Category Archives: discipleship

Tough Love…

We’ve all heard the phrase “tough love”, maybe even experienced it in our adolescence as we clumsily navigated through some rebellious patch of our life growing up.  Hopefully you are not still stuck there.  It can be painful both as a parent and a recipient of tough love.  I however, have been experiencing tough love of a different nature lately and this morning took a moment to meditate on it.  What I’m dealing with is how love can be tough.  It’s hard to love people sometimes.

I have had a number of instances over the last year and especially recently where I was deeply struggling to feel and be loving toward people.  I have felt like the Apostle Paul in Romans where he said:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”  Romans 7:18

Paul endured all kinds of things at the hands of other people and he struggled with doing the right thing, the loving thing.  He reveals our inner conflict between the spirit and the flesh in us.  I have a desire to do the loving thing but sometimes my mind is saying stick it to them.  We have a tendency to justify our feelings or subsequent actions, because after all we were done wrong, they are being unreasonable or we are the victim.  That all may be true but the conflict remains and reveals our true problem.  To be true to the Spirit in us, we must love and be loving. 

As I read Romans 5 I find the problem with and answer to my dilemma:

“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Romans 5:5

The demands of life and the demands of God are so great that I don’t have a chance to do right without Him.  God knows the selfish and self-preserving nature of our flesh.  We are without the hope of consistent love without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.  Without Jesus and the gift of His Spirit we do not have the capacity to love the unloveable.  We will revert to our flesh and flesh will always protect flesh.  It defaults to self-preservation. 

However, even as a believer we will have to believe the promise of God’s love.  Through His Spirit He has poured out His love in our hearts giving us His capacity to love even in the harshest of conditions.  Love is tough, but its impossible without God’s love.  So before we begin to excuse our unloving behavior by what others have done to us, we need to draw deep from the well of God’s love and remember that even in moments of injustice and persecution God gives us the capacity to manifest the love of Jesus through our mortal flesh.

Love may be tough, but not impossible.

Who do you need to forgive today?

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Grace and Freedom in Christ…

For those of you who are a part of The Dwelling Place, here is a great short message by Francis Chan on Freedom in Christ and Grace. Francis Chan: “Grace, Grace, Grace”  (This and other massages at http://www.cornerstonesimi.com)

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The effects of revelation…

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I was reflecting this morning on the effects of revelation on one’s life.  Paul speaks several places in scripture about the revelation of Christ and His gospel and  their impact upon his life.  This revelation had a death and life … Continue reading

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Simple Church: Global & Generational Movement

After the last post concerning the House Church Movement in China, I ran across this article at World Mission Impact:

“200 Christian leaders from 40 nations met in New Delhi, India, Nov 11-14th, 2009, to explore the scope and significance of house-based discipling communities and emerging house church movements worldwide. Known best from the history of the underground house churches in China that report by now an estimated 100 million members, a similar phenomenon has emerged in the last 15 years in numerous nations outside of China. Conference reports indicate that, from very small beginnings, in many nations fairly sizeable house church movements have emerged, including on the continents of Africa and Latin America.”

Other Sources: Joel News and Wolfgang Simson

God will use many different ways to reach the nations.  However, there seems to be a momentum growing in the House/Simple/Organic Church around the world.  There is also a shift in evangelism, discipleship and Church Planting  to a Kingdom focus with a change from sharing the Gospel to build churches to sharing the Gospel to build the Kingdom.  This is causing the Church to be more relational and decentralizing the Church and its leadership by encouraging all members of the body of Christ to function in their gifts.

The House Church Movement is bringing the Church into a natural flow and rhythm of people’s lives.  Two things seem to be affecting this change and it’s growing momentum: 1. The shift from planting a Church to planting multiple churches and… 2.The decentralizing of hierarchical leadership to a Kingdom focused leadership that is recognizing all members of the body as equals by submit to one another based on their gifts and functions not titles of spiritual superiority.  This is becoming more and more attractive to those in their 20’s and 30’s, who think more globally.

Previous generations have thrown stones at the children of the digital age as escaping relational connection and developing pseudo-relationships through the internet and cell phones.  However, I believe the opposite is true.  This generation sees itself as a part of a global community and believes it can affect global change.  They are utilizing the tools of their generation to reach around the world.  I believe this has made them relational in a global community rather than just a local community. 

We need to embrace the zeal of our youth while our youth need to embrace and appreciate their father’s in the faith.  We must encourage the House Church movement while not dismissing what God has been and still is doing through the Traditional Church.  God always reveals new tools for each new generation.   However, these are not replacements.

Each generation of leaders has to deal with insecurity and legitimacy.  We need to embrace what God is giving us and what He wants to do through us without delegitimizing what God has done in and through others in order to feel secure about what God is doing through us.  God will not honor sons who do not honor their fathers.  Instead, He wants the fathers to turn to the sons and the sons to their fathers.  Unless we get this, we will bring immaturity into the next generation of the Church.  As my father taught me:

“You cannot be a father unless you first know what it means to be a son.”  John W. Hobbs

Simple Church: House Church in China

As I sit here in a little coffee shop in Wilmington, NC and reflecting on the last details to finish today for the Christmas Gathering of our House Church tomorrow evening, I am struck with a humbled sense of gratitude.  In all the business and planning we do for our churches in the West, we can lose sight or maybe never see the essence of what church really is.  We can so easily take the Church for granted when caught up in all that we do to run and maintain our traditional Church Organizations; with all the meetings, boards, committees, programs, classes, politics, and facility needs.   

