Monday, November 12, 2012

Head of His Church



One of the things we've had to "un"learn is the "order of service." It's been so helpful to visit other house churches and more recently the Okc church two weeks ago. We noticed how patient the saints were during worship. They would wait, almost painfully, for the Lord to direct the next song or exhortation or scripture reading.


So we tried it last night. We told everyone to have an attitude of reverence and let a "pause" sustain itself after each song. Scriptures were read, prayers were prayed and all in between three songs. We just "knew" when it was time to transition to the next part of the meeting.

An elder began talking about the seven churches, how it relates to us today. Another brother spoke up about forgiveness and he was able to receive the wealth of scripture and "been there" wisdom from another couple. Hate was being turned to compassion. Pride to humility. This brother was almost embarrassed to share such personal things but the truth is...house church is like that.

As one person humbles themselves and seeks to draw from the treasure of scripture and gifts of the Holy Spirit in the rest of the group, that vulnerability spreads to everyone else. Pretty soon everyone else starts to share "what happened to me" and "how God brought me through" until the "inheritance that is in the saints" begins to be passed around the room. It can get as personal as people want it to....in a small setting it's very doable. In a huge gathering of more than 50 people, it's just plain too scary!

I think about the meeting last night and realize that I had no idea the meeting would take the turn it did but obviously the Lord led our discussion and ministered to us and through us for the edification of everyone present. That's how it should be, right?

And here I was stressed out because I hadn't prepared "a word" myself. Yet, I'm realizing more and more, the goal is to prepare our hearts and be intentional about meeting ...without the agenda to control or "program" the meeting at all. The Lord truly is head of His church and He never fails to tap into the things He's put in us that week, last month or even thirty years ago. We just follow His lead.

Due to marked interest, we're getting read to do a study on eschatology every third Friday night. If you're interested, feel free to contact us.

Thanks for learning with us and for your prayers and support.
Shawnee Home Church

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Growing Up

Sunday morning we had the rare pleasure of attending a home in Oklahoma City that is part of a house church network, stretching all over the state. The Fenns of Supernatural House Church (also known as The Church Without Walls International) facilitated the meeting (no one person has the floor at all times in a house church meeting, ever). They started planting house churches about twenty years ago and continue to maintain relationships with HC plants all over the world.



I have to admit Jarrod and I were a little gun shy when we first heard about this ministry, Supernatural House Church. "Supernatural" has become a buzz word in grossly unbalanced teachings but after browsing their website and articles, it was clear balance is what they are about. As a friend of ours put it, "Not crazy but not spiritually constipated either."

The meeting was incredibly similar to ours with the exception that there was no off topic conversation and rabbit trails (which we sometimes fall prey to), though there was plenty of "let down your hair" fellowship during the greeting time and over a meal afterwards. I really liked that the conversation stayed focused on the subject but that didn't prevent people from sharing personal stories or asking questions...all of it was related to the core of what God was saying that morning.

I also enjoyed the very sensitive nature of the worship. Each song ended followed by silence to sense the Lord's leading. Are we finished singing? Does anyone have a tongue/interpretation, does anyone have an encouraging word? As Paul said in 1 Cor. 14 "let all things be done in order."

"As the Spirit" gave utterance, several spoke up between songs and actually foreshadowed the discussion that followed worship. For example I'd written in my journal, "How many of my decisions are based on my own desires and how many based on pleasing You by doing what You want, Lord?" There were several other things that I wrote down during the meeting that either expressed itself in song by someone else or by an exhortation or prophetic word of encouragement.

The "sermon"?

Pleasing God. Do we live our lives everyday to please God...or do we approach God with the idea that we pray and plead for God to bless our own will, ideas and desires?

As Fenn pointed out, when we first come to Christ it's usually for some immediate benefit. Salvation brings joy and peace and the assurance we will see Christ at the pearly gates...but, as Jarrod pointed out, we mature as we plunge deeper in the experience of His love for us. We naturally begin to love Him so much more that we yearn to please Him!

Of course the sheer absurdity is that this has somehow been twisted into legalism by those who would rather bear His name while living for themselves. We can't possibly please God...or can we? With Christ's energizing grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we are expected to!

As John Fenn brought out in several passages, Paul urged us to live in a way that pleases God. "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Rom. 8:8)" and "without faith it is impossible to please God...(Heb. 11:6)" and "we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (1 Thess. 4:1)

Nearly everyone spoke up and one by one added truth from the richness of Christ and His Anointing and His Word from within them! Brief personal testimonies brought humility and openness to the meeting. We all shared this incredible love for Christ and longing to please Him.

