Showing posts with label growth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label growth. Show all posts

20 August 2012

The Tall Skinny Kiwi in Asia

People following Jesus in Asian countries don't necessarily become part of churches in our Western sense. Sometimes they simply follow Yahshua in community as part of their everyday lives. The difference between the two approaches is a challenge to us.

A map of Asia
Andrew Jones is a church planter and a blogger - his blog is called 'Tall Skinny Kiwi'.

In 2011 he wrote an article for Lausanne Global Conversation following his visit to some Asian churches.

It's well worth reading again even if you've already seen it. Andrew's article simply lists eleven practices that he considered to be at the root of  the Asian believers' success.

The article is in two pages, make sure you don't miss the second page.

Here's his introduction.

I visited a number of Asian countries in 2011 and was amazed at the dynamism and commitment of the young Jesus followers.

One network, in a country that I will not mention, stuck out to me as an outstanding example. They have started almost a thousand new communities, many of them multiplying into the second and third generation. And like many new movements in the non-Western world, a Sunday worship service as an evangelistic entry point for potential members has not been part of their ministry portfolio.

So if they didn’t start worship services, how did they start a replicating movement of Christian communities and how do they maintain such a high level of spiritual growth?

Of course it’s hard and a little presumptuous to claim which elements of their ministry are the most important but . . . here are 11 practices that I think have contributed to their success:

Andrew then writes a little under each of the following headings - Bible study, open houses, fringe focus, simple habits, good business products, system for rehabilitation, native flavour, daily rhythms, not outreach to but outreach with others, something for the whole family, prayer.

Here's another taster, Andrew's sections on open houses and fringe focus.

The people were hospitable to visitors who seemed to come at any time of the day or night. Their houses were full of young people living there while their lives were being transformed. I did not see any buildings used for worship or church functions. Bible studies and events took place in the houses, with young people sitting on carpets and mattresses, but I would not classify it as a house church movement, since there was no regular worship service to invite neighbours into.

The primary influx was young people from the margins, the underbelly of society and those discarded by it, drug addicts, and postmodern sub-cultures rather than mainstream folk. I have seen this trend all over Asia including Japan. Most of the leaders I met had come from these backgrounds also.

There's a desperate need for change like this in other parts of the world. But perhaps there's just as much need for it here in Britain. Some people in the West are doing similar things, here in the UK and elsewhere, but so far perhaps especially in the USA.

Can we learn from this Asian approach? Is everything they do appropriate in the UK, just some of it, or none of it? Are there particular features Andrew describes that you might try in your own life with Jesus? Are you already doing some of these things? If not, why not? Could you engage in similar approaches with your friends? Could you reach your neighbours?

Leave a comment. Let's have a conversation.

06 January 2011

RESPONSE - Community and mission?

Felicity Dale has just written a great post about community and mission. Do we need to become a community before we launch out in mission? What does it mean to be a 'missional community'? Is that the same thing as a communal mission?

Felicity Dale's BlogFelicity has set me thinking and I need to respond at greater length than a blog comment will allow. If you want the context you can read her article now, or you can read my reply and then return to Felicity's article. But whatever you do make sure you read her wise contribution at some point!

She was asked the question, 'What do you do about mission if there is very little sense of community in your group?' Her post was in response to that.

The essential thing here is to let go of any preconceptions we may have, I can guarantee that some of them will be misconceptions. Better to clear a space in which the Holy Spirit can direct us and guide us. His job is to lead us, show us the way, encourage us, comfort us, and act as an advocate. Our job is to go and do the things he tells us. He is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Sonship, the Spirit of a sound mind.

Can I build Yahshua's church? No! He said he would build it himself. The best I can hope to do is play with the bricks so that he has to sort out my mess before he can begin building. Better to let him do it right from the start.

Mission - How did Jesus go about mission? He sent out his disciples in pairs and told them to go to the towns and villages. He told them to knock on the doors and, when they were made welcome, to go in, speak peace into the home, and eat with the people living there.

