“Preaching” vs. “Good Teaching”

A close friend of mine who I love and respect asked me this question over text message a couple weeks ago:

“What role does preaching play in simple/house churches? Strengths, weaknesses, ways it could grow, ways it could teach the church.”

This friend of mine has been a part of many types of churches. We have also had the pleasure of starting a house church with his family and some others. He is sharp, loves Jesus, and wants the best for The Church. We have an incredible relationship, and sharpen one another in the areas we may disagree. The mutual respect is refreshing in a day in time where it seems all anyone wants to do is argue their viewpoint. My friend places a high value on “good teaching” (primarily in the form of sermon style preaching) I do not yet have the answer to this “issue” in terms of a house church setting. Below are the initial thoughts I sent back to him via email regarding this topic based upon our observations and past several years pursuing Jesus in the context of simple/organic/house church settings: (Would love to hear your thoughts on either/both ends of the spectrum. Us “house churchers” definitely have a lot to learn about how to champion “good teaching” & placing a high value on the Word of God in our various settings)

“Hey buddy,

The role of “preaching” in simple/house/organic churches is relatively non-existent in my experience. However, in some older generations of house churches their gatherings look much like a typical church service in a living room. The only difference is the type of structure they meet in…(even chairs in rows, and a podium, etc.-haha!=) In our experience (much different from the above described older generation HC’s) we have moved from a desire for good “preaching” to the pursuit of healthy’good “teaching”. (These are not synonymous in my mind, and the minds of many we have observed/practiced with) You see, many of us spent most of our lives listening to sermons. While they are not completely absent from the lives of those pursuing “house church”, it typically does NOT happen in a house church gathering for various reasons, and on purpose. (many may continue to find good sermons online and enjoy listening to them for various reasons) Our reasons for not involving “sermon style teaching” are numerous, but the most basic are below:

1) Practically speaking it has been proven that humans retain about 20% of what they hear. The percentage goes up drastically as you factor in SEEING (visual), WRITING, DOING, etc. So, I look at it (preaching) as a very use of time/energy based upon those findings. I know that growing up I was lucky to remember more than 1-2 “good points” I heard from a sermon. I might remember a bit more if I took notes-rarely would those notes be referenced in the future.

2) In a HC setting there is a high value for EVERYONE participating. If one person is PREACHING this becomes difficult, and we fall right back into spectators coming to hear a sermon. We place a high value on the Holy Spirit speaking to every believer, and know that Spirit speaks to everyone for the mutual edification of the body.

3) So, we seek for what we feel to be more effective ways to “teach”/equip the body. Of course, we are far from figuring this out, and it constantly changes as we pursue being more effective. Here are some examples of things we’ve done in the past:
-Inductive studies: these involve little to no “prep work” on the part of anyone, but make it easy for a believer of any age (including a brand new believer) to be empowered to play an active role. Sometimes ONE person WILL do some before hand research or read commentaries, etc. in order to guide the group as tough questions come up. This usually involves helping the group to understanding the historical context of the scripture, who is writing, who they are writing to, etc.
-Breaking up into groups to discuss portions of scripture. Coming back together to share findings/revelations/etc.
-Sharing at random what the Lord has been speaking to individuals throughout the week during their own personal time, etc.
-Reading through a section of scripture together and then discussing it as a church family. This is so fun because everyone involved has different backgrounds, knowledge, perspective, etc. Everyone benefits, and walks away sharpened, more equipped, and knowledgeable of the scriptures.

These are just some off the top of my head thoughts/responses to your question. I do think that “GOOD TEACHING” could improve in HC’s, and a higher value placed on studying/knowing scripture. However, I’m not convinced that this will be in the form of sermon style preaching. Again, preaching and teaching are much different to me. I also cannot ignore the sermon style preaching that is found in scripture. I wonder, though, if these types of “preaching moments” took place more in the form of evangelistic pursuits rather than the day to day equipping of disciples who make up the Church…this plays into my strong feelings about church services not being for the purpose of evangelism. Most sermons or churches try to accomplish both discipleship and evangelism in a once/week sermon. This is impossible to do, and BOTH get watered down/suffer.”

Again, I’d love to hear any thoughts/additions from you guys from your experience/convictions regarding this topic. Have fun, and keep it civil! =)

 

“Permission” – Part Two…

(Part one of “Permission” can be found HERE)

In His grace, Jesus has allowed us to be a part of these incredible people’s lives. The King Street House Church family was birthed after a group of these young people went through Student CPx in Austin two summers ago, and then helped me run SCPx Austin this past summer. In the last few months I have had the pleasure of watching this house church community flourish & grow into a healthy spiritual family. There are some things about what is happening with this group of radical young people that I think are worth taking a look at. Below are some things that come to my mind when I think about these close friends. (You read in “Permission” Part 1 about the team of 7 this house church is sending out to S. Asia over Winter break to train University students there to plant house churches)

What is unique about this community?

1) It is completely lay-led (There is no paid staff) – There is something powerful about a group of people who are pursuing the Kingdom in radical ways when there is no paychecks or any kind of financial gain attached…They birthed, lead, and pursue the healthy growth of this family out of the pure love for Jesus in their hearts.

2) It was birthed by women in their early 20’s – I almost did not mention this because it seems so normal and natural to me – like, “so, what’s the big deal?” However, after thinking through it I realized how unique and POWERFUL this really is because of the negative view that MANY have towards women in “leadership” or “ministry” in the American Church. Anyone who sees what God is doing in this community would have a tough time arguing their opposing view-point about women not being able to be in positions of leadership/authority in the Kingdom of God.

