Sunday, November 30, 2014

Are You a Done?

After reading this article, it's clear that I'm a "done." Are you?

Click here to visit a new site named the dones.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Church Simply: One Anothering

What is the most important part of church life? Is is preaching? Is is giving? Is is teaching? Is it eating? Is it fasting? Is it praying?

I believe the most important part of church life is one anothering.

When we read through the New Testament we see exhortation after exhortation to mutually do certain things for "one another" or "each other." Some related exhortations are to not do certain things within the body. All of this has the purpose of the edification, or building up, of the entire body in Christ.

In order to show just how important this is, I'm listing several here:

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight." Romans 12:16

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

"Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Romans 14:13

"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." Romans 15:7

"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you." Romans 16:16

"So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another." I Cor. 11:33

"But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another." I Cor. 12:24-25

"Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you." II Cor. 13:11

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13

"Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." Galatians 5:26

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:1-3

"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Ephesians 4:25

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:18-21

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices." Colossians 3:9

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." Colossians 3:12-13

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16

"Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you." I Thess. 3:11-12

"Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another." I Thess. 4:9

"Therefore encourage one another with these words." I Thess. 4:18

"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." I Thess. 5:11

"See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone." I Thess. 5:15

"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." II Thess. 1:3

"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:13

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25

"Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door." James 5:9

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16

"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart." I Peter 1:22

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." I Peter 4:8-10

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" I Peter 5:5

"Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ." I Peter 5:14

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." I John 1:7

"For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." I John 3:11

"And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us." I John 3:23

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God." I John 4:7

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." I John 4:11

The length alone of the above list should give us pause. Are we really striving to carry out what we see here? Our Lord clearly has an expectation for his church that we will care for each other and strive to edify each other. I Thessalonians 5:11 sums it up well, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."

I do not believe that what we read above is a sort of grocery list or laundry list. It's certainly not a to-do list. Rather, as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, these are activities that we should enjoy. As the body comes together, the Spirit gives us the desire and ability to help others mature in Christ. Since these are reciprocal in nature, we also must accept edification.

When the church does these things, it becomes more and more of what Christ wants it to be: a healthy, mature body.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Church Simply: Homes Make Great Places to Meet

Continuing with this series of living church simply, in this post we'll look at homes as being great places to gather.

It is obvious that when churches gather they need some place to do so. In the bible we see one primary place where the body of Christ comes together: in homes. A few examples:

"Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia." Romans 16:3-5

"The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord." I Corinthians 16:19

"Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house." Colossians 4:15

"Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house..." Philemon 1:1-2

The above passages do not make it imperative that we meet in homes (click here to see another location). However, they do show us that this was the general practice of the day. In light of this, we do well to follow their example.

Why meet in homes? What are the benefits? Below are five that come to mind quickly:

1. Homes are comfortable. It's wonderful to sit around some family's living room on couches. It is conducive to relaxed conversation.

2. Homes are safe. In countries where persecution is real, homes offer a relatively safe place to come together. Houses do not draw the attention that church buildings do.

3. Homes are cheap. Meeting in a house costs next to nothing. Even the poorest Christians in the world can do this.

4. Homes are where real life happens. There is a real-world feel to gathering in houses. This atmosphere is good for real-life conversations. This is when edification can easily and naturally happen.

5. Homes are great places to eat. It is easy to have a meal in a house. Eating together is one of the primary things churches do. When everybody eats the same food, it levels the playing field. It helps all involved bond together and promotes the building up of the body.

Are we required to gather in homes? I do not believe so. Should we gather in homes - at least some of the time? Yes, we should. Too many benefits exist to ignore homes as obvious places to meet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Countdown Continues: One Week Until Publication!

About one year ago Jeremy Myers approached me with the idea for this book. During the past twelve months there have been many hours of editing and writing. A few times I almost lost hope of completeing the project. But now the day is almost here!