We were refreshed by the entire meeting and enjoyed meeting other believers in this setting. "Cross pollination" as Steve Queen said to us is a great thing. We thank God for the connection and look forward to sharing it with the Ekklesia in Shawnee.

Thanks to the Queens, the Fenns, and the Lassiters for the warm welcome and inspiration. 



Monday, October 15, 2012

Children Are Members of Christ

Jesus had a special place in His heart for children, one so counter-cultural at the time that He was forced to answer the crowds when He was giving them more attention than He gave the adults. I believe that Christ recognized children as just as much a member of His church as adults. We believe they have a purpose in the church meeting, with their own callings and gifts and they should contribute to the meeting in their own way. 

It seems Jesus thought so too. Let's remember that it was the children who were crying 'Hosanna' to the Lord. "But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant. Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?" Matt. 21:15-16

Last Sunday night we had an idea to get the kids more involved in the meeting. They're all about the same age, ranging from 12-14 years old. We asked them to anonymously write down on a piece of paper what they struggle with. It could be anything from getting along with a sibling, temptation, peer pressure or even doubts about their faith. Then after putting the wadded papers into a bowl they each selected one. In two weeks, after searching for the answers to those problems in Scripture with the help of their parents, they will preach their own sermon (or simply read scriptures or accounts of people who had to deal with those same issues) in the church to us all.

We are REALLY excited this because it will accomplish the following things (although the list is endless):

  1. It will teach them to minister to each other!
  2. It will teach them how to search the Scriptures for answers both on someone else's behalf and their own. 
  3. They may end up discerning by the Spirit (using a gift they didn't know they had) who this person is that needed this solution. They may discover they love bringing a teaching or being an evangelist or whatever is in them. 
  4. It will open up deep conversation between parents and children, possibly leading to confession about what they personally go through in their lives. 
  5. It will make them more aware of how important it is to think of others and what they go through, not just focusing on themselves and their own troubles. 
For the first time in weeks I saw one of kids get their bible and notebook. We saw them actively participated in a way I don't think we've ever seen and it was almost as if they realized they were an important part of this journey. They started asking questions that belied things they deal with like kids at school who are openly gay. That lead to talking about the Christian's response to that (with love and the offer for repentance and supernatural deliverance, healing, etc NOT hateful rejection).

It was such an amazing time! Rather than making them sit there and "be quiet" and just aimlessly bringing scripture to them, it ended up being very dynamic with their participation and questions about the Scriptures the adult read that evening.

In two weeks, one of these kids will be ready to bring their teaching or exhortation. We're excited and we can't wait to see what God will speak to them!  

No matter where or how you gather among God's people, challenge your children to begin exploring the Word of God to answer their problems and discover their spiritual gifts. You'll help them have a relationship with Christ that is personal but isn't self focused and set them on a path to be used by God now and for the rest of their lives. Don't raise a pew warmer, raise a contributing part of Christ's body!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Get Your Glasses On

We have a new family coming to our house fellowship and the subject of tithing came up. They said they knew they needed to be tithing and it was something "on the list" they really wanted to get checked out. Their sincere hearts to obey God in every aspect of their lives led them to believe the common misguided application of an Old Testament Law practice. Tithing 10% of your income. We explained that according to Acts and the Apostles letters that giving was an altogether different thing in the early church. They gave according to specific needs, not an Old Testament code.

Now before you get yourself all riled up, hear me out. If you are in an institutional church, you are obligated by virtue of using that building to pay some form of support. It's got to be paid for somehow, right? Just as institutional church models the Old Testament model (paid priest, maintained building, caring for the poor through various programs)...giving money should be part of what you contribute to a church in a building.

Ten percent? No. "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 1 Cor. 9:7 As I said...not under compulsion or threats that you will be cursed. Not under promises of 100 fold return. According to what God has laid upon your heart...could be less or more than 10%. Just obey God.

First century church didn't have that 10% mandate ever. They didn't have paid ministers or buildings because Christianity was illegal. So there was no need for a rigid tithe. However, tithing is also not a new testament practice not just because there were no real buildings but because this was Old Testament law, along with ceremonial washing, observing Saturday Sabbath, etc. It's intention was to pay the priest (who could not work to support himself and his family) and also to care for the poor in a similar way that our taxation system pays for welfare (this research is clearly laid out in "Pagan Christianity: Exploring Our Roots" by George Barna & Frank Viola). The tithe was reintroduced by the Catholic Church in Rome, who even went so far as to demand everyone pay that regardless whether they subscribed to the faith or not. It's been in place ever since.

