Journeying With Jesus

The Adventure of Faith

Access Ministry: Our Attitude

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go and make disciples of all nations… (Matt 28:19)

Before He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, Jesus gave a charge to His followers to go and make disciples of all nations and peoples. He was initially speaking to a band of Hebrew followers who would eventually travel to the furthest reaches of the world, cross geographic, ethnic, linguistic  and cultural barriers in order to disciple others to know, love, and follow Jesus.  That same charge and challenges hold for us today as we seek to disciple people to know, love, and obey Jesus as they are transformed into His image and do the things that Jesus did.

In Disciple-Making Movements (DMM) one of the first steps, after establishing an ongoing prayer lifestyle, is to gain access into a group or community in which you are a perceived outsider. Going from an outsider to become either an insider or accepted outsider is a big transition. In this first blog on the topic I want to address the attitude of the Jesus’ followers in gaining access. I want to share five key attitudes and perspectives that are important.

#1. We Come to Bless and Serve Others.

When Jesus sent out the 72 he told them when they entered a house, to “first say, ‘Peace to this house’” (Luke 10:5). Our attitude is not to be takers but givers (Matt 10:8). Like Jesus, we are to be “among them as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Believe it or not, that takes all the pressure off!  We don’t come to a group of people as someone who comes to take or use them. There is no shame in our mission. We come for their benefit. We want to bless them. Our desire is to leave their lives richer, fuller, more blessed because of our relationship with them. If a group rejects us, then we graciously walk way and bless them anyway.

#2. We Come with Jesus’ Perspective Concerning the Group We Seek Access

We want to see people the way Jesus sees them. That means we approach all people and see them with great dignity and worth.  We don’t rely on what we perceive in the natural. We need to see people with Jesus’ eyes realizing that He willingly died for each and every one.

That means people we encounter might be very course, rude, hostile, immoral, outrageous, and opposed to all of our values. How does Jesus see them? Like the city of Jerusalem, He longs for them like a mother hen, to bring them under His wings. He knows that regardless of what appears on the outside, they have been made for glory. Each person has a destiny for which s/he have been designed and the Lord desires that they be freed up to walk in that destiny.

If we find people repugnant, our judgment will be discernible by them. It will be easy for them to sense our critical spirit and feel like we are bringing “religion” instead of a relationship with Jesus. If we struggle in this area, an extra measure of prayer before the Lord is warranted until we find God’s love bursting forth from our hearts to any people group.

#3. We Come to Listen, Pray, Observe, and Discern their Key Needs

One of the greatest gifts we can offer people is to listen and watch. Too often we jump in with our opinions without opening our hearts to receive and perceive others. The gift of listening is one of the greatest gifts we offer people.

As we listen, perceive, and pray, the Lord begins to reveal keys into the issues in people’s lives. Insights are given as to core needs that people have.  If we are truly coming to serve and bless, we need to understand what those needs might be. Those needs are most often the keys that open doors and bring access into a community.

#4 We Come to Demonstrate the Love of God in a Practical Fashion

Blessing and serving most often takes the shape of practical action. It can include feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, healing the sick, setting people free from the demonic, restoring broken relationships, and correcting injustices. In other communities or groups it can address peoples’ needs for value, purpose, or community. In still other communities it might take the form of providing education and training. Ways to practically demonstrate God’s love are limitless. As we pray and are open to the Holy Spirit, let Him speak and reveal what area of service we might provide.

#5 We Come as Sent Ones Doing the Father’s Work

Followers of Jesus are an apostolic community. As such we have been commissioned and sent by the Father with a task to complete and a message to give. As we seek access into a community that means:

  • We go with the Jesus’ authority. He is King of Kings and Lord and Lords. He is over all the nations of the world. We don’t need anyone else permission to seek entrance into a community that does not yet know Jesus. He has told us to Go and we Go with his authority.
  • We go in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are post Pentecost. The Spirit has come and he is actively involved in the Church to make disciples of all nations. We cannot do this in our own strength but we can depend on the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • We have both a Task and a Message. Our task is to bring the Kingdom and Rule of God everywhere. That means we heal the sick, cast out demons, bring blessing to the marketplace and the nations of the world. We right injustices and manifest His righteousness. We also bring his message of forgiveness and reconciliation to all mankind. People need to know that God was in Jesus reconciling the world to Himself.

