Is This Really Church?

I love this message by Francis Chan titled Is This Really Church?  You’ll want to fast forward to about 22 minutes into this 58 minute video to bypass some introductory comments of interest only to his church.  But at that point he dives into comparing his own church to the New Testament Church.  I think he is right on.

This is from an American Pastor questioning if what he created was indeed what Scripture says Church is supposed to be. But unfortunately, American missionaries have exported the same thing to countries around the world. I see it in the country I live in now.

The Unexpected Journey

I just finished reading The Unexpected Journey: Conversations with People Who Turned from Other Beliefs to Jesus
by Thom Rainer.  This was both an enjoyable and educational read.  He has 13 chapters telling the testimonies of people from widely divergent backgrounds who came to faith in Christ, and in the final chapter he draws some applications to the lives of believers today.  I highly recommend this book, but won’t spoil it by getting too detailed about the contents.  It is a fun read.

One of the things that struck me was how many of these people did not understand very much about what Jesus did for them on the cross.  They just turned from their false god to Jesus.  And this is much like other personal testimonies I have heard recently from former Buddhists who have come to Christ (I’m currently in a predominantly Buddhist country).  They certainly didn’t understand substitutionary atonement.  They just turned to Jesus as Lord.

As I thought about this it reminded me of this blog post I read recently, which discusses the question that has haunted many readers of the classic Pilgrims Progress over the years.  The question is, “When did Christian get saved?”  It is somewhat confusing, because Christian asks Evangelist “Whither must I fly?” Evangelist directs Christian to the Wicket Gate, or to Christ, and not to the cross.  But later we see Christian losing his heavy burden at the Cross.  Jim Orrick, professor of literature and culture at Boyce College (Louisville) teaches a course on The Pilgrims Progress, and has concluded that Christian gets saved at the Wicket Gate, and loses his burden of shame (gets assurance of salvation) at the cross.  You should read the entire explanation, but he ends with this:

the third error my students sometimes make, they are confused about the proper object of saving faith.

“Are you saying that someone can be saved without the cross?” a concerned student asks.

“No,” I answer, “No one can be saved apart from what Jesus accomplished on the cross, but the Bible proclaims that a person gets saved when he receives Christ, and the Bible does not say that a person gets saved through believing that Jesus died for him. Christ himself is the proper object of saving faith, not some part of his work.”

This is a reflective moment for most, because in these days, virtually everyone has been told that if he will believe that Jesus died for him, he will be saved, but I repeat: this is not found in the Bible. A person is saved not when he believes in right doctrine (substitutionary, penal atonement, in this case) but a person is saved when he believes in the right person, namely Christ. So the object of saving faith is not a doctrine but a person. Christ himself is the treasure chest of salvation. Receive him, and you receive all that is in him. The doctrine of substitutionary, penal atonement is an indispensable, essential component of the gospel, but it is not the whole gospel. How many Christians understood this crucial doctrine when they first received Christ? Nearly none! So how could they have been saved? Because, in spite of having underdeveloped or even mistaken ideas about the nature of the atonement, all who receive Christ the risen Lord as Lord and Savior are saved.

A 12 year old with questions…. and answers

Recently I have written on this blog several articles (here and here and here and here) about the power of questions in discipleship and evangelism. My scripture reading today was in Luke 2 and 3.  Luke 2 contains the story about Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem as his family heads home after the Passover.  When they found him, he was in the temple.  Luke 2:46 says:

Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.

Now I had always assumed that passage was saying that as a young boy Jesus was asking the religious leaders spiritual questions because he wanted to grow in his knowledge of the Lord.  But the next verse adds an interesting detail:

And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

So Jesus was listening and asking questions.  But he was doing something else.  He was providing answers.  Evidently he was asking questions that the religious leaders could not answer on their own.  He was listening to them, but evidently not in order to learn from them.  As a 12 year old, he was the one with the understanding and the answers.  He wasn’t asking questions and listening in order to learn.  He was asking questions and listening in order to teach.  Even as a 12 year old, Jesus was the Master Teacher!

Umm, you wouldn’t happen to have….

Mark Dever, a grad student at Corpus Christi College, walked through the busy, narrow streets of Cambridge, England.

