Monday, October 20, 2008


Imagine the conversation between an unbelieving Pagan in the first century and a follower of The Way:

Pagan: "I would like to know more about this Christ you speak of. Where is your temple?"

Christian: "We don't have one."

Pagan: "What? Then where does one go to meet with your God?"

Christian: "We are all the Temple of the Holy Spirit, so God meets with us wherever we are."

Pagan: "Hmm...then where do you conduct your sacrifices?"

Christian: "We have no animal sacrifice at all. Jesus became our sacrifice so that we could be free. Our only sacrifices are our own lives as we surrender to Him and His will every day."

Pagan: "Fascinating! I would love to meet your Priest to learn more about this."

Christian: "Well, I am a Priest."

Pagan: "You are?! But I thought you sold pottery in the marketplace? How can you be a Priest in this new religion?"

Christian: "You can be one also if you submit your life to Christ and place your trust in Him. We are all Priests of God."

Wasn't it a radically different system of faith that Jesus breathed into life 2000 years ago?

Isn't this a radically different system of faith than anything we have today?

Can someone explain to me why it should be different than what Jesus taught, inspired and promoted for His Church?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Biblical Scholarship In Support of Non-Hierarchy in the Church

Perhaps you have been following the very lengthy debate and commentary going on here on this blog (under the article "Response to Exploitation or Empowerment?") and over at the [Subversive Underground] e-newsletter blog article "Out of Business"?

As part of this discussion, my good friend and brother in Christ, Paul Martin, has challenged my view of a non-hierarcichal Church in the New Testament, and therefore today's expression of Church.

One of the most troublesome statements by my friend in this ongoing dialog has been the idea that "Your model of church polity is rejected by virtually every--TRAINED--biblical scholar today and over the past 2,000 years."

Here are some quotes by renowned and respected Biblical Scholars to refute this erroneous statement and lend support to my argument that hierarchy developed over time:

"In the Catholic Church there are two classes, clergy and laity . . . . This structure does not correspond to what Jesus did and taught. Consequently it has not had a good effect in the history of the Church . . . . Among his disciples Jesus did not want any distinction of class or rank . . . . In contradiction to this instruction of Jesus, a “hierarchy,” a “sacred authority,” was nevertheless formed in the third century - Herbert Haag (a Roman Catholic), Upstairs, Downstairs: Did Jesus Want a Two-Class Church?, Crossroad, 1997, p.109.

"Our survey has shown us that no cultic priesthood is to be found in the New Testament. Yet we wound up importing Old Testament Levitical forms and imposing them on Christian ministry . . . . Nevertheless in practice there is no denying that there has historically been a gathering into one person and his office what were formerly the gifts of many . . . .[This practice] goes astray, of course, when it translates to mean that only ordination gives competence, authority, and the right of professional governance. It goes further astray when eventually all jurisdictional and administrative powers in the church come to be seen as an extension of the sacramental powers conferred at ordination. In short, there is a movement here away from the more pristine collaborative and mutual ministries of the New Testament." - William Bausch, (A Roman Catholic) in Traditions, Tensions, Transitions in Ministry, Twenty-Third Publications, 1982, pp. 54, 30.

"Increasing institutionalism is the clearest mark of early Catholicism - when church becomes increasingly identified with institution, when authority becomes increasingly coterminous with office, when a basic distinction between clergy and laity becomes increasingly self-evident, when grace becomes increasingly narrowed to well-defined ritual acts. We saw above that such features were absent from first generation Christianity, though in the second generation the picture was beginning to change." - D.G. Dunn, Unity & Diversity in the New Testament, Westminster Press, 1977, p.351.

