA MILE by Keith Giles

Jesus talked about going the extra mile. He suggested that, if asked to walk with someone for one mile, that we go two miles without being asked.

This is not about a formula we’re to follow, however. We’re not supposed to make the words of Jesus into another set of laws, but instead, we’re to filter everything through the attitude of love.

So, if the most loving thing to do is to walk that extra mile with someone, then we should do it, not because we’re “supposed to” but because we’re compelled to love others the way Jesus loves them.

Recently I was visiting a church where the pastor’s sermon was about going the extra mile. His attempt was to get us to go above and beyond the everyday, ordinary sort of Christianity in favor of a faith that is more than the mundane.

He was suggesting that we do things like pray for our lost friends, or love our next door neighbors who weren’t yet believers, or read the Word of God every day, taking time to be alone with God in prayer and meditation. That’s when I realized something. This sort of “Extra Mile” Christianity that the pastor was talking about was actually what Jesus had in mind in the first place.

In other words, what we’ve come to think of as the “extra mile” is really the bare minimum that a follower of Jesus should be about anyway.

So, it made me wonder, if Christians aren’t doing all these “extra” things as they go about their everyday life, then just what ARE we doing?

Do we need someone to tell us that we need to love our neighbor, or spend time with God, or pray for our friends? If so, then I think we’ve really got a very low bar when it comes to our faith.

Maybe it’s the fruit of an easy grace, where all we’re required to do is to raise our hand if we don’t want to go to hell and repeat a prayer and maybe sign a card, in order to be considered a “Christian”?

I think we’ve lost the concept of surrendering our life to Christ.

When you think about your own faith walk, what comes to your mind when you think about going the extra mile?

Is it something like praying for an hour each day? Or maybe reading your Bible every night before you go to bed? Maybe it’s closer to helping people around you who are in need, even if it costs you something? Or perhaps you’d equate sharing your faith with total strangers with the extra mile?

Whatever comes to your mind when you think of going that extra mile, I’ll bet that it’s really only what Jesus would’ve expected you to do simply because you’ve surrendered your life to Him.

But what good do these insights do us?

Seriously, what’s the point? Is it so we can feel badly about how little we actually do for Jesus each day? Is it to make some of us feel superior because, in our estimation, we actually do embody this high standard of Christian behavior?

No. The point is that all of us have fallen short of the Glory of God.

All of us.

What is it that prevents us from living that ‘extra mile’ brand of life that Jesus models for us in the scriptures? I think it’s pure and simple; obedience.

There are moments when we respond to God’s Spirit in obedience, taking the opportunity to be Jesus in someone’s life, whether we feel like it or not, and then there are moments when we fail to listen to God’s voice and we do our own thing.

When we obey God, we create the possibility. Maybe that’s why Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’, so that we might cooperate with what God is doing in the moment. When we allow God’s will to be done, and it’s only done when we are obedient to Him, then His Kingdom can break into the here and now and we can experience life ‘as it is in Heaven’.

Jesus said, ‘Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only He who does the will of my Father in Heaven’…and ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’.

Jesus didn’t ever expect that those who would become his disciples would ever do anything less than exactly everything that he taught, commanded, and modeled for them to do. Obedience isn’t an option for those who have surrendered their lives in favor of the Jesus kind of life. Obedience IS the Jesus kind of life.

Of course, when I talk this way people say that I’m being legalistic.

What about Grace, they ask me.

Yes, Grace is awesome. We’re definitely saved by Grace and not by our works, as Paul says in Ephesians.

But, in that very same verse, in the same breath if you will, Paul says that we’re “…saved by Grace to do good works, prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, Grace is for salvation, and it’s for us to have strength to do those good works too, and obedience to Jesus is what the faith walk is all about.

Believing in Jesus is more than having a strong opinion that he exists. It means “putting your whole trust in” Jesus. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “For whosoever believes in (me) will not perish but have Eternal life” –John 3:16.

The word ‘Believe’ is translated as the Greek for “the kind of knowledge that conceives”, or a relationship that allows an intimate knowledge and complete trust in someone…sort of like the ultimate intimacy that permeates the physical, emotional, and spiritual reality.

Belief, then, becomes about much more than ‘hope’ or ‘agreement’ when we understand this. Belief is actually about complete trust…and surrender…and obedience.

We can’t afford to perpetuate the concept that being a Christian involves having God as our ‘Co-Pilot’.

He’s either the pilot, or you’re flying solo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Ok, I'm kind of playing with an idea here, but it's only going to be successful if you guys sign up for it.

Basically, I'd like to sign people up for an email journal that I'd send out once a week or so, (I promise not to overload your email box with too much fluff), with thoughts, articles, ideas, and maybe even questions for you guys to respond to.

It would be the same type of stuff I talk about here, but in a more interactive format and only for those who want a little more 'subversive' stuff in their in box.

So...if you think you're interested in being part of this underground list/journal/thang...shoot me an email at the address below. (You can always opt out if it's too boring...or too much email for you).

Send an email to me with the title "underground" to this address to sign up:

keith @ soulsurvivor. net (take the spaces out of course)

The articles I post here will not be emailed to you. Only new articles and columns that aren't online at this blog will be sent out a few times each week.

Welcome to the underground.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

DOWN RIVER by Keith Giles

DOWN RIVER by Keith Giles

Here I sit in my new house in Orange, far away from the familiar life I once knew in Tustin.

Just today I was reading in “Practitioners” about how Jesus took the blind man who was brought to him outside the village, alone.

The point being made was about how Jesus often takes us to the unfamiliar places before he works a miracle in our lives because he wants us to depend totally on him and not on what we know or have experienced.

I am in unfamiliar territory.

Just the other day, before I read this chapter on the unfamiliar, I caught myself driving around the city of Tustin where I know the trails and the landmarks by heart.

It’s easier to live in the places where we’re at home. It’s more difficult to venture outside our comfort zones, or our home territory, to explore a new village, or discover a fresh idea.

When I first began to explore this idea of leading a House Church, I heard pastors ask me what the model is for what I’m doing. My peers scratch their heads when I talk about House Churches and ask me to provide evidence that this is a viable method of evangelism or missions.

You know what I realized? It’s impossible to blaze a new trail and then ask for the roadmap first.

If you’re called to pioneer something, it will mean that there will not be a trail for you to follow as you move along.