Community - A pair of disciples is the smallest unit that can be regarded as church. Greater numbers are not necessarily better. You, me and Jesus - that's enough! Church is not defined by size, structure, management methods, buildings, programmes, or mission statements. It is defined as two or more people on a journey together in community with Jesus.

The journey may be 'missional' at times - literally travelling from place to place to tell people the good news about Jesus. But much of the time it's more likely to be a journey of deepening understanding and growing depth of relationship with one another and with the Lord. If Jesus is leading us, reaching out will happen as part of that community life.

The source - What we most urgently need to know is that mission and community both have their roots in love. In his recent book Follow, Floyd McClung writes...

All followers and seekers of Jesus must wrestle with three simple yet profound truths. Worship. Mission. Community. They are simple, but they will affect every area of your life if you allow them to.

He lists and defines them again several times.

  • Worship: to love and obey Jesus as a lifestyle - with passion and purpose.
  • Mission: to love those who don't follow Jesus - with courage and decency.
  • Community: to love other followers of Jesus - with intentionality and transparency.

And later he writes...

'Worship - Love Jesus. Mission - Love the world. Community - Love one another.

Very simple. But building one's life on these three simple yet profound truths goes deeper than a first glance reveals. They might be simple, but they are not easy. They are approachable and touchable, but once you get close to them, they demand your whole life.

Love is the source of mission and of community as well as being the source of worship. If there is no love there can be no meaningful mission and no meaningful community.

But whose love? Mine? Well, yes and no. First and foremost it's the love of the Father poured out in and through the Son. And it's the love of the Son, Yahshua (Jesus) poured out sacrificially to redeem us and change us. And it's the love of the Spirit of Christ within us individually, and Christ in us communally - the hope of glory.

We love because we were first loved. The result of love in our hearts is threefold - worship, mission, and community.

It's not a question of mission and then community, or community and then mission. As we begin to love (and therefore worship) the One who first loved us, we will find ourselves in mission and in community too. Without love we will never get started with either of them.

Receive his love and you will inevitably begin to love him, then you will worship and everything else will follow as we are swept along with Jesus on his journey towards deeper community and mission.

There's a great example of this in practice on the Jesus Virus blog.

03 October 2010

THOUGHT - Planting the seed

< Prepare the ground | Index | No later items >

As we have already seen in previous posts on church planting, a seed has been found and the ground is prepared and ready. But how do we go about sowing the seed?

A young seedling in the soilWe should remember that the plant that will grow is not an individual, but a church. It will be composed of individuals and it may be quite small, even as small as two or three people. The maximum is probably about twenty, but such a large number is less likely.

Father has remarkable ways of arranging things. Jesus said quite clearly, 'I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.' It might well be that he is already building this particular manifestation of his church. Planting a church may already have been done, in secret, by the Lord himself.

Remember that the person (seed) that we are working with is a hospitable, open, caring sort of person. They will already have a community around them, perhaps family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours or a mixture of all four. This community or part of it may itself become church. So the work you will be doing might be planting a church or it might just be recognising the baby church that is already there.

Now do you see the importance of not attempting to draw the person into your existing church? That would just add one person to a group. Instead there is a golden opportunity to add an entire new group. If this is what Yahshua is telling you to do - don't miss it!

It would be foolish to prescribe a church planting method or a series of steps to perform, but there are one or two guidelines. Planting a church is just as much a miracle as is the establishment of a plant in a field. We know that it grows, but we have no idea how. What we can do is encourage the growth as much as possible.

So encourage the person you are working with to share their story with their natural community. They'll listen to someone they know far more attentively than to a stranger. Meet with them and be prepared to answer questions, but don't bring a list of topics to be covered. Be available, but be careful not to meet with them every time, especially so as the new church begins to be established and finds its feet. Give them space to discover for themselves. Their roots are in what Jesus will reveal to them, not in anything you might say.