"The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principal obstacles to the church effectively being God’s agent of the kingdom today because it creates a false idea that only ‘holy men,’ namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity. The New Testament teaches us that the church is a community in which all are gifted and all have ministry." - Howard Snyder

"Prayer was offered, as in the Synagogue, but not in stated liturgical form. It was uttered freely, on the impulse of the Spirit, and was presented in the name of Christ, the Intercessor . . . The Christian faith gave rise to hymns of a new character, often produced in the heat of the moment and almost as soon forgotten; but sometimes short lyrics of real beauty were treasured and repeated . . . Chief of all these [elements] was the observance of the Supper . . . This, indeed, was not so much a part of the worship as the vessel which contained all the parts. The purpose of the Christian meeting was to hold the common meal, and to make it a memorial of Jesus’ Last Supper with the disciples . . . The exercise of the spiritual gifts was thus the characteristic element in primitive worship. Those gifts might vary in their nature and degree according to the capacity of each individual, but they were bestowed on all and room was allowed in the service for the participation of all who were present. “When you meet together,” says Paul, “each of you hath a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, an interpretation.” Every member was expected to contribute something of his own to the common worship . . . . Worship in those first days was independent of all forms." - Ernest F. Scott, from The Nature of the Early Church, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1941, pp.75,77,79,87.

"There are few more reliable constants running through all human society than the special place every human community makes for the professional religionist . . . in every case he disposes a unique quality, which he usually possesses for life, which alone qualifies him for his function, and beside which the mass of men are identifiable negatively as “laymen,” i.e., non-bearers of this special quality . . . One person per place is enough to do what he needs to do . . . the clergyman mediates between the common life and the realm of the “invisible” or the “spiritual” . . . No one balks at what his services cost" - John H. Yoder, “The Fullness of Christ,” reprinted in Searching Together, 11:3, 1982, pp.4-7.

"Properly speaking, New Testament Christianity knows nothing of the word “sacrament,” which belongs essentially to the heathen world of the Graeco-Roman empire and which unfortunately some of the Reformers unthinkingly took over from ecclesiastical tradition. For this word, and still more the overtones which it conveys, is the starting point for those disastrous developments which began soon to transform the community of Jesus into the Church which is first and foremost a sacramental Church" - Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church, Lutterworth, 1952, pp.72-73).

"1 Cor. 14:26 gives us one form of early Christian worship. There is no mention of worship leaders or of reading the Torah. Rather each brings a song (perhaps sung in the Spirit), a teaching, a revelation. The impression is of a real act of the body, not merely the performance of a noted few. - Ben Witherington, Conflict in Corinth, p.285.

Additionally, Bruce Winter in his book "Philo and Paul Among the Sophists" (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and Duane Litfin’s "St. Paul’s Theology of Proclamation" (Cambridge University Press, 1994) make the following points:

- Paul renounces Greek rhetorical techniques in preaching that are marked by exalting the art of eloquence. To Paul, these undermined the power of God and the centrality of the cross.

- Paul writes: “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God …. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power….” 1 Cor. 2:1, 4-5. Winter believes that Paul had the sophists in view.
- Paul rejected the rhetorical methods of the sophists so that he would not be aligned with them in any way.

- Winter argues that 1 Cor. 1:17 focuses on the rhetorical skill of the speaker. Paul argues against rhetorical artistry because it obscures the proclamation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

- The sophists charged for their services while Paul offered his gospel free of charge and worked manually lest he be a burden to the churches.

- Paul’s presence in public and his delivery style were deficient according to the standards of Greek rhetoric (2 Cor. 10:10).

- Paul and Apollos were not judged in terms of their rhetorical abilities. Paul renounces the employment of rhetoric in preaching in 1 Cor. 1-2 because it conflicts with the message of the cross. Preaching based on Greco-Roman rhetoric displays the artistry and personality of the speaker and puts the focus on the speaker rather on Christ. This is why Paul denounces such preaching. God saves through the weakness of the cross and the brokenness of the vessel used, therefore, the gospel should not advertise the strength of the speaker by “wowing” his hearers with his rhetorical artistry. This, according to Winter, compromises the gospel.

When one says that the notion that anyone can teach, preach, or prophesy on a regular basis is unbiblical, they are dead wrong. While the NT teaches (and the authors agree) that not all Christians are specifically gifted as teachers, prophets, or apostles, it also teaches that every Christian is a minister, a functioning priest, and is capable of instructing, prophesying, and exhorting in the church.

Here are just a few examples from the NT literature itself:
**1 Cor. 14:31 - For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. [This is not relegated to prophets only. See R. Banks, H. Snyder, G. Fee, F.F. Bruce, and many of other scholars on this point.]