“Sir, could I interest you in some literature?” said a Hare Krishna disciple on the street corner. He pointed some books and pamphlets at Mark’s midsection. His offer was made in the tone of a fast-food server: “Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order.”

Mark replied, “No, thank you.”

“Why not?” asked the persistent Hare Krishna.

“Honestly?” said Mark, with raised eyebrows and a smile.

“Yes.”

“Well, I think that what you’re asking me to read just isn’t true.” Mark, still smiling, waited for the response.

“True? How can you say that?” the Hare Krishna said with a half laugh.

“Well,” said Mark, “for example, I believe that Jesus was God.”

“Oh, well, I do too,” he replied, with a dismissive wave of the hand.

“No, no,” said Mark. “You believe that Jesus was god in a Hindu sort of way. You know, in the sense that I’m god, you’re god, the trees are god . . but I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was God with a capital g, the big one-God Almighty.”

“Oh,” said the Hare Krishna, with sudden awareness and concern written on his face.

Mark continued, “But don’t be worried. I suspect that if most people watching us didn’t know you were the Hare Krishna and I was the Christian, they would agree with you and not me.”

“What do you mean?” The Hare Krishna guy’s demeanor became real but cynical. Even he had a hard time seeing how a shaved-headed guy on the street corner passing out literature could be considered status quo.

Mark rubbed his chin. “Well,” he began, squinting his eyes thoughtfully at the young man, “I suspect you believe that most people are created basically good and that if we just do some things right we can become better people.”

“Yes, I guess that is what I believe.”

“And I would suspect that most of the people walking by on this street believe that we’re basically good and just need to not make mistakes to be better.”

“Okay,” he said as he looked around.

“But you see, I believe that we’re bad, corrupted and basically rotten to our core, and that the only hope for us is radical surgery: for God to rip out our evil hearts and give us new ones. The Bible calls that being born again.”

The Hare Krishna guy gave a thoughtful look. He glanced from side to side. “Umm, you wouldn’t happen to have any Christian literature, would you?”

Straightaway Mark took him to a bookstall and bought him his first Christian book.

J. Mack Stiles. Speaking of Jesus: How to Tell Your Friends the Best News They Will Ever Hear(pp. 63-64). Kindle Edition.

I am Not a Christian

I no longer tell people I am a Christian.  Why?  Because I don’t want to confuse people.  If you ask 10 people on the street in the USA (or most other countries) what a Christian is, you will get 10 different answers.   If I say I am a Christian, they will likely interpret that to mean something different than what I am communicating.  But more importantly, the term is not a good Biblical term.

“In actuality, Jesus never used the word Christian.  For that matter, neither did Paul.  Peter did once, telling others that they might be insulted because of the name of Christ: ‘If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed….’ (1 Peter 4:14-16).  Christian appears one other time in the Bible — in the book of Acts — where Luke says ‘the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch’  (Acts 11:26).  Even so, the origin of the word — ‘little Christs’ — may have been used by non-Christians in Antioch in a derogatory way.

We are never commanded, exhorted, or encouraged to use the word Christian.  It is, after all, a word, and for that matter a loaded word, weighted with hidden meanings and historical grievances.  A much better phrase, one I use myself, is “follower of Jesus”.  This defines.  It explains.  It’s dynamic and real.” *

Believers in the New Testament referred to themselves as “Followers of the Way” (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 19:23, 24:14, 24:22).  Where did they get that terminology, and why did they use it?  Jesus had said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6).  They were followers of The Way, which must have been fairly ambiguous to those who did not know Jesus.  It must have elicited some questions.  What Way?  What do you mean, you are following the way?  Which opened up an opportunity to talk about the fact that they way was a person, not a philosophy or a religion.  Jesus is THE WAY.

In our modern context, “followers of Jesus” might be a better description.  But I am wondering if reviving “Follower of The Way” might be an even better idea.  What do you think?

* Muslims, Christians, and Jesus by Carl Medearis

Jesus’ Use of Questions

How many questions did Jesus ask?  Take a guess.  Not including those within the parables, how many questions of Jesus do we have recorded in the gospels?  Here are a few of them, but the actual answer comes at the end of this post.

