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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some thoughts on communicating the truths of simple, organic church

            How do we lovingly challenge, or at least inform, our brothers and sisters in Christ, with regard to the group of truths upon which this development (I am avoiding the word “movement” in that there, as I see it, some problems with the term) of faith called “simple/organic church” is based?

            I say this in that while there are a couple of persons who, in my opinion, have communicated at a forefront level who live in my area, I still perceive that most believers in Jesus that I know have not dealt with this group of teachings (a. church as people, not organization, b. generosity, not tithe, c. Jesus as actual Head of the Church, not ritual or professional human leadership, d. giving to help the poor and pioneer missionary activity as primary beneficiaries of the generosity, e. leadership by gifting, not training or accreditation, etc.) because of their being unaware of the teachings’ existence.

            The blunt truth is that, if they were aware, which they may not be, there is a problem with the fact that these teachings are counter to the financial interest of a large number of persons—not just those on the staffs of traditional, corporation-based churches, but also Christian bookstores and Christian radio and TV.  These teachings are not being overtly suppressed by these groups, but some less assured of their incomes might wish such if they were aware of the teachings’ existence.  Among non-professionals, because of being unaware, many have yet to either accept or reject these teachings, although if past history foretells future trends, some will reject because they are not, in the early awareness, status quo, or that they threaten persons who are their hearts are genuinely knit to.   Also, when more persons become aware of these teachings, these groups could not suppress them if they tried, similar to what we saw in the previous century on the subject of spiritual gifts.  To clarify, if a greater amount of believers give first to helping the poor and pioneer missionary activity, as opposed to traditional corporate church budgets, it would be of detrimental effect to Christian bookstores, which I perceive are more and more dependent on sales of light reading Christian books (as opposed to books that examine theology or thoughtful topics) and the various pop culture trappings sometimes derisively referred to as “Jesus Junk.”  As for radio and TV, they almost all depend either on playing music, which is given them by record companies in that the music is an implicit commercial for record sales, or programs, which are paid for from the budgets of traditional church organizations, which pay for themselves either by attracting new persons to the church, or at least giving pastors a greater awareness of their work among fellow ministers.  None of the above fits into the simple church paradigm for the same reason it didn’t fit into Jesus’ plan, which then became the apostles’ plan for guiding others in faith. 

            A few months ago, I thought that I needed to move to another city on the opposite side of the country.  Thanks to the internet, I could see that, if I had moved there, I could not find anyone involved in simple church for a two hour drive (this is somewhat stretched due to the city I was looking at being in the desert).  I also recognize that that does not mean that there is not, just that no one had joined www.simplechurch.com which, as far as I can find, is the best location for finding others in other areas at this time, I think. 

            One of the difficulties in communicating any message in U.S. culture is, because we have a freedom of speech with relatively minor limitations, we are overrun with messages.  I can look back on my life and see that I came fairly close to contacting the issue of simple church about ten years before I did.  I took a correspondence course from a Christian grad school that had a Chinese studies program.  Now, at that time, I got that the church had grown greatly in China during the Mao years in spite of governmental opposition, and that would be a reason worth studying what happened, but, as I only took a couple of basic courses on a correspondence basis, I missed out on the informal interaction that happens on a campus that would have informed be that part of the importance in the phenomenon was how governmental opposition forced the church to follow the early church’s structure, at least until a slight amount of easing allowed Western organizations to rush in and “help.”

            About two weeks ago, I was involved in a group discussion with a number of persons involved in simple church in my metro area.  One of them was an institutional pastor, has been involved in pioneer missionary work, specializing in working in Muslim cultures.  At this time, he can only be involved part time due to fund raising issues.  I respect him as a leader.  One thing he pointed out was that, in his position of desiring to align finances so that his family can work in full time missionary endeavors, he is not in the best position in our culture to speak about finances among certain groups.  To hold the position of the New Testament that only apostles/pioneer missionaries are to be supported in a culture where most believers consider it unthinkingly normal for local leaders to be paid is to say, implicitly, from his point of speaking, “I should be paid, most of the people you know who are paid shouldn’t” (my made up quotation, not a sentence he actually said).  Therefore, for myself, as a person who probably wouldn’t be allowed into many countries if I tried due to health issues, it is more than my role to emphasize that those of our mature brothers and sisters in Jesus who have it on their hearts to go to the 28% of the world’s population that doesn’t get to hear the message of Jesus should be supported to do that, and are, according to scripture, a higher priority for our generosity than any other project except helping the poor, and many of the areas they wish to go to can also fall into that other priority also. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Random thoughts for this day

            A few random thoughts:

            Yesterday, the news story about the exotic animal person who let lions and tigers loose in Zanesville, OH and then committed suicide touched my family, slightly.  My wife and I used to go to the exotic animal auction in Delphos, OH, and when the picture of the man showed up, my wife recognized the face. As soon as I saw the name of a town in OH, I thought, we’ve almost assuredly been at the same place at the same time.  I, though, have to agree with the majority of persons, that some animals, like tigers and lions, just don’t belong on farms.  It also reminds me of a situation about a decade ago, where I was driving on I-95 near Daytona Beach, and a VW passed us, and it crossed my mind that the person in the VW looked like someone I saw on America’s Most Wanted.  Strangely, I watched AMW the next Saturday, and they announced that the person I was thinking of was captured in Daytona Beach.  Sometimes things don’t click in our heads until later.