**Rom. 15:14 - I myself am convinced, my brethren, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. [These words were written to the church in Rome and included all believers].

**Heb. 10:25 - Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another … [Note that this has reference to the normative meeting of the church. This clearly shows us then that the congregation is active during the meeting and is engaged in exhorting “one another” and “provoking “one another” to love and to good works (v.24). There’s nothing here about passively listening to one man. The same point is made in 1 Cor. 14:26.

These and other scholarly references and sources can be found

This link (above), where I took each of these quotes, involves another online debate betweeen Biblical Scholars and Historians Jon Zens and Ben Witherington concerning the evidence for a relational, Christ-centric house church in the First and Second Century and the arguments laid out in Frank Viola's book, "Pagan Christianity".

I hope this is helpful to, if nothing else, clarify the misconception that "virtually no TRAINED Biblical scholars agree" with my view of Church polity.


Friday, October 10, 2008



Toothy baby smiles
refrigerator messages
convey magnetic declarations
of devotion

Stick figures dance
together on the crayon sky

and this will be the rest of your life
remembering the sound of laughter
closing your eyes against the pillow
playing these scenes over again
and again, slowing down the film
to get a closer look at the sunlight
on the smiling face
the big blue eyes

Soft, tiny fingers on your skin
slobbery kisses against your morning cheek
dream reports at the edge of dawn
warm hugs beneath the covers
cuddling arms that barely reach

and this will be the rest of our life
together, remembering
the sound of all this laughter
the off-key songs from the backseat
the words all wrong
and stories that always end the same

Hand in hand
we are a family
forever, together

and this is what it means
to be loved
and to love
with every breath

This is what it means

By Keith Giles

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Heather Cosby tagged me to share this with all of you so, here goes...

4 things I was doing 10 years ago:

1- Working at Vineyard Music Group - Yes, I was hired on as their Wholesale Music Sales Director. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had and that entire experience was still one of the best seaons of my life. I loved VMG, I loved working with a "dream team" that included Dave Hackbarth, Jeff Searles, Brock Shinen, Lee Swope, Paul Martin, Brian Eichler and Chris Wimber. Chris was one of the best bosses I've ever worked for and I know there are those who would laugh if they read this because he wasn't really a great manager per se, but for me Chris excelled at envisioning his executive staff and empowering them to succeed. His funeral was one of the most amazing and signifcant events in my life.

2- Recording the Elysian Skies Cd, "Exquisite Whisper" - It was one of my lifelong dreams to record at the amazing Green Room in Huntington Beach. My friend and guitarist John Wahrmund and I wrote songs through the mail and my friend J.J. Plasencio (the bassist for "Sixpence None The Richer" at the time, and later "Plumb") agreed to produce our Cd. My friends Bill Scmidt and John Feiery joined us and the amazing Andy Prickett ("The Prayer Chain") engineered our recording and even played a guitar solo on our first track. My wife Wendy even sang background vocals on a couple of tracks too, which was very, very special to me. It took us almost two years to record, mix, master and manufacture the Cd, but it got great reviews over at the Phantom Tollbooth and True Tunes and our track "Digg" even ended up on a sampler called "Sparkler" which was distributed via Metro One Records. I think a few radio stations played "Digg" here and there, and a few of our songs ended up on the soundtrack for an indie film "When Love Walks In" too. Anyway, I am pretty proud of that Cd and once in a while I still listen to it and say, "Dang…we put out a really awesome Cd, didn’t we?" Yes, we did.

One of the biggest highlights for me was mixing the CD with the amazing Gene Eugene. He died soon after this and I will forever be grateful for those days I spent next to Gene. He blessed me and I was blessed to know him.

*Read the PT review

3- My son David was born. He's such a blessing to us. David is one of the only people I know who actually has all five of the "Love Languages" --Physical touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts and Quality Time are all important to David. He's the most loving person I know, other than my wife, and I am so very blessed to be his Dad.

4- Trying to publish my poetry. My senior year in college I wrote a series of poems on grief and loss called "Wintermoon and Coffeestain". I had attempted to submit my poetry to various magazines and come up empty. For a while there I had a British publishing house interested in the collection but then it fell apart. Oh well. Maybe I'll self-publish my poems through someday? Hmm….

