Showing posts with label Victor Choudhrie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Victor Choudhrie. Show all posts

22 May 2013

Share resources

Choudhrie's steps, Part 4 of 21
< Small and informal | Series index | Eat together >

Victor Choudhrie asks us to share all we have. The Old Testament tithe is neither necessary nor sufficient, everything we have is to be at the disposal of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, we need to reach out beyond even this and care sacrificially for the community in which we live.

People in community
In his fourth step for transforming church, Victor Choudhrie suggests we drop the notion of tithing and begin to share all we have together.

Replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing, thereby harnessing the enormous, financial resources, hospitality and goodwill available in Christian homes. 
Believe that God is going to work a work among the nations through you, which will leave you utterly amazed, and also provide resources for it. Deuteronomy 8:17-18; Acts 5:32-34; Habbakuk 1:5

If we've followed the first three steps we will already be meeting informally at home, and we are now being called to share everything in common.

Practical caring - This may seem like another huge step, and in some ways it is, but the blow is softened a little when we realise that the little group of believers meeting at home is already very like a family unit. In our family lives do we hesitate to share what we have with one another? No! This one's lack is met by that one's sufficiency, what could be better or more natural?

If a mother or father is willing to spend whatever they have for a son or daughter, or a son or daughter is willing to care for an elderly parent, why would a small gathering of believers be any different?

It happens entirely without planning or weighing up whether or not to help or how much to help. Where there is need it will be met as long as there are resources to meet it. If the resources run out the family suffers the shortage together. So it must be in local ekklesia (church). We are family.

Mosaic tithing - Under the law, the people were required to support the Levites and priests who had no land allocation in Israel. They would collect a portion of their harvest and animals and give them as an offering so that the temple worship could continue.

We can legitimately argue that tithing is part of the old covenant, so if we disregard other old covenant laws concerning circumcision, not eating pork, ritual cleansing, why do we insist on retaining tithing?

Just as the temple sacrifices have been met in full by Jesus' death so that we can now give ourselves as living sacrifices, and just as ritual cleansing has been met in full by Jesus' provision of living water, so too the tithe requirements have been fully met in Jesus who requires all we possess to support the royal priesthood of all believers.

We really can't have it both ways. Either we are required to give a fixed percentage or we are called to give everything. Which will it be? Before answering that question consider very carefully whether you want to take responsibility for your own future or whether you prefer to cast yourself on Jesus' mercy  and and his call to enter his kingdom here on Earth.

Will you take the route of law or of grace? Is tithing law or grace? Is spending whatever you have to meet the needs of your brother or sister law or grace? Now make that choice - fixed percentage or all you have. The challenge will be to live by your choice.

As it was at the beginning - In the earliest days of the church it's clear that everything was shared in common, at least in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44).

This works well where everything is very informal. This is certainly the case for your family and it should also be the same in the local church. In places where there is oppression, persecution and danger it is the only way that works.

Here in the West, however, church has often been modelled on business. Money is required for buildings, staff, equipment and programmes; funds are raised to support these things. We spend most of these resources on ourselves and the remainder goes on missions and helping the local community.

We really need to turn this around so that the entire church becomes missional in nature, the mission is mostly local, and needs are met as they arise by everyone helping one another and sharing this kind of love more widely to friends, neighbours and colleagues.

Probable responses - How will we feel about freely giving to those who need it?
  1. People may feel anxious that they won't have enough remaining resources for their own needs.
  2. There may be a belief that it's the church's 'job' to collect funds and administer them and that it's wrong to give directly into a need. But what does the New Testament say about that?
  3. Some of us might worry that others would take advantage of our kind heartedness. How should we respond to this fear?

Questions:
  • Are you willing to offer your time and your money to meet the needs of your brothers and sisters?
  • Are you willing to offer your time and money to meet the needs of your neighbours?
  • Are you prepared to divert funds from current church buildings, staff, equipment and programmes in order to meet the needs of those around you?

See also:


< Small and informal | Series index | Eat together >

06 February 2013

Small and informal

Choudhrie's steps, Part 3 of 21
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This is Victor Choudhrie's third step in transforming church life. The idea is that we meet in quite small numbers and don't attempt anything like a traditional church service. Instead we meet very informally, much more like a family than a congregation.

Meet informally, like a familyIn step three, Victor Choudhrie suggests we keep our meetings very small and informal, not replicating the idea of a church service, but letting the Holy Spirit lead moment by unplanned moment.

Phase out programmed Sunday ‘services’ while implementing informal, small gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day, not only for a couple of hours a week, lest she become unfaithful. However, discourage cross-gender disciple-making, lest chemistry foul things up. Acts 2:46-47; Hebrews 3:13

In step one we dispensed with the pastor, in step two we lost the building, so on the face of it there seems little option but to meet at home in an informal way. But our habits and traditions might lead us in other directions.

