Christianity 201

December 15, 2014

Church Planting: Finding the Person of Peace

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“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10: 5 NLT and 6 NASB)

This book excerpt by David and Paul Watson from a chapter of Contagious Disciple Making showed up in an email last week.  I thought I would share it with all of you.

An old man sat on the edge of the road approaching the village. When he saw me (David), he started. He slowly stood up and came to meet me.

“Finally!” he exclaimed, “You are finally here.” Before I could say anything he took my arm and pulled me into the village.

“Here is the man I told you about,” he told people as he pulled me along. “Here is the man I dreamed about every night for the last twenty years. My dreams told me that we must listen to everything this man tells us.”

I shared the Gospel, and a church now meets in the village. God is at work in people’s hearts even before we walk into their lives. According to this man, God has told him twenty years earlier that I was coming to his village. Funny thing is, twenty years before that moment, I was studying to be an engineer. I had no desire and no call at that time to be a minister or a church planter.

Contagious Disciple MakingMaking disciples and planting churches is easier if you’re working with God and the people He has prepared rather than trying to force the Gospel on people who aren’t ready.

Engage a community and then find the Person of Peace. Actually, if we do things right, the Person of Peace finds us. Learning how to be found is the key.

The Person of Peace is not simply a good person or hospitable person or friendly person. There are many people in every culture who are good, hospitable, or friendly, but are not the Persons of Peace.

The Person of Peace is the one God has prepared to receive the Gospel into a community for the first time.

There are two major categories of Persons of Peace – some are Persons of Peace by nature, and some become Persons of Peace as a result of God’s direct intervention in their families or communities. There are numerous examples of both in the Bible. Cornelius and Lydia are representatives of the “Person of Peace by nature” category. The Philippian jailer and the Samaritan woman at the well are examples of those who became Persons of Peace through God’s direct intervention.

In all these examples, however, the disciple-makers were conspicuously spiritual people who lived out their faith without apology. This is the secret to finding the Person of Peace. We must live out our faith as conspicuously as possible. This is not about being religious. It’s about being spiritual.

God condemns being religious. Look at how Jesus related and spoke to the religious leaders of His day and how God spoke through His prophets in the Old Testament. Religion was not well thought of or supported by Scripture.

God has a tremendous amount to say to us about being spiritual – rightly relating to God and His creation through a personal relationship with Him. This is about faith and living it out in all circumstances regardless of consequences. It is about loving God and loving people. It is about obedient thinking and living. This kind of life draws in people who are interested in spiritual matters and opens the door to communities for establishing obedient bodies of believers whose Head is the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have to unconditionally live out a spiritual life to make evangelism and disciple-making happen.

So, in reality, finding the Person of Peace is more about us and the way we live than it is about finding the Person of Peace.

If we are the people we should be, those who want to discover Christ come to us. This is more than just living a good life. It’s living an obedient life that demonstrates the love of God and shares God’s Word in such a way that the lost become saved, the saved become obedient, and the obedient make more disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ, resulting in self-replicating disciples and churches of Jesus Christ.

Finding the Person of Peace radically increased the number of churches we planted. We saw disciple-making teams go from planting a few churches per year to planting dozens of churches every year, and in some cases, even hundreds of new churches every year.

The Person of Peace strategy was developed from a composite view of Jesus’ teaching when He sent out His disciples in Matthew 10, Luke 9, and Luke 10. Following are the commands Jesus gave to His disciples as He sent them out.

Matthew 10

  • As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” – Matthew 10:7
  • Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. – Matthew 10:8
  • Freely you have received, freely give. – Matthew 10:8
  • Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. – Matthew 10:9-10
  • Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. – Matthew 10:11
  • If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. – Matthew 10:14
  • I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16

Luke 9 (Additional commands not contained in Matthew 10)

  • Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. – Luke 9:4
  • This is different from staying only in the house of a worthy person.

