church journey

entrepreneurial energy

Over in facebook I saw the question: “What advice to you offer for starting a simple church movement from scratch?”

I responded there, but wanted to post it here as well:

I say, “beware the yeast of church growth ambitions.” It’s a slippery slope from those passions to the “can do” business structures we are so good at constructing in our sleep, and there we are again – a very twisted mess of business and church together. I don’t see the NT church talking about church growth, multiplication, etc. like we hear so much in our circles, but rather the focus is hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord. And the simple church crowd I’ve seen is no different here. In fact, to many it feels like a “green field” and it stirs our business entrepreneurial energies like nobody’s business. We need good discernment here regarding the flesh vs. the Spirit of God. After so many centuries at building all shapes and types of church businesses, I believe we can’t help but have significant blindness here, but God is helping us.

Our business growth abilities are wonderful and God given (Eccl 5), but I believe should largely be kept in the realms of earthly doings. Sure, I think the Lord can use our abilities, but I find in my own journey that they need to be completely slaughtered sacrificially at the alter, surrendered to the Lord, and left to die when it comes to application to his church. And then be very careful if/when to apply them to church life ever again. As I’ve observed the simple church crowd that I too am a part of, I see those same energies getting stirred in such a way that the “church business” approaches are simply being repackaged in new structures – but will nodoubt result in the same undesired end. Good, mature relationships among the church around you, who know you and the Lord, are an important “check” for us. It’s being incredibly valuable for us to move as a church body, rather than an individual, in this department.

Jesus only did what he saw his father doing. How much more do we need to “see” and know what he’s doing in our midst, and simply follow. We don’t need to have a master plan. He’s already got one! 🙂

church journey

simple church start

I’d like to say a word of encouragement to those who are wanting to gather with others who are simply wanting to be the church that follows Jesus, but your thinking “I don’t know anyone doing that around here.” A dozen years ago we were in the same boat. We were going around to various venues – traditional church businesses, maybe a conference here and there, or home school groups, or BSF, or this or that – meeting people who, like us, were “on the journey” of leaving the church business, not knowing what to do, but wanting to just be the church that follows Jesus. And someone called a gathering, inviting everyone over to the house. And we talked about the journey. There’s so much to talk about, and swapping stories is invigorating. And then we prayed for each other, and went home. Simple. We liked it, and we sensed God pulling us in to him. Some time later we called another one, and by then there were a few different faces. We brought potluck, we talked, we prayed. One thing led to another and we said, “hey, how about we do this once a month?” So we did, and it was wonderful. Somehow we sensed that God was trying to reach us, drawing us in, and we wanted to respond to him. Much later, someone could play piano/guitar, so we shared a worship song together. Then someone said, “I’d really like to see you all more often, how about twice a month?” So we did. Next thing you know, a few years went by, and someone knew of some nice cabins by a river that could hold us, and there was a pool for the kids. So we went for three days, and it was wonderful. We’ve done that four years in a row now. Over the years we keep turning corners together, just letting one thing lead to another, and working out together what we sense the Lord doing among us. The Lord is teaching us so much about the priority of relationships with him and each other. Love and safety is growing among us. Next thing you know, God is using it as if to say, “okay, now that my presence is among you, you’re ready to face some things and ‘grow up’ together”. And we are. Somewhere along the way we realized lots of other people were doing this around the country/world, and they were calling it “simple church” or other names.

So my thought is, let’s just gather, 2 or 3, and touch the Lord together – figuring out whatever that looks like for you. Who cares how big/small it is; who cares if it seems as “established” as the church businesses we’ve all been a part of – that’s business-speak in our heads, not the simple, true, Kingdom of God speak. Somebody, someday, somehow has to simply start with inviting people over to talk, or whatever. One of our early memories is “show and tell” nights – it’s where you bring some object you have that’s got a story about you behind it, that helps people see a little bit about yourself that may not be obvious.

Not sure if others have this happen to them, but I find that all the years in church business can make you think things have to be so well thought out and organized and proper before it feels okay to just gather and be the church that follows Jesus. More business-speak in our heads, not the Spirit of God.

church journey

drafting behind Jesus (aka, living by his Spirit)

For some reason it has come to my awareness several times lately how different life is in the church when we are truly “drafting” behind Jesus. There’s the sense that so many details of life are left to him, and we deal only with what he lets come our way. And he knows what we’re made of, when we’re ready for something new, how much we can take, how much and what kind of burden he thinks we’re ready for, etc. I think this is an especially important topic for simple church. In the church business approach, which has been the traditional form of church life for most of us, I found that it was mostly about man figuring out what we’re supposed to do in this life, and working very hard – a mix of trying to follow the promptings of God’s spirit, but a lot of flesh effort as well – to make things happen. Whoever had the best ideas of the day, whoever sounded the most compelling or was in the hierarchy leadership authority we put ourselves under, or whatever book was taking Christendom by storm lately – this is where we often took our queues from. It seemed that truly living life by the Spirit of God was difficult there, or was limited. And even for many who have made the move to simple church, I still find that there is a blindness where we don’t always see how used to living by our own means we are – we are still spending a lot of time and energy sweating out how to do this life. There is a different dynamic when it comes to being a sheep of the Lord’s shepherding, following the gentle, persuasive leading of his staff, eating & doing what’s in front of us. Check out this wikipedia definition of “drafting”:

“Drafting or slipstreaming is a technique where two vehicles or objects align in a close group reducing the overall effect of drag due to exploiting the lead object’s slipstream. Especially when high speeds are involved, drafting can significantly reduce the echelon’s average energy expenditure required to maintain a certain speed and can also slightly reduce the energy expenditure of the lead vehicle or object.”

There’s a humility in this – we don’t get to be the one in charge. We don’t get to say “look what I did!”. In this way of living, I think we mostly end up following his desire for our lives without any fanfare. Have you ever noticed that some of the most amazing times of God using us in this life is when we had no idea it was happening? I have this hunch that most of the living of the life he desires is like that – we really have no idea all that he’s accomplishing. And we don’t need to know. We couldn’t fathom all the intricacies of his master plan. We get to spend more time being preoccupied with him – adoring him, being with him in our thoughts, letting him whisper his love to us. And letting him be the clever one who knows what needs to be done, and trust him to lead us by the things he’s put inside us. And our role is to tap in on those passions he’s put in us for this life – in the context and “check” of a growing relationship with him and his church around us. Then we just end up in the right places at the right time, doing the right things.