Journeying With Jesus

The Adventure of Faith

You Can’t Hide in a House Church

My wife and I got in a good ole fashion argument on a Monday morning. Both of us found it quite painful. The problem was that it was the busiest week of our lives…we had commitments and meetings all day every day and we couldn’t get to resolving the issues.

Saturday rolled around and we were on our way to our House Gathering. We decided to see if we could work out the issue. Big mistake. About half way there things began to escalate and eventually hit the break down point. My bride had had enough and asked to be taken home. She couldn’t imagine trying to go to the group and pretend. The problem was I was teaching that night.

I pulled over to the side of the road, called the host, told them that we weren’t coming and that we needed to go home and work through an issue we were having. I gave them the passage to be taught and asked them to handle it and to please pray for us. We then turned around, went home, and had three uninterrupted hours to talk, listen, and work through the issue. It was the right move to make.

The next week when we met, we thanked them for flexing for us. Everyone was very accepting; there was no sense of judgment from them. It was hard to admit we have those kinds of days though everyone said they could relate.

A few weeks later, I called one of the members who was teaching the group while we were away. I asked him how it went. He said it was good and bad. I asked him what the “bad” was.

“Oh,” he said, “we had a ‘Gschwend moment.’”

“A ‘Gschwend Moment?’” I asked. “What is that?”

“Oh, you know,” he said, “when you get in a fight with your wife on the way to the gathering…we had one of those. I had to take my wife home.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be honored or offended. A fight with your wife on the way to church was now known as a ‘Gschwend Moment.’ I wondered how long it would take before it was officially in the dictionary. I guess it will show up between the words, “grysbok” and “G-strophanthin.” Nobody wants to be known for fighting with their wife on the way to church…even a house church. On the flip side, it does reflect a level of disclosure and honesty that we want in house churches. I am a leader, my wife is a leader, and we sometimes fight on the way to our gathering. We don’t hide it, we aren’t pretending everything is OK, there are times the wheels come off and we need to stop and work on the wagon. It’s hard to hide in a house church. I find the level of disclosure and honesty both refreshing and challenging. There is something attractive about the authenticity that can be found in many House Churches.

I’m still not sure if I should be offended or honored though.


August 16, 2007 Posted by | House Church | 4 Comments

Thank God for Shoes!

Tests…can’t say that I like them…especially the type where God is testing you. That is where God puts you in a place without the resources to handle the job. All of your usual coping strategies become useless. The more you realize you are helpless, the greater the rise of inner anxiety and fear. Then the temptation arises to go into your grumbling and medicating mode. You know what I mean. You become grouchy and irritable and look for something to take away your pain…anything. It could be food, drugs, alcohol, video games, sports, rage, sex, or hyper-control.

I’ve been in one of those tests recently. You wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep. You cry out to God but you don’t necessarily get any immediate relief. Your mind races to all the terrible things that could happen. Fortunately for me, with this last test I “happened” to be reading Deuteronomy 8 in my quiet time.

Deut. 8 is all about testing and the purposes of discipline. In it I read, Deut 8:3

3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

As I read those words I realized God often puts His children in places without the resources to handle the job. The resources are coming…manna is on the way…but there is a time between the need and the provision. That is the time of testing. God wants me to depend on Him, trust Him, be humble, and know He alone is my true source of everything I have.

A clue to God’s coming provision is what is stated in the next verse: Deut 8:4-5

Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. God’s faithful provision is evidenced all around us. For Israel they could look at the shoes on their feet and realize they had been wearing the same shoes for 40 years…and those shoes hadn’t worn out. God had been providing and He would continue to provide.

For me, God calls me in the time of testing…that time between need and provision, to thank Him for my “shoes.” My shoes are all those things God has faithfully provided over the years to show Himself to be a Good God. I can’t say it is the first thing my mind races to in a test…but I have found it a better answer than hooking up with drugs…alcohol… rage…sex…video games…

August 1, 2007 Posted by | Lessons learned | Leave a comment

Insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting different results!

We are all familiar with the definition of insanity. It doesn’t always stop us from acting in insane ways, however! There are times we are so stuck, or we don’t see other options before us that we just continue to do the same behavior over and over and over again. Sometimes it doesn’t sink in until the PAIN level of the results gets our attention and we can look outside of our box for new solutions.