The danger of tradition - For one thing, we might feel a need for direction and look to leaders to provide it. Even if we really, really intend to follow Jesus we may still fear we won't hear him well, or we won't understand what he tells us. We may want an 'expert' to guide us. We might also feel that we are too exposed with only a few people meeting in someone's home, larger numbers are safer and a sign of success - aren't they?

But Jesus says, 'Come to me and I will give you rest', 'I will build my church', 'Where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be right there amongst them.' So how can we doubt? He is our security. He is our guide. We are safe in his hands!

Opening ourselves to the new - I think Choudhrie's main point is that we need to avoid programmed, organised, structured meetings and instead allow The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ) to lead us moment by moment as we meet together. If we organise the meeting we will get a meeting designed and built by humans. If Jesus organises the meeting we will get a meeting designed and built by the One who said, 'I will build my church'. Which do you prefer? Go ahead, choose.

Choudhrie also reminds us that we should be meeting daily, not just once or twice a week. That would not be practical at all if we had to arrange everything ourselves. But if we just turn up ready to accept what Yahshua has prepared we will feast on truth and wisdom and encouragement and healing and power and joy and peace every day of every week. Do you want this? Do you want it enough to do it?

But be careful - Ideas like 'Church of two' (CO2) and 'Life transformation groups' (LTGs) may help with this, but even these should be considered carefully and prayerfully. It may be better to let the Spirit lead us day by day in a completely unstructured format. Don't be afraid to take things that work for you and adapt them or employ them for a season. But whatever you do, don't become married to a method.

I would recommend taking the warning against cross-gender discipling with a pinch of salt too. It's right to be cautious and aware of potential difficulties, and it might be right to avoid such situations most of the time. But there is always a danger of ruling out what the Spirit is showing us to do. Be careful and be wise, but remember it is also unwise to quench the Spirit - even in order to be careful.

Body life! - What are the advantages of meeting informally without making prior arrangements?

Spontaneity is essential if Jesus is to have his way in our meetings. His presence and his guiding hand are huge advantages, advantages we can never exaggerate or over-emphasise.

The Holy Spirit is gentle like a dove. He will fly up and perch in the rafters if we are not patient, quiet and expectant; he will look on from a distance if we insist on doing things our way. But with him in control our times together can take us to places we cannot imagine. Freedom to use gifts like tongues and interpretation, prophecy, healing, knowledge and the rest, freedom to sing as and when each one is led, freedom to share a Bible text, a picture, a prayer, freedom to teach, to share a problem, to encourage, to weigh what is said, to build one another up - these are the freedoms we need. Mostly we need them far more than we think!

If we meet like this we will find ourselves doing what Paul describes, building one another up in love as each plays their part.

This is body life. This is body ministry. This is Christ at work amongst his people. This is a hint of the Bride growing into maturity.

The value of the small - Small groups have the potential to be much more intimate than large gatherings. There is a place for larger groups, but intimacy with one another enables intimacy with the Spirit too. And for most of the time this is what we need, times where we can be close and personal, where we can share our hearts and Jesus' heart. These are the conditions that allow one anothering to flourish and all our needs to be met as the body of Christ.

Probable responses - How will people receive the suggestion to meet simply and in small groups?
  1. It seems safe to be in an audience, but risky to speak out. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure will cause some to reject the idea of unplanned meetings. But Jesus says that love rejects fear. The answer to fear and doubt is to love him and love one another enough to give it a try.
  2. Some people might choose to add in elements of freedom but keep a planned framework for times together. But the more we plan, the less space we leave for the Holy Spirit. It may seem safer, but it restricts and controls, limiting what is possible.
  3. Others will seize hold of unplanned and intimate meetings with joy. They will experience great rewards for their bravery and boldness and willingness to take a risk.

Questions:
  • Have you ever been in a meeting that was unplanned and open? Consider trying it some time with a small group of friends.
  • How much planning goes into conversations with your parents, your children, or your friends?
  • Can we trust the Holy Spirit? Do we know him? Is he welcome among us?

See also:


< Meet in houses | Series index | Share resources >

13 January 2013

Meet in houses

Choudhrie's steps, Part 2 of 21
< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

For the second step in transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie urges us to meet in a different place. Instead of 'temples made by human hands' he recommends 'houses of peace'. What does he mean by this? How do we find 'houses of peace'?

Is there a house of peace here?This is Victor Choudhrie's second step for transforming the life of the church.