            I just had ESPN’s First Take on, where Rob Parker of ESPN New York and Skip Bayless were speaking about something outrageous said by Bryant Gumble, comparing NBA commissioner David Stern to a plantation owner’s mentality.  There’s something outrageous in even obliquely comparing NBA millionaire players to the horror of the U.S. slavery experience.  Nonetheless, Parker and Bayless discussing racial problems and history (and they have done this a number of times when sports has been only a background to the topic) is so much more practical than what our society has been feed from politicians and professors, that the latter two groups suffer in comparison.

            I worked on attempting to get the five minute commentaries onto CD yesterday.  I am amazed on how my near-legacy computer gives me little trouble with this blog, and makes me tear my hair out with virtually every other function.  In my mind, if I cannot afford to get these commentaries onto radio, maybe I can produce CDs for appropriate handouts; at 50 cents a blank CD, maybe I can afford that. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A short comment on giving by a person without a current conflict of interest

A few days ago, I was part of a group conversation of a number of persons involved in simple churches.  One, who has in the past been an institutional church pastor, and is now involved in missionary work, pointed out how the messenger does have an effect on the message.  From his training and background, he knows how to present a financial need to a crowd to get a response, but for him, as a matter of honoring Jesus in purity, he would not do so any longer.  Further, it is one thing for him to speak to others involved in simple church on how the early church only spent money on helping the poor and to support those who would go and communicate the message of Jesus where it has not been heard, but as a person prepared to be one of those itinerant missionaries, his saying the same thing still can come across as his having a financial interest in the process, particularly among those believers who have not fully come to understand why the traditional way of raising money in the church really doesn’t have a scriptural basis, when those scriptures referring to this issue are understood in proper cultural context.

            I believe, therefore, as a person who is not in a position to go to another portion of the world to communicate the message of Jesus’ gift to mankind by geographical movement, at this time, I should reiterate that message.  We, the believers in Jesus, the true church, have not been directed by God to do a lot of things we have been told are things we should financially support, although I believe that, in a sense, we are free to still support those things, at least until the Spirit speaks to one about it.  The directive of scripture is clearly, though, to support our brothers and sisters in Jesus who desire to physically go to the geographical areas in which the 28% of the world’s population which has not heard God’s message before all the other good things we can imagine which scripture has not directed us to financially support. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2155--Housechurch in the USA

2155—Housechurch in the USA

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today, I quote from the writings of Steven S. Lyzenga: George Barna has been described as the most widely quoted Christian leader in America because of the credibility and sound methodology behind his polling. In his book Revolution, he outlined survey results showing that the number of American Christians who see a traditionally structured church as the primary means for expressing their faith is declining rapidly. There is a corresponding large increase in the number of people who see their faith as being primarily expressed through, what Barna described as, “alternative forms of faith-based community,” in which he includes simple/house churches, home schooling associations, marketplace ministries.

With this trend so compelling, Barna estimated that by 2025 participation in

traditional local churches, alternative faith-based communities, and media/arts/culture

based ministries will be about equal.

            Reggie McNeal, Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, alleged:

A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason.

They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to

preserve their faith. They contend that the church no longer contributes to their

spiritual development.

Another Barna study found that 9% of American adults, approximately 20

million, attend a house church in any given week, which has grown from 1% in the last

decade. The study estimates that more than 70 million adults have at least experimented

with house church, and 20% attend at least once per month. Among those who attend

church of some type, 5% attend a house church only, and 19% attend both a traditional

church and a house church.

Simple church is emerging in the USA to such an extent that Barna has claimed it has now reached “critical mass.” He defined critical mass as when an institution reaches 15%

market penetration, and has evidenced a consistent or growing level of affirmation for at

least six years, that entity shifts from fad to trend status; and at that point, it becomes a

permanent fixture in our society. Along these lines, Barna projected:

We anticipate house church attendance during any given week to double in the

coming decade, and a growing proportion of house church attenders to adopt the

house church as their primary faith community. That continued growth and public

awareness will firmly establish the house church as a significant means of faith

experience and expression among Americans.180

 …(T)he (simple church) paradigm has existed throughout all Church history, from Jesus’ day to our day. In fact, it is still the prevailing wineskin in many areas of the world. In the USA however, the (simple church) concept is still in its infancy, even though as Barna statistics demonstrate and the other authors substantiate, simple churches are steadily emerging.

Roger Thoman, on his blog SimpleChurch Journal, stressed the importance of

moving past the traditional (institutional church) lens in defining the church, “Our first challenge in grasping what God intends church to be, is to stop looking at it through the lens of our background and through the lens of 2,000 years of ‘church’ as a formal institution.”