Since those first few days of exploration into the House Church movement, I have discovered that I am not so alone. There are people all over Orange County, and the Nation, who have been doing this sort of thing for a very long time now. It’s just been under the radar of most of contemporary Christian society.

Even in this I feel the tension. Do I blaze a trail all alone, leaning only on God and His divine guidance? Or do I glean from the wisdom of those who have taken this path before me and save myself the grief of repeating the mistakes that they made long ago?

When it comes to the neighborhood we find ourselves in now, I wonder how best to approach the launch of our mission here.

Do I invite my neighbors to a friendly cookout first? Get to know them as friends and as people before I ask them if they’d like to come over on Sunday mornings to pray and study the Bible with us?

Or, do I start an ALPHA class series during the week first? Have a meal, watch a DVD segment each Thursday night and host the resulting discussion groups in hopes of winning some of them to Christ before we launch the Sunday service?

I am wrestling with several different combinations of these scenarios.

So, now I find myself in a great, new house, here in Orange. In unfamiliar territory. Unsure of exactly how to be a missionary to these people. Waiting for a sign.

Last year, back in March, my friend had a dream about me. He said he saw me dressed in a bright yellow suit looking full of life and light. Then he said the color changed to orange and he heard God say, “He will astound and confound” before he woke up.

What I find interesting is that my decision to leave my pastor’s position has left many of my friends, including this friend, very confounded. It’s also interesting that I’ve moved to the city of Orange to start a House Church.

Then, last week, Wendy and I were invited to have dinner with an older couple at our church. She shared with me a vision that God showed her during the Sunday service back on September 25th of this year.

She showed me her journal and the only thing on the page was a drawing of a large house with three upper floors (a total of four floors) and each floor had 3 windows in it. The lower floor had only 2 windows and the door in the middle.

She said God spoke to her through this vision (as I was sitting in front of her during the worship set) and told her that the house was symbolic of the new house church we would be starting. (No one knew we were leaving to start a House Church at this time, btw).

The windows, she told me, were symbolic of all the new windows of opportunity that God was going to open for us. There were eleven total, plus the door itself on the ground floor.

God has been sending people to us lately to encourage us and to spur us on towards this new endeavor and it’s nothing short of amazing.

Even though I honestly prefer, in some ways, the familiar sights, smells and sounds of our old life, I am constantly challenged and compelled towards this new phase of our ministry.

More on this later…



If you’d like to know what it was like to attend a Christian gathering in the early days of the faith, here’s a great look at what they were doing in the 2nd Century.

*Tertullian’s explanation of Church in the 2nd Century:

“We are a society with a common religious feeling, unity of discipline, a common bond of hope. We meet in gatherings and congregations to approach God in prayer, massing our forces to surround Him…We meet to read the divine Scriptures…Our presidents are elders of proved character….

“Even if there is a treasury of a sort, it is not made up of money paid in initiation fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest contribution- or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering…to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old…

“So we, who are united in mind and soul, have no hesitation about sharing property. All is common among us- except our wives. At that point we dissolve our partnership..

“Our dinner shows its idea in its name; it is called by the Greek name for love (Agape)…We do not take our places at table until we have first partaken of prayer to God. Only so much is eaten as satisfies hunger. After water for the hands come the lights, and then each, from what he knows of the Holy Scriptures, or from his own heart, is called before the rest to sing to God.

”Prayer in like manner ends the banquet…”

(An excerpt from his “Apology”, taken from “Roman Civilization Sourcebook II: The Empire, p.588)


Thanks to those who know I love books and keep a wishlist on Amazon, these books are now in a little box on the way to my new front door:

*FOLLOW ME by Jan Hettinga
Jan Hettinga addresses the roadblocks that keep us from following Christ-our mistrust of authority, our fear of giving up control, and our unwillingness to face our resistance to God's kingdom. If you're tired of working to control your life and long to surrender to Jesus, Follow Me will challenge you to examine your life and submit to Christ as He leads you into the safety of His kingdom.

Todd Hunter introduced me to this guy and his book is also endorsed by WOLFGANG SIMSON, the guy who wrote HOUSES THAT CHANGE THE WORLD (the book I'm reading now), so I'm excited to get this one.

*LET GO by Fenelon
Someone borrowed my last copy and I need a new one. This is a timeless, deep, convicting devotional book about dying to self from a great spiritual giant of days long past.

An incredible book featuring dialog and monolog from the last 2 SOLITON SESSIONS in Ventura at The Bridge. I resolve to attend next year. Great insights from DAVID RUIS, PETE GREIG, RUSSINGER, SPENCER BURKE, DAN KIMBALL & DOUG PAGITT.

*THE CHURCH COMES HOME : Building Community and Mission
through Home Churches by R. BANKS
This one was recommended to me by the amazing SCOTT BARTCHY, Professor of the History of Religion at UCLA. It's about the power of the House Church and the idea of being the church rather than going to church.

*FAITH AND WEALTH: A History of Early Christian Ideas on the
Origin, Significance, and Use of Money by JUSTO L. GONZALEZ
I just read Justo's book on the History of Early Christianity and it was very interesting stuff...(I'll have to write a column or two here about what I learned from this other book)....and this one looks to be another fantastic, eye-opener about the early church and the idea of wealth, ownership and sharing.

I also picked up 2 cd's: The new SWITCHFOOT and the new DAVID CROWDER (I had a burned copy but had vowed to actually purchase the real deal, so now I'm off the hook).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Yes, 39 years ago today, the fabric of space and time pulled back to reveal this fragile and yet strangely troubled soul.

It was a day of wonder and tears.

Cigarettes were burned. Laughter echoed down the hallway. A mother's heart slid into gear.

The angel's sighed, and one of them farted, but no one knew which one it was so they pretended not to hear.

It was a day of love so great it hurt to breathe.

Glad to be here, friend.

Hope to be here a bit longer before I join the flatulent angels.



Tuesday, November 08, 2005

THE REVOLUTION (Barna Extract)

REVOLUTION - An Extract.
From George Barna's pre-manuscript of a forthcoming book.

As we journey together, I want to show you what our research has uncovered regarding a growing sub-nation of people, already well over 20 million strong, who are what we call Revolutionaries.

What "established systems" are they seeking to "overthrow or repudiate" and "thoroughly replace," in Webster's words?

They have no use for churches that play religious games, whether those games are worship services that drone on without the presence of God or ministry programs that bear no spiritual fruit.