Luke 10 (Additional commands not contained in Matthew 10 or Luke 9)

  • Go out by two ahead of Me to every town and place I am about to go. – adapted from Luke 10:1
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest… to send out workers into this harvest field. – Luke 10:2
  • Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. – Luke 10:3
  • Do not greet anyone on the road. – Luke 10:3
  • When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move from house to house. – Luke 10:5-7
  • Heal the sick who are there and tell the, “The kingdom of God is near you.” – Luke 10:9

The Person of Peace teaching is an entry strategy to new communities. In the Great Commission Jesus commanded us to “go.” What do we do when we get to where we are going? We find the Person of Peace.

This is radically different from traditional disciple-making methods. In the Person of Peace strategy, the disciple-maker has one job – find the Person of Peace. This person may be from any walk of life, but he or she will welcome you, listen to your message, help you with your livelihood, and allow you to stay in his or her home and influence his or her family and the community for the sake of the Gospel.

The disciple-maker does not do any of the traditional things required by traditional disciple-making. He does not preach or teach. He does not hand out tracts or sell books or give away Bibles. He does not do mass rallies or healing services. Finding the Person of Peace starts with obedience to Christ and looks for where Christ is about to visit. This is evidenced by the presence of the Person of Peace. If there is no Person of Peace, then you move on.

The Person of Peace is found through prayer and service. In our experience, this service is sometimes miraculous, as Luke 10 describes. Often, though, service is as simple as feeding the hungry or helping someone fix a flat tire. In both cases, the disciple-maker freely gives him or herself. We are told to pray for harvesters. The Person of Peace will be this harvester. We equip this person to be the disciple-maker for his or her community. We are to be as wise as serpents. This means we are to anticipate Satan’s attacks and avoid them. We are to be as innocent as doves, gentle, and a threat to no one. We are to work or do business for our food, for a worker is worthy of earned wages. This avoids awkward questions regarding how we support ourselves. It also puts us at work when the rest of the community is at work, allowing us to meet people and have a reason to be in the community. All the ministries that Jesus commands us to do are about meeting the real and felt needs of the community. As we do this we are building relationships that allow us to talk about the Kingdom of God/heaven. The person who is responsive to this message becomes the focus of our attention. This focus is on the household, and we do not move around once the Person of Peace is found. We then make disciples of this family, who then takes on the responsibility of reaching their community for Christ.

We train disciple-makers to enter new communities after extensive prayer. When disciple-makers enter the community, they look for ways to meet the felt needs of the community through service, education, or business. As they meet these needs, they are meeting people and sharing openly about the Kingdom of God. When the Person of Peace reveals him or herself, the disciple-maker shifts the focus to the Family of Peace. The disciple-maker starts a Discovery Group to help the family discover on their own who God is and how they must relate to Him. The disciple-maker teaches them how to study the Word of God, but does not lead the Bible studies or do any of the preaching and teaching. The focus is on the family learning directly from God through His Word. The disciple-maker guides the direction of the study, but does not conduct the study, except to model the process a few times in the beginning.

When the family comes to Christ, the disciple-maker helps them to move from being a Bible study group to fulfilling all the requirements of church. A leader is identified and trained to lead the group and to establish more groups through the family’s network of friends and family.

Disciples make more disciples. Leaders equip more leaders. Groups establish more groups. Churches plant more churches.


Excerpted with permission from Contagious Disciple Making by David Watson and Paul Watson, copyright Thomas Nelson 2014.

July 13, 2014

Seeking the Person of Peace

Luke 9 and 10, along with Matthew 10, deal with the instructions Jesus gives to his disciples before sending them out in two-by-two ministry teams.  One of those instructions is that when they arrive in the town, they are to look for, depending on which translation you use, a “person of peace” or “man of peace” or “son of peace.”

The NIV reads,

If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.

If you read the extended Matthew Henry notes for verses 1-16, you get the very strong impression that the thrust of this passage is that, as they go on their way, the disciples are to search for fertile ground for their message.

This in itself is rather confusing, because we know that, in the parable of the sower, the seed is scattered widely and lands on soil not amenable to growth, soil vulnerable to the elements, and good soil. The disciples seem to be told to go to areas that are already receptive to their message.

As an aside: Have you ever wondered why it seems that so many churches are planted in certain areas creating a glut of houses of worship in those places, while there is dearth of churches in other parts of the country? I recently heard people joking about doing a church plant in Atlanta because, tongue-in-cheek, “Atlanta really needs more churches.”  It does beg the question as to why it appears there is so much activity in some parts of North America, while others seem to be in great need.