He described characteristics of those who participate in simple church as those who:

1. Are loose-knit: not informal membership, just a love-commitment to God

and each other,

2. Are Jesus followers: the basic requirement for membership in the church,

3. Gather together: to build one another up and to worship,

4. Go out: the purpose of believers… to GO with the message,

5. Are moved by the Holy Spirit: the one and only LEADER of the church,

6. Share and demonstrate the gospel: The reason that the church GOES.
DAWN, a worldwide “saturation” church-planting ministry also included the term “organic” in their definition of simple church:

The house church is a structure that reflects the core nature of the church… It is a

spiritual, enlarged, organic family… It is inherently participatory and not

consumer-provider driven. Its responsibility structure is also very simple and

effective: individual house churches are fathered by elders, who in turn are

equipped by itinerant servants like those in the fivefold ministry (see Eph. 4:11-

13)… The church is the people of God. The church, therefore, was and is at home

where people are at home: in ordinary houses. 

Wolfgang Simson summarized it distinctly, “I believe that God has blessed the world through the existing church structures, and is still doing countless miracles of transforming people’s lives, and doing good in ways too numerous to mention. But the church should never settle for less than it has been made for.” 
                    You can contact me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or at 757-735-xxxx.
A transcript of what I said today is on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, as the entry of October 13, 2011.  For more information on simple, organic church in this area, visit www.hrscn.org.

     Except for the introduction and last paragraph, the text is composed of quotations appearing in Steven S. Lyzenga, ASSESSING THE STATE OF SIMPLE CHURCHES IN THE USA  REGARDING RELEASING RESOURCES TOWARD FINISHING THE GREAT COMMISSION, p. 79, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 92 where original quotations are footnoted.  That writing can be accessed at http://house2harvest.org/docs/Simple_Churches_Releasing_Resources_S_Lyzenga.pdf .

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2158--Rutz' 4 models, 30 dichotomies

2158—30 differences between IC and SC

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  In Jim Rutz’ book, Megashift, Rutz describes our American, business modeled institutional churches, the most numerically successful our society has begun to call megachurches, as a blend of four Western iconic models.  

The first icon is Harvard, where the professor is a preacher, the lectern is a pulpit, and the students are parishioners. Trouble is, they can sit and take notes for forty

years, but they'll never graduate, never get a degree, and never ever

become professors themselves.

The second is Hollywood, with its stage, entertainers, polished performances, costumed

singers, applauding audiences, etc. All the church needs is popcorn.

The third is IBM, where a board of directors runs everything from the top down,

where permission to do things is denied or granted by the CEO and committees, where finances are the overriding factor behind policies, and where the institution competes with other churches for market share.

The fourth is Wal-Mart, whose aisles and aisles of tempting merchandise offer

something for everybody. Seeker-sensitive mega-churches, with their

array of 100 and more programs, mirror beautifully the “consumer heaven” ideal of

Wal-Mart. 

A common attribute that flows from modeling church like a combination of

Harvard, Hollywood, IBM, and Wal-Mart is that it is consumer driven. Just as a business

cannot survive without market consumers, neither can a business structured institutional church survive without spiritual consumers. Although a business is “for-profit” and an institutional church is “non-profit,” both are similar in that their economies are built on and sustained by consumerism.

            From this, Rutz later lists 30 dichotomies between the Western traditional church and “open church” the phrase he uses for simple church.  Those are:

  1. traditional church—5% of the people participate, open—100% open worship, sharing, and ministry.
  2. Traditional—meetings are programmed; open—meetings are open, spontaneous
  3. Traditional—meets in a special building, most people sit in rows; open—meets in homes, offices, dorms, whatever
  4. Traditional—format is boring (his word, not mine); open—every meeting different
  5. Traditional—pastor centered; open—Christ-centered, Spirit-driven
  6. Traditional—clergy and laity divided; open—all the people are united
  7. Traditional—based on tradition; open—based on Scripture
  8. Traditional—emasculating from ministry; open—empowering for ever-wider ministry
  9. Traditional—2/3 women; open—slightly more men than women
  10.  Traditional—most decisions by decree; open—most decisions by consensus
  11.   Traditional—led by one pastor or board; open—led by elders
  12.  Traditional—people are passive; open—people are proactive
  13. Traditional—people are controlled; open—people are free (to follow the Spirit)
  14. Traditional—inquirers must visit church; open—members go to outsiders
  15. Traditional—expensive; open—inexpensive
  16. Traditional—emphasis is on a large meeting; open—emphasis is on small groups
  17. Traditional—denominational oversight; open—apostolic oversight
  18. Traditional—building is a private empire; open—building the Kingdom
  19. Traditional—doctrine is a flag and battle cry; open—doctrine is an anchor and foundation
  20. Traditional—structure fosters isolation, loneliness; open—structure fosters teamwork and closeness
  21. Traditional—Jesus is the guest of honor; open—Jesus is the host and emcee
  22. Traditional—hidden sin often lingers; open—a community of righteousness
  23. Traditional—self-image of the people are as sinners; open—self-image is of the believers as saints
  24. Traditional—the goal is perseverance and stability; open—goal is overcoming and victory
  25. Traditional—spiritual immaturity is normal, spiritual growth plateaus; open—spiritual maturity and growth is consistently stimulated
  26. Traditional—leadership limits expansion; open—leaders are created continuously to promote expansion
  27. Traditional—churches are isolated and weak; open—encourages area teamwork and city elders who know and encourage each other
  28. Traditional—fossilizes over time; open—always reforming, learning, and growing
  29. Traditional—institutional hierarchy; open—family-type relationships
  30. Traditional—your presence is irrelevant; open—you are needed, loved, and important