Revolutionaries eschew ministries that compromise or soft sell our sinful nature to expand organizational turf. They refuse to follow people in ministry in leadership positions who cast a personal vision rather than God's, or who seek popularity rather than the proclamation of truth in their public statements, or who are more concerned about their own legacy than that of Jesus Christ.

They refuse to donate one more dollar to man-made monuments that mark their own achievements and guarantee their place in history.

They are unimpressed by accredited degrees and endowed chairs in Christian colleges and seminaries that produce young people incapable of defending the Bible or unwilling to devote their life to serving others.

And Revolutionaries are embarrassed by language that promises Christian love and holiness but turns out to be all sizzle and no substance.

In fact, many Revolutionaries have been active in good churches that have biblical preaching, people coming to Christ and being baptized, a full roster of interesting classes and programs, and a congregation packed with nice people. There is nothing overtly wrong with anything taking place at such churches. But Revolutionaries innately realize that it is just not enough to go with the flow.

The experience provided through their church, although better than average, still seems flat. They are seeking a faith experience that is more robust and awe-inspiring, a spiritual journey that prioritizes transformation at every turn,
something worthy of the Creator whom their faith reflects...

Revolutionaries zealously pursue an intimate relationship with God, which Jesus Christ promised we could have through Him...

In this book I will describe what The Barna Group has learned about this under-the-radar but seminal renaissance of faith that will remake the religious contours of this country over the coming quarter-century.

[Barna goes on to predict the complete re-shaping of the way people experience "church" in America]:

Whereas "Christian community" has generally been limited to the relationships facilitated within a congregation, the Revolution is bursting open the walls of the worldwide Church to birth a truly
international network of relationships...

The U.S. will see a reduction in the number of churches, as presently configured (i.e. congregational-formatted ministries).

Church service attendance will drop... Donations to churches will drop... Churches' already limited political and cultural influence will diminish even further at the same time that Christians will exert greater influence through more disparate mechanisms.

Fewer church programs will be sustained in favor of more communal experiences among Christians...

To some, this will sound like the Great Fall of the Church. To Revolutionaries, it will be the Great Reawakening of the Church.

New scenarios do not mean mayhem and dissipation. In this case, they represent a new day in which the Church can truly be the Church--different than what we know today, but more responsive to and reflective of God.

* The number of Christians attending local church in the USA is declining
rapidly. Today, 70% of Christians attend traditional churches, but this
will sink to 30-35% in 20 years;

* The number of followers of Jesus who do not attend a local church will
grow from 30% to 70% in the next 20 years;

* Alternative fellowship forms (house church/simple church, post-modern
churches etc.), currently home for 5% of USA Christians, will grow to
make up 30-35%; another 30-35% will live out their faith in the fields
of media, arts and culture; the remaining 5% of Christians attending
non-traditional forms of church will have a family-based spiritual life;

* Conclusion: a minority group presently not even noticed by many will
become the mainstream of North American Christianity in only two

"This is a revolution, and will change not only the recruiting strategies of seminaries and Bible schools, but also radically question church building projects," says Barna. If only half as many people will be visiting traditional congregational services in 20 years, a smaller building will suffice.

Source: George Barna "Revolution"

Monday, November 07, 2005

LOOKING UP by Keith Giles

It's amazing how things look on the other side of uncertainty.

We all know that God is faithful. We all can recite the scriptures that testify to His goodness, and many of us have real-life testimonials of our own to verify that God is good...all of the time.

Yet, I'm ashamed to admit that my faith is sometimes lacking. I admit that there were times in the last few weeks of adversity where I doubted, or at least "wondered", if God was really going to come through for us or not.

Sometimes, it's true, that God allows us to drop off the cliff for a bit...maybe to test our wings, maybe to see if we'll still look up to Him when we land on the rocks below. I don't really know why, but there are times when God doesn't come through and rescue us.

Thankfully, my family has experienced God's faithfulness. We are safe. We are sheltered. We have food. We have support. We are loved.

While I am very, very grateful to God for this, and to all of you who have held us up on prayer these last few months, I still wonder about all of those who have not yet felt God's hands on their shoulders, or heard His voice whisper in their ears.

God has provided an abundance for us at this time, and we have been given opportunities to help others who are in even greater need than we are lately. In fact, it's only because of the incredible graciousness of those who have lavished gifts and blessings upon us that we have enough to share with others.

Isn't that what it's all about?

I find it interesting that the ones who've gone through times of lack and endured poverty are the very same ones who have the most open hand to others who suffer. Maybe because those of us who have lived in this valley of the shadow know what it's like? Maybe these times of suffering strengthen our empathy and increase our compassion?

I think it must be so.

I still know that my family will have to continue to walk by faith, and not by sight. I still know that we could endure another time of difficulty at any moment. I still know that "in this world, (I) will have trouble"....and I still know that God is good...all of the time.

For today, our family has a new three bedroom house in Orange with a large den (for that House Church starting next year), and a fireplace, and a backyard for our Giles Team Soccor Tournaments, and plenty of places for Wendy to plant her flowers.

I am grateful to the point of tears.

Praise you Father.

Thank you for being faithful to us.


Thursday, October 27, 2005


Soul Survivor started in England as a simple youth conference back in 1993 and has since grown into a global youth movement of worship and servant evangelism. Today, an estimated 225,000 young people have attended Soul Survivor events in the UK, South Africa, Holland, Norway, Australia, Canada and the United States of America.
Early on in the movement, there was a theological message that worship and care for the poor were Biblically inseparable ideas. Soul Survivor began to be every bit as much about creating humanitarian agents of change as it was about providing a great worship experience.

Soul Survivor USA began after Paul Martin visited a Soul Survivor UK festival in the summer of 1998, while on a work placement in London. Martin and his wife, Erica, originally had no intention of starting any new movements in America. At the time, Martin was in England as the President of Vineyard Music Group, UK, but this job had a built-in expiration date. “One of my job descriptions was to hire and train my successor because I was only allowed a two year work contract,” says Martin.

After attending that Soul Survivor event, Martin and his wife new that God was calling them to start something just like it in Southern California.
Challenged by the reality and authenticity of what they saw, Paul and Erica Martin returned to America to launch the first US Soul Survivor youth event.
However, the Martins discovered very quickly that getting a ministry like this started would be a greater challenge than they first realized. “There are twenty million people here in Southern California alone,” says Martin. “This is a country of it’s own almost. Soul Survivor Holland, (is trying to reach) a total population of three or four million, and we’re looking at twenty million in Orange County.”