Move from meeting in temples to gathering in 'houses of peace'. 'God does not dwell in temples made by human hands'; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matthew 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Corinthians 6:16


As with step 1 there's a lot to digest. Once again, step 2 assumes the reader is part of a typical western church. We are comfortable with the idea of meeting as a large group in a spacious building, But Victor Choudhrie challenges us to read the New Testament with fresh eyes and open minds and calls us to meet somewhere entirely different. Let's unpack this a little.

Temple or house of peace? - Are we 'dwell[ing] in temples made by human hands'? Surely not! The Temple was in Jerusalem, not here in my town. Why does he say we are meeting in 'temples'?

What is the essence of a temple? It's a special place where people come to worship their chosen god. Is that what we do on a Sunday morning? Well, yes, in a way it is exactly what we do. We all know that the place where we meet is not special, yet we treat it reverentially. Or, if we hire a building once a week, although the building is ordinary we regard the gathering itself to be special in some way.

And what is a 'house of peace'? Reading the Luke and Matthew passages it's clear that travelling is involved here. When we arrive in a new place we're to search for a home where we will be made welcome. So rather than meeting in a special place, we might consider meeting in any home that will welcome us. That implies smaller numbers (200 people won't fit in a typical house) and it implies lack of organisation (no worship band, no pulpit, no rows of seats).

There are at least two ways of looking at this.

Mission or community? - The first one involves going out to find people of peace, spending time with them sharing the good news of Jesus, asking them to gather their close friends and family in their home, coaching them to lead the new house church so created and teaching them to repeat the process themselves. That's one view. This is what the disciples and early church did. Meeting as part of a small community in a home means you are part of a network of such meetings and actively planting out new ones.

The second way of looking at it is that the small meeting at home is a family, a stable group of people that love and care for one another, help one another out, build one another up, and encourage one another.

In practice, most home-based churches will have elements of both viral spread and family group. The proportion of the mix depends on environment. Where there is a large harvest in the local area the missional aspect may be the major one, where there are already many believers, the community aspect may the most widely expressed.

This second step requires additional, fundamental change of a most demanding kind. In the first step we lost our leaders, now we are losing our building!

How many conventional churches would be willing to take such a major and seemingly foolhardy step? Perhaps not many. And what sort church would do so? Perhaps the answer to that is one who's members are looking to follow Jesus closely and are paying attention to what he says.

Releasing resources - How much money and time does it take to manage church in 'temple' mode? Add up the cost of a building, either rented weekly or purchased outright, and the expenses involved in staff salaries, office space and equipment, lighting, heating and other running costs and the annual bill for just one church is very large. Now factor in the time people spend supporting all of this church infrastructure. The time and money absorbed by non-essential activities is immense.

Now multiply that by the number of churches (over a dozen in St Neots where I live) and you can begin to comprehend the resources that would be released if we all met in homes. Most of those resources could be used to support mission work, to help one another, and meet everyday needs in the community.

It's not that conventional churches don't spend time and money on the community or on mission, some make considerable efforts in that regard. But how much more could we do?

And here's the main point. How often do we stop and ask the Spirit of Christ to guide us in these things? If we asked him, what would he say to us? Would he command us, 'Go and make bricks and build a physical structure for me'? Probably not, that's what Pharaoh commanded the Israelites.

No, he is much more inclined to tell his people, 'Go in my name and feed the hungry, heal the sick, share the good news, look for the house of peace and the person of peace and allow me to build my church there, a body made of living stones'.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestion to move out of a 'temple' and into 'houses of peace'? As with step one there are three possibilities.
  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and destroys what we have been accustomed to. Many may feel it's an unsafe and unwise move, a step into the unknown.
  2. Others may try to adjust what they already have. For example, they may stress the value of home groups and reduce the importance of the Sunday service in a large, central location. This meeting may become a celebration held once every month or two.
  3. And some might take hold of step two enthusiastically, replacing the main location altogether and focussing all their resources on growing healthy gatherings in homes.

Questions:
  • What arguments do you foresee being used to retain the use of a large meeting place?
  • Small and large meetings both have advantages and disadvantages, how many you can list?
  • What does Choudhrie mean by a 'maximum of organism and minimum of organisation'?

See also:


< Clergy and laity | Series index | Small and informal >

31 December 2012

Clergy and laity

Choudhrie's steps, Part 1 of 21
< No earlier items | Series index | Meet in houses >

In his first step for transforming church life, Victor Choudhrie suggests that we rewrite the job description of the professional clergy. Instead of employing professional clergy we should expect leaders to encourage the sheep to serve one another.

A shepherd and his sheep in RomaniaHere's the first of Victor Choudhrie's steps for transforming the life of the church, in his own words.