You can contact me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or at 757-735-xxxx. A transcript of this commentary is posted at tevyebird.blogspot.com, as the entry for October 12, 2011. You can find out more about simple church in this area at www.hrscn.org.

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Ideas quoted are from Jim Rutz, Megashift, p. 111, 115.

 Much of the exact wording of the first part of this commentary is from Steven S. Lyzenga, ASSESSING THE STATE OF SIMPLE CHURCHES IN THE USA  REGARDING RELEASING RESOURCES TOWARD FINISHING THE GREAT COMMISSION, p. 68, 103-104, which can be accessed at http://house2harvest.org/docs/Simple_Churches_Releasing_Resources_S_Lyzenga.pdf.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

1007--the minimum for church

On the night of September 28, I was laying in bed, and it came to me that the scriptures below, albeit that they are all short, together present a solid explanation of this concept, and would fit into a one minute time frame.  It is really difficult to say anything reasonable in only one minute, which may be why commercials almost never say anything logical.
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1007—the minimum for church

            This is Simple Church Minute.  In Matthew 18 verse 20, Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”  Colossians 1 verse 18 says, “And He is the head of the body, the church.  Ephesians 5 verse 22 also does.  First Corinthians 12 verse 12 says, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” The most basic definition of the church is two or three with Jesus to lead.  Nothing was said about buildings or corporations.  First Thessalonians 5 verse 11 tells us to comfort and edify one another.  Nothing was said about one person doing all the edifying.  Acts 2 verses 42 to 47 tell us about caring for each other and the poor.  Look those up—I did not quote any of those out of the context the early church knew, but seems out of context for the society we live in.    For more info on being church without human structure, visit ww.hrscn.org.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Where my heart is today about these writings

            By today, I have 41 five minute commentaries recorded, but have less idea than ever on how to get them broadcast on a radio station, as I have no extra money to do it with.  This is in part due to having been unable to obtain stable work over the past nearly three years. 

            How do we have such a huge amount of Christian radio programming?  First, almost all is connected with some institutional church, or someone who at one point got their springboard via the institutional church.  As some of these commentaries have mentioned, institutional churches lean on people to give money, and mainly use it on themselves.  Admittedly, the people inside see it as ministry and the Lord’s work, but buildings and payroll were not commanded in scripture.  Very honestly, even for small churches, the amount of money needed to do a radio program is small, and oftentimes, all it takes is a recording device for the speaker’s voice, and some editing work done after the end of the message, to stick the intro on the front, and trailer on the end, and then edit the rest into the time frame.  Let us say a program done once a week costs $100 per program.  Over a year, it is about $5000.  Currently, we are told average family income is $50,000 per year.  If one family is new to an area, or decides for whatever reason to switch churches, and gives 10%, given that most institutional churches teach tithing, just one family pays for a year of the program.  If they give the more typical 2.5% (while spoken against, this is the real average), either that one family will cover that program in four years, or four families in one year.  Now, if the program is not sufficiently impressive to draw any people to a church, the pastor can still claim to other pastors that they have a “radio ministry” even if they never see any sign of anyone listening, and can even embellish that to an “evangelistic ministry,” even if this program is buried on one of these all day sermon stations that even most believers don’t listen to.  Let’s face it, in my area, there are three Christian stations that are mainly contemporary music, and those get almost all the listenership.  Those Christian stations playing music that would fit World War II and previous, or do all programs, get minimal amount of listeners, and stay on the air selling program time, and speak about their “potential listenership,” as their Arbitron rating would be 0.1 at a good time.

            My goal would be to be in the middle of music programming.  I know one station which offers a five minute block (I’m in no position to name names).  At another, I believe I need to cut these down to one minute segments, somehow.  Also, I would not be surprised if these commentaries might be ruled “too hot to handle,” but that’s for later.  I am thinking about producing these to an mp3 and giving these out in strategic places, such as to Christian high school or college students, or other sympathetic individuals.

            To that effect, I am currently re-editing these commentaries to put the local website tag (www.hrscn.org) as the last word of the commentary, so it could be deleted for another city’s website, phone, or other contact info.  This is also, in part, because technologically challenged me just figured out how to do it.  Also, I have been working on putting more footnotes at the end of the commentaries.