Beyond the sheer size of the potential missions field in front of them, Martin and his wife also faced a cultural barrier. Using the tried and true UK format for Soul Survivor didn’t attract thousands of youth. Instead they started attracting people in their thirties.

To make things work, Martin had to make some hard decisions. The biggest change meant catering to the American Christian Summer Camp model. “One of the things I loved about the UK event was that it didn’t smell like a Summer Camp,” says Martin. “We’ve had to adapt to the American church culture where Summer Camp has been part of the youth culture for decades. It’s just what it means to be in a church as member of a youth group. You go to Summer Camp in the summertime. Everything in me resists the Summer Camp line, (but) it’s the language the churches speak and that’s what they respond to. Call it a festival and people will bring their worship team, call it Summer Camp and they’ll ask you how much and where is it”?

In July of 2002 Soul Survivor USA completely switched their approach to reaching youth in America. “We said, ‘If you’re over 17 you cannot come to a Soul Survivor event,’” says Martin. “We said to seven hundred people you can’t come anymore, which was very painful, but we doubled the High School number.”

With a new focus on reaching teens, Soul Survivor events in America have since drawn thousands of people from a broad range of denominations, and over 18 states.

A typical Soul Survivor event involves worship, ministry time, arts and music, but the sum is greater than its parts. “After the main session (involving worship and teaching), these various venues open up. From 8:30 pm to midnight, there are bands, they have dance and hip-hop venues and the art tent, and it’s a scene,” says Martin. “People don’t have to go to anything, it’s not required, but because they don’t have to go to anything, they go to everything, you know?”

The response to the arts tent at Soul Survivor events has been one of the most staggering. “It’s as if they are dying for water,” says Martin. “The kids can come in and paint as much as they want. Some of the stuff is scary, some of it’s not really religious art, and most of these kids have not really painted since they were in kindergarten,” he says, “It’s another value to incorporate the arts into our Christianity, it’s again, an holistic approach.”

Soul Survivor is a ministry that does more than provide a place for youth to gather and worship and hang out. They’ve organized large-scale servant evangelism events worldwide to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to a world that’s never seen Him. “The idea is to very simply not just preach service to the poor, we’re going to model what it looks like so the Youth pastors and the kids can get a vision for it,” says Martin. “It’s one thing to say, ‘we need to go pick up trash and paint an orphanage’, it’s another thing to get in the car and go paint. It’s more important what we do than what we believe or say,” he says. “We work alongside the city managers and we kept our mouths shut, no witnessing, just service, and it is amazing.”

What Martin has discovered as he leads these types of community service events is that young Christians in America are eager to serve. “Young people are the most open to this. The clay is still wet. It represents something in the youth culture today where they’re tired of hearing stuff they just want to get out and do it,” says Martin.

Martin has even greater dreams of touching Orange County with the tangible compassion of Christ one day. “I really see the injustices that have been done in South Los Angeles burning in my heart. I think that community has suffered a lot. There’s just something in me, to have ten or twenty thousand middle class kids coming into communities like that expressing their faith and their love for humanity in practical ways,” he says, “That is something that can keep me up at night. (My goal is) to create Christians who just have a deep understanding of the true totality of the Gospel,” he says. “We’re trying to slowly model the idea that worship and justice are very normative notions that need to be part of our daily walk.”

Martin explains some of the appeal for what Soul Survivor does as being directly related to their entire approach to the Christian life. “There’s something broader than this,” says Martin. “So by what we’re doing, in this holistic approach to life, a lot of these teens are seeing a something new. It’s like, ‘What? I get to go paint and skate and express my feelings and dance and this is all inclusive in what it means to follow Christ?’ So, in all that, our hope is that these youth pastors who bring their kids to Soul Survivor can go back to their churches and maybe find other ways to relate to their teens, as opposed to some of the ways that have been handed down before, based on laws and rules.

“As long as the churches are saying that what we’re doing is a good thing, and that their kids lives are being impacted,” says Martin. “Then our goal is just to keep going.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

IN CONTROL by Keith Giles


By Keith Giles

Relax. Everything is under control.

Your employer only has enough money to pay you one more month. Your family has to pack up everything and move out this weekend and you have no idea where you’re going to move into. Maybe you’ll have to rent a storage unit, move everything inside for a few months, and sleep on a few floors.

Everything is under control.

Of course, it’s not under MY control. I can barely see over the top of the steering wheel right now. I’m on my knees in the back seat of this car, praying that we make it to where we’re headed in one piece.

The last five months of my life have been some of the most stressful and challenging you could possibly imagine. Even more challenging than the year and a half I spent among the ranks of the unemployed, sustained only by the hand of God and the generosity of others, learning firsthand what ‘Daily Bread’ is really all about. Yes, even more stressful than the day I had almost $2,000 in bills to pay with no fulltime job, and less than one hundred dollars in the bank.

Over these last five months, my wife and I have suffered a miscarriage, gone three months with only half our normal income, endured week after week of uncertainty about where we would live and who I would work for, and now we face the countdown to homelessness.

Everything is under control.

About two years ago I began this journey. I suddenly realized that the Gospel I grew up on wasn’t really the Gospel that Jesus preached at all. It rocked my world. It turned everything upside down.

Following my little epiphany came the realization that I had spent most of my teenage and adult life following Jesus without taking up my cross.

I learned that it’s easier for us to die for Jesus than it is to live every single monotonous day for Jesus.

After this I began to dig into the idea of discipleship, or “follower-ship”, to Jesus. I began to seek first The Kingdom of God and to apprentice myself daily to Jesus as my Lord, and not just my Savior.

Just the other day it dawned on me what the last five months have been about. It’s simply the fruit of my desire to die to myself, to put Jesus first and to carry my cross (the instrument of my personal death to the flesh). Nothing more, nothing less.

So, now my life is out of my control. I have no say in where my finances come from. I have no clue where my family will live next. I have no idea where, or if, I’ll be employed in the next three months.

This is part of what I signed up for.

Of course, just because I don’t know the answers to these questions doesn’t mean that it won’t all work out for us. It just means that I’m not the one in control. God is.

The real question for me is, “Am I ok with that”? Am I ok with not being consulted when it comes to where we live, where I work, how much money we make, or even where we go to church? Because if turning my life over to Jesus is really what I’m all about, then not being the one in control of my life is a major byproduct of that decision.