Our approach in gaining access to a group of community makes all the difference. In essence we seek to take the same attitude and approach Jesus took when the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). We come humbly, we come lovingly, we come with compassion, we come to serve. 

July 15, 2012 Posted by | House Church | , , , | 2 Comments

Risk Taking

My wife and I were at a dinner the other night and a friend asked me a very interesting question, “What was the most risky thing you have ever done in your life?” I think the answer I gave her was quite bland and unimpressive. My friend must have thought I was a toad. I’m sure she was thinking, “what a dud!” But the answer I gave her was true! I thought about my friend’s question in light of  my response and decided that is I could go back in time and elaborate more clearly, this is what I would have said.

I have traveled to Ethiopia and driven across miles of dirt and rocky roads far from civilization. I was going to places I have never been before in a vehicle that eventually had three flat tires before we returned home. But that remote and dangerous travel in a third-world country wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.checkpoint charlie

In my early twenties, my wife and I traveled to Austria. We hooked up with a mission agency that took Bibles and Christian resources behind what was then called the Iron Curtain. We had to pass through national check points with guards armed with machine guns as they scrutinized our  passports and vehicle. With this group we traveled behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin, Budapest, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Some in our group were caught at the border going into Hungry, questioned for hours, searched, held and eventually expelled from the country. We were aware that the secret police had the technology to listen into conversations while you were driving in the car. Times were often quite tense and scary. But this wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.

Iraq

Kirkuk, Iraq

A few years ago I traveled to Iraq to attend a conference of Iraqi Christians who gathered from all over their country. The war was waging, Saddam was still at large, and we had armed guards with us wherever we went. To fly into Baghdad, we had to stay at a high altitude until we were directly over the airport and then steeply spiral down to a landing. This was the only way to avoid being shot down by a shoulder held surface-to-air missile. During the nights you could often hear gun fire. But being in Iraq during the middle of war wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.

Traveling remote distances in Ethiopia, smuggling Bible into Eastern Block countries, and being in Iraq during times of intense warfare all involved risk and at times were extremely stressful. But those adventures, although dangerous, did not define what I would describe as my highest risk.

The answer I gave to my friend was “church planting.” CHURCH PLANTING! Why is that so risky you ask.  Church planting in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties is so similar to what God asked of Abram. “Leave your family, your people, and your country and go to the place I will show you.” In this type of faith response, there are no guaranteed finances, people support, or pathway. God shows you as you go. For people who like to have a plan in place before they start the journey, church planting is a killer. It is pioneering work. You are constantly going into new territory. You are doing things you have never done before.  Sure there are things you can learn from others, but the particular path God has for you is quite unique. It is not for the timid. Many times Laura and I have wanted to quit. We often wonder if we are whacked. On this road of faith there is no security apart from God.

The other three ventures I described were quite risky for a short period of time. But we are on this current road of church planting untll death. While parts of the church planting journey grow easier as we learn, there are always new unexpected challenges to face.  Most people would not think of church planting as being risky…but believe me, it is the riskies thing I have ever done.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | House Church, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of a Child’s Prayer

child_prayingA couple of weeks ago we were enjoying a Celebration Gathering of all of our Santa Cruz house churches. During our study time, four of the adults took about 10 kids, ages 3 to 14 for teaching and training on prayer.  Julie was teaching the children, in particular, how to pray for healing. After a short lesson from the Bible, we decided to let the kids practice on a real life subject.  I volunteered.

You see, about 3 months earlier I had gone down to the L.A. region to celebrate my oldest son’s 28th birthday.  He had rented out an ice skating rink and had invited about 50 friends to play broom hockey. Let’s just say I was the oldest person out on the ice by at least 25 years. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes into the game before I slipped on the ice, tried to catch myself with my forearm, and tore something in my shoulder. I heard it tear, I felt it tear. Since that fall three months ago I haven’t been able to put a shirt on without extreme pain. Sleeping has often been miserable. You can now see why I volunteered to be a good subject for the kids to practice on!