One of the challenges of editing is changing only what needs to be changed. I attempted to make sure that each chapter did not become my own. Rather, they belong to the contributors. Doing this required quite a bit of time. It would have actually been faster to make more changes and just turn everything into exactly what I wanted. However, that would have made the book far less interesting. I'm glad it is as it stands.

You can order the book from Redeeming Press or Amazon.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Accidental Organic Church" - By Alan Knox

In January of this year my good friend Alan Knox penned a short essay that was published in House2House magazine. It is entitled The Accidental Organic Church.

Alan Knox and I became good friends while in seminary together. We were also part of the same church family, which Alan describes in the first part of his post. Those were fascinating days as we as a church body searched the scriptures together, trying to see how God desired that we function. I think I learned more from my time with Alan and the others than I did during my seminary classes.

Alan and I do not get to see each other much anymore. However, we remain close friends and fellow bloggers (although his has gone cold for now). I'm excited that Alan is a contributor to Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity. His chapter is entitled, "A Church That Knows Leaders Are Servants." It is one of the strongest chapters in the book.

I encourage you to read The Accidental Organic Church. It will be five minutes of your life well spent.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Just Ten Days To Go!

Only ten more days until the publication of Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity!

Although I am the editor of this book, it is not my book. Rather, it's really a book owned by twenty-four different people. That's probably one of the reasons I'm so excited about it. This is not just my thoughts; it's much better than that. It is a compilation of what a diverse group of Christians believes about simple church life.

I'm also very pleased that this is not a homogeneous group. Although we all have Christ in common, we have many differences: backgrounds, locations, genders, occupations, races, and (gasp!) some doctrinal issues. We even chose a wide variety of bible translations to use in this book (eight total).

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity has not been written from a narrow perspective. Rather, a bunch of Christ followers from all over the world (literally) have joined together to discuss some of the wonderful benefits of simple church life. I hope you are blessed by it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Church Simply: Everybody Actively Use Your Spiritual Gifts!

One key aspect to simple church life is that everyone is encouraged and expected to actively use his or her spiritual gifts to serve the body.

This is based on the view of the body described in I Corinthians 12. Paul informs us that every member of the body is important. The body will not function properly unless all body parts are healthy and active. None are ignored. None are more important than others. In order for the body to do what it is supposed to do, every part must be up and running.

For this to occur the body as a whole has to trust the lead of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit not only bestows spiritual gifts, but also leads believers into using these gifts. The body must respond to the Spirit's leading by encouraging everyone to use their own gifts actively for the building up of the entire body. Everybody matters.

One place many churches (regardless of form) fail is in encouraging everyone to be active. It's easy to simply let some folks sort of sit quietly in the background and not do much. If this happens the body will suffer - possibly in ways it hasn't really considered. Since I Cor. 12 is true, then everybody needs everybody. We the church must get the message out that every believer has the responsibility to be active. Let's not guilt one another in this, but instead encourage each other. Ironically, this means we will be encouraging each other to encourage each other.

The church is stunted when a small number of people do most of the ministry. That model makes for a sick body, where some parts are overworked and others are undeveloped. Much healthier is a body where every part is in shape from regular exercise. Let's all do our part by using our gifts to serve and encouraging others to do so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Church Simply: The Spirit Leads the Meetings

As churches come together, who's in charge? Who leads? Who points the way forward?

In simple church gatherings it is the Holy Spirit who leads.

It is the Spirit and only the Spirit. The Spirit needs no help. The Spirit desires no assistance. He can direct things just fine on his own. He doesn't request human "sub-leaders" to get out in front of the body.

When we look in the pages of the New Testament we see believers gather together for mutual edification. As they do this they rely on the Spirit to lead. When we analyze their get-togethers, we see free-flowing gatherings where those involved act for the betterment of others. We don't see a great deal of pre-planning; the believers wait for the Spirit to lead them in edifying activities.

Acts chapters two and four illustrate what the Spirit's leadership can bring about.