            All this should logically bring up a question—if, in these commentaries, I state that the early church gave money to helping the poor and sending out apostles to those areas that had not heard the message of Jesus, where does coming up with money for these programs fit in?  Obviously, it does not, unless a person’s heart is to give more to educate already believers on these issues that, for the most part, are not being spoken of in most places.  My heart is there, my income is not, and it would not take much.  My eye is out for a like-hearted person.  My prayer is to be allowed to teach one fellow believer more correctly, and then another, and…

Friday, October 7, 2011

2054--communion

This is another five minute (speaking time) expansion of the two minute commentary I posted in December, 2010, which was #54 on communion.

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2054—communion

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Almost all of us are familiar with the fact that the word communion has two very different meanings.  One is a title for a ceremony within Christian churches, others of which call the ceremony the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist.  The other, more secular meaning, is a synonym for fellowship. One interesting comparison of these two definitions is that the ritualistic ceremony usually is done with everyone standing quietly while one person stands in front of everyone and officiates, usually reading from First Corinthians chapter 11.  I suppose one could argue that one is in some spiritual way communing or fellowshipping with God, but, can we get that from what the Bible and what we know of the culture it reports about?

            When Jesus introduced what we call communion, He and the disciples were celebrating Passover. Passover was a meal that featured roast lamb, bitter herbs, apples, nuts, cinnamon, roasted egg, parsley or celery with salt water, 3 unleavened breads and 4 cups of wine. Each of these foods were symbolic of the experience of the Old Covenant chosen people, whose physical experiences were, in turn, symbolic of the new, better, covenant that Jesus was about to establish with His fulfilling of the first one in the next few days to follow.  What Jesus said coordinated with the part of the Passover where one ate the matzoh and drank the third cup of wine.  This was a real meal, and what Jesus said tied the food and fellowship with His imminent death.  The early church recognized it as such.  We need to remember that First Corinthians 11 would not be written for decades, and that book’s writer, Paul, was still a period of time away from becoming a believer.  The communion or fellowship is not just with commemorating what Jesus did for us, but the believers in the early church experienced fellowship with other believers in the course of sharing a simple meal.  It was in a home.  It wasn’t officiated by some religious professionals, because there were no religious professionals.  Most of the early believers were poor, and gave of each other to each other, as they realized that God had brought them, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, into a new creation.  They were the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as much as they ate physical food, the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit guiding each other to build up each other was spiritual food.  The idea that the braking of bread in Acts chapter 2 verse 42, the Love Feast spoken of in Jude 1 verse 12, and communion were separate things developed far later in history, not by the early believers.

            Paul’s directions in First Corinthians chapter 11 verse 27 may have had to do with normal spiritual immaturity, some eating too much before poorer believers got off work to join the others, maybe some were drinking too much, and maybe some unbelievers were party crashing for free food—it is impossible to tell by now.  One thing for sure is that it wasn’t what it became after the Roman Empire legalized Christianity, took the meetings of believers out of homes and formalized them in temples, appointed a caste of religious professionals, who then decreed that they had to oversee a ritual, and later had it made illegal to celebrate the ritual without their oversight, with mystical explanations attached to it all.  Communion came not to be a meal, then later an offering, and then later still a symbolic sacrifice, the opposite of Jesus being the final sacrifice for sin.  The Reformation rejected the mysticism, but the “meal” became a small piece of bread and a thimbleful of juice, to be taken with a serious attitude after examining oneself for sin, with nothing that looks like fellowship or friendship taking place.  In traditional churches today in our culture, the church picnic comes closer to the original application of Jesus’ words as practiced by the early church.

  You can contact me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or by phone at 757-735-xxxx.  If you would wish to go over what I just said at your own pace, I have posted a transcript of this, with footnotes, on my blog, tevyebird (spelled t e v y e b i r d).blogspot.com, at the entry date of October 7, 2011. For more information about simple church worldwide, visit www.simplechurch.com.   For more information on organic church, visit www.hrscn.org.
            What I have written is based on chapter nine of George Barna and Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, which, in turn, has copious footnotes on the history of the evolution of this practice.  The background of Passover I harvested from a variety of sources, with apologies to anyone who feels I overgeneralized my description of the foods, as that was a peripheral point within this commentary.

2154--discipleship is relationship not class

2154—discipleship is a relationship not a class

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.   In preparing for these commentaries, I have wound up doing a lot of reading of writings that leaders in our churches read, which all too often is totally different from that which those not in leadership positions read.  That is one more of the features that in our traditional church structure separate clergy and laity castes, and a feature of our modern society that makes some leaders uncomfortable, that everyday believers can lay their hands on the writings directed at leadership only.  As I’ve said previously, the original words from which both laity and clergy came from originally meant all believers.  With that said, today, I again quote from Steven S. Lyzenga’s writing, today on the subject of:

discipleship is a relationship, not a class:

If you really want to see people grow, place them into real-life ministry situations

where they must feed the poor, deliver the demonized, pray with the distraught

and actually hear from the Holy Spirit about what to do next. Then let them

“decompress” in a small-group community (strangely resembling a house church)

where they can share their stories, get answers to real questions (rather than

classroom questions) and build community with like-minded believers who share

their “battle scars.” Trust me. Growth will be no problem!