All the children gathered around and laid hands on me. I think it was a 10 year old girl who began.  “Jesus,” she said sweetly, “will you heal Mr. Gschwend’s shoulder….by tomorrow.” With that short plea, a little 3 year old girl piped in, “Amen.” Then the other children began to pray for me…some with boldness…some with timidity…but all with the phrase at the end, “by tomorrow.”

To be honest with you, I didn’t think much more about it. The next day, in the afternoon, I was changing my shirt and expecting to flinch as I felt that anticpated pain…only there wasn’t any. I slowly began to move my shoulder and arm around in positions that were usually quite painful…NO PAIN.  Then I remembered their prayers, “by tomorrow.”  Nahhhhhh, I thought. Could it be?  I decided I would test it out by sleeping on it that night. Me of little faith! To my surprise I had a great night sleep without any pain.

Here I am a month later…still no pain. My shoulder is healed. It made me wonder, how often do we underestimate prayer?  How often do we underestimate a child’s prayer? However, I think the Heavenly Father is mighty partial to the prayers of faith of little children. As a matter of fact, I think that the prayers of adults would probably see more answers if we approached God from the position of humility and vulnerability of a little child. You see…we are children and there is real power in a child’s prayer. God does heal today. I know that. So do the children in our church.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment

Problems or Polarities?

                                     

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        Problem Solving vs. Managing Polarities

Organizations, be they highly structured or organically based, all have to resolve tensions arising from conflicts or differing perspectives. A key leadership skill is to discern whether the required intervention is to solve a problem or to manage a polarity. I want to explore in this blog the differences.

We are very familiar with problems to solve. Generally, we analyze the problem, search for and evaluate solutions and implement the best choice. Problem solving usually has an either/or dimension and then closure ensues. At that point you move on.

One example in the early church was when the Greek-speaking Jewish widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Another case was when a Corinthian man was found sleeping with his father’s wife. In both cases these were seen as problems to solve and the church leadership came up with specific solutions. Once the solutions were implemented the problems were solved.

Managing polarities presents different levels of complexity and skill. The polarities have core values associated with them. Polarities don’t respond to right or wrong thinking. If a polarity is treated like a “problem” then you end up with a win/lose scenario. Usually interventions fall into the both/and camp. It often means we are looking at ways to balance polarities not to eliminate them. Polarities never disappear; they are ongoing. That is why leadership must learn to “manage” polarities because they are ongoing.

Some examples of polarities we face in the Gathering include:

Corporate needs                                       vs.     Individual needs
Outward focus                                         vs.     Inward focus
Contemplative worship style                       vs.     Demonstrative worship style
Priesthood of all believers                           vs.     Five-fold Leadership
Letting experienced believers minister          vs.     Giving opportunity for gifting in others to develop

Both sides of the ledger reflect important values held by the Gathering. We will never sacrifice one for the benefit of the other. But we will find an ebb and flow in how these polarities are balanced. During certain seasons we might emphasize one polarity over another. At times we might get out of balance and have to swing back. We might find our House Churches emphasize one polarity more while our Celebration Gatherings emphasize another.

When we see how Paul handled polarizing issues in the church, he warned against division, as well as attitudes of contempt and judgment. Those can be side effects if polarities generate hostility and hurt. He also emphasized love, unity, sacrifice, and edification of the body. As a leadership we hope to find appropriate balance in our polarities as the Lord leads.

What do you think?

February 20, 2013 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | 1 Comment

What Is God Waiting For?

revival-crowd

Last Friday evening and Saturday morning I had a chance with about 150 other followers of Jesus to hear a report from George Otis Jr. about what God is doing around the world. George and his Sentinel group have documented over 1000 revivals and regional transformations over the last 11 years. Ironically, few have occurred in the West. I know we have been praying for revival for over 20 years and it seems no closer now then when we started. The question is asked…is revival solely a sovereign work of God or is He waiting for something from us? George had an answer to that question.

In his research, George had found that when the conditions were right, when certain factors were present, the presence of the Lord would come to a place and bring radical transformation and revival. The time lag between the conditions being right and God’s coming was usually between 36 hours and 30 days. Not one year, 10 years, or 20 years….but within days God would come.