Much of the institutional church is pastor-centric. Pastors lead almost everything and are a key focus of the body. For better or worse they point the way forward. They are at the head of almost all the important decisions. Whenever a big activity takes place, the pastors are front-and-center. If you look in the New Testament you simply do not see this. We see elders within local bodies, but these men lead through serving, not decision-making. They don't stand out in front. Like the other folks, they wait for the Spirit to lead.

This is one of the greatest differences between simple churches and institutional/traditional churches. While the Spirit leads simple churches in general and their gatherings in particular, it is the pastors who lead institutional churches. To say otherwise would be to ignore the obvious.

Bodies of believers do well to follow the Holy Spirit. He is God after all. We can and must trust the Spirit to lead us in how he wants us to live as his church. He will not fail us. Let us not fail him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Only Two Weeks Until Publication!

I am getting more and more excited about Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity as the publication date (Dec. 2nd) approaches. The more discussions I'm having with others about this book, the more I realize that the general message is resonating with many people. Christians with all sorts of church backgrounds are interested in what the contributors of this book have to say. I've been somewhat overwhelmed by the response so far.

Chuck McKnight, one of the contributors, made an interesting observation this week. He said, "I just skimmed through the contributor bios in the back of Simple Church. Looks like almost half of us are either foreign missionaries or missionary kids (myself included in the latter)." I knew we had a variety of people writing, but I didn't realize the overseas connection. This makes sense. Living overseas forces people out of comfort zones and often leads them into asking hard questions about all sorts of things - including church life.

You can pre-order the book by visiting Redeeming Press or Amazon. The Kindle version is available as well.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Church Simply: A Real Lord's Supper

Confession time: I love to eat. Food is excellent. It is best served with good company.

Simple church gatherings almost always involve eating of some kind. Many of these meals are real Lord's Suppers. I'm referring to an actual meal that celebrates what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross. We see this in various places in the New Testament. For example, in Acts 20:7 we read, "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight." Please notice that the body gathered for a specific purpose: "...when we were gathered together to break bread..."

Earlier in Acts, we see that the early believers dedicated themselves to several things, one of these being the "breaking of bread" (2:42).

The Corinthian church was struggling with the Lord's Supper. Some in the body were abusing it. The wording of chapter 11 only makes sense in the context of an actual meal. Paul does not tell them to stop eating a meal; rather, he instructs them in how to eat it properly.

Many institutional churches are starving themselves. The Lord's Supper celebration has been changed into a Lord's Snack funeral-like ceremony. This is a sad deviation for the worse.

One of the best aspects of gathering with other believers is eating together. There is something about eating together that brings about community life. It is easy to have conversations when sitting around the table. The body comes together as it all shares food together. Part of this meal, although I don't think it is required, is the bread and the cup. The eating and drinking of these helps remind us of what Jesus has done and also fosters the unity of the body.

I love the above icon because it shows a real meal in action. People are happy. There's even a dog at the table. The meal is portrayed as an active, joyful occasion. This is what the Lord's Supper should be.

When the church gathers, one thing we should all be thinking is, "Let's eat!" And by "eat," we are referring to a real supper.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Church Simply: Why Get Together Anyway? Mutual Edification

One source of great confusion in much of the church today is why the church gets together. This is fascinating because churches gather so regularly. You would think that the people would know why they are doing so. When asked, most Christians respond with the vague, " worship." However, they can neither support this biblically nor even accurately define it.

At least some of this confusion stems from the term "worship service." Since people attend these ceremonies, they think this is when "worship" happens. It is all one big confusing mess. The reason for all this, of course, is that worship is not why the church gathers (worship is a 24/7 exercise). Rather, the church comes together for mutual edification.

I Corinthians 14:26 is an extremely important verse. Paul writes, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." Paul is less concerned with their specific activities than he is with why they are doing what they are doing. All should be for the building up of the body into maturity in Christ. We see an active body where each person uses his or her gifts to build up others.