The most effective way to grow disciples of Jesus Christ according to (Maurice) Smith is

meeting the spiritually sick where they are at, in real-life ministry situations where real life happens. Followed by decompressing in an environment where they can share their

stories and real-life lessons in a small community of like-minded believers “resembling a

house church.” This in essence describes the simple church discipleship methodology;

and not coincidently, looks much like Jesus and Paul’s discipleship methodology.

The small community of like-minded believers (i.e. a simple church environment)

is also imperative to produce effective disciple-making missionaries. After all, one

reproduces oneself in like kind. If one’s only church experience is institutional church,

this is what one will tend to reproduce on the mission field. An anonymous experienced

missionary named Camel, trained in the Southern Baptist Church Planting Movement

(CPM) model and blogged about the downside of his institutional church experience on

his mission field experience. According to Camel, whereas his missions’ organization

spent tons of money, time, and energy researching, documenting and teaching a “simple

church” approach to mission work, they we’re seeing very few CPM’s actually taking

place. Attempting to get at the root of the problem, Camel discovered that you can’t

create, model, and coach something into place that you’ve never experienced (i.e. you

can’t create, model, and coach a simple church approach on the mission field if you’ve

only experienced an institutional church approach back home).

Camel analyzed the two main elements of a CPM and why missionaries with an

institutional church background often fail at it, (1) Meeting in homes:

How many of us attend small groups in the USA as our sole and primary form of

church? We do Sunday school, have big choirs, massive budgets, impersonal

services, shallow interactions, staff to do all of the dirty work and then we come

overseas and try to plant small groups that meet in homes. We don’t understand it

because we’ve never experienced it.

(2) One-on-one discipleship:

In a recent team meeting of around 25 people we were asked to describe a

time when we were discipled. The room was full of people with vast church

experience, seminary degrees and ton of training and yet there were only two

responses. Why? Because in the SBC we usually interpret the Great Commission

as a call to go and tell ... not a call to share life, the good and bad with those

around us in order to help others be disciples. If we’re not being discipled by our

leaders, then how can we expect to know how to do it with new believers?170

Camel’s story can be repeated many times over by those who attempt to take (institutional church) discipleship methods to the mission field, especially (in unreached people group areas). In contrast, the (simple church) value of meeting in small disciple-making environments seems to be much more conducive to releasing effective disciple-making laborers toward making disciples of all nations.

           

            You can contact me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com, or I can be reached at 757-735-xxxx.  On my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, I have a link to this writing in its entirely, as it is posted on the web.  My blog post connected to this blip is October 6, 2011.  You can find out more about people involved in world missions at www.house2house.org, and you can find out more about simple churches in this area at www.hrscn.org. 



            This is from pages 81 through 82 of Steven S. Lyzenga’s dissertation, ASSESSING THE STATE OF SIMPLE CHURCHES IN THE USA REGARDING RELEASING RESOURCES TOWARD FINISHING THE GREAT COMMISSION, which can be seen at

There you will find further footnotes as

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2152--Information about evangelism--Lyzenga

2152—Information about evangelism

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today, some statistics, out of the work of Steven S. Lyzenga that I have quoted in previous blips, which should be food for thought:

Don Richardson, the famous missionary author of the book Eternity in Their

Hearts, observed that one of the biggest problems in the Church today is its penchant to

focus on micro themes in the Bible, themes that “offer worms-eye views of brief passages

of scripture,” instead of macro themes that “offer eagles-eye views of major Bible

themes.”34 He went on to say that there are really only two macro themes in the Bible,

both taken from God’s mandate to Abram in Genesis 12:2-335: (1) we are blessed (the top

line), (2) to be a blessing (the bottom line). This theme is so prevalent in Scripture that

there are 395 passages in the Bible where these two tracks are abridged...36

Not coincidently, God’s promise to bless Abram was preceded by a command.

Genesis 12:1 states, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and

go to the land I will show you.” God’s command to Abram was to “leave…and go…”

Incidentally, “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…” (Gen 12:4). Hence, God’s

promise to bless Abram (top line) that he might be a blessing to the nations (bottom line)

was predicated on His command to “go.”

Jesus, in His last two recorded commands, followed the same pattern. His promise

to the disciples: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (top line: blessing)

was so they would “make disciples of all nations…baptizing…and teaching…” (bottom

line: to be a blessing), but it was predicated on His command to “go” (Mt 28:19,20).

Following this commission, Jesus’ last commission also followed the same pattern: “But

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (top line: blessing), and you

will be my witnesses (bottom line: to be a blessing) in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and

Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (“go”) (Acts 1:8).



Missionary John Mott said, “If it is a good thing to go where we’re needed, it is more Christ-like to go where we’re needed most.

Whereas there are multiple “something’s” that work

against the mission of the Church, there is a culprit that fights largely against the equality

of resources needed to send workers to UPGs. … that culprit is bulky Institutional Church (IC) operating expenses.

Sadly, the current benchmark for Western IC giving to reach UPGs is 0.02% of

their overall budget. Conversely, this 0.02% benchmark has the potential to be shattered

to the upside by millions of Western believers operating from “small, simple, easily

reproducible churches.”