Encourage them to listen to Jesus, they can do this by reading the gospels together and sharing their thoughts on what he said and did. They need to be willing to put what they learn into practice, they can pray for one another and help one another with practical aspects of their lives. They can begin to eat meals together, do things together, and read Acts and the New Testament letters to find out how church worked in the early years. Again they should begin to put these things into practice. The emphasis will naturally be on loving the Father, loving Jesus, loving one another, and loving those around them.

< Prepare the ground | Index | No later items >

28 September 2010

THOUGHT - Preparing the ground

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

In the second part of the series we looked at how we obtain the seeds for the work of planting a church. But the phrase 'planting a church' is loaded with meaning from our past experiences. We'd better define it before we begin to apply it here.

Compost - a good soil improverWe've already decided that a church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church. So planting a church means setting in place a community where he is at the centre and his people gather around him. That gets the purpose and intention into clear focus.

The seeds are welcoming, open people who are already primed with life but are currently dormant. They may have been dormant for a long time or just for a short while. If we can provide them with the right environment these people will grow - just try and stop them! So we need to look at the environment in which these people (seeds of church) are living.

What we must not do is uproot them from their environment and move them into our environment. That is often what happens but it's a serious mistake. If we move them they may wither in the new environment where they are surrounded by people they don't know. Much wiser to spend time with them amongst their own friends, family, or workmates and try to modify that environment in helpful, encouraging ways. Jesus said that when we are welcomed we should remain there (Luke 10:7). I don't think that necessarily means living in someone's house (though sometimes it will), but it certainly means living in that person's circle instead of drawing them into your own.

Read Luke 10:1-16 and Matthew 10:5-14 carefully and make a note of other things you should do or not do. There's a lot to consider in those verses. Pray about the things you find there and your attitude to those things.

A gardener would assess the situation and so should we. The gardener might notice the soil was too dry, or choked by weeds, or poorly drained, or much too shallow. He would prepare it according to its need by watering it, hoeing out the weeds, adding sand or compost, or building up the level.

We need to be observant, wise, and discerning. We might notice that the 'seed' person isn't reading the Bible, doesn't understand prayer very well, or perhaps hasn't heard or understood Christ's message of good news. We might therefore need to begin a Bible study with them, discuss and model prayer with them, or share the gospel (the good news).

If our discernment is good and what we do is appropriate we will soon begin to see them living more and more abundantly, growing in grace and love and excitement. These are just examples of the kind of thing that may help to prepare the ground. Pray fervently about the seed and your efforts at preparing the soil. Practice listening to the Holy Spirit - he will show you what to do and say. (You might like to use or adapt some of the priciples of CO2, you might consider doing this with the person you are helping, or you could do it with one of your believing friends.)

Look for natural opportunities as Philip did with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 4:26-40). Don't smother people with over-attention, give them breathing space to process what they have already absorbed.

Don't talk about doctrine or traditions or denominations. Focus as much as possible on revealing Christ to the person you are helping. There is so much in the New Testament - how he related to his followers and talked with them, the care and love he showed to those in need, his words on the hillside, Paul's abundant writings about love and other good things. You and the one you are helping will benefit by studying Jesus and spending time with him more than in any other way.

When the conditions are right and as time passes you will find signs of growth and it's likely the person will want to involve other friends or family. Encourage this - the seed is developing a root and a shoot and is already becoming a baby church without prompting from you! HalleluYah!

Next time we'll look at the details of planting the seed.

< Obtain seeds | Index | Plant the seeds >

24 September 2010

THOUGHT - More on the garden

< No earlier items | Index | Prepare the ground >

In the first part of this short series we looked at the steps needed for planting churches. We considered the analogy of planting seeds.

Perhaps the first thing to point out is that the churches (plural) are like a garden (singular). That is the way the Lord put it in my mind and that is how I wrote it down. Here are the words again as I received them, 'Planting churches is like growing a garden.'
A ripe seedhead ready to harvest
There is only one garden, I think that is the crucial point. There is not my garden and your garden, the churches I plant and the ones you plant. There is not the Anglican garden and the Baptist garden and the URC garden and the New Frontiers garden. There is not an English garden, an Italian garden, or an American garden - there is just Yahweh's garden.