From his research, George found there were three distinct phases that happened every time. The first phase was the Invitation Phase. That is where the people prepared their hearts, cried out to God, began the work of personal revival, and invited God to come with expectancy. The second phase was the Visitation Phase. This is when the PRESENCE of God shows up in a powerful way. This is not sensed in one church but all the churches and outside the church. People in schools, in shopping centers, everyone senses the Presence of God. In one revival on the Hebrides, ships passing near these islands had people on board fall on their knees and cry out to God for mercy. It was the Presence of God alone that shook them! The final phase is the Transformation Phase. Here the holiness and presence of God is so palatable that every area of society begins to align with His ways. Schools, churches, government, every sector begins to reflect His character.

So what is God waiting for? He is waiting for us. There are four qualities that He is looking for from His people. They are Holiness…Humility…Hunger…Hopelessness. He is not waiting for all of society to have these…He is waiting for his people to pursue them. One of the reasons why the West has so hard a time in embracing these qualities is that we are a “can do” people. Our own human initiative has served us well and made us a powerhouse in the world. We are problem solvers. We can always figure out a way. We build programs in our churches, we set goals and objectives, and we develop our plans. If the first one doesn’t work, we come up with another…and another… and another. We don’t get hopeless or desperate enough to CRY OUT TO GOD TO COME AND RESCUE US. We don’t invite God to come and have his way. We never reach desperation.

Unfortunately I fit that Western description. I desire the Lord to come…but I need to press into some personal revival. I invite you on this journey with me. As Isaiah says in 57:15 “For this is what the high and lofty One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment

Be Prepared

The California fires in May underlined a stark reality for the Gathering- we were not ready or prepared to be first responders in the event of a disaster. Like many others we had not learned a thing from 9/11 or Katrina. People were made homeless in our own backyard and we didn’t know what to do or how to do it. Worse yet, we did not have the mindset that when disaster strikes we would be the first in line to help.

BE PREPARED!

BE PREPARED!

It was partially through the efforts of Jim in San Jose that things began to change. You see right after the fires occurred on the Summit Rd in Santa Cruz, Jim went up to see how the people were doing. He found 30+ had lost their homes and half did not have any insurance. People were sleeping in their cars, in tents, without running water or food. Many lost everything they had. “What are we going to do about it” he asked us?

It took three or four weeks of prodding by Jim before our first volunteers went up to the fire victims to help. That began the emergence of a neighborly friendship between the Gathering and those who had suffered devastation. Jim was able to mobilize other churches too and that site is going through clean up, reclamation, and hopefully rebuilding. You often wonder what one person can do…but in Jim’s case, not only was he able to bring hope and help to our Summit neighbors, but he was able to catalyze many followers of Jesus to live out their faith in practical service.

As a result of these events, we believe the Lord would have us be FIRST RESPONDERS in the event of a disaster. Be it the ever famous California Earthquake that will someday be here, a devastating tsunami, more fires, or a neighbor who experiences a tragic loss, we want to automatically step forward to help. We have discovered that to be a volunteer in the event of a disaster, agencies require that you have a measure of training first. So for this season, we have encouraged our people to be trained.

This past Saturday, we have now had 19 of our adults complete the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training being offered by the fire department. A few others are still in training there. We have had two people complete the Red Cross training and are already deployed to both Gustaf and Ike in the South. We are offering Pastoral Crisis Intervention training on the 26-27th of September which provides certification to act as a “faith-based” counselor for those suffering trauma in a crisis. More than anything, I am encouraged to see people step up and be ready to volunteer in times of need. That mental switch has been thrown…people see themselves as First Responders in the event of disasters.

We want to bring the love of Jesus to people in times of need. We see three practical steps for anyone to take to be a FIRST RESPONDER.

1. Make sure your own house is order. Is your family ready for a disaster? Do you have a family plan, extra supplies of food and water, a first aid kit, the necessary tools, and clothing? Do you know how to shut off the gas or water from your home, do you have fire extinguishers and do you know how to use them? We have some links to great resources and pdf files you can download from our web site to help you get personally ready (www.gatheringbythebay.org).