The other aspect of this story that should be piquing your curiosity concerns what Jesus sent these disciples out to do. We know that 20th century Evangelism methodology included sending people out two-by-two to knock on doors on residential areas. Further into the 1900s, this method got ‘trademarked’ by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Latter Day Saints (Mormons) to the point where Evangelicals simply stopped doing door-to-door ministry.

But their message was not Christ Jesus crucified, dead, buried for their sins and then risen again defeating death.  Jesus had not yet suffered and died. Jesus had not yet risen from the dead. Their message was, at best, an echo of their rabbi, his twist on familiar ethics as per the Sermon on the Mount; a message of turning from sin, the message that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Still, their apostolic ministry serves as a model for us and the key to that model is that they were sent out in utter dependence upon God.

So while we’ve left some unanswered questions here, I want to move on to why I was focused on this passage today.  As I left for a morning worship gathering, part of my goal was that God would lead me for someone to interact with either before or after the service per se, and the phrase person of peace flashed into my mind, even though I was fully aware of this phrase’s use in an evangelism model.

In the process, I uncovered the following which appears on several different websites. If someone knows where it originates, I will give proper credit.

When it comes to sharing their faith, most people aren’t strategic. Jesus, however, was very strategic in how he modeled evangelism and sharing the Gospel. In fact, He gave us a template for sharing our faith – and yet most people don’t know what that template is.
What Jesus sends the disciples to do is look for the person of peace…and that method is a reproducible strategy. We see it in Luke 9 when Jesus sends out the 12. We see it in the book of Acts with Peter and Cornelius, Paul and Lidia, Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch looking for these people who are people of peace.

6 Marks of a Person of Peace

And what we see in scripture is the person of peace is the one who welcomes you, who will receive who you are, who is open to you, open to what you have to say about Jesus, open to the life you live because of Jesus.

But they’re also someone who serves you. So often when we’re seeking to minister we want to do everything for somebody else, but the person of peace often wants to make a contribution in some way.

So, a person of peace will be one who

  • welcomes you
  • receives you
  • is open to you
  • will be open to what you have to say about Jesus
  • is open to the life you live because of Jesus
  • serves you

A person of peace could be a passing relationship. Sometimes a person of peace is a permanent relationship. But the real question is, “Who are your people of peace?”

Who are the people of peace who are open to you, who welcome you, who serve you, and then you will see that the Kingdom of God is nearby.

That’s a whole lot of things to think about today.  I look forward to your emails and blog comments. For more study review Matthew 10 and Luke 10.

July 10, 2013

Seek the Welfare of the City

Daniel Yang is a church planter who has resettled his family in Toronto, Canada in anticipation of a church launch there this fall. This appeared on his blog under the title Jeremiah 29:7

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

In the Old Testament, Israel was the nation chosen by God to reveal his love to the rest of the world. God was so committed to his purpose that even when his people were living in a land that wasn’t their own, he commanded them to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.” God placed an entire generation in a position of humility and vulnerability and then commissioned them to engage an unfamiliar city by investing into it the lives of the next generation.

Over the last few years this Jeremiah passage has helped me process my family story. My father was a little older than I am now when he left his homeland to live in a refugee camp for several years. The conditions in the camp were difficult, but he knew it was only for a season. At the age of thirty-nine he and my family immigrated to the United States where they learned a completely new way of living and thinking. They lived as a diaspora community seeking the welfare of the city to which they were brought and in doing so found their own welfare.

There’s something about the diaspora mentality that God wants his people to learn when they are called to engagement. From my experience this mentality forces us to do two things 1) adapt to the situation around us with humility and openness and 2) commit to the cause of others despite our own needs.

Jesus embodied the essence of this passage when he left the glory of the Father’s right hand and took on the form of a servant to die a criminal’s death in order to reconcile man back to God. Very rarely, if ever, will gospel engagement in any part of the world look different from this model.