According to the AP reported on November 26, 2009, “A court in northern China has sentenced five leaders of an unauthorized Protestant church to prison terms of up to seven years on charges including illegal assembly, rights groups reported Thursday.”  Among those arrested were the Pastor, his wife and three other church members.  The AP goes on to say, “The sentences are among the harshest in recent years for members of so-called “house churches” — congregations that refuse to register and accept the authority of the government’s Religious Affairs Bureau.” 

A few weeks ago I was sitting in our church gathering, a group of about 20-30 people circled up in a large room off the back of our home.  Looking around the room I was thinking about this story of a pastor and his wife who met just like we were that morning but knowing they were risking their freedom, maybe their lives and yet this did not deter them.  They were doing exactly what we were that morning; singing, reading, praying, studying, laughing, eating, loving, sharing our stories- our lives with each other, and meeting each other’s needs.  However, we were risking nothing that the death of pride wouldn’t fix.  They were risking everything.  It’s amazing how the thought of that can refocus you on what is really important and not, what the church is and not.  It makes you grateful.

According to a study done by the Barna Group, when a Chinese House Church pastor or leader is arrested or killed, the house church may disband, but out of it will form 5 other House Churches. This may explain the latest statistics reported on an article from the Seattle P-I on October 3, 2008:

Zhao Xiao, a former Communist Party official and convert to Christianity, smiles over a cup of tea and says he thinks there are up to 130 million Christians in China. This is far larger than previous estimates.  The government says there are 21 million (16 million Protestants, 5 million Catholics). Unofficial figures, such as one given by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in Massachusetts, put the number at about 70 million.  But Zhao is not alone in his reckoning. A study of China by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, an American think tank, says indirect survey evidence suggests many unaffiliated Christians are not in the official figures.  And according to China Aid Association, a Texas-based lobby group, the director of the government body that supervises all religions in China, said privately that the figure was indeed as much as 130 million in early 2008.  If so, it would mean China contains more Christians than Communists (party membership is 74 million) and there may be more active Christians in China than in any other country.  In 1949, when the Communists took power, less than 1 percent of the population had been baptized, most of them Catholics. Now the largest, fastest-growing number of Christians belong to Protestant “house churches.”

It is clear that this incredible growth of disciples is a result of the unauthorized and uncounted House Church Movement under great persecution.  This has also served to keep Christians in House Churches focused on what is important and not hindered by Western consumer necessities.  Without our baggage, the House Churches in China have become relational not religious, flexible not rigid, creative not stagnate, inclusive not exclusive, adaptable not compromising, disciple building not building churches and giving not getting.  They are not worried about getting their church name out there.  The only name they are concerned with promoting is Jesus.  What if our Western  Pastors, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Churches were more concerned with making the name of Jesus famous than the name on the sign out front.

I am not throwing stones.  I’ve been there.  This is not to say that House Churches are where it’s at or what God is doing now.  It’s really not about leaders, traditional churches, buildings, money or programs.  It’s about evaluating what we think and do as the Church and refocus on what is true and really necessary to be the Church.  It’s about shedding unnecessary baggage.  It’s about seeing through God’s eyes, getting His heart and being led by the Holy Spirit no matter what the cost, even if the cost is how we’ve always done it.  It’s about Jesus and people – all else is negotiable and subject to change.

It about being grateful.

Simple Church video…

This is a great video about the Simple Church movement by House2House featuring a number of leaders and Simple Church practitioners.

Simplify: The Rabbit and The Elephant…

the rabbit and the elephantI picked up this small book after running across it on This Blog.  The title alone was enough for me to buy it.  Curiosity!

I have not finished it yet, but, let me recommend it to you for your reading pleasure.  It is well crafted by 3 great writers, not the least of which is considered one of our most quoted christian leaders of our times,  George Barna. 

Let me quote from George Barna’s website:

“If you put two elephants in a room together and close the door, in 22 months you may get one baby elephant. But two rabbits together for the same amount of time will result in thousands of babies!”  

The idea is that something large and with a complex structure is harder to duplicate.  However, something small and simple is easily multiplied.  What if we applied this principle to Discipleship and Church Planting?

Skye Jethani, managing editor for Leadership Magazine shared these similar thoughts as it related to the church and sharing the Gospel in our times:

“To declare the gospel in a culture where fewer people are likely to step foot in a church means valuing swiftness over bigness, agility over security.  This means smaller, missional communities with less baggage may be better equipped to advance the gospel than some larger churches burdened by their programming and overhead.

Does this mean we should abandon all our institutional baggage?  Of course not.  But like a smart traveler, conditions today require us to be more discerning about what to take on our journey, and what to leave behind.” 

You can read more about this in an earlier post entitle Going Missional.

Is He building His Church or are we building Churches?  We are in desperate need of a Jesus movement, something Spirit lead and empowered that man cannot take credit for.  Are we positioning ourselves in the best way to allow this to happen?  Do our modern Church practices enhance or detract from this happening?  Is the Cross of Jesus and the Gospel of His Kingdom really the central focus of our Church efforts?  Lot’s of questions running through my mind today obviously. 

What are your thoughts on what it will take for Jesus to move in this way today?

Oh yea, buy the book.