There is not ONE mention of tithing in the Apostle's letters. Not one.

Now that we have THAT aside, I will assert that New Testament giving was an "over and beyond" what a mere 10% was. In Acts we see them selling their precious possessions to give to the needs of each other and the poor. "And they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts. 2:45-47 (See also Acts 4:32-37)

We explained that we take up need specific offerings and cited an example of a church member whose glasses were literally being held together by tooth picks (in place of tiny screws). The frames, which where the only ones he could afford when he broke his glasses a few months ago, were too small for the man's face, rubbing against his eyelashes, and eye sockets. Sweat, dirt and tears were chafing this elder all the time he was working and he works hard.

As this new couple was leaving the house, they came back inside with a $100 bill and insisted they pay for the glasses. This week, on his birthday, he got himself a new pair! This kind of giving fosters a sense of family bonding and sense of unity through demonstrated love. It blesses both the giver and the receiver. It's a sacrifice you're offering before God on a saint's behalf and THAT is giving with generosity, from the heart, for the right reasons.

It's important for all of us to have our glasses on when it comes to what we're taught. Examine the Scriptures for yourself, devote yourself to studying God's word carefully. You might be surprised on what you're missing out on, whether you're blessing your church or someone on the pew...or your couch. Give as God leads you, not the Old Testament and not a man!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Jesus Hospital...

Lots of people start house church with noble visions of a well trained, fully functioning team of elders. There's at least one elder in each five fold ministry gift and everyone is working together to reach their city, neighborhood by neighborhood for Christ. Everyone shares their lives, their food, their wealth, their hearts with everyone else. Church, "first century style."

Well. Yeah. I mean that's the idea.

For now, we seem to be a hospital. Since we began, God has brought us people who need a Jesus hospital, a place where deep wounds and horrific trauma can be healed.

Last fall we sheltered and ministered to a woman and her children who had suffered unspeakable pain. A lot of healing was done in this single parent family before they returned to their home and a restored marriage. This fall, we have a family who, betrayed by those dearest to them, are gathering with us. They're learning to hear God's voice for themselves, that following Christ will cost you something but the reward is everything, that God, who is for them and not against them, is and will always take care of them...no matter what lies rage against them.

How has this family grown us?

At one point, our new family was in deep trouble, in true despair. To my astonishment, my husband took off in the car and headed for their house...did he lay hands on him? No. Did prophesy to him? No. Did he lead him in worship? No. He was just there for him. They didn't even get really "spiritual" but it meant a lot to them. Later that evening they came to the meeting (just us and them over dinner and scripture) and were ministered to. I can remember a time when my husband, somewhat reclusive, would never have done that...major growth there.

I see more now than ever how important it is to train people to know God for themselves. I tried to "help" this family in a situation and it seemed the right thing to do since it was within my ability to do so...but it didn't work. We tried to call a special prayer meeting but we all "flaked out." I was pretty bummed and scratching my head but the result of our failed attempts was that God performed a miracle on their behalf and not a one of us could take any credit. It wasn't because of my efforts to pull a few strings. It wasn't because we called an emergency prayer meeting and cried out passionately to God. No. This was the result of their prayers. When God answered their prayers, He proved Himself to them and their faith skyrocketed! An elder is not a mediator or a "Moses on the mountain"...an elder is more like a coach who teaches them how to play the game but its up to the player to play the game and live with the score. I'm not the mediator...that's Jesus. I'm just coaching here.

A successful ministry isn't about the number of people who attend...it's about the quality of your fruit. Rather than have a house full of people who say they love God but aren't following Him, I'd rather have a handful of people who are being transformed because they're knowing Him more each day. I'm determined to be patient with what God is doing in us and not despise small beginnings.

We're learning that discipleship isn't a class you teach once a week or a program. It's being a friend. It's feeling their sadness, their pain...and yes their joy on the other side of it. Discipleship is about living God's Word with other people, not just in front of them as a distant example.

It seems almost surreal to realize that Christ has been like a surgeon and we've been the tools; the gifts of the Holy Spirit within us have been like prescribed medicine...and one day, we know they'll leave our Jesus hospital, start a one where they move and keep the Gospel going. I can't wait to see how it turns out!



Sunday, April 29, 2012

Teachable....