4 things on my to-do list for today:

My HOME To-Do List:
1- Make plans to celebrate my 19th Wedding Anniversary with Wendy this weekend.
2- Re-install the OS on my laptop in hopes of eradicating a nasty virus which will not die and has now caused my computer to slow to a crawl.
3- Help my sons clean up their book-case in their room and separate out all the Baby Books which need to go into storage or get donated to charity.
4- Take a shower.

My WORK To-Do List:
1- Finish the Services E-Newsletter for October
2- Finish the Prevalent E-vite copy with new input
3- Finish the Marketing Services website copy
4- Finish the Hosted DRM End-User flyer copy

4 random things I love about my wife:
1- She's the most loving person I know. When we were dating in college she and I visited a local Nursing Home and I was in awe at the way she stopped to look each person in the eye, spend time with them and give them a real hug. I was instantly in love with her and I still am today.

2- She has the ability to speak words of wisdom to me when I need to hear them most.

3- She talks me out of stupid ideas and helps keep me from becoming a raging radical out in left field.

4- She still loves me after spending 19 years with me and seeing how shallow and selfish and petty I am.

4 jobs that I have had
1- Domino Pizza Delivery Driver- Lasted one week, I think. I couldn't get the pizzas there in 30 minutes so I ended up paying for them out of my meager paycheck. Plus my car, an awesome '67 Camaro, sucked gasoline mucho fierce so all my money went to buy gas.

2- Door-to-door "Rainbow" Salesman- It was a water-based vacuum-cleaner (my Mom still uses hers and loves it) and the sales exeprience helped me later in my career, but it was basically a scam. The only other good thing out of this job was meeting Lee (Hammar) Davis, one of my oldest and dearest friends who ended up being one of my groomsmen when I married Wendy.

3- UPS - First I was unloading the trailer trucks into the distribution center and onto the belts. I remember sweating like a pig and begging God to help me live long enough to finish the first truck. When I saw the back of the trailer I was so relieved. At least until my manager came into the truck, lifted up the floorboards and showed me the 900 boxes hidden in the lower compartment. I wanted to die after that. Soon I was moved to the belts, loading up the brown trucks for delivery. Hated that job.

4- Youth Pastor - I remember telling God that it was like using a hammer to drive nails. I was the wrong tool for that specific job, but God blessed those kids (and me) anyway. Good experience for me. Never want to do that again though.

4 movies I have watched more than once:

1- Blade Runner- I think I have probably seen this movie close to 200 times. I own all 3 versions of the film, including the recent boxed set which included the workprint edition and the deleted scenes and the 8 hours of extras and documentaries. I have read the book it's based on "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick (one of my fave authors) three times. I have read the book on the making of the film "Future Noir" by Paul M. Sammon twice and I own the soundtrack. Yes, I am obsessed with this film.

2- Fight Club - Can't help how much I love this film. Read the book too. I might watch it again before the end of this year.

3- It's A Wonderful Life - I cry everytime I watch this .Everytime. Never fails to bless me.

4- Elf - I keep showing it to my friends to share it with them. "Did you hear THAT?!" Oh yeah.

5- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Such an amazing film. It makes me thankful for my life and my friends and especially my wife. A true work of inspired genius.

6- Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Say no more.

7- Brazil - Another work of prophetic and creative genuis. Watch this film and marvel at how our modern media and culture mirror the one in this film. Amazing stuff.

8- Children of Men - Powerful stuff. The "one scene" where the baby literally brings peace is poignant in the extreme. Wow.

9- Hotel Rwanda

10- Gattaca

11- The Incredibles.

4 places I have lived:
1- Eagle Pass, Tx.
2- Bloomington, Indiana
3- El Paso, Tx
4- Huntington Beach, Ca

4 places I have been: (most memorable places I’ve been)
I am not a traveller by any means so this is not such an impressive list:

1- Grand Canyon- Took a helicopter trip into the canyon itself and split the "tuning fork" formation. Awesome.
2- Juarez and Tijuana, Mexico - Go once. Never forget it.
3- Brownsville, Fl - The big revival back in the 90's. I got to hang with Lindell Cooley and his wife and team for two days. Great experience.
4- Homeless- My family has spent the night sleeping on the floor several times over the last 10 years, thanks to the charity of our friends. Thankfully it never lasted longer than a week each time, but it really puts your life into perspective when your family literally has no place to call "Home".