I have to walk into the darkness ahead of me, leading my family along behind me, with no idea whether or not or next step will be into the abyss or into a blessing.

Everything is under control.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


So, as we move forward in our plans to start a House Church here in the O.C., here's a "work-in-progress":


OUR VISION: To be a community that models the life and love of Jesus to our world and to one another.

OUR MISSION: We are a community in love with Jesus. We are the Church. We have a mission to be Jesus to our friends, neighbors and our world.

WHO WE ARE: We are an outward focused Christian community with an inward commitment to love and disciple others to Jesus’ way of life.

WHAT WE DO: We worship God with our entire life. In homes, on the street, at work, in the marketplace, wherever we are there is worship. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We are compelled by the life and love of Jesus to share all that God has given us with those who need Him.

We value the Word of God, therefore we will read it, study it, talk about it, meditate on it and, by the Grace of God, we will put the Word of God into practice every day of our lives.

We value the Gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus came and died to proclaim, therefore we will proclaim the message of God’s Kingdom as “here, and not yet”, and live our lives in obedience to His commands, as citizens of His Kingdom and servants of the King..

We value people, therefore we will gather together to eat, fellowship, sing and pray for each other. We will invite people into our homes. We will make people feel welcome. We will listen to others. We will embrace their pain. We will make their burdens our own. We will see their need and share whatever God has given us to share. We will laugh. We will rejoice. We will celebrate together.

We value service, therefore we will make ourselves available to those who are in need. We will invest our time and talent and energy into the work of the Kingdom of God, serving others as Jesus did, expecting nothing in return.

We value giving, therefore we will demonstrate our dependence on God for all things by freely sharing what God has given us with others. We will give to God the tithe that belongs to Him, considering it as “sacred revenue”, set aside only for those who are in need and we will keep none of this for ourselves. Beyond this, we will share the rest of what we have been given as He directs us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


As I've been researching the House Church model, I've discovered two more great reasons why I prefer the House Church way of "being church":

1- EVANGELISM: If a mega-church of 1,000 or more people were converted into 56 churches of 51 people each, they would reach 1,670 people for Christ every 5 years, easily doubling their own number.

If that same church of 1,000 plus members stays a mega-church, they’ll only reach 122 people in the same 5 year timespan.

Another way of looking at this is that the mega-church is actually preventing 1,548 people from coming to Christ every 5 years.
*(Taken from the book "Natural Church Growth" by Christian Schwarz)

2-FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: The House Church model literally makes money because they produce more than they consume, by design. The modern, traditional church model cost enormous sums of money to establish and even more to maintain and propagate.


Has the modern church become a “Wedding-A-Week” event?

Think of what it takes to pull off a wedding. You need an event planner just to make sure everything comes together logistically and that the ceremony is successful. Someone has to take care of the flowers, the food, the cake, the dresses, the tuxedos, the gifts, the parking, the DJ, the lights, the video, etc., etc. It’s a very big deal and no one in their right mind would attempt to put on a wedding every weekend…or would they?

Think of what goes into a typical Sunday morning worship service. Someone has to put together the bulletin, the order of service, the flowers, the coffee, the visitors table, the information booths, and clean the building before and after the service. The band, or the choir, has to be practiced, prepared and ready for the performance. The announcements have to be loaded on the power point slides in advance. Someone has to make sure that the ushers are ready, that visitors are welcomed, and that the Sunday School and child-care workers and rooms are all set up and staffed.

We haven’t even mentioned the pastor and his sermon yet.

Most Sunday morning worship services are a big production.

Is that what the early church went through?

Not even close.

The early church met in homes. They read scripture. They prayed for each other. They sang hymns spontaneously and they shared a common meal among their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here’s another thing I find interesting about weddings. Do you think that community happens during a wedding? Not really…but why not? Isn’t a wedding a gathering of two families and all their friends into a single place? They’re even in a church building. So, why don’t we have community at weddings?

Before I answer that, let’s take that same family and look at what happens when they get together for Thanksgiving or a family reunion. Do you think community happens during these gatherings? Probably so…but again, why is that? It’s the same family isn’t it? What’s the difference?

The main differences are that, in the home setting of Thanksgiving dinner, no one is acting as an event planner. No one worries if the kids play outside before or after the meal, or if Grandma wants to tell her fond stories about the old days before desert or after they say “Grace”. The gathering is spontaneous. It’s about being the family, not acting out roles.

Something happens when you take that same family and place them in an event or a performance. They loose the environment necessary to facilitate community.

It’s almost funny to me to hear pastors and Christian leaders go on and on about how they wish their churches could develop community. We all wonder why talking about it and reading books about it and having potlucks don’t solve this problem.

We ask ourselves, “Why can’t we have a sense of community the way the early church experienced?”

The answer? “Because we’re not living the way those early Christians lived. We’re not meeting in homes they way they did. We’re not sharing all that God has given us with our neighbors and our fellow Believers. That’s why we don’t experience the same sense of community.”

One family gathering is large, and focused on following an event schedule. They other gathering, of the same family, is smaller and less formal, focused on being the family and enjoying a shared meal in a home.

Which of these is most like the early church?

Which is most likely to provide the atmosphere necessary to inspire community?

The early church was a divinely inspired system designed to create community, facilitate discipleship, mentoring and exponential multiplication, and we should be grateful that it was successful or else none of us would be here now.

For 300 years the church that Jesus inspired and that the Apostles crafted withstood persecution, created disciples, evangelized the lost, penetrated the culture and “turned the world upside down”.

I for one feel that it’s time for the people of God to return to this system of being the church and embodying the message of the Gospel, rather than bringing people to a building where they can hear a message.

By Keith Giles

Greater Things? by Keith Giles

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the father".
-John 14:12 I read this, Jesus first says, (paraphrased)- "If you believe in me, you will DO what I have been doing." (This has nothing to do with miracles. It has to do with obedience to Jesus and discipleship/apprenticeship to evidenced in the verses just below this one where Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command.")

The next sentence says, (paraphrased)- "The one who is my disciple (following me in doing the works of compassion I have done) will do even greater things BECAUSE I AM GOING TO THE FATHER." (And because Jesus is going to the Father, He is sending us the Holy Spirit to live in us, teach us, speak to us and do the work of the Kingdom - see verse 16).