Learn more about the church plant, Trinity Life by clicking here. As I watched a preview video for the church, there was a line, ‘God of this City,” which is also the name of a modern worship song I realized we’d never posted here. I hope you enjoy it.

June 15, 2013

Heart Guarding

The theme of guarding your heart turns up frequently on devotional blogs, but it’s something we need to be constantly reminded of. This post by Mike Brown appeared at the blog We Are Soma under the title, The Discipline of Guarding Your Heart. Soma is a network of 18 U.S. churches, and Soma School is for existing or potential church planters. Learn more at

 Simply re-arranging the furniture of my life without pulling up the root of the sin that so easily entangles ensures yet another crisis where I am left defining myself by what I do, or don’t do.

When looking at every relationship I have through the lens of discipleship, I am always asking three questions. What do they need to know in order to develop a Biblical mindset about God, themselves and the world? Who do they need to be in order to maintain a close walk with Jesus where His kingdom is first in their heart? What do they need to do in order to live a life consistent with the truth of the gospel?

These are not bad questions, but due to my personality bent, I have given undue attention to the areas of knowing and doing, instead of being. I can teach and train anyone to grow in the knowledge of Jesus. I can imitate and model for others what action that flows out of the gospel looks like. What I can’t do is change someone’s heart, from which all knowing and doing stem. In Proverbs 4:23, King Solomon says

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”.

Solomon says that above all else, we are to guard our hearts, for that is where every external thing in our life comes from. Merely focusing on knowledge or action without examining our heart motivations is a curriculum to develop Pharisees, not disciples.

My own heart is drawn astray when I am tempted to look at someone’s knowledge of, and obedience to the gospel as the mark of maturity. Yet I have both seen and been the man whose knowledge and obedience are based on fueling the idolatry in my own life, rather than being a reflection of my love for Jesus.

In Proverbs, the heart is seen as the source of all action. It is assumed that it will constantly be under attack, thus to need to guard it with vigilance. We know the Bible teaches that our heart is the essence of who we are as a person made in the image of God. How do we care for our heart in a way that ensures it stays a source of clean fresh water which purifies all of our thoughts and actions?

God led me beside still waters and restored my soul in such a unique way last year that I’m beginning to finally understand the value of rest. I was becoming increasingly concerned about the tone of my voice with my wife, my children, and my church. I was becoming aware of just how many nights I put the kids to bed, spent some time talking to my wife, then went to my laptop “to get a head start on my busy day tomorrow”. I was becoming more susceptible to believe the praise of others about my strengths as well as being crushed by the criticism of my weaknesses. Through the help of a godly community committed to seeing how the gospel speaks a better word over me (Heb. 12:24), I realized that my heart was looking to my productivity as the source of my strength. So, I stopped.

I took several months off to rest. I needed to know my identity was found in Christ, not my preaching. I needed to know the tone of my voice with my kids wasn’t dependent on how good or bad a day I’d had. I needed to see my wife as a God given help to me, not just a partner in life. I needed to care for my church in a way that reflects the self-emptying, sacrificial love of Jesus. I became a part of the community, rather than the guy in charge. I took a vacation where spending the whole day doing nothing but playing with my kids was the work of the ministry. I stopped basing my well being on how much I got done that day.

Through God ordained Sabbath rest, Jesus teaches us how to guard our heart. By resting, we are able to identify our affections and adjust our intentions.

When we take time to step off the treadmill of productivity, and can no longer gain an unhealthy sense of worth or value from our output, we are able to clearly identify the affections of our hearts. What is currently driving my thoughts and actions right now? What am I am showing that I love more than Jesus by the mental and physical energy spent pursuing it? Is rest something I do when all my work is finished, or a discipline practiced regardless of how much work is left?

Only after the Spirit leads us to identify where our affections lie can He teach us to adjust our intentions. Heart change will lead to a renewing of our minds and a re-evaluation of our actions. What needs to be left undone in order to pursue something better? Am I willing to let people down in order to live consistent with a heart that desires Jesus? If my intention is to glorify God and enjoy Him, what needs to be adjusted in my life in order to achieve that?

Simply re-arranging the furniture of my life without pulling up the root of the sin that so easily entangles ensures yet another crisis where I am left defining myself by what I do, or don’t do.