4 places I want to visit:
1- Israel
2- England
3- Hawaii
4- Africa

4 TV shows I watch:
1- Joan of Arcadia - Never had any desire to watch this when it was on the air but thanks to the magic of DVD (and the charity of my friend Liz) my family is falling in love with this awesome show. God is allowed to say things on this show that blow my mind- and it's the heart of God for His people. Amazing.

2- Battlestar Galactica - Again, you'd probably never guess it, but this show has shown things about the heart of God and the nature of religion versus genuine spirituality that blow me away. It's not kid-friendly by any means, but the power of showing a flawed character asking for forgiveness, or laying hands on a dying child and asking God to heal him (and God does), etc. is very, very awesome.

3- Lost- I know, you either love it or hate it but I so, so, LOVE it! When it finally ends I hope they leave us with more questions than answers. I really do not want them to wrap it all up into a neat bow.

4- House- The best character on TV now is the guy you love to hate. They've had some very powerful shows about God as well.

5- The Fringe - I love sci-fi and this show has some promise.

4 things you may not know about me:

1- I've seen Elvis in concert. At the age of 9 I saw him with my parents in San Antonio, Tx. He died less than a year later. I still have the ticket stub.

2- I've been shot at.

3- I was nearly shot dead at a minimum security prison (different occasion).

4- Some of my favorite bands are "Rage Against the Machine", "Duran, Duran" and "Johnny Cash". Shoot me.

*Heather Wright
*Keith Seckel
*Crissy Brooks


Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Over at my article "Exploitation or Empowerment" is sparking a few interesting conversations.

I just posted a rather lengthy response to a friend who asked some questions and raised some objections there so I thought I'd re-post my comments here for further discussion.

Essentially, my friend Paul is questioning whether or not all are called to be leaders in the Church and raises some good points about the Church Fathers. He also questions the idea that there was no hierarchy in the early church.

Here's my response:

First, the Apostles were commanded by Jesus to call no one Father, not to be called Teachers themselves and to treat everyone as brothers. (See Mark 10: 42-45).

Jesus also modelled a leadership structure whereby the leader would wash feet, humble himself and serve the others as an equal and a brother or sister in Christ (see John 13) and he commanded those disciples (soon to be Apostles) to do the same.

The Apostles did not execute a leadership style or structure that you and I would recognize...and I mean that in a good way.

When we look at NT passages where the church is commanded to "submit to the authority of elders" (found in various places throughout the NT) it is in the context of submitting to them as they instruct in the Gospel. It is not a submission to them as authoritarian leaders but a submission to them as they lead us to follow Christ. Of course, if those leaders lead people away from Christ or the Scriptures one would not be required to submit to their authority.

I agree that there were Apostles, Elders, and Deacons in the early Church but they were not authoritarian leaders, they were average people who were filled with God's Holy Spirit and who sat alongside their brothers and sisters as equals on a daily basis. It was an authority based on maturity in Christ (at least at first).

Also, isn't it curious to you that those NT Epistles were not addressed to "The Pastor of the Church in Corinth" or "Ephesus", etc.? I find it fascinating that those letters are written to the believers themselves - directly to those same believers who were the Body of Christ - not to the leaders who would then work it into a weekly sermon.

I think when you move so quickly into the idea of Bishops and Church Hierarcy you assume that this was always the case and it most certainly was not. Until Cyprian and Ignatius began to influence the Church in this way these concepts were not accepted or practiced. Constantine provided the final piece to that shift away from the Priesthood of the Believer, but it was a process, not something that was present in the first 200 years of Christian life and practice.

Simply because we see words like "Leadership" and "Elder" and "Authority" it does not automatically follow that the practice of leadership and authority looked like what we're used to in Modern Christianity today. I would argue that it did not.