Here's a parallel concept to make it clear....A professional Indy 500 Race Car driver tells you, "If you do what I teach you, and learn what I have to show you, you'll be a better race car driver than I am one day."

You wouldn't expect to just jump in the Indy Car and qualify for the race would you? No, you'd spend the next few years learning from this guy about how to be the best race car driver you could possibly be. It wouldn't happen by "magic" or by "osmosis" but because you "had faith in" this driver and you actually did everything he told you to do.

That's my perspective on what Jesus means in this verse.

We don't magically become better than Jesus by some mystical transfer of Holy power.

Ask yourself this..."Would you expect to do even greater works than Jesus if you never even attempted to do the basic things that he did while he was here on Earth?" That's like someone who doesn't even have a learner's permit or a driver's license thinking they can grab the keys to that Indy Car and take off as a winning driver.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A PSALM OF FAITH (or the lack thereof)

A PSALM OF FAITH (or the lack thereof)
by Keith Giles

God, have I come to the end of your provision?

Have I found the limits of your Grace?

Is there no more of your mercy left for me or my family?

Will you allow us to plunge off the cliff and into the valley of despair below us?

My confession is that I am weak. I confess to you my lack of faith.

I’m all out of hope. My last drop of strength is gone.

Please, Father, Abba, Daddy….

Do you see us? Do you hear me?

Are your eyes closed to the suffering we’re going through now?

When will my sons see the wonderful miracles of God?

When will my family be swept up into your arms of rescue?

When will you show up, God?

You are all we have left.

And if we slip off the edge and into the deep, what then?

And if we box up our lives and find nowhere to lay our heads?

And if we become the poor we have longed to serve?

What then?

We will still sing of your goodness, God.

We will still testify of your amazing love.

We will redefine what it means to trust you, and to walk with you, and to put our hope in you.

If we have come to this place by your own hand, Father, then into your hands we commit our spirits, and by your hands we will emerge as you desire us to live.

Again, you bring us back to this place of uncertainty.

Again, you ask us to lay everything on the altar.

Again, we place our hope on you, and you alone.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

AMAZING GRACE by Keith Giles

AMAZING GRACE by Keith Giles

God has done an amazing work in my heart and life over these last three years.

Before we had even begun an official Compassion Ministry at The River, my wife Wendy discovered that we were near a home for Seniors called Tustin Hacienda and found a way to get us scheduled to visit the residents there once per month.

At first this was something that we invited our Kids Rock kids to join us in. We wanted to provide a tangible opportunity for our kids to “be Jesus” to those in our community who were lonely, poor and alone.

Those first few months were awkward. We had no worship leaders on the team and so the kids would stand in the main room and sing worship songs accapella. We’d get odd looks from the people there who didn’t know the songs we were singing, and they clapped mostly out of a kindness of heart, probably not too sure what to make of us.

We went from room to room knocking on doors to step in and sing these songs to total strangers. Some of them smiled, some of them didn’t even turn down their very loud television sets as we attempted to sing or pray for them. Others were thrilled to have visitors, especially children.

I must confess that, at first, I wasn’t personally so excited about this ministry. There were times when any excuse for me to stay home was preferable to me. I didn’t really feel a strong connection to these people or see the value in what we were doing, other than to help those kids get a taste of what ministry could be.

It honestly didn’t begin to seep into my heart until the end of the second year of our ministry there. As we got to know the people at the Hacienda more intimately I became emotionally connected to them. I got to know “The General”, a wonderful man who had served in World War II and was wheel-chair bound. I can remember praying with him and seeing the tears in his eyes when he told me that, if were able to, he’d gladly re-enlist to defend our country. When I thanked him for what he’d already done he squeezed my hand tighter. Even though he couldn’t form the words to speak to me, the emotion in his face was enough for both of us to understand each other.

When he died it was as if my own Grandfather had died. I wept for him. I got to share in the grief of those who knew him best. We all missed him. He had been part of our family at Tustin Hacienda.

Over time we got to know the stories of people like Alvin who had been General George Patton’s cook during WW2. He even received a medal for his bravery under fire and for serving up meals that were better than they got at home, all while being shelled and shot at. He looks just like Santa Claus and even spent many Christmas seasons holding children on his knees at South Coast Plaza, a local mall, posing for pictures and making kids smile. Maybe some of us put our own children on his lap without even realizing it. I wonder.

We learned about Anne and how she used to sing at nightclubs. We heard Gladys tell us how she actually died on the operating table at 100 years of age and how God brought her back. She’s now 102 years old.

We got to meet George, a wonderful English gentleman with a great fondness for Texas and a spectacular career in aviation which has been documented in trade journals and in articles he’s written for the US Government. I’ll never forget the time George told us that he’d “find it unfortunate to die unnecessarily” due to a missed flu shot.

Lloyd, a dear man of God who pastored his fellow residents, was always quoting his favorite scripture to me, “For no eye has seen, and no ear has heard what God has in store for those who love Him.” Papa Art was always thrilled to see us. He always asked us to pray for him and he kept every picture and photo we ever gave him.

Dorothy, if we’re allowed to have favorites, would probably qualify for most everyone’s list. She lost her husband the same year we began to visit there. It wasn’t until much later that I learned from the workers that Dorothy never left her room for any reason, never made friends with the other residents, and wouldn’t have anything to do with anyone other than her own family….and us. We’re so grateful that God allowed us into her heart and to help her to open up her door to people who loved her and cared for her.

I could go on and on. I haven’t even told you about Lily, Hazel, Beulah, Brother Ralph, Rhoda, Robert, and so many dear, sweet, lovely other people.

Those of us who made the time on the third Saturday of each month are so much richer for having been part of these people’s lives.

Without them, where would we be? How much poorer would my life be without having known, and loved, these dear ones?

So, I want to say “Thank You” to God for His patience with someone like me who resisted His goodness and held little value for His people, or His good will in my life.

We started out with the desire to bless the residents of this home, as if we had everything to give and all they had was emptiness, but in the end, we were the ones who took home the treasure in arms of love. We were the ones who received the blessing and the amazing grace of God.

Welcome to the Kingdom.

“Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:12-14

Monday, October 03, 2005


Lately my wife Wendy and I have felt a calling towards the planting of a House Church out of our home.

This journey began, roughly, about two years ago, although the final piece of the puzzle fell into place for us roughly about three or so months ago.