Sabbath rest is a command by God designed to bring life. Only when we see those things in our lives that poison our hearts can we view rest not as a burden, but as a gift from our Heavenly Father, who is always at work restoring our souls.

December 16, 2012

A New Teacher Launches His Church

While looking at the Christmas narrative this week, I decided to cheat and read ahead a little. While we tend to think of Jesus initiating his public ministry in the changing of water into wine at Cana, the closest thing we find to an official ‘launch party’ is his baptism by John in the Jordan River. Today we would hold a rally or kick off an advertising campaign, but after public confirmation of his ministry by both John, the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove), and The Father (the voice from heaven); we instead find Jesus in the wilderness for forty days.

Just as I am sure the twelve disciples looked at the events of Good Friday by saying, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to end;” it would have been equally fair for someone present at that time to say, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to begin.” Today is no different. We want to launch ministry with large meetings and newspaper space and television airtime; not with a 6-week fast.

It always amazes me how some key events in scripture are presented so succinctly. The Bible wastes no words; its concision is a model for authors of all types. The 4th chapter in Luke kicks off with just two verses:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

And the section ends with this one we often overlook:

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary notes: “The words imply that the temptation was renewed later. The Savior lived under the constant pressure of evil.” The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary states it somewhat differently, “The devil does not reappear until 22:3 [what scripture calls “entering into” Judas] but it would be rash to assume that he was inactive during the intervening period. (p. 1035)

Matthew Henry says of this verse:

What was the result and issue of this combat, Luke 4:13. Our victorious Redeemer kept his ground, and came off a conqueror, not for himself only, but for us also.

1. The devil emptied his quiver: He ended all the temptation. Christ gave him opportunity to say and do all he could against him; he let him try all his force, and yet defeated him. Did Christ suffer, being tempted, till all the temptation was ended? And must not we expect also to pass all our trials, to go through the hour of temptation assigned us?

2. He then quitted the field: He departed from him. He saw it was to no purpose to attack him; he had nothing in him for his fiery darts to fasten upon; he had no blind side, no weak or unguarded part in his wall, and therefore Satan gave up the cause. Note, If we resist the devil, he will flee from us.

3. Yet he continued his malice against him, and departed with a resolution to attack him again; he departed but for a season, achri kairoutill a season, or till the season when he was again to be let loose upon him, not as a tempter, to draw him to sin, and so to strike at his head, which was what he now aimed at and was wholly defeated in; but as a persecutor, to bring him to suffer by Judas and the other wicked instruments whom he employed, and so to bruise his heel, which it was told him (Gen. 3:15) he should have to do, and would do, though it would be the breaking of his own head. He departed now till that season came which Christ calls the power of darkness (Luke 22:53), and when the prince of this world would again come, John 14:30.

Jesus public ministry was born out of hunger, out of spiritual struggle, out of personal testing, and out of wrestling with these to a degree to such as none of us have ever known nor will experience. This is how he inaugurated his public ministry. In the next scene he makes his public declaration in the temple that, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (vs. 21)

November 4, 2012

A New Take on APEPT

Ephesians 4:11-13

New International Version (NIV)

 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

It’s sometimes called “The Five-Fold Ministry of the Church.” Sometimes it’s just abbreviated as APEPT:  Apostle, Pastor, Evangelist, Prophet, Teacher.

It’s often applied as helping a church determine its vision and the particular models that church should utilize to fulfill the five-fold mission.

Many times it is presented in terms of “finding your spiritual gift” types of sermons. You are asked to look at your abilities and gifts and determine if you see yourself as an Apostle (literally ‘sent one,’ missionary, church planter) or Pastor (literally ‘shepherd,’ caregiver, prayer warrior, etc.) or Evangelist (or ‘proclaimer,’ one who spreads the ‘evangel’ or good news of salvation, or a Christian apologist) or Prophet (not one who ‘foretells’ but one who ‘forth-tells’ who speaks into peoples’ lives often utilizing gifts of knowledge and utterance) or Teacher (one who searches the scriptures and opens understanding of doctrine and application.)