2. Get training. We have a list of great training resources on our web page. In most cases, if you are not trained you will not be allowed to serve. We highly recommend CERT training for people as a great way to get prepared for any disaster.

3. Be ready to disciple interested people. Tragedy tears down walls. When you come in with Jesus’ love people often want to know more. Be available to disciple interested parties and introduce them to Jesus. We have fifteen people right now learning how to disciple inquirers, new believers and peers. We avoid being obnoxious and we won’t make any service or love conditional…but if God opens doors in people’s hearts we want to have the joy of sharing Jesus with them.

Are you ready? How prepared are you?

September 15, 2008 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment

Birthing the “Sidewalk Church”

The Sunday before Christmas, God put it on our hearts to serve the day workers in front of a local Home Depot instead of have a having a “traditional” Christmas service for our house churches. After all, the Son of God was born as a stranger, in a foreign land, in difficult circumstances so why shouldn’t we serve those that He would have felt very at home with?

Gathering our families together we took breakfast burritos and horchata, $15 gift cards from Home Depot, Billy Graham’s Peace with God pamphlet translated to Spanish and our Christmas greetings to the 55 men standing on the sidewalk around the complex. All appreciated the food and greetings; some hung around to talk and shared of their longings for their families back in Mexico during this season. We were able to pray for a few requests. What used to look like a bunch of strangers loitering around Home Depot took on faces and names and stories and personalities. We were blessed, they were blessed and “Christmas service” took on a whole new meaning.

Every Sunday morning after that, Brandon and Matthew and sometimes others would go down early to hang out with the guys on the sidewalk. Most times they would take some tangerines or food, open God’s Word, read it together,discuss what was read, pray together and go. Anywhere from six to sixteen guys might participate. Brandon and Matthew began to get to know the various men, and one of them would always be willing to translate for those who didn’t speak English.

This last Sunday the group decided to do something different. Reserving a room in a nearby pizza parlor, they invited as many of the guys who had not found work that day to meet for lunch for a deeper study. Nine guys showed up. Taking a DVD called, Esperanza (Hope), they showed 15 minutes of the video depicting God’s story from Creation and the Fall pointing to Jesus. The entire DVD is 80 minutes in length and it chronologically goes from Creation to Christ. Brandon asked the group how many had ever heard the story of the Creation and the Fall. Only two guys raised their hands! Brandon then shared his testimony while Hector, a Hispanic believer who was invited to help, translated. After translating for Brandon, Hector challenged the men, if you want to receive Christ, pray after me.  Amid many tears, nine men prayed out loud in the back room of the pizza parlor to have Jesus forgive them of their sins and take charge of their lives.

Months earlier, when the initial idea was raised to work with the day workers my initial reaction was “it won’t work.” We don’t know Spanish, we are not a part of their culture, it is a transient group, we have no place to meet, there will be no continuity, were all my concerns. All legitimate obstacles. I forgot that God is the one who says, “say to this mountain be cast into the sea” and it will be done for you. I am so proud of Brandon and Matthew and all who have lovingly labored in this field. Thank you Lord for this fruit. Thank you for these men and others who will come to know you through their testimony! Forgive us Lord for thinking “it will not work” without seeing you as the God who moves mountains. Thank you Lord for the birth of the “Sidewalk Church.”

March 11, 2008 Posted by | House Church | | 1 Comment

Church Planting Movements

The U.S. has been in the forefront of mission work and kingdom building so long that we are not used to looking elsewhere for how best to see God move in the U.S. Yet today, while the church is expanding rapidly in so many places around the globe, in the U.S. we are standing still…at best. When we see how and why the church is growing so rapidly around the world, our natural instinct is to say, “Yea, but can it happen here?”

I believe that response (one of which I too am guilty), has more to do with the radical shift we would have to make here in the U.S. to see a similar movement. We are talking about a radical shift from some old wineskins of which we have grown accustomed, to some new, lighter, more flexible wineskins to hold the new wine God desires to pour out on us.