Consider the allocation of missionaries to foreign fields: 96% work among already existing churches, whereas only 4% work where no church exists!14 Along these imbalanced lines, 40% of the Church’s foreign mission resources in North America are being deployed to just 10 oversaturated countries, which already possess strong citizen-run home ministries.15Nearly 97% of the total income of all Christian organizations was spent on Christians themselves. Whereas $261 billion was spent on ministering to Christians, only $7.8 billion was spent on already-evangelized non-Christians,16 and even more alarming, only $52 million was spent on reaching the 1.9 billion unreached peoples – a mere 0.2% of what Christians spend on themselves!17



The total income of Christians in the USA is $5.2 trillion annually,

nearly half of the world’s total Christian income.39 Out of this, the evangelical annual

share of income in the year 2000 was 2.66 trillion.40 And out of this, evangelicals had

$850 billion annually in disposable income.41

To put this amount of wealth in perspective in the context of the GC, the Southern

Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board estimated that only $650 million was

needed to complete the task of global evangelization.



In view of this, where is all the wealth

going that instead could be used to enable GC workers? As the following statistics bear

out, much of it is going towards Church bureaucracy:

When asked “What would you do with an unexpected financial windfall?”

thirty-one percent of Protestant pastors said they would build, expand or

update their church buildings and facilities. Seven percent said they would

give more to foreign missions and evangelism.44

A 2004 survey of 34 denominations showed that the average amount of total

denominational budgets earmarked for overseas missions was 2%.45



Annual church embezzlements by top custodians exceed the entire cost of all

foreign missions worldwide. Emboldened by lax procedures, trusted church

treasurers are embezzling from the Church $5,500,000 per day. That’s

$16,000,000,000 per year!46

85% of all church activity and funds are directed toward the internal

operations of the congregation, such as staff salaries, building payments,

utility and operating expenses.48

50% of the average church’s budget goes to staff and personnel salaries;

whereas missions/evangelism accounts for only 5%.49

            I should state that writing I am quoting is dated April, 2009, but I know of no reason to believe that the statistics connected to church corporations has changed significantly. 

            You can contact me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com or 757-735-xxxx. My blog is tevyebird.blogspot.com, and a transcript of today’s talk will be posted to the date October 5, 2011.  For more information about simple church in this area, visit www.hrscn.org.

==============================================================

            From pages 5 through 19 of Steven S. Lyzenga’s dissertation, ASSESSING THE STATE OF SIMPLE CHURCHES IN THE USA REGARDING RELEASING RESOURCES TOWARD FINISHING THE GREAT COMMISSION, which can be seen at

In honor of Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and Steve Jobs

            I wrote one of the Simple Church Minute commentaries on work, and I was significantly more negative than anyone I know.  I did not do so for shock value, but because I have been at way too many employers for one person and lifetime, and found most to be ethically wanting.  I believe that that is somewhat a function of the times, in that much of our society’s businesses desire to walk as close to the edge of being unethical, if not illegal, as they can.  I don’t feel that was the case when my working career started.

            I am now 58, and my legs don’t work that good anymore.  I have been attempting to find solid work for nearly three years.  Three days ago, I started a new job; today, I had to admit that the amount of pain in my legs from just standing up was more than I could stand.  It was at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers.  I can say that, at least at the store I was at, during this short time I did not hear a negative word about the job and employer, nor did I pick up the slightest thing I perceived to be ethically questionable.  Yes, this is a premium product store, i.e. nothing in it is the lowest price in town, but, on the other hand, it is aimed at the market of businessmen.  It is such a rare thing, I had to mention it.  Yes, I know that my short experience could be contradicted by just one manager in some city that I don’t know even exists, but my experience, I perceive, is more likely the rule than the exception. 

            With that goes the news I just heard a few minutes ago of the passing of Steve Jobs.  One of the things about getting older is hearing more and more often, of famous persons, ones who have done positive things for society, passing away who are younger than oneself.  Now I fully well know that it wasn’t just that he tried hard, he was an exceptionally brilliant mind, who, additionally, was in the right part of world society at just the right time for the exact type of brilliance he was either best at or was most developed in him.  I guess that comes from reading an article a few weeks ago which mentioned that his father was of Syrian ancestry.  The opportunity he had probably wouldn’t have happened if an ancestor decided to stay in that country instead of move.