You’ve been to places where this was explained, and perhaps you’ve tried to look at your own potential areas of Christian service in this context.

Some people, like Australia’s Michael Frost for example, believe that each church currently has all five of these giftings operating in different people. He would say it’s necessary to identify these people and then come alongside them and resource them and support them.

Today, I want to look at it differently. I want to consider what your church needs. I want to ask you what type of gifted person you need right now personally. (Be sure to click the linked verses in each section.)

I/We Need an Apostle

This means, that we’re looking for a “sent one” to come into our community who wants to do ministry or just shake things up. Right now, where I live, I often speak about “watching the horizon for some young buck to appear over the horizon with a guitar slung over his shoulder, who is interested in doing a church plant, so that we can support them in what they want to accomplish.” Maybe you need someone to help you with an existing ministry project. Maybe you’re a pastor who needs help. Maybe you need someone with an expanded vision who can give you the extra kick you need to get something done for The Kingdom. (See Romans 10:14)

I/We Need a Pastor

I know this applies to so many of you reading this. You need someone to put their arm around your shoulder, or give you a good hug. Someone who will pray with you. Someone who will walk with you through a tough time. Maybe you’re in a church led by a rancher, but you really need a shepherd right now. Maybe you’re alone and just need to know that someone cares. In a megachurch world, we tend to focus on great preaching at the expense of great pastoring. You need someone to pray with you for help, for wholeness, for healing.  (see I Peter 5:2)

I/We Need an Evangelist

Maybe someone you know hasn’t crossed the line of faith, and you’re praying for someone to step into the picture who can help close the sale. Maybe you’re having a tough time defending the faith with people who are closed or apathetic to the Christian message. Maybe it’s you, yourself, who isn’t clear on how salvation happens, or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran of this whole church thing, but suddenly riddled with doubts and needing assurance of salvation. You need to connect with someone with the heart of an evangelist. (See Romans 10:14 this is a different take on the reference for Apostle.)

I/We Need a Prophet

Either individually or as a church, you know you need someone who will speak into your life or the life of your congregation; someone not afraid to tell it like it is; someone possessing insights that can only come through supernatural words of knowledge and wisdom; someone willing to identify sin.  (See I Corinthians 12: 7-11)

I/We Need a Teacher

You know when you’re hungry. You know when you’re thirsty. Sadly, many individuals and churches are dying of thirst and dying of hunger; ironically, at a time when more Bible study resources, courses and Christian colleges  are available than have ever existed at any time in history. There are, to be sure, some great Bible teachers out there, but in many local churches, there has been a weakening in the richness and substance of Bible teaching. You know when you’re getting milk when your body craves meat. (See Hebrews 5:12-14 also Luke 24:27)

God gave these gifts to Christian leaders — and the rest of them — because he knew that we needed them individually and collectively. Seeing the available list of gifts can help us identify what particular needs should presently be met in the hours, days and weeks to come. Perhaps now, you’re clearer on what specifically to pray for.

~Paul Wilkinson

September 28, 2012

First Century Church Growth

We tend to think that church growth has just been a concern in the last dozen or so years because there was an explosion of published books the subject, as ecclesiology became of interest to lay people as well as vocational ministers. So I was intrigued this week to discover a 1973 book — that’s about 40 years ago — titled How To Grow A Church: Conversations About Church Growth by Donald McGavran and Win Arn (Gospel Light). The book follows an interview format and the words which follow belong to McGavran.

The New Testament speaks of and demonstrates tremendous church growth. In fact, the church was born in an explosive series of conversations. Before the Day of Pentecost, only 120 were meeting in an upper room; then… 3000 people turned to the Lord. I marvel when I think of the courage of that little band of inexperienced apostles baptizing 3000 people in one day.

Those first ten wonderful chapters in the book of Acts tell of notable church growth, for example, in Acts 2:41, “And the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.”  In 2:47 we read, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved.” In 4:4 we read, “and the number of them which believed was about five thousand men.” If you add 5000 women and 5000 women, there were 15,000 believers in Jerusalem in a relatively short period of time.