In his book, Church Planting Movements, David Garrison surveys what God is doing around the world and then comes up with 10 Essentials in Every Church Planting Movement, 10 Factors in Most Church Planting Movements, and the 7 Deadly Sins that would impede movement. For this blog I want to list out the 10 Essentials for people to ponder. How is your church doing in these areas? Do you think this would work in the U.S.? The top 10 are:

1. Extraordinary Prayer

2. Abundant Evangelism

3. Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches

4. The Authority of God’s Word

5. Local Leadership

6. Lay Leadership

7. House Churches

8. Churches Planting Churches

9. Rapid Reproduction

10. Healthy Churches

Can these things happen here? Mmmmnnn…extraordinary prayer…abundant evangelism…lay leadership…local leadership…house churches…churches planting churches…I say WHY NOT! I have to admit we are not used to a lot of these…but they are right out of the Book of Acts. I think that describes the first century church quite well. I for one, want to see it here.

January 12, 2008 Posted by | House Church | , , | 5 Comments

Word Time in the House Church

The house church context provides a unique environment for the study and application of God’s Word. When you have 10-20 individuals gathered in close proximity, it is different than speaking to 1000 people in an auditorium or even 40 people in a classroom. The house church gives a great opportunity for people to ask questions, to develop their understanding in a group, to share what the Holy Spirit is saying to them, and to develop points of application in community. In the context of the house church setting we do not want to be the “Sage upon the stage but the Guide along the side.” As such, we have the following guidelines for those who lead the “Word Time” in the House Gathering setting.

Our Goals:

1. Life Transformation The target of our time in the Word is not just to grow in knowledge but to change lives. Knowledge is a beginning step…it must move on to understanding, motivation, and obedience. If what we are studying does not lead to application in our personal lives, we have missed the target. As we apply and obey the Word, we are transformed by the Spirit into the image of Jesus. The content of the study, then, is always the servant of application and obedience. Jesus told us to “teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.

2. Growing Self-Feeding Followers of Jesus From early on, we want believers to be able to go to the Word, have the Spirit speak to them, and be able to feed themselves. Too often believers have relied upon others to feed them. Too often those who have been fed learn to stay in a dependent state for much of their spiritual lives. Jesus said in John 14:25-27, But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. We seek to grow followers of Jesus who can go to His Word and by the work of the Spirit receive spiritual food for growth. Our time in the Word in our House Gatherings then, will emphasize everyone getting into the Word, hearing from God, obeying what we hear, and contributing corporately together.

Our Philosophy:

1. It is Bible Based: Whereas there are many great books out there written by people, our Word Time is focused on the Bible. The majority of time we will focus on a passage of scripture that is a part of a book study or the controlling text of a topical study. In topical studies we want to avoid jumping around to scores of individual verses. Some studies might need to be that way but that is not to be normative for our gatherings.

2. It is Simple and Reproducible: We see ourselves starting new groups with new believers. These new believers will be trained in a “Word-Time” method that can be easily applied thereby avoiding dependency. If we modeled a method that required seminary-trained leaders, everyone would likely stay in a dependent mode. That means we will de-emphasize the preaching/teaching model for our House Gatherings and lean on an interactive, application oriented, corporate study of the Word. We want to initiate the process of “divine discovery together.”Again we are more interested in people obeying the truth they are hearing than having 10,000 bits of new information crammed into their heads!

3. It is Relevant: The Word of God is relevant. It speaks to all cultures and all people throughout all of time. That means a big part of our Word Time will be discussing and applying biblical truths. Word Time must touch our heart, lives, relationships, identities, our failures, our sins, our purposes, our struggles, our missions, and our humanity

4. It is Engaging: Very few of us can hold an audience and keep them engaged for very long. That means we do not see our Word Time as one person doing all the talking. The role of the leader is to open the Word, have it read, and then lead the group in discovery and exploration arriving at a point of personal application. They must study the Scripture first, let it raise provocative and relevant questions, and then guide the group into interacting with the Bible. For the teachers and preachers among us, we must put aside our biases and preferences for the good of the group. Our preachers and teachers will need to find other venues outside of the House Gathering setting to express those gifts. We envision times during our Celebrations, retreats, trainings, and workshops where the teaching/preaching gifts will be more employed.