Peter and Paul and the other Apostles argued often that there was a new way of worshipping and experiencing God outside of a temple (building) and without the need for a secondary priest to mediate for us. Instead, the Gospel included the radical concept that you and I (as followers of Christ) are the new Priests of God. Shocking, yes, but clearly demonstrated throughout the writings of our Apostles in the NT.

The Gospel message also included another radical idea that had not existed previously - that the worship of God would not require a building/temple because you and I (as followers of Christ) are the new Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells. This was a radical teaching of inclusion for anyone and everyone to become a Talmidum or Disciple of Jesus and participate in a way never before imagined by the common folk of the day.

You suggest that "all are not leaders" and I would agree. But just because some lead and others are not leading this doesn't mean that not everyone participates. Clearly the idea behind 1 Cor 12 is that everyone in the Body of Christ has a purpose and a function and a very, very critical role to play in the operation of this Body. Name a part of your body that you would be ready to cut off and live without. Other than your appendix or your tonsils, maybe that extra kidney, none of us would want to live without our body parts--because they're all esssential to the health and function and well-being of the Body!

Did God plan to have all 28 spiritual gifts flow through one man? You've been a pastor and you know (and have seen) the crushing weight of trying to be the single person through whom the gifts of encouragement, prayer, teaching, administration, counseling, discernment, etc. must flow. The reason so many pastors burn out and give up is because this is not the way God envisioned it. His plan was to distribute everything the Body needed through each and every member. This means that participation is essential. It means you need everyone. It means if you don't obey Jesus and love one another then you're not the Church that He designed…and you can't be because all the spiritual gifts must operate in love. (Which is why everytime Paul mentions gifts he follows with an instruction on love. Everytime).

I mean, they sit and listen once or twice a week and go home until the next meeting. You ask me, "Is the level of participation higher in the house church?" - YES! In fact, if there was no participation we'd all sit and stare at each other in silence week to week. It wouldn't work. And beyond the participatory nature of our gatherings, we have "deputized" each and every member of the house church to "be the church" and that means loving their actual neighbors, making disciples, leading others to understand God's Word, take the Gospel to their workplace, etc.

HOW DO I ACCOUNT FOR HISTORICAL CHRISTIANS WHO WERE ADVOCATES OF ORGANIZED CHURCH?The short answer is that they were products of their environment and I understand this because for most of my spiritual journey I was in the same boat as they were.I'm not saying I'm better than them because of this. The truth is there are certain areas of faith where Luther and St. Francis were giants and other areas where they were very small and just plain wrong.

Where Luther was right about indulgences he was wrong about the Jews. Where Mother Teresa was right about the poor, she was wrong about praying to dead people. Where Calvin was right about the depravity of man's soul, he was wrong about man's inability to "want" to do good.

Perhaps I need to write another article more explicitly about the kind of leadership that we see in the NT and how it looks nothing like what we see in pulpits around the World today?

Wait for it...


Monday, October 06, 2008


The first House Church 101 class was actually pretty awesome. We only had one couple show up with their son (Drew, Stefani, & Jake) and Larry and Kelly from the Mission were there to help me answer questions too.

Drew and his wife are in the same boat as the rest of us, "cut from the same cloth" as Drew expressed it and we had a great time answering questions, getting to know them and encouraging them in their journey into house church.

Drew even came to observe house church yesterday morning and even joined us last night for our Mission Men's night where we had some very, very encouraging and stimulating conversations from 6pm to 9:30pm.

I've invited their family to come back again any time, and for as long as they want to come and join us. I had suggested they visit other local house churches such as The Well and maybe a few other house church groups just to get a flavor for what house church is and/or can be and they want to try that too.

This Sunday morning was also my first opportunity to sit at the back of the room and allow our house church to operate without my guidance. I actually stepped out of the room during the last worship song yesterday and sat in our TV room so that when the song ended no one would look at me and wait for me to lead us in communion or direct them towards share time, etc.

Everyone adjusted wonderfully and great conversations were started without my involvement. For me, the most wonderful part of the day was when one of our little ones spoke up and encouraged her Mom with a word of wisdom and encouragement that could only have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was seriously awesome.