Later in that fourth chapter we read, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.” They counted them not by congregations, but by multitudes

…In Acts 5:41 we read, “And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” … We’ve been talking about added to the Lord, but…Chapter 6 records, “And the Word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly.” (v.7) From addition to multiplication. Another important event was that “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”  Up to that time the Christians had been the common people, the rank and file, the poorer element. Then after a period of time — we don’t know exactly how long — a multitude of the priests became obedient to the faith…

In chapter after chapter we read of growth taking place… Acts 9:35, we read about two whole villages Lydda and Sharon…

Reasons for Growth

There were many reasons. A principle one was God’s purpose — His ongoing, unshakable, unchanging purpose — for the salvation of men. The growth and expansion of the church throughout the world does not take place in and of itself. It is God’s will…

…[T]his one unifying purpose motivated the apostles and the new Christians…

Another important reason for the New Testament church growth was the expectation of the Jews. They were looking for the Messiah, the Saviour of Israel. Peter and the other apostles proclaimed that He whom you have been expect has, in fact, come.

Then there was the Resurrection. Think what an impact the Resurrection made in Jerusalem! The man whom everybody knew had been crucified was alive and was seen…

…[A]nother reason: That the message was proclaimed by common people. The Pharisees…said of Peter and John and the other apostles that they were ignorant and unlearned me, just ordinary people; laymen. They didn’t have theological degrees. This factor no doubt gave their message added power. …3000 people were baptized and received the Holy Spirit, there were not just 12 apostles preaching but 3000 Christians preaching…

Foundations for Growth

First, we must realize that the growth of the church took place in the midst of the Jewish people… there had been prior preparation.

They were looking for the Messiah. They were accustomed to a God who speaks and acts righteously. The Jews were intended by God to be the seedbed of the church. The Holy Spirit encouraged the church to grow strong among the Jews so that it could break out to other people.

…[M]any who became Christians on the Day of Pentecost must in the preceding years have seen some of the miracles recorded in the gospels. In fact, some of them must have been directly involved. I wonder if Lazarus wasn’t there on the Day of Pentecost…

selections from page 17-24

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July 3, 2012

Building Your House

Sally Breen did a series of four blog posts on the subject of Houses this past month.  To see all of them, click here.  The one we’ve selected for C201 readers is the fourth in the series, simply called Houses

She is looking very specifically and practically at houses that are ready to receive guests in the context of a radical, missional church-planting venture as practiced by the organization she is part of, 3DM.

But everyone reading this can consider the possibility of opening their home to people for the purpose of an informal Bible study group, or simply practicing Biblical hospitality. (You might even plant a church by accident!)

(And each of us needs to be constantly building the spiritual house for the Lord to dwell in; so you can also consider this on that level.)

Get ready. Company is coming!

Matthew 7 v 24 “therefore everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock ”

Our house, my house.

What is it built on ?

What are we putting in it? The scripture in Matthew indicates to me that we should be building our lives and houses on practical biblical principals that ensure that we can withstand the storms of life.

There are multiple references to houses and homes in the bible. Acts 2 v 46 “…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…”  and Acts 16 v 14-16 “…When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home…” are just some.  Rodney Stark in his book ” the Triumph of Christianity.” writes that one of the key factors that enabled the early church to survive despite huge persecution was because of the “oikos ” or the household.

Households ( oikos ) have a vital and exciting part to play in discipleship and mission today. It is the place where we can both survive and thrive no matter what happens to our world.

But are our hearts ready for us to be able to use our homes in a new way?  What do we think are our rights to ” privacy” , ” independence “, and what selfish behaviors do we we rationalize by our personalities?  Do we justify what we don’t do by saying our house isn’t big enough or nice enough and say things like now is just not a good time, next year will be better?

Are the people who also live in your house ready ?  Are they ready to be welcoming ,selfless, make endless cups of coffee and loads of lasagna ?Are they ready to give thanks for all who come in. Are they ready to share their space and time? Are they ready to disciple?

Have we got our house ready practically?  Do you own enough mugs? Do you have a place everyone can shed their shoes and coats? Do you have enough chairs ? Do you have enough toilet rolls and are the spare ones easy to find. Do you have some children’s toys available even if your own children are now grown and at college ?