Our Methodology

Some are rightly concerned that it is important for people to know how to interpret Scripture in context. Some texts are fairly straight forward and directly apply…others will take a little more explanation of the context. One of the best ways to teach people how to do that is to practice it corporately in our House Gatherings. Some basic questions that those who are leading the Word Time should ask include the following:

  1. What does the passage say?
    • What happened?
    • What is being said about God…people?
    • Is there anything in this text that seems odd to us today?
    • What questions does this passage raise that you want to explore?
  2. How was this understood by people in its original context?
    • Is there any background information we need to know to help understand? (This is where the leader can do some background study and act as a resource.)
    • What was going on when this passage was first written?
    • Are there any events leading up to this passage that help us understand it?
  3. What are the truths to learn, principles to apply, commands to obey, examples to follow, or promises to claim that apply to us today?
    • How does this impact your relationship with God?
    • How does this impact your relationships with others?
    • How does this change the way you see your own identity?
    • What area of your life is being challenged here?
    • What is the Holy Spirit showing you about this passage?
    • Where are you struggling as it relates to this passage?
    • How does this impact God’s mission and call in your life?
    • How would you live differently as a result of this passage?
  4. What do I need to apply, obey, confess and repent, or put into action as a result of this study?

Our goal is to make followers of Jesus like Jesus. We thank God for gifted teachers and preachers but we also recognize that growth and transformation must go beyond information. What a unique setting we have in our House Gatherings to press into teaching techniques that lead to application and obedience. The House Church model provides a unique setting where each member helps others to learn how to read, study, come to the Word, ask questions, and hear from the Holy Spirit. The House Church model provides a unique setting where Word-Time can be reproduced and multiplied in thousands of homes across the Central Coast Region. This type of Word Time is part of the DNA of The Gathering by The Bay.

October 15, 2007 Posted by | House Church | , , | 5 Comments

The Two-Cookie God

Growing up in a household of five boys and a one income family, we were not privy to many of the frills I enjoy now. We used a picnic table and benches as our kitchen table, drank powdered milk (yes it had a blue tint), and daily had home made bread as it was cheaper than the store bought kind. How little we knew how fortunate we were! On occasion, my mom would make chocolate chip cookies. They were my favorite. However, we were instilled with the concept, “you can only have two cookies.” Without my realizing it, that became a life mantra.

I remember the shock when I left home and went away to college and found some of my roommates would eat three or four cookies at a time. I had no category in my head to understand that. Even though I wanted to eat three or four myself, I couldn’t find it in me to violate such a deep code of honor. Over time, I would eventually find myself able to eat more than two cookies but the life mantra stilled lived on.

Eventually I realized that I had a stingy bent to my nature. Somewhere in my soul was the thought that there wasn’t enough to go around. Abundance and overflowing were not categories I lived in. The greatest shock came, however, when I realized I saw God as a “two-cookie God.” He would give us good things…but only in small doses. We couldn’t ask for three cookies from God. I became aware of a bent in my soul towards a “spirit of poverty.” That is the mindset that says, there is not enough to go around, that the resources are limited, that we will always live right on the edge, and that we can’t ask God for more. After all, we already have had our two cookies.

During a prayer meeting the other day, God spoke to a couple of us at the same time to pray against a “poverty mindset.” As I began to pray I recognized that my soul resonated still with this wrong bent. We prayed for God’s abundance, His blessings, to open our eyes to His generous and gracious gifts…that we would not put God in a box. I needed to slay my “two-cookie God” and embrace the God of the Bible.

The next day I was reading in Joshua 10 about how the Israelites were fighting a major battle in taking the Promised Land. In the middle of the battle Joshua did an amazing thing, HE ASKED GOD TO HAVE THE SUN STAND STILL SO THEY COULD FINISH THE BATTLE. I noted that Joshua didn’t have a two-cookie God! You see, you can’t respond to God’s call in your life and extend God’s kingdom if you have a two-cookie God. You need a God who will stop the sun to help you complete the work He has given you. I now pray almost daily, in our house church planting work for the sun to stand still…no not literally. But I realize now that whatever need we have is not too large to ask. And I have begun to ask for it in abundance. It is refreshing. It is liberating. It is freeing. As a matter of fact, I think I will end this blog right now and go eat THREE OR FOUR COOKIES!

September 13, 2007 Posted by | Lessons learned | | 5 Comments