Yep. We're headed to the classroom..well sort of. Next month we will visit the house church in Elgin, Illinois that our friends Rusty and Sarah Wimberly had a hand in planting. We will also take advantage of a workshop in Chicago for those interested in planting house churches and missional communities. I don't even know what a missional community is...but I'm gonna find out!

It's meant to be a dynamic experience that includes break out sessions, examination of God's Word, and prayer for those entering their own unique aspects of ministry. This isn't a platform for people who are trying to establish their own world wide ministry, collect money and accolades. They want to equip others to spread the Gospel, no matter what setting that might be. House or building.

We're so excited we can hardly contain ourselves! Not only are we going to get the opportunity to talk to others on this front of what God's doing but we'll have a chance to attend a house church meeting that's been well established. PLUS a nice long, twelve hour drive without any kids interrupting the conversation. Meaningful discussion. Silence. Can't wait. You have no idea how few those opportunities are for this busy couple...

In June we're also planning to host a forum at the local library for those in the community who feel that house church is something God might have in their future. We plan to very simply bring scriptures and information that demonstrates how and why house church works and the importance of knowing and DOING God's will...whatever that may be. Questions will be ask and hopefully answered by those we gather with each week. Look for the ad in the newspaper or on facebook. We'll see what happens as we pray for God to stir up and encourage those who feel called to start house churches in the community.

We may even get really creative and take video (don't put it past me to record the sessions!)




Monday, March 19, 2012

It Rained....in our living room

Oklahoma has long since been in a drought and this year was looking pretty predictable for a third round of scorching heat and parched land. In fact it was so dry in the Midwest that huge dark gaps in the earth could be seen as if to beg with an open mouth from the heavens for relief.

Life is like a series of seasons and when trouble and pain come, sometimes its like a horrible drought and a storm is a welcome sight rather than a dreadful presence. Last night, it rained in our living room with a sweet presence of the Lord in worship.


If you don't know what I'm talking about, I can explain. For the last few weeks it's been one thing after another for many in our gatherings. The threat of financial collapse and the strain of "what if" a breakthrough doesn't come. Physical illness. Loss of loved ones and the worry of their troubles. Disappointment, doubt, and discouragement have seemed like that hot sun boiling your faith, parching your hope, and searing your joy.

Last night it was a quiet gathering. It'd been four weeks since we'd been able to gather and all of us were really burdened but we started singing. As broken humility grew a bit more in our hearts, His gentle way of letting us sense His loving presence swelled like rain filling up the cracks of dry ground. Soon we were relaxed, filled with peace and a sense of just how big God is, just how much we can trust Him, and just how much we are loved.

House church is like that and sometimes it's not. Other times someone shares an encouraging testimony someone else needed to hear or a teaching that brings repentance or a prophetic word during prayer that confirms direction. We don't have an agenda of our own and often I sometimes feel like a little kid who just shows up to a meeting rather than an accomplished singer, teacher, cook or whatever we think we have to be to gather for "church." We let His agenda dictate. Interventions, songs, prayers, teachings. Somehow, He has His way and we all leave knowing we're the better for meeting together.

As the rain drenches the ground outside today, I fondly think of last night like someone who remembers an unforgettable moment with a loved one. Thanks Jesus. We needed that. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

And Then She Moved....

God is amazing and the stories we tell about the things He does always encourage others. So sit back and read on. This is a good one!

Last May a woman moved to our neighborhood. From a bad marital situation, she settled here and came to join our meetings after she decided to totally put herself and her children in God's hands. She immediately began to change. From depressed, discouraged, and worried she began to have hope, peace, and joy in the midst of tough circumstances.

I'll never forget when she came up the driveway that first day in tears.
"Um...are you guys...ministers or something?"

I almost froze right there with bags of groceries in my hands. How do I answer that question? I decided to wing it.

"Sort of. What's up?"

From that moment God put her and her children in our hearts. They were knitted into the beautiful fabric of God's family. We watched God provide a job for her, help her get to work, work through issues from the past and face issues at the present. We learned to step back, give her space and almost from the beginning, we watched her learn to hear God's voice for herself.

I can't even begin to tell you what we all learned from her and her children. She took a chance on us and we took a chance on her. It was amazing to see them all grow and we were right there beside her when God suddenly presented a detour.

It seems at the time she encountered Christ, her estranged husband had too. They hadn't spoken in eight months and she just happened to call him for some information she needed when he told her he'd gotten saved and God was changing his life. "Do you know what it's like to have a support system of people who actually care about you?" he said to her. She told me it was so strange because she did know and here he was sharing the same experience she'd had... hundreds of miles apart.