The garden where he first walked with his people is the same garden in which he will walk with his people at the end of time. And it's also the same garden in which he walks with his people today. This garden is special not because of what it is, but because of who is in it! It is filled with the glorious presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Will you walk there with him? That's the question. If you will walk with Yahshua (Jesus) you will be walking in the garden; but you cannot go there without him.

So what are the churches that are 'like' this garden? A church is a place where brothers and sisters live in harmony in the presence of the King, Jesus. We can't all be in one place at the same time because we are spread throughout the world and also through time. A church is his people in relationship with Jesus in a local place and time. Wherever and whenever his people gather around him is church. It's not about us gathering, it's about him being among us. He, not we, define church. If he's not at the centre then although it's a gathering, it's not church.

Take these churches in their entirety and they are the garden!

Planting churches
What the Spirit told me was that planting churches is like growing a garden. I'm not an expert on church planting, I might possibly claim that Jesus involved me as several small groups sprang up. But I can see clearly enough the garden-like aspects of the process.

Step 1 - Obtain some seeds
Hmm... Seeds. You can buy seeds in a packet, you can harvest seeds from the previous season's flower heads. But in biological terms the process is the same. Seeds can't be manufactured, they must be collected from the fruits of a previous generation. Providing they're stored properly (kept cool and dry) they will remain alive although they are dormant.

So where should we go to obtain seeds to grow a church? We need to find the 'fruits of a previous generation'. If you take a late summer or early autumn stroll through the fields and along the hedges (or in a garden) you will see seed heads and ripe fruits in abundance. If you know what to look for you can collect seeds easily. If you don't know what to look for you may go away empty handed.

Jesus said, 'Look! The fields are ripe for harvest.' (John 4:34-38) And he said, 'Plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the field'. (Luke 10:1-12) Take him at his word! He gives detailed instructions in those verses. Read them. Pray.

There are 'seeds' out there, people already primed with life but dormant. Forget the idea that you have to go out and 'convert' people. People come alive when the Creator breathes his Spirit into them. It's not your job to fill people with life - it's his job.

Your job is to walk the fields and hedgerows of this world, recognising dormant life and collecting those containing it. You are a seed collector and you have been commanded to call out for the provision of more seed collectors. Together you will collect an abundant harvest of seeds.

Jesus sent out his followers in pairs to walk the fields and hedgerows. And he told them what to look for - 'peaceful people'. They were to look for people who would welcome them, house them, feed them - generous, giving, open people. People like that are already alive. They are alive but dormant. When you find them stay with them. If you don't find them try again in another place, don't even take the dust with you when you leave. Life came from dust and returns to dust. Where there is no life there is only dust - leave it behind.

If you look you will find these peaceful people in many places and at many times through your life. They're out there! Learn to recognise them, begin to notice them, but don't rush on - stay with them. And remember, where you go the Lord has already gone ahead of you.

So think about going out and collecting seeds and next time we'll begin to consider what we should do with these living, dormant seeds once we have found them.

The next post will take a look at preparing the ground for planting.

< No earlier items | Index | Prepare the ground >

23 September 2010

THOUGHT - Planting churches

The Spirit showed me that planting churches is like growing a garden. Maple seedling He said there are particular steps to be taken, and that the analogy is complete. Here's the process he set before me.
  1. Obtain some seeds.
  2. Prepare the ground.
  3. Plant the seeds.
  4. Water them at intervals.
  5. Protect them from birds and mice and insects.
  6. Watch them grow.
  7. Remove diseased leaves or shoots. If necessary pull out badly damaged plants and remove them.
  8. Enjoy the display of life and colour.
  9. If they've been encouraged and nurtured in the right way, they will naturally produce and scatter seed for the next generation.
There's also a 'do not'.
  • Do not micromanage the plants or try to conform them to your expectations. You will stunt them and they will grow misshapen and may not flower and set seed.
So there you have it, all you need to know in outline about planting churches. But of course there is every need to put some flesh on the bare bones of those steps. Over the next few days I'll explore the area covered by each of those points. The next post will take a look at how to obtain seeds.