  • What are you looking for?
  • Why are you looking for me?
  • What do you want me to do for you?
  • Who do people say that I am?
  • But who do you say that I am?
  • Why do you ask me about what is good?
  • Why do you call me good?
  • Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?
  • Woman, how does your concern affect me?
  • Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers and sisters?
  • What is your opinion about the Messiah?  Whose son is he?
  • Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
  • Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?
  • Friend, who appointed me as a judge and arbitrator?
  • O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?  How long will I endure you?
  • Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  Lord, when did we see you hungry and thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison and not minister to your needs?
  • Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me?
  • What are you thinking in your hearts?
  • Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
  • Did not the Maker of the outside also make the inside?
  • Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, “Let me remove that splinter from your eye,” while the wooden beam is in your eye?
  • Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?  Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them, do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
  • If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Do not the tax collectors do the same?
  • And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?
  • And if you do good only to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? 
  • Which of them will love more?
  • Do you want to be well?
  • Who touched me?
  • What is your name?
  • How long has this been happening to him?
  • Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, pick up your mat and walk?”
  • Do you see anything?
  • You see all these things, do you not?
  • Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?
  • Do you see this woman?
  • What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
  • Which one of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?
  • Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?
  • Why do you make trouble for her?
  • What profit is there for one to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?
  • What could one give in exchange for his soul?
  • Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to his life span?   If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?
  • Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
  • Are you not more important than the birds of the sky?
  • Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?
  • Who is greater, the one seated at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one seated at the table?
  • What is the reign of God like?  To what can I compare it?
  • To what shall we compare the reign of God, or what parable can we use for it?
  • Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
  • Why are you anxious about cloths?
  • Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?
  • If you then who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?
  • How many loaves do you have?
  • If God so cloths the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will God not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
  • Will not God secure the rights of God’s chosen ones who call out to God day and night?  Will God be slow to answer them?
  • Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?
  • Where is your faith?
  • Do you believe in the Son of Man?
  • Do you believe that I can do this?
  • O you of little faith, why did you doubt?
  • Do you not yet have faith?
  • Why are you terrified?
  • When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
  • But if you do not believe the writings of Moses, how will you believe my words?
  • Why this commotion and weeping?
  • Why does this generation seek a sign?
  • Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation?  What are they like?
  • How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
  • Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?
  • Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
  • Do you believe now?
  • If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me?
  • Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?
  • Tell me, was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origins?
  • Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?
  • Why do you not understand what I am saying?
  • Do you not yet understand or comprehend?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
  • Do you still not understand?
  • You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?
  • If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
  • Are even you likewise without understanding?
  • Do you understand all these things?
  • Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
  • Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
  • Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
  • Does this shock you?
  • Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what I command?
  • Why do you break the commandments of God for the sake of your tradition?
  • What were you arguing about on the way?
  • Who then is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
  • Why are you testing me?
  • Is it not written: My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?
  • Will you lay down your life for me?
  • Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?
  • Do you also want to leave?
  • Did I not choose you twelve?
  • When I sent you forth without money or bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?
  • Do you realize what I have done for you?
  • If there were not [many dwelling places in my Father’s house], would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
  • Could you not watch with me for one hour?
  • Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?
  • Why are you sleeping?
  • Whom are you looking for?
  • Shall I not drink the cup that God gave me?
  • Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?
  • Have you come out against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me?
  • Do you not think that I can call upon my God and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?  But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass this way?
  • Why ask me?
  • If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?
  • Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?
  • For which of these good works are you trying to stone me?
  • Why are you trying to kill me?
  • What should I say, “Father save me from this hour”?
  • At that time people will say to the mountains, “Fall upon us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” for if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?
  • My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  • Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?
  • Concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob”?
  • I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die; do you believe this?
  • What are you discussing as you walk along?
  • What things?
  • Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?
  • Why are you troubled?  Why do questions arise in your hearts?
  • Have you anything here to eat?
  • Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
  • Children, have you caught anything to eat?
  • Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?  Do you love me?  Do you love me?

Ok, so that is a partial list.  The answer to the question if you have read this far is 307.