Do you have things in your home that if they were accidentally broken you would e be upset? Is there enough parking for more than one car outside?

Matthew 7 v 25.
The rain came down, the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against the house yet it did not fall because it has it’s foundation on the rock.

Sally Breen

Here’s a link to a review I did a year ago on a book on the house church movement, Small is Big by Felicity Dale.

December 16, 2011

Being Incarnational

I’ve heard a lot of modern church planters talk about being incarnational.  Essentially, they are invoking an Advent theme as a metaphor for what we need to do to presence ourselves in communities, to live among, to have shared experience. 

But I never thought about the fact I never hear this message during the actual season when we’re remembering incarnation. It tends to be a church planting seminar in the fall or in the spring. Until today, that is. This appeared at the blog under the title Celebrating Incarnation, The Church Planter as Artist.  Church planting is considered the extreme sport of ministry. If you’re in a “201” frame of reference, maybe it’s something you should consider; a calling you should expect to happen.

The holy day we celebrate this month is about the Son who submitted himself to incarnation, choosing to live on earth as the image of the invisible God. The word incarnation carries with it the implication that something unseen takes on form. The Word became flesh and lived among humanity. At its best, planting a church is an incarnational activity. New churches are first conceived in the heart of God, who invites humans to interact with the birthing process. The Spirit nurtures the creative impulse, and in the fullness of time, a new church comes into being that intends to represent the Son, and like Him, actively participate in the world.

In this sense, church planters are artists who give birth to wonderful, transformative dreams and visions. They carry a genetic code that reflects our Great Creator who announced, “I made the earth, I created the people who live on it. It was me—my hands stretched out the sky” (Isa 45:12). God creates in His own image, sustains what He creates, and has placed His creative Holy Spirit in us. We are therefore creative by nature. The church planter is an artist and the Church is a work of art. In the New Testament Paul reminded the church at Ephesus to “be filled by the Spirit” speaking “to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph 5:18-19). The community is reminded to invigorate the creativity within each individual. People who are filled with Creator’s Holy Spirit are potentially the most creative people on the planet. They are able to influence the entire world through their God-given abilities and gifts. Any fledgling church can live out its creative impulse.

The word incarnation is also used to mean that Christians must give form to their ideas and beliefs about Jesus by engaging in practical and sacrificial ministry to others. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ … And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). To be involved in incarnational ministry demands that the new church do more than simply inviting people to worship services or preaching a relevant sermon. It is about embodying Christ by carrying his love into a community in ways that help people become reconciled to God.

Author Madeleine L’Engle, who believes that “all true art is incarnational,” discerns the artist as a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. She compares this to Mary, mother of Jesus, who, when the angel told her that she was going to give birth, rejoiced and obeyed his command. “The work of art comes to the artist saying, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’” In each case, the artist (or the church planter) either participates by saying “My soul doth magnify the Lord” or by refusing to do so.”

Merry Christmas church planter/artist! Celebrate incarnation — Magnify the Lord in all that you do

~ Linda Bergquist

September 29, 2010

The Trouble with “Visionary”

I’m currently reading an interesting little book (pun intended) titled  The Strategically Small Church by Brandon O’Brien, released in August by Bethany House.   I’ll do a full review on the book on Friday at Thinking Out Loud, but I thought I’d share with you this interesting take on trying to force a vision to materialize…

When we forget the principle of the mustard seed, we risk forcing our own vision of the church, or the prescribed vision of experts, onto our congregation.   In our efforts to live the narrative of success, we view the small church not as God’s mustard seed, but as an obstacle to be overcome.   We then rely on our vision to bring about the success we desire.   We do this at our own peril.

Disturbed over the gap between the church in Acts and the German church in the late 1930s, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together to explain genuine Christian community.   In the first section of the book, the person who comes under the fiercest attack is the pastor Bonhoeffer calls the visionary, the person who has “a very definite idea of what Christian life together should look be and [tries] to realize it.”  Bonhoeffer has strong words for the visionary, for the person we might call the “expert” in Christian community:

The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself.   He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.   He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.  When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure…. So he becomes first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.