            All I can hope is that today once again motivates me to desire to do the best I can with whatever abilities I have, and the wisdom to absolutely know that, for me, standing up a lot is no longer one of them.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2150--7 Traditions

Over the past couple of months, I have been attempting to read a variety of writers on subjects that simple/organic/house church speaks to.  One that I had been hesitating to start was Steven S. Lyzenga’s “Accessing the State of Simple Churches in the USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing the Great Commission” due to its length, 425 pdf file pages.  I finally got around to it about a week ago.  This is not a book, but a doctoral dissertation.  One nice thing about that is that anyone with internet access can read it at http://house2harvest.org/docs/Simple_Churches_Releasing_Resources_S_Lyzenga.pdf . To address the subject of the title, he first needed to explain just about every subject that simple/organic church speaks as a counterpoint to, in regard to what has become traditional in western culture, and mention every relevant writer, whether consciously involved with this flavor of the Christian palate or not.  At the time I am writing this preface, I have had 38 five minute commentaries prepared.  Not all appear in this blog, as I have a few which are fully quotations of others.  Steve has so many appropriate thoughts that fit into the concept of these commentaries, it has presented a new challenge for me to wrap up this first grouping.  Today, I begin to highlight some of the ideas he presented in his writing.
Note:  In the previous paragraph, I used the word “flavor” instead of denomination, movement, strand, or any other word that might describe the various trains of thought within Christian life, past or present.  I first heard this word used in this manner by Duane VanderKlok of Resurrection Life Church, Grandville, MI.  I believe that it describes the variety of trains of thought simply, and in a way most will implicitly understand, better than any other way of phrasing that I have heard so far.

2150—7 traditions

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  One basic statement of  Christian faith is that one believes God has communicated to us supernaturally through the Bible, and not the Bible plus something else, which usually refers to the traditions that came about after the apostles from which the Reformation stood against, or, other writings held by a heretical group to be the equivalent of or a superceding to Scripture.  In Steven S. Lyzenga’s writing, titled “Accessing the State of Simple Churches in the USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing the Great Commission”, he states that there are at least seven traditions implicit in the writings from Acts to Revelation that we, the believers in Jesus were to follow, as Jesus taught the disciples, who, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and His sending of the Holy Spirit, the apostles taught the early church to do.  Certain leaders within the fledgling church, beginning one generation later, started leading the followers away from these traditions, from which we in the west have never returned to, to any significant degree.   There are some believers, of which some are persons learned in the history of our faith and loyal to Jesus, who would maintain that following these traditions are in scripture, and that we should return to them, as opposed to following practices developed later.

            In Mark chapter 2 verse 22, Jesus states, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”  It is pointed out that, in the original Greek, the word “new” in front of “wine” is a different word than the “new” in front of “wineskins.” The Greek word for “new” as in “new wine” is neos, meaning “recently born, young, youthful.” The other Greek word for “new” as in

“new wineskin” is kainos and it means “new as respect to form (recently made, fresh,

recent, unused, unworn) or as respect to substance (of a new kind, unprecedented, novel,

uncommon, unheard of).”  In effect, Jesus came to earth to pour “recently born, young,

and youthful” wine into “fresh, recently made, unused, unworn, unprecedented, novel,

uncommon, and unheard of” wineskins.

Jesus Himself was the new wine.  As for the wineskins, they are new practices that Jesus would introduce.  The Old Covenant old wineskins were a physical temple, physical priests, and physical sacrifices, of which Jesus’ death, in fulfilling that Old Covenant, would make Him the living temple of which the fullness of God dwells, the forever High Priest interceding between God and man, and the final, perfect sacrifice.  As Jesus taught, he was introducing to the disciples the new wineskins, the new practices for groups of believers that would be a chosen people by the Spirit.  Once Jesus became those things, we became those things in Him, as indicated in First Peter chapter 2 verse 5. 

Correspondingly, at least seven apostolic traditions appear to be biblically foundational to the way the first century Church operated:

1. Meeting in homes/houses – the most prominent place for a family, and, by faith, God was going to build a temple from “living stones”, which is those of us who believe.

2. Spiritual Family – the experience of community.  A properly functioning family doesn’t see each other once a week.

3. Hebraic method of education – learning through mentorship, the polar opposite of a lecture.

4. Everyone a priest and minister – the whole Body functioning, which is the expression of the wisdom of God.

5. Open-participatory meetings – every person’s gift valued and developed in an atmosphere of every person caring for each other so as to glorify Jesus.

6. Servitude leadership – from the bottom up.  Jesus said whomever would be great must be a servant, the polar opposite of being on a pedestal with a special title.  First John chapter 3 verse 16 says “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”

7. Outward focused – making disciples of neighbors and nations, as every person on earth is equally valued by God, without regard to the world’s feelings about gender, ethnicity, slavery, caste, language or any other prejudicial category.

            How do we put this into action?  Author Milt Rodriguez has stated that one key is our having an all-inclusive, open spirit to all God’s people.  If you know the Lord, you are my brother.  Denomination, minor issues, personality problems, or feeling that one has grasped a special truth are not scriptural reasons for division between believers.  That is sectarianism.

            You can email me at simplechurchminute@yahoo.com, or can call me at 757-735-xxxx.  You can see a transcript of what I just said, with footnotes, at my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, for the posting of October 2, 2011.  You can find out more about simple churches in this area at www.hrscn.org

===============================================================

            In the writing mentioned in the article, of which there is the link in my opening comments, one will find what I am referring to near page 247-257, pdf file page 265-275, and appropriate footnotes to where he found this information.
            The Rodriguez reference is from a speech he gave in Rapid City, SD, which is posted at www.therebuilers.org, titled, “The 7 Essentials"