Real Churches are Like Schools of Fish

The last few posts have discussed the new church planting venture Francis Chan is involved with.  As I mentioned, there are many things I like about it and a few that I don’t think will work.  But one thing I do love is the name, “We Are Church”.  In other words, we don’t go to church, we are the church.

Along the same lines as that is this outstanding little 4 minute video by Keith Giles

Practice is a Key

In an earlier post on the subject of communicating God’s Word in a way that leads to multiplication I mentioned the necessity of including practice of re-telling the Bible Story until everyone in the group feels competent to tell the story to someone else.  Practice is key.  You can ask people to go home and practice telling this story until they are competent doing so, but how many will do that?  Most people have busy lives.  If it is not a high priority for them, it won’t get done.  And if they never get to the point where they are confident that they can retell the story, they won’t do it.

Years ago, I spoke to a leader who had trained everyone of the small group leaders in his church in a certain leadership skill.  The training involved teaching and demonstration, but didn’t include any practice time.  A year later he went back and surveyed that group of trainees and made a surprising discovery:  only one in seven of the leaders he’d trained had even attempted to use the new skill they’d been taught.  It was a sobering lesson for him on the weakness of teaching skills without including practice.  While statistics vary, one study I’ve seen found that learners who practiced a skill retained 700% more than those who simply read about it.  Reading or teaching can give us the conceptual knowledge to use a skill, but only practice and feedback provide the confidence most of us need to apply it in real life.  (Leadership Coaching by Tony Stolzfus)

 

 

More on Bible Storying

Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truth in a Teflon World by Avery Willis and Mark Snowden was the book that really got me started on the Bible Storying method.  Avery Willis was an experienced missionary overseas, and developed this method to disciple oral learners for the overseas field, but later discovered how effective this methodology is in the USA as well.  A significant part of the book details his work with a mega church in the Pacific Northwest that has adopted this method for their small group discipleship ministry, and the results they have seen from it.  The pastor of that church Jim Putnam has included a chapter in his own book on disciplesip on how Bible Storying revolutionized their approach to discipleship, which had always been a major emphasis in their ministry.

Although Bible Storying is a method that was developed on the mission field for Oral Cultures, it has been discovered to be extremely effective in literate cultures as well.  In fact, the younger generations in the USA are rapidly becoming an oral culture, because they do not read and they get most of their information from video and multimedia.  They love stories.

One of the best books is Christine Dillon’s Telling The Gospel Through Story. She shares her own journey as a missionary who was not at all impressed with the method until she tried it. She is now an ‘evangelist’ for this method.  She also has an outstanding web site with lots of additional videos and resources.

Story Thru the Bible: An Interactive Way to Connect with God’s Word by Walk Thru The Bible is an excellent resource that will help you learn the methodology.  It goes through specific stories of the Bible and what questions to ask and how to set up the background info for each.

Basic Bible Storying by J.O. Terry was developed in the context of his missionary experience working with Oral learners.  This is one of the earlier works developed by one of the pioneers in the field.

Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale is a description of some amazing movements of God in Muslim nations through the method of Bible Story telling.  This is a great read.

Tell Me A Story: How The World Learns by Joe Musser.  I just discovered this one and know nothing about it.

Here are a number of web sites that can be helpful to you:

Simply The Story

The International Orality Network

BT Stories

Story4All

BibleTelling.org

Orality Strategies

 

My Advice to Francis Chan

Who am I to give advice to Francis Chan?  I have learned much from Francis and have enormous respect for him.  I applaud his new approach to making disciples for the most part, with a few exceptions.  Yesterday as I evaluated the positives and negatives of Francis Chan’s new simple church planting venture (here), I promised to talk about what I think is a more promising approach to getting the Word out. The approach I am going to detail has these advantages:

  • It gets the word into people’s hearts. It is not just people listening to the word being taught, but the interactive element of it gets it deep into their hearts where it can change them.
  • It gives people a gentle method for sharing Christ with lost family and friends without making it a canned presentation or an obnoxious preaching session or an awkward confrontation. It gives people a method of sharing the gospel that the person being shared with will enjoy and embrace.
  • It turns every member of the body of Christ into a disciple maker in a natural way, and it implants a “DNA” of sharing the word and discipleship into new believers from day one.