Mutual edification is easy to define. Because of that, it is easy for local bodies of believers to make this the focus of their gatherings. They can step back and see if what they are doing is actually accomplishing what it should. On the other hand, when churches focus on worship, it is nearly impossible to determine what their meetings are accomplishing.

Before even gathering together churches should ask the "Why?" question. The answer to this question is much more important than the "Who? What? Where? When? and How?" questions. If a church doesn't know why it comes together, then none of the other answers matter.

Simple churches meet for mutual edification of the body. It's as simple as that.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Contributing Authors Blogging About "Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity"

Most of the twenty-four contributors to Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity are also bloggers. Several of them have written recent blog posts about the book. Click on any of the following names to see what they have to say about the upcoming publication:

Bobby Auner
Keith Giles
Chris Jefferies
Miguel Labrador
Chuck McKnight
Will Rochow
Steve Scott
Arthur Sido
Kathleen Ward

You can pre-order the book here or here. For the Kindle version, click here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Now Available for Pre-Order!

Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is now available! You can pre-order it through either Redeeming Press or If you are the Kindle sort, the book is available for you as well.

I admit that it is sort of an odd experience seeing my name on the cover of a book. After all, I'm the editor but did not actually write most of the book (only two of the chapters to be exact). I'm thrilled that we have so many different contributors. The variety of writers makes the book more interesting and, I believe, more powerful. It is many voices speaking as one about the power and beauty of simple church life.

If you have any questions about the book, please contact me. Feel free to ask in the blog comments or send an email. Please also be in prayer that God will use this book to bring about increased dialogue, understanding, and unity within his body. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

THE BIG NEWS: The Book Nears Completion!

We're nearing the finish line. Praise the Lord!

Much like an engagement is not real until there is a ring, a book doesn't seem real until there is a cover. Well, we have a cover. What you see above is a first draft of the cover of the new book I'm editing. We may make some minor changes, but for the most part what you see above is what the cover will be.

The first thing that jumps off the cover is that the name of the book has changed. The original title was What We're For. However, Jeremy Myers (publisher) and I decided that we needed a title that more clearly describes what the book is all about. Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity points any interested readers to the general theme of the book.

I selected the icon on the front cover to emphasize the interaction between unity and diversity. Jeremy provided me with about thirty different possible icon choices. So far I've received positive feedback about this selection.

The back cover lists the contributors not in alphabetical order, but rather in the order their chapters appear in the book. The book contains 26 chapters; Jeremy and I each wrote two. The interesting thing about this book is that quite a bit of diversity actually exists among the various contributors. However, we all agree primarily that Jesus is Lord, and secondarily that simple church practices are the most effective pattern for church life.

We hope and pray that God will use this book to generate discussion, understanding, and unity within the broader body of Christ.

We are aiming for a publication date of later this month or early December. I'll post more about it as the date approaches.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Church Simply: Let's Have a Family Gathering

Simple church gatherings are just that: simple.

In every country in the world families get together. The purpose is usually to enjoy one another's company. There may be some planning, but for the most part it is the spontaneous interactions that are most important. Families just enjoy being together. It is much more about who is there than what is happening.

Simple church gatherings are like this. The body of Christ is one large family. Because of this, church gatherings should be be family gatherings. This can occur any place, any time, with any number of people. The purpose is to give believers the opportunity to glorify God through mutual edification.

This all happens most effectively when church meetings are family meetings.

When we look to the pages of the New Testament we see the redeemed coming together simply. They generally met in homes. We're told in Acts 2:42 that they, "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." This is not complex. However, it is very important. The importance lies in the community atmosphere that encourages the building up of the body.

Much of the church today seems to think that complexity equals excellence. Look at almost any mega church website to see this. The irony is that the scriptures show us the opposite. Simple is generally better. Family gatherings happen in simple environments. When large groups meet in big buildings for worship ceremonies, family dynamics cannot exist.

Local bodies of believers do well to think of their meetings as family get togethers. This keeps things simple and relaxed. Planning is minimized while edification is maximized.