3) It is healthy, producing NEW disciples, and releasing people to walk in their gifts (Men are being raised up to lead) – This has not been easy, and without much pain, mistakes, failures, etc. I’ve seen and been a part of communities with “strategies for multiplication”, and others who are complacent; both are dangerous. The strategic ones bring death to relationship for the sake of sticking to a formula, and the others never see the beautiful power of the Gospel working in the lives of new people. This community seems to walk out a decent “balance”. They are quick to recognize when things are “off” and fix it. They hear God’s voice, and have faith to obey what He says. It’s hard to be a spectator in this community.

4) They have a deep desire to see new house churches planted all over the place, and have already seen a few planted since August! I have been in many different streams of church planting all over the world in the past few years. Nowhere have I seen twenty year-old’s who have BIRTHED and are leading new churches where new believers are being Baptized as a part of the natural DNA of how they “function and grow”. Not only that, but they are sending others out in two’s to start new “spiritual families”. They don’t have it all figured out, & are not perfect, but what God has done with them in the past year puts most “church planting strategies” I’ve seen in my life to shame. God seems to be showing off through the lives of some humble/passionate young people.

5) The power of God is present. I have also been in various environments in the past few years that seem “spiritually dead”, as well as others that are freakin’ CRAZY, which seem far from the nature and character of God. AKA: very conservative & highly charismatic. This community can be placed in neither of those camps. However, the power of God through the work of His Holy Spirit displayed through the obedience of these radical followers of Jesus is not arguable. They are seeing supernatural physical, spiritual, and emotional healing take place. They are seeing the fruit of the Spirit displayed in people’s lives (Gal. 5:22-23) as well as the power of the gifts of the Spirit on a regular basis. They are not afraid.

6) They walk in a humility & refusal to pursue personal gain/attention that is like nothing I have experienced in most of my life.

I suppose I could go on and on. I want to make it clear that I am not bragging on anything other than the miraculous work of Jesus in the lives of these people. We like to call out the Christ-like qualities of Jesus we see in people as a way to edify them, and bring glory to Jesus. We are not “puffing them up”, but recognizing the redeeming work of Jesus in their lives. Obviously, I care about these people a lot. I am so proud of the Jesus I see in them, and wanted to share them with you a bit. I hope it has encouraged your Spirit.

“Saved FROM Church”

This is a practical story to follow up on a previous post about how often we slip into the trap of thinking “church” is our personal Lord and Savior instead of Jesus. This new post is the story of our encounter with Amber (Name changed for courtesy). If you haven’t already, CLICK HERE to read previous post “Church, My Personal Lord & Savior”, and then come back to read Amber’s story.

“This story has actually led me to believe that many people may actually need to be saved FROM church in order to know Jesus as Lord as opposed to the other way around.”

We made the drive from Austin to San Marcus where Taylor, one of our awesome sisters in Christ lives & goes to school at Texas State. Our primary purpose was to go love on, and encourage Taylor for the day. We also thought it’d be fun to go out on campus to see where Jesus might lead us by His Spirit. While on campus Taylor saw a girl in a knee brace. She immediately approached her, and began a conversation. Over the course of the next 15-20 minutes we got to know Amber. She is a beautiful girl with a deep, but undeveloped love in her heart for Jesus. Because of a terrible experience with “church” as a child she had not known how to pursue her love for Him outside the context of the lovely religious system that had so deeply wounded her. She had stopped going to church, and reading her Bible years before. From time to time she prayed, and tried talking to Jesus, but there seemed to be some blockades hindering her from intimacy with Him. After walking away from our conversation with Amber I am convinced that her biggest hindrance to intimacy with Jesus is something that has been ingrained in her from a young age. She could not seem to get past the idea that “going back to church” was not what she needed to do, or what her heart longed for. Her soul longed for Jesus…

During our conversation with Amber we never mentioned a word about “church”. One of the first questions she asked us was, “what club or organization are you guys a part of”? We just told her we weren’t, but just loved Jesus and each other. She shared her story with us of being deeply wounded by her church, etc. She kept saying, “I’m just not ready to go back to church yet”. It was funny because we had never even suggested she go back to “church”. We prayed over her, shared some visions and prophetic words we received for her from the Holy Spirit, encouraged her and spoke life into her current situation. Again, she insisted to us that she was not ready to go back to church yet. “Maybe in another year or so, but just not now”. After she had said this several times I looked at her and said something along the lines of, “Amber, I don’t think Jesus is very concerned about you going back to church. I just know He loves you, wants an intimate relationship with you, and it brings Him to tears each day that He is apart from you.”

It was after that statement that I realized how deeply ingrained this thought process is in our culture. Even after clearly sharing the Gospel, and how Jesus had no desire for her to go back to church, but to be with HIM she still had this mindset that “when she was ready” she would “go back to church”.

Our time with Amber was not in vain. She definitely encountered the love of God, and was teary eyed at several points throughout our conversation with her. She got to experience His love through us, and hear that He wanted her to dance again. (She was a ballet performer & instructor until the injury to her knee) She got a small taste of what it could mean to follow Jesus and BE a part of His Body. We got to play a part in chipping away at that mindset that “going to church” was what was going to “save her” or solidify her “standing with God”. She encountered some people who heard the clear call of Jesus to “follow Him”, not the call to “go to church”.

We spent the rest of the day offering up spontaneous prayers for Amber’s heart to let