The method I’m talking about is Bible Story Telling. But it is more than that. It is not the kind of Bible Story telling you had in Sunday School when you were a kid. There are some small additional steps that turn it into a powerful tool for life transformation and multiplication of disciples. I’m going to detail the process here, and then give you a list of additional resources to explore this option at the end of the post.

In Bible Story Telling, you take one of the stories of the Bible and learn it and rehearse it so that you can tell it from memory. For instance, you could take any of the stories from the gospels, or you could take Old Testament stories. Over 70% of the Bible is made up of stories, and these stories teach us theology and how to know God. It will take some time to learn the story well enough to tell it. You might start by reading the story in different translations. I find that some of the more modern translations (like the NLT) help me a lot when I tell a story. Then I rehearse it and practice telling it over and over again in the privacy of my room. I don’t memorize the story, but I do memorize certain key words or phrases. These Bible stories were told and retold over and over again long before they were recorded on paper, and in illiterate cultures (or in a day when books were extremely expensive because they had to be copied by hand) story telling was the main way to communicate the truth. It is still an awesome way to do it, because everyone loves a story. And by the way, even people who hate Christians and Christianity still love the stories of Jesus.  It is a non-offensive way to share the truth of the gospel.

OK, now that you have learned the story you tell it to another person or small group. Before you tell the story, you may have to include a few sentences that set the background to the story. Some will not know what a Pharisee is or there may be other cultural issues that could be quickly explained in just a few sentences before you tell the story. After telling them the story you explain that no one really knows anything until they can tell it to others, so you are now going to ask them to tell the story back to you. You tell them that they will miss parts and get it wrong in places, but this is just a learning experience so don’t sweat it. Other members of the group can listen for parts they leave out. Then you may retell the story (many of these stories are very short – it takes me 3 minutes to tell the story of the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2) and ask another person in the group to retell it. With each retelling the members of the group will get more and more of the details and learn the story well enough to tell it accurately from memory. It will be obvious to you (and them) when they get to that point, and you will then ask them, “if you had to retell this story to someone else within the next 24 hours, could you do it?” They will answer yes. But if they say no, continue the practice until every person in your group feels confident that they can retell the story accurately.

Now your small group (or individual) really knows this Bible story. The next step is to ask them some questions about it, and to wait for their answers. Allow time for them to think through the answers to these questions. Get comfortable with long pauses and awkward silences. Never answer your own questions. I am going to give you a list of questions to ask. You will ask the same questions every time, with every Bible story (there is a reason for this, but we’ll get to that later).

  • What does this story tell us about people? If you are telling the story with unbelievers, it is acceptable to start each question with, “If this story were true, what would it tell us about…” With many of the stories it is helpful to go through the list of characters individually and ask “What does this story say about the tax collector?” or “What does this story say about the Pharisee?”
  • If this story were true what would it tell us about Jesus (or God)?
  • Are there any sins to avoid in this story?
  • Are there any promises to claim in this story?
  • Are there any examples to follow in this story?
  • Are there any commands to obey in this story?
  • Who do you identify with in this story? Why?
  • How should this story affect the way you live your life over the next week? (encourage them to come up with a specific and measurable action step, something that one week from now you can ask them about)
  • Now that you know this story, who can you retell this story to over the next 24 hours? (if they don’t retell it in the next 24 hours they probably won’t.)  Come up with at least one name of someone you will retell this story to.

Now let’s look closer at what we just did. Here are the reasons I think this is a powerful tool for making disciples:

  • The key to making disciples is planting the Word. I see missionaries engaged in all kinds of “spiritual work” and humanitarian work without ever planting the seed of the word. Jesus told the story of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) and then when he interpreted it he said, “The seed is the word of God“. The seed is not feeding the poor or healing disease, as good and as important as those things are. If the Word of God is not sown then the seed is not sown. Peter said the same thing, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (I Peter 1:23). This methodology sows the seed of the Word.
  • This methodology includes not just listening to the word, but actually repeating the story and practicing the retelling of the story so that the participants leave actually knowing it well enough to retell it. This is a key to multiplication. If the only people who get saved are those who hear your voice, your ministry will be severely limited. The job of the pastor-teacher is to equip the saints for works of ministry. This method does that. In fact, it equips anyone who engages in it. Many lost people have learned Bible stories and retold them to other lost people with the end result that many come to Christ. The word has power all by itself. The practice time is an extremely important element if any retelling of the story is going to happen.
  • The practice time of retelling the story actually gets the story into the listener’s heart and mind in a way that just listening to someone else tell a story does not. And the interactive discussion questions further assist the group members in thinking through the Biblical truth.
  • When you listen to a sermon the actual application of it is really up to you, and no one is checking up on what you are going to do about it. But in this methodology you are asking the group members to come up with a specific and measurable action step in response to what they learned from this story. This is extremely important for several reasons. (1) You’re not just leaving it to them to apply it if they feel like it. You’re asking them to nail it down. And you are not telling them how to apply it. You are essentially asking them what the Spirit of God is telling them to do in response to this story. And now when you meet again next week you can ask them, “Last week you said you were going to do x in response to the story. How did that go?” They need that accountability. You didn’t tell them what to do. They decided for themselves what the spirit of God was telling them to do, and therefore they are setting their own life change goals. You are just helping them follow through with what God is telling them to do in response to his word. If you do this, you are doing what Jesus told us to do in the great commission, which is to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Teaching them to obey is a whole different thing than teaching truth. We are real good at teaching doctrine and Biblical truth, but we aren’t very good at “teaching them to obey”. This step does that. (2) if you are telling this story to unbelievers, they will see the truth of the word as they obey it. In John 7:17 Jesus says, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” When unbelievers learn these stories week by week and actually begin to obey God’s word, they see that such obedience works in their life and they see the truth of the Word. Therefore you are setting up another “DNA” of disciples in practicing obedience to the word. And when they get to the point of obeying the more difficult commands of Jesus, they will have a base of experience in realizing that obedience to God’s Word works in their lives.

I am NOT saying that Bible Storying is the only way to get the Word into people’s hearts. It obviously won’t work with Paul’s epistles. However, you may have noticed that this method is nothing more than an inductive Bible study using an oral format. That is the goal, to teach people how to explore the Bible inductively for themselves and with others in their social circle. When it comes to the epistles we will have to use a paper format of an inductive bible study. And I’m not saying that having one gifted teacher teach a passage of scripture is wrong. I simply think we use that method way too much, but there is certainly a place for it. Whatever method we use, I’m of the opinion that we need to make re-teaching or re-communication of the truth a norm in our spiritual communities. The sit and soak model doesn’t work.  The goal is not to fill heads with knowledge, but to produce life change and equip the saints for works of ministry.  In order to do that, every believer should pass on what they’ve learned.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.”  Hebrews 5:12

Now I promised to give you some additional resources but I’m out of time so that is going to have to wait until tomorrow.  Within 48 hours I will post a short video and some links to lots of resources that can help you.

Francis Chan on Rethinking Church

When I first saw this 11 minute video I loved it, and immediately posted it on my wall on Facebook (and I almost never put anything on FB).  But the more I thought about it, despite some really good stuff here some things started to bother me about it.   Take a look, and then read my comments below.

What it is

This video is part of a new web site (www.wearechurch.com) that is evidently part of a new ministry Frances Chan is starting. The basic values are:
1) Family – meet in homes, multiply in one year
2) Gathering – for prayer, Bible Teaching, Communion and fellowship
3) Mission – we exist to make disciples
4) Training – preparing new leaders so that we can divide into two groups within a year.

What I love

I love the basic values. I love the commitment to the church as family and loving one another, to mission, to making disciples and to simple church forms that can be multiplied. I love the commitment to meet in homes rather than divert attention to putting up buildings.  I also love the name.  The church is not something we go to, it is who we are.