They've committed to be in God's house, get counseling and stick it out. It's not going to be easy but at least now, they've got His grace on their side.

So, Sunday morning we bid them farewell. An old marriage made new. A new home. A new family by God's grace. "Behold if any man is in Christ, old things are passed away and all things become new."

That's the scripture the Lord gave us. She cried, I held it together but after she left I was sad. A part of me...that wasn't me but Christ, just drove off. I thought about not seeing her anymore in our meetings. Not taking her to work and laughing about our crazy lives. Not babysitting her kids.

Yeah. It's kind of sad but sweet too. Get to know someone in your church. Take a gamble on someone. Risk being hurt. Actually consider them family. Enjoy the happiness of seeing someone you barely know, grow in Christ and come to love you.

It's fun. I swear.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

When Kids Do House Church...

My middle son has a friend down the street who doesn't live in a Godly home but infrequently comes to church meetings and plays a lot over here. We were chatting the other night about this pal when he confided that while in his home he hears foul language, explosive temper tantrums, and he was shown a violent video by his friend. "My mom doesn't let me watch that stuff," he said after he told me it startled him.

"Well, just don't tell your mom," his friend offered. "Keep it a secret."
This kid couldn't keep a secret if it meant winning a trip to disney world! This led to a very interesting discussion about why our home is different than his friend's house.
"Nate you have to remember, when you walk into a dark place you're like a walking light bulb because Christ is the Light inside you."
"I am?" he said with wonder in his shinning eyes.
"Yeah. You know you can talk to him about Jesus."
He thought about that for a moment and said, "Well...he's not ready yet."
Keeping in mind he prays for his friend from time to time and the conversation also showed that he felt a responsibility toward his neighbor, I was looking at pieces of a puzzle.

I can't help but wonder if it's not because of the boldness they're allowed to have in our meetings and the way the Spirit of God is teaching them that even at their young age they ARE a part of the body of Christ...just as much as adults. They see everyone else participating in the meetings and it gives them confidence to speak up.

Kids have assigned gifts and a calling from the day they're born. Why is it they don't realize it until they're in the throws of adolescence or when they're in their 20's or 30's? Because they don't have a VOICE in their church or parents who know how to look for those gifts in their kids.

All too often we can end up silencing our kids just because they're kids. It's really important, no matter what setting your services are in, to give them a chance to be used by God. Over the years I've seen Nate go up to total strangers and strike up a conversation, not bat an eye while telling some one they're wrong (not kidding!) and find his way into just about every home on the block.

He's an evangelist and a prophet. NOW, right now, that gift is affecting another child down the street and he's learning he has a ministry NOW!

I don't know about you, but I'm kind of excited about that and what kids can do in a church meeting when they're allowed to be used by God.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Uno...is a ministry

I'm not kidding. Before you think we sit around and play uno during our services, let me assure you we're too busy worshiping or discussing God's word to have time for games.

But home church will make you rethink ministry entirely, in the context of when you're at church VS being the church seven days a week. I got schooled in that today while I was trying to squeeze in some scripture reading for tonight's service.

I was also babysitting two children in our church family whose single parent was working today. These two precious babies have been through a lot. Restless, needing attention, and unconditional love from caring authority figures (their parent loves them, don't get me wrong) but I was too busy reading my Bible to give them attention.

Suddenly I realized they needed something from me. I put down my bible and asked the household who wanted to play Uno. They resounded yes and Nicole, my step daughter agreed to join us. Nicole is a very intuitive young lady and I knew she sensed that need in them and the opportunity to fulfill it.

So we played. They smiled, laughed, needed help, enjoyed the attention and fellowship. In fact they lit up. The time passed quickly at the table as we played and lost to each other in mutual humor. I almost cried sitting there as I realized that THIS is ministry. That attention to a child who needs it. That comfort that comes from a smile, a gentle nudge, or a simple word of affirmation is like water to a dry desert in the soul of one who's starved for that their whole lives.

And there I was trying to read my Bible and ignore their need. God forgive me. Isn't that what the Pharisees did? They exploited the poor, took advantage of the widows and ignored the pleas of the orphans but all the while poured over God's law...something that because of their wicked hearts they couldn't even fully understand.

I challenge you to rethink what ministry is and isn't. One thing it's not: selfishness. One thing it is: sacrificial love.

And I do love these kids. God bless them, keep them, heal them, and protect them.
Thanks for reading saints,
Mindy