Rewrite the job description of the professional clergy from that of a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer, to that of a shepherd who feeds his flock to be healthy and reproducing, by encouraging them to practice the priesthood of all believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. He must model a flat church structure wherein brothers and sisters submit to one another, pray one for another, serve one another, exhort, forgive and love each other. John 13:34-35; Matthew18:21-22; Ephesians 5:21

There's a lot to digest, right here in step one. It is written on the assumption that the reader is currently involved in a typical western denominational church of a particularly traditional kind.

There are professional clergy, people who are paid to work as pastors or vicars or whatever they may choose to call themselves. These people have three major roles - speaking from the front, presiding over the sharing of bread and wine, and fund raising.

A change of role - Choudhrie is clear that there must be a change of role. Shepherding involves feeding, promoting health and ensuring there is active reproduction. This would be a farmer's desire for any flock of sheep and it should equally be the shepherd's desire for church sheep. So far so good, at this point those in the newer streams of church may be feeling they are doing a reasonable job of meeting that first step. Catholics and Anglicans, however, may already be having a hard time accepting some of the changes being proposed.

But there's more! Choudhrie insists that the sheep themselves must be encouraged to act as priests and to take responsibility for baptising, breaking bread, and equipping others for capturing new followers. And the members are to learn to submit to one another and themselves do the work of church leaders. This may give pause for thought to many more of us.

Probable responses - How will traditional churches receive the suggestions in step one? There are three possibilities.

  1. Some may reject the step out of hand because it goes against church tradition and denominational rules.
  2. Others may try to make adjustments to bring their current model of church more in line with the requirements of step one. They might, for example, encourage selected and trusted members of the congregation to speak from the front from time to time, or take charge of communion, or manage a home group.
  3. And some might accept step one as it stands and make fundamental changes to the way church operates.

Questions:
  • What problems do you see with each of the three responses?
  • If the sheep are to do the work themselves, is a shepherd still necessary?
  • What do you suppose Choudhrie means by a 'flat church structure'?

See also:


< No earlier items | Series index | Meet in houses >

29 December 2012

Choudhrie's steps - INDEX

(See indexes on other topics)

Victor Choudhrie is an Indian evangelist and apostle who has baptised many people in India, planted many house churches, speaks internationally, and writes books, manuals and teaching material. He suggests twenty-one steps for transforming a traditional church.

Victor Choudhrie
Victor Choudhrie is an Indian cancer specialist turned apostle. I don't know if he would describe himself in quite that way, but I do.

He has started a movement of house church planting in India and it is spreading exponentially. He has also been invited to speak about his work in many countries and has written books and papers about it.

Listen to him speaking about how he changed from medicine to preaching Christ (there's a two minute introduction before Choudhrie speaks). The full set of six videos is well worth hearing.

One of his papers is a PDF containing twenty-one steps that he recommends for transforming the life of the church. Some of the steps have been shared on SimpleChurch Journal and briefly discussed on The assembling of the church. Victor Choudhrie describes them as 'twenty-one steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls'. They form part of the training material on the Paul-Timothy website.

But I'd like to go further, I think it would be useful to take all twenty-one steps individually and examine them in a bit more detail. They are very striking, and extremely challenging. Are you ready?

The steps are listed below in abbreviated form and will be examined in future posts.

  1. Clergy and laity - rewrite the job description of the professional clergy
  2. Meet in houses - move from meeting in temples to houses of peace
  3. Small and informal - phase out Sunday services, gather informally
  4. Share resources - replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing
  5. Eat together - replace wafer-and-sip communion with agape meals
  6. Spiritual melody - replace professional music with heart music
  7. Interact and participate - not spectator-oriented but prophetic
  8. Become a network - not mega-church but meta-church
  9. Multiply - produce baby meta-churches abundantly
  10. Know who you are - be Christ's royal-priests, not laity
  11. Challenge purposeless church - clearly stated vision and a roadmap
  12. Unglue and send out - don't sit, soak and stagnate, but actively go
  13. From death to life - from titles to five-fold ministry that equips
  14. Subgroups are church - every prayer group and Bible study is church
  15. Replace goats with sheep - individuals who care for the weak and lost
  16. Simplify disciple making - gossip the gospel and multiply
  17. Training at home - no seminaries, share the truth house to house
  18. A new personal paradigm - church is where you spend your time
  19. Legacy church is secondary - see it as it is
  20. Preach Christ in new places - be fruitful and multiply
  21. Have a completion mindset - aim to be a millionaire of souls

Questions:
  • How do you react to the list of steps?
  • Does Victor Choudhrie have the right to suggest these steps to change?
  • If so, why? If not, why not?
  • What do you find most interesting or challenging about his life as a believer?

See also:

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