My Concerns

1. His desire to multiply is wonderful, but forcing a division within one year is a terrible way to do it. Why?

A) It works against the goal of the church being a family. If you tell people in advance that they are going to split up in a year or less whether they like it or not, are they going to be motivated to go deep in relationship? If you marry a girl and tell her, “This is temporary, in one year I’m going to divorce you“, is she going to give herself to you with unreserved love? Probably not.
B) It isn’t biblical. You don’t see Paul insisting that churches must multiply within a year. The forced nature of it is neither attractive nor Biblical
C) There are better ways to reach the multiplication goal. You can train people to reach others through simple forms of evangelism (Bible Storying for instance, which I’ll write about tomorrow) that will lead to natural birthing of new small groups and house churches.

2. I question the wisdom of reading through the Bible together in a year. Why?

A) I’ve done it several times myself, and I find that it forces me to move too quickly through the text and I’m more focused on keeping up with the schedule than letting the truth of the word sink in.  Now I take a book of the Bible and read it over and over again in different translations.  Right now I’m doing that with the book of James.  I get something new for my soul every time I re-read it and the structure and flow of the book and the passion of the author becomes clearer to me as I re-read it 5, 10, or 15 times in a row.  The bottom line is, I just get more out of scripture this way than the through the Bible in a year program.
B) There is no built in mechanism to make sure the word is applied to life, as there is in the bible Storying approach.  The great commission calls us to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Not teach them knowledge, but teach them to obey.  How do we teach them to obey?
C) The key is to get everyone to share what they are learning with friends, family, and coworkers every week if we want to reach the lost. Bible Storying lends itself to that quite naturally. Reading through the Bible in a year much less so.

I’ll discuss in detail the Bible storying approach tomorrow in greater detail.

Jesus and Paul had a better plan than Church Planting

This is second part of a discussion of missionary strategy relative to Church planting. If you haven’t read part 1, you can read it here. You may have gotten the impression from that post that I do not think church planting is important, and if you did you were wrong. I want to see as many churches planted as possible. But sometimes the only way to get the thing you want is to aim at something else. For instance, if you make happiness your goal, you will probably find that it continuously evades your grasp. But if your goal is to love and sacrifice yourself for others, you may find happiness comes to you as a byproduct of your actions. I’m going to suggest that multiplying communities of believers is like that. Church planting is not the way to get there. Jesus had a better idea.

In Matthew 28 Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples. He didn’t command us to go and plant churches. There is a huge difference between the two. I’ve seen countless churches planted that did NOT make disciples. You can plant churches without making disciples, but the reverse is not true. If you make disciples, you can’t help but end up with churchesChurch planting is an inevitable byproduct of making disciples, but making disciples is not an inevitable byproduct of church planting. 

Yesterday we talked about how the basic church planting plan is to move into a town and rent a facility and start Sunday services. The major differences in church planting strategy tend to be differences in marketing the new church or worship style (which is often part of marketing). The interesting thing about the ministry of Paul is that he never did that. You never see Paul arriving in a new place to rent a facility and start Sunday services (if you are thinking of his renting the lecture hall of Tyranus in Ephesus, you need to realize the church had already been planted and was growing by that time. It appears this rental facility was for training workers rather than for church services). On the contrary, Paul did what Jesus told him to do. He made disciples. He went to where the unbelievers were (Jewish Synagogue, riverside in Philipi, Mars Hill in Athens) and preached the gospel to lost people. Some came to Christ and some persecuted him. When he left town, he left a church behind (which in many cases is mentioned in the text almost as an afterthought). When people are born again, they want to meet together for Bible study, prayer, the Lord’s supper, and worship. When you make disciples, you can’t help but end up with churches planted.

Acts 13 and 14 is the story of Paul in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. As mentioned earlier, you see no Sunday church service started anywhere in that text, but instead you see Paul and Barnabas sharing the gospel in multiple settings. Near the end of the story we read this about Derbe:

Act 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Hmmmm… that is interesting. That is exactly what Jesus told us to do. Go and make disciples. And then in the very next verse we read….

Act 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

What? How could they appoint elders in every church? This is the first mention of the fact that a church was even planted in each of those cities! When did Paul plant these churches? This just proves my earlier point that if you make disciples, you end up with churches. If your goal is church planting, you’ve got the wrong goal. Jesus never told us to plant churches. Church planting is not commanded anywhere in scripture. If your goal is to make disciples, you won’t have to work at church planting. Church planting will just happen.