Réveille… (Part 10)
The Strategical Vulnerability of House Churches
The prospect of starting a new church is an exciting dream—the chance to bless people in a way that counts for eternity!
It’s an excellent opportunity for some forward thinking. It’s a good time to ask a lot of “what if” questions without being strapped to “this is how we’ve always done it.”
My prayer is for young adults to see the multitudes as Jesus saw them… to be moved to compassion as Jesus was… to be willing to give as much as he did… to dream about being pioneers in the work of God’s kingdom.
The Missing Tree
In 2005, we moved out to a piece of jungle south of town. We were blessed with a variety of trees in our yard: alamos, gum trees, avocado, lemon, orange, palms; and things like huano (what they thatch roofs with), bananas, habanero peppers, coconuts, aloe vera, guanábana and more. It was just a smattering of what the surrounding jungle held. We can talk later about tucans and snakes.
In the midst of this abundance and amenable climate, there was one kind of tree we didn’t have. In fact, I have not found one in all of Mexico or anywhere else I’ve been.
There’s not a single disciple tree anywhere.
Do you have a disciple tree in your yard? I thought not. I'm not greedy... just one ripe disciple a year dropping into my arms and I would never complain.
What’s a disciple?
Maybe an adjustment will be necessary in what we think a true disciple should look like. It’s not a complicated concept:
A disciple follows and goes.
Specifically: A disciple is a person who follows Jesus and goes to people who need his saving grace.
“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…” (Mark 3:14, ESV)
Defining a goer does not involve a measurement in kilometers or miles. A disciple seeks people for whom Jesus died. Through him, they can be saved unconditionally and eternally. We can find people who need Jesus around the world; we can find them where we live and work. We’re all called to go—some around the world; some across the street.
Lots of people identify as Jesus followers. Not very many are goers. It’s certainly not for lack of souls to harvest. Mature followers go. We can’t split the package. Jesus expects us to follow… and he expects us to go.
The Achilles Heel
The strategical vulnerability of house churches will be the perennial lack of proven laborers when needed as groups divide with the intent to start something fresh.
We’re not spreading out because we can’t. Even if we had people excited about pioneering something new, they wouldn’t go far without a shared vision, vibrant discipleship and tenderhearted shepherding.
When Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved to compassion, he didn’t seek prayer for bunches of places where people could find friends and have others to commiserate with. He demanded prayer for more laborers to go harvest lost and wandering multitudes of people… to gather them into his flock.
So once again, we’re back to basics—Discipleship 101. Jesus told his disciples to pray. What should they pray for? Laborers for the harvest.
An Artificial Disparity
We embraced the vision to go to another country, make disciples and plant churches. I’m so glad we did! But nearly all of the folks sending us to perform this difficult task had never done it themselves. And surprisingly, they weren’t expected to. They were pastors—not missionaries.
It’s perturbing to see such a marked distinction between the role of pastor and the role of missionary. Our calling is the same. We are one group of people, not two. Lines on a map do not alter our essential calling to evangelize, spread out, and effectively pass the baton to the next generation.
Paul’s charge is a privilege and challenge to be equally shared by all of us.
"and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." (2 Tim 2:2)
We were sent and supported by churches with a burden for missions. They had certain expectations regarding their missionaries. When talking about how to do mission work, they liked to use the word "indigenous.” In fact, you’d hear that word a lot.
Indigenous means: native to the area, homegrown. It points to a set of principles, a vision, for how the Lord's work should be propagated.
The phrase "indigenous missions" conjures up an image of pioneering… starting from scratch, one-on-one discipleship, a church formed of human building blocks with or without a proper meeting place, and ultimately coming full circle by leaving trustworthy leadership in our wake (the Acts 13 & 14 model).
The indigenous vision prescribed for missions applies to all of us. Our priorities coming down the homestretch are identical.
The Pastor Disaster
When churches have a need for fresh, dedicated servants, they usually end up looking to Bible colleges, seminaries, other churches, or to men presently shepherding other flocks.
So what’s up with that?
If lots of churches end up searching for their “Timothys” elsewhere, won't we run out? If all we do is trade places or fill vacant pulpits, spreading out to pioneer new works will hardly seem feasible.
What if I had hung on for dear life to what I had in Mexico… coasting to the end without being mindful of a Paul-to-Timothy kind of succession? Negligent, some would exclaim. Yet, my negligent behavior on “that” side of the border would be deemed acceptable behavior on “this” side of the border.
It’s not hard to identify a significant cause of the shortage of laborers and the scarcity of pioneering new churches in our own country.
My three-fold prayer:
Lord, help us to own again for ourselves everything we expect from our missionaries.
Lord, raise up and prepare people from within our own congregations for whatever the future holds for us… and may there be no lack!
Lord, by your Spirit, give us young adults who will dream big and exercise bold faith. May they experience the sheer joy of pioneering in the work of your kingdom!
Next: More forward thinking - The next generation of pioneers.