In some fashion, pastoring in a church has a level of insanity. Having lived in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas for over 30 years, I recently surveyed the results of the Church’s impact on our region during that time. What became very apparent was that the number of followers of Jesus has pretty well stayed the same or declined over the last 30 years in this region. Yes people have come to Christ…some have moved out of the region… some have moved into the area…some have died…some have been biologically born into Christian homes. We have seen some churches grow in attendance and many decline. However the NET RESULT is that we have not seen an increase in followers of Jesus in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. Most church growth is a reshuffling of dissatisfied believers from one church to the next “hottest” church. Does this cause anyone else a measure of PAIN?

I believe God is calling forward a new way of “being the church.” It will be quite different than anything we have ever encountered. It will entail a return to the church reflecting a more organic and Spirit-led life illustrated in the first century. We will see an increase in meeting in homes and public places. We will see the Next Reformation of the releasing of men, women, and children as priests and ministers of the Lord. It will also entail some of the following characteristics:

It will be a movement – because one new church is not enough.

It will be church planting– not growing megachurches, but growing many churches.

It will be pioneering – we will be going where none of us have gone before…fortunately Jesus is leading the way.

It will be community-based – the focus will be on relationships and not on programs.

It will be simple – so it can be easily transferred to daughter and granddaughter churches.

It will be New Testament– meeting in homes for Body life ministry and in the public places for Celebration Gatherings.

It will be founded on prayer – we aren’t smart enough to figure this out on our own; nor strong enough to do it on our own power.

It will be outside the walls – we will be with Jesus in our local communities and not asking people to come to our buildings.

It will be new wine skins – the priority will be on the new wine; wine skins are here only to serve the wine.

It will be about healing – our mandate is to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed and declare the year of favor.

It will be Spirit empowered – relying on the Spirit to release all the gifts to all the people that all may serve as priests in ministry unto the Lord.

It will be transformational – we will see life change as central to the gospel; we will see change in people, families, cities, regions, and nations.

It will be future oriented – we will see ourselves raising up the next generation as leaders of society and the church.

It will be apostolic – we will see many new leaders whose calling it is to saturate our region with new, independent but a voluntarily associated family of churches.

I think anything less will not be effective in discipling the nations and fulfilling the call Jesus has placed on the church. Anything less just might be INSANE.

July 11, 2007 Posted by | House Church | 6 Comments

That Nagging Feeling!

Soon after I became a pastor, I found myself questioning how I was spending my time. I was amazed at the percent of my week that was spent in meetings, committees, and discussions of church “business.” It was clear to me that the church would have a hard time functioning without getting the business portion worked out, but somehow it always left me with that nagging feeling. Jesus would not “do church” this way. As a novice pastor I just had to trust those who had been doing this much longer than me that this was the way to do it. I had to push that nagging feeling down and keep moving forward.

The nagging feeling would return from time to time. It got worse as I rose up in the ranks of the leadership and was myself the one who was running committees, meetings and insisting that others attend to the business of the church. I secretly resented devoting so much of my time to church business and not spending more time with people. I found myself very jealous of other pastors who managed to be out with people serving, caring, mentoring, and using their pastoral gifts. In my heart I would say, “that is how Jesus would do church!”

During a desert period of our lives, my wife and I found ourselves attending a smaller church that functioned like a large house church. It felt like I had come home. It had everything I believed the church should have. Relationships were key, the people were the church – not the building, people were using their gifts to serve each other, they were listening to the Holy Spirit and following His lead, there was a clear sense that Jesus was leading and they were journeying with Him.

At this point the Lord was clearly speaking to us about our next ministry assignment. It seemed that our choices were to become a teaching pastor in a traditional church model or to begin a movement of reproducing house churches. One choice came with a nice salary, benefit package and great group of people…the other came with no guaranteed salary or benefits, a great group of people but a call from Jesus to follow him on a new pioneering journey. We chose the latter. Now that old nagging feeling is gone but it is often replace by new nagging feelings. Things like “what was I thinking?”…”were we crazy?”…”Do we know what we are doing?” But ultimately we know we are on a journey with Jesus and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

July 8, 2007 Posted by | House Church | 6 Comments