As for me, I can honestly say that the experience this weekend of leading this first House Church 101 class, and the subsequent dialog with Drew and the Men of the Mission last night, have really helped me quite a lot in my thoughts regarding the development of our house church.

Some of these things are hard to put into words, but mainly I'm feeling permission to let go of the church and to really give it away to everyone else. I have no anxiety anymore about how big we are or how big we might get or who comes or who doesn't or even if we'll still all be together as The Mission a year from now.

I suppose one thing that really struck me over this weekend was the idea that The Mission really is God's project and if God wants to scatter us in six months to go and accomplish different things for the Kingdom, or gather with others around some other coffee table somewhere, that's really ok with me. I guess I've really let go of everything and have finally surrendered my vision and my dreams for this thing to God.

Honestly, I have to believe that if we did break apart in a few months, most of us (maybe not all) would simply not be content to return to the pew. So eventually I think all of us would find ourselves in someone's living room somewhere with someone again no matter what.

I am not building an empire and my success doesn't depend upon The Mission being a success in anyone's eyes but God's. If it is God's will for us to stay together and start a second group, then we will, and if it's God's will that we scatter and share what we've learned with others, then we will. It's not my job to hold anything together or to push anything apart. I only have to be faithful to what God has called me to do and allow God to do the rest.

So, I suppose I have successfully separated my self-worth and identify from The Mission and I have truly, finally, surrendered this church to its rightful owner (God).

I feel a sincere freedom in my spirit over this.

Initially I was concerned that these House Church 101 classes could be problematic for us since The Mission is already too large (27 people) and I didn't want these classes to turn into a way to funnel even more new families into the Mission.

Now I've changed my mind. I want to invite as many people as possible. I want to swing wide the doors and encourage the rest of our house church to bring their friends and invite their unsaved neighbors, etc. because if we explode into a house church of 47, or 57, that's ok with me. It might even help us to reach a true "critical mass" and multiply even more groups out of simple practicality and to make room for all the new friends who are discovering house church and learning to "be the Church" this way.

More later...


Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Biblical Perspective on the Bailout Plan

Found this today over at J.R. Miller's blog "More Than Cake" and it blessed me. Had to share it here with all of you too.

A Parable of the American Kingdom by J.R. Miller

Jesus, the undocumented worker, returned home to Mexico from living in America. His family said to him, "Jesus, why have you returned home from America?"

"It is difficult to understand" he said, "So let me tell you a story."

"The kingdom of America may be compared to a Government who wished to settle accounts with a Mortgage Lender.

When the Government had begun to settle accounts, one Mortgage Lender, which owed 700Billion dollars, was brought to account. But since the Mortgage Lender did not have the means to pay his bad debts, the Government simply printed up more money and gave it to the Mortgage Lender so he would not be ruined.

Later, that same Mortgage Lender, now bailed out from his 700 Billion in bad debts, went out and found a homeowner who owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Mortgage Lender seized the homeowner and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So the homeowner fell to the ground and began to plead with the Mortgage Lender, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But the Mortgage Lender wanted his money and he took the homeowner's property and forced him into bankruptcy.

So when his fellow homeowners saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their Government all that had happened.

Then summoning the Mortgage Lender, the Government said to him, 'You wicked Mortgage Lender, I gave you 700 Billion to pay all your bad debt, should you not also have had mercy on the homeowners, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And the Mortgage Lender contributed many thousands of dollars into the coffers of the Government and contributed to the campaign funds of the many politicians and the Government was happy.

The homeowners were grieved, but still they elected the same leaders again and again..."


House Church 101 Class - This Saturday

This Saturday I'll be leading our very first "House Church 101" class for people interested in learning more about house church and how to start one.

Find out more about this FREE class

I've been advertising the class in three different ways:

1) Flyers at local Christian bookstores
2) Guerilla marketing by slipping bookmarks into copies of "Pagan Christianity" and "Re-imagining Church" and "Un-Christian" at local Barnes and Nobles/Borders.
3) Word of Mouth.

I suppose a fourth method to get the word out has been the internet itself and Google's search services. So far the people signed up for this Saturday's class seem to have found out about by searching for "House Churches in Orange County".