To understand the “Why” of this, I have attempted to outline just a few of the core convictions and values that I have come realize are part of how God made me. These are factors that have helped us to come to understand the nature of God’s calling for us.

I will deal with the why the House Church model appeals to us after this list of statements, but hopefully this will pave a foundation to build upon.

How I’m wired:
I have a desire to be part of a church where the teaching and sharing of the Word of God is highly valued.

I have a desire to be part of a community where service to others, intimacy (with God and one another), and mission is practiced and encouraged.

I prefer a more simple, small, and uncluttered style of doing church, where it’s more about the building up of the disciples in their faith and the simple adoration of God for who He is and what He’s done.

I have a strong desire for the Church to be counter-cultural in practice and lifestyle, yet serving others in humility outside the four walls of the Sunday service.

I have a strong repulsion for the modern trend of the Christian Church towards a corporate-based model of doing church. I feel very passionately that the Christian Church should take most of her cues from the early church, and from the writings of the Church Fathers and the great “cloud of witnesses” we have available to us throughout the History of Christianity. (i.e.- Jonathan Edwards, William Wilberforce, etc. instead of Peter Senge or John Maxwell, etc.)

I have a strong conviction that leadership is done by example and that values expressed from the pulpit be put into practice in our actual life.

I have a strong conviction that a pastor should be available to those whom he is called to serve.

I believe that the Christian life is not a spectator sport but is a way of life that a follower of Jesus, a disciple, undertakes daily and therefore requires ongoing fellowship, pastoral care and immersion in the Word of God for direction, hope, guidance and life.

I believe that the Christian faith is very much about a lifestyle that follows the pattern of a “Jesus way of life”, more so than a series of meetings, a statement of beliefs or a prayer of salvation.

So, that's me in a nutshell. Because I'm wired this way, I've been feeling more and more called to an expression of Church that follows a similar pattern of conviction.


As my wife and I continued to dialog over these past few months regarding the planting of a church, we were informed by the writings and teachings of Dallas Willard, Todd Hunter, Professor Scott Bartchy, David Ruis, Greg Russinger, Mike Pilavachi, Justo L. Gonzalez, and several others.

One final piece to the puzzle was an article by Ray Mayhew concerning the radical practice of the early church towards giving of the tithe (or the “sacred revenue”) to the poor, rather than spending that money on itself.

The discussions that Wendy and I had after reading this article and discussing the implications lead us to the conclusion that what we were really hungry for, in the area of community, worship, service, missions, fellowship, and giving were all wrapped up in the simple, and yet revolutionary, model left to us in the form of the early church.

Why the House Church?
Here are just a few of the reasons:

Historical. The house church is the biblical church. All of the churches in the New Testament era were small assemblies that met in homes.

For the first three-hundred years of its existence the church met primarily in the homes of its members, not in specially designed buildings. Keep in mind that the United States hasn’t even been around for three hundred years. This is a huge statement to the effectiveness and the potential of these sorts of meetings. I have been reading a lot of great historical documents regarding the early church and have been excited and encouraged by what I’ve discovered so far.
*(See below for Scriptural references on the early house church)

Growth. The most explosive growth of Christianity in our own time has taken place in the likes of the People's Republic of China where its only expression has been the illegal, underground house church. Historian Del Birkey's studies (and several others) have led him to conclude that the house church is our best hope for the renewal in our times.

Resisting the Culture. Our faith is constantly being pulled towards conforming to the culture around us. (See Paul’s warning about this in Romans 12). The house church has always been counter-culture for this reason, just as Jesus said that his disciples should be in the Sermon on the Mount. **(See below for more notes on the Sermon On The Mount)

Practical Considerations. It is often argued that a large church is better equipped than a small church (or, in this case, a house-church) to organize and finance the sending of missionaries. However, this assumes that local churches are to be completely independent of each other. It certainly does not argue against a network of house-churches which cooperate with each other in the sending out of missionaries.

In fact, the argument backfires. One mega-church with one-thousand members could never match the resource potential of a network of house-churches with one-thousand members, for the mega-church must allocate huge amounts of its resources for the building itself.

According to one recent survey, as much as 82% of church revenues in an average Protestant church goes toward buildings, staff, and internal programs, while only 18% goes toward missions!

The church of the first century did not equate "bigness" with ability. The words of Paul to this effect bear repeating: "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1Co 1:27-29). The world system operates from the principle that bigger is better. To those in this system, success is measured by size and might is measured by muscle. In contrast, it was the “weakness and foolishness” of the Gospel and the lifestyle of the early Christians that “turned the world upside down”.

Mission. There are several opportunities in our communities that are especially suited for the house church. An invitation offered to a work-place acquaintance to a home is much less threatening than one to a church, just as one example. Another is the unique value of the house church as a ministry to "the damaged" and the poor and needy and the possibility of learning the joy of giving by elevating that practice to a personal level.

So…this is, in part, why we’re feeling God tugging us in this direction. We still have a lot of unanswered questions at this point, (like, “Who would go with us?”, “Where will we live next month?”, etc.) but the framework is clear and God’s calling to us has been very specific.

We pray now for God’s continued provision (for my employment situation and for a new house to live in before the end of this month), and for God’s direction regarding the formation of this (potential) House Church.

More later…


* Romans 16:5 (as well as 1Co 16:19) speaks of the church that met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla. When Paul wrote to Philemon he also addressed his letter to Archippus and to the church in his house (v. 2). Likewise, when he wrote his greetings in Col 4 he mentions the church which met in the house of Nympha (4:15). When Paul taught the newly formed churches, he did so from "house to house" (Ac 20:20). There is an allusion to a church in Jason’s house in Ac 16:5-6, in Lydia’s house in Ac 16:40, and in Mary’s house in Ac 12:12. In 2Jn there is a warning to the church not to receive false teachers into their house (v. 10). Contrary to popular belief, this is not referring to individual Christians who might have unbelievers in their homes for social and evangelistic purposes; rather it is a warning to the church not to allow false teachers to participate in the meeting. Since participation in the meeting implied the opportunity to speak it would have meant potential harm to the church if a false teacher were allowed in the meeting. Hence there is much evidence for the "house-church" in the New Testament.

**Sermon On the Mount: That sermon outlines how the powerless disciple can be salt and light in a dark world (Mt. 5:13-14), how to withstand evildoers (Mt. 5:39) by showing God's love to the world through suffering at the hands of persecution (Mt. 5:39), foreclosing landlords (Mt. 5:40), and occupying Roman authorities (Mt. 5:41). It speaks of giving and lending to the most hopeless credit risks (Mt. 5:42). It speaks of a praying community ("Our Father, who art in heaven ..." Mt. 6:9) that fasts (Mt. 6:16), gives of itself (Mt. 6: 21), and depends completely on God (Mt. 25ff). It speaks of the non-judgment of individuals (Mt. 7:1), just as it speaks of the need to judge those who would be authorities in spiritual matters (Mt. 7:15ff).

Thursday, September 29, 2005


My oldest son, Dylan started his own website when he was in first grade.

The name of the company, the logo, everything was his idea. I just got a good friend to do the website and the rest is a thing of beauty.

Please visit and maybe even buy a t-shirt or a coffee mug with the SQUISHBALL logo for your friends. They make wonderful gifts!

So proud of him.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


By Keith Giles

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

This is the journey.

In the last few months I have felt, more and more, the hand of God upon my life. It is heavy. It is hard. It is not an easy thing.

God is imposing His will upon my life. All I can do is sit back and say, “Yes, Lord.”

Of course, this is exactly what I’ve prayed for. Night and day I have come before Him to ask that He would allow His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in my life…no matter what.

My wife and I have been through these times of transition before. Several years ago I was laid off from a job I loved, only to wander in the wilderness for over a year and a half without fulltime employment.

During this time I learned what it means to depend on Him for daily bread. Literally there were days when we had used the last of the eggs, paper towels and milk, only to have someone show up at our doorstep unexpectedly with eggs, milk and paper towels in a gift basket.

There was the day when we needed over a thousand dollars to cover rent, registration on our car, a smog check and our monthly medical insurance payment. I was in the car on the way to my temp job praying for God’s provision for us since our bank account was empty and we had used our Discover card to pay for groceries only days before.

By lunchtime I had a check in my hand for exactly the amount necessary to cover all of these bills, from people who had no idea what our exact needs were at the time.

God is good.

We’ve also been through a season where we had to move and had no idea where we’d end up, only to have God provide miraculously a house for us only a few blocks away with a giant backyard, an avocado tree, and plenty of room to host a small group for our new church. He even gave us a dream a month earlier to show us how He would provide this house for us, and then He did it…at the last minute.

I think now our family knows in a deeper sense that God will take care of us. We have seen His hand closing doors in our life and in our ministry over these last few months. We’ve started packing up our belongings, still with no clue where we’re moving to next, or even when.

We’ve said goodbye already to people we dearly love who’ve moved away from us.

We’ve prayed, for the last time, over people who God has allowed us to minister to for nearly three years with tears in our eyes.

We don’t really understand exactly all of what and why God is doing this. But we do know a lot.

We do know that God is good. We know He loves us. We know that it is His hand closing these doors. We know that He will open new doors for us soon. We know that we are called to be His ambassadors. We know that our family has a calling from God. We know that He has given us a ministry and that He has revealed to us what we are to do next….which is to simply trust Him.

We also know that God seems to like the last minute. He’s never late, but He’s rarely on our time table.

I was thinking just the other day that it’s seasons such as this that build our faith. These are the times we look back on and see the hand of God upon us. It’s these times we will be drawn back to re-live over and over again in the form of testimony and praise.

Why would we not want God to bring us through times such as this?

This is the life.

This is the journey.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Jesus called everyone to come near to him. Some who came after him did so out of a sincere desire to follow him. They truly left everything to sit at his feet and to put his words into practice. Others who followed Jesus drew nearer only to see a sign or a miracle, having no intention of coming under his teaching or his authority. They were only there to see the show. Still others drew nearer to Jesus so that they could catch him in a mistake and discredit his ministry.

Jesus was searching for people who would draw near to him, not for what he could offer them, not for the experience or the “show”, but because they were willing to give him their heart.

'These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Mathew 15:8

Jesus called everyone to draw near to him. He wasn’t picky about it, but he did want those who came after him to come honestly and sincerely. He was searching for those who would come after God with their whole heart and seek Him “in Spirit and in Truth.”

He even went out of his way to seek out those who couldn’t come to him. The lame, the sick, the outcast, the broken, all of these were the ones that Jesus sought after and to whom he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Not only did Jesus call those who were lonely and outcast to come to him, he asked them to “learn from” him, to trust him as a teacher and as a friend.

This was in contrast to the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, who were harsh, critical and oppressive to the masses, especially to the poor who couldn’t even be in their presence, nor worship in the temple.

As I look at this passage, I both long to know the rest that Jesus offers, and also to come under his yoke of learning. I want, I need, to become more like Jesus. I desire with all my heart to be transformed into someone who looks, acts, thinks and loves as he does.

That doesn’t happen by accident. No one “falls into” a transformed life. It takes a strong desire; A daily decision to put away my kingdom and to make a great exchange with the King for His Kingdom of hope, and life, and peace.

If you want to know what a hard life is, just look at someone who is addicted to drugs, or in prison, or living with alcoholism, or any other path than is “other than” what Jesus offers. This is why Jesus can honestly say that his burden is light and his yoke is easy. The decision not to follow Jesus bears its own fruit of despair and ruin.

Still, there are times when it seems that Jesus isn’t so “near” to me. I can seek him in prayer, search the scriptures, worship him in song or in the quiet of my room, and yet he doesn’t “feel” close to me. Why is that?

I believe it has to do with faith. As I undergo these momentary lapses of the awareness of God’s closeness I have to make a decision. I have to decide if I trust my feelings, or if I trust God. I have to decide if I believe the “Truth” or if I believe “Experience”. Because the “Truth” is that God is near enough to reach out and to touch. He has promised us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. That is the truth and no human experience can change it. No amount of darkness can ever extinguish the smallest candle flame of light.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” - James 4:8

We were made by God for a relationship with Him. Our hearts, our minds, our emotions, our intellect, everything about us was designed by God for an intimate interaction with Himself. That’s why creation exists…and because of this, anything less than a complete intimacy with God is not just “sub-Christian”, it’s actually “sub-human”.

Think about that. To be anything less than completely intimate with the Creator is actually sub-human.

Don’t settle for anything less than 100% of all that God is, and desires to have, in your life.

Spend time with God. Read His Word. Pray without ceasing. Worship Him with song, with your thoughts, with your whole life.

Draw near.