Meanwhile I'd love to have your comments - how do you think the points relate to the practical work of planting real churches?

See also: The series on No-till farming by Miguel at Pathways International

20 March 2008

Eaton Ford - Leaf and plough

< 14th March 2008 | Index | 29th June 2008 >

This evening we were led to a song and some thoughts about growing. We listened to the rain on the roof and thought about ploughing. The main thrust of the meeting was spiritual growth.

We listened to Chris de Burgh's song from 1988, 'Just a Word Away'. Although it's not a Christian song it gives an insight into the way Father feels when a person first believes and is 'born again'. The words are appropriate and the music is quiet, peaceful, and exquisitely gentle.

Green leaves on a treeDonna pointed out that our growth as believers is like a child's growth, it happens daily although we can't detect it, but when we look back over a longer period we can see that we have been changed. However, we can't usually identify particular times when we 'suddenly grew'.

Chris said that we grow like a leaf. A leaf develops from a small bud, then spreads out and stretches and grows and becomes a more definite shade of green. The mature leaf provides the tree with nourishment. Sometimes we might think we do nothing useful, but without any leaves the tree couldn't grow and would eventually die. Our contribution to the church is just like that, it may seem insignificant, but if there were no believers the church itself would no longer exist.

Rachael added that there are two sides to spiritual life. There is growth in good things (like the leaf), but there's also a stripping away of what's not worthy in his sight. Those unworthy aspects of our lives will not survive, they will be destroyed. Chris drew our attention to the wind and rain that we could hear so clearly outside. He said that if he made a leaf out of paper or plastic it wouldn't survive very long outside in the wind and rain. A real leaf is different, remarkably resilient because it's alive. We can cope with the difficulties and challenges of life only because we're alive with his life. Rachael mentioned the process of birth in which a baby is brought from darkness into the light. It takes a long time for the process to be completed so the baby is adapted to the new environment. Maybe it takes us much longer then we expect before we are fully ready for the new life that's ours in Christ. It's a process.

Ploughing the soilRachael also shared a picture of an old-fashioned plough making furrows. The soil needs to be churned up and overturned before something new can be grown. There is a necessary process of breaking before the land can be used. It seemed to Chris that the breaking process is extremely important. It turns hard ground into soft, workable soil. It releases great richness too, so much that the birds follow along behind the plough and there are rich pickings for them! And the weeds that would choke the new crop are destroyed. Breaking is important. We need to be broken just as much as we need to grow. This made Rachael think of the expression 'breaking the mould' which she thought might come from the idea of getting a finished article out of the mould it was made in. In turn this reminded Chris of Michelangelo who once said that a beautiful sculpture was already inside the block of stone, and carving it was just a matter of releasing it for all to see.

The Lord gave Rachael a prophecy. 'Every step someone takes towards me cannot be lost again. That in itself is worth rejoicing over. You make one small step here and another step there, and before you know it you find you have walked 100 yards!' We were reminded of the way a baby learns to walk, at first there's just a single step, before long several steps in a row, and soon the young child is running and jumping.

We'd been talking about a sunrise meeting that some friends are planning. People use the phrase 'something dawned on me' to mean that the thing was illuminated in their mind. During dawn, the light becomes visible. Dawn is a new beginning, a new day, a new start, a new life. The Lord said, 'Let there be light' and there ''was'' light.

Chris read Genesis 1:1-4 and John 1:1-5. Both these famous texts mention the separation of light from the darkness. Darkness cannot comprehend the light, the enemy cannot win and doesn't even understand what is going on.

< 14th March 2008 | Index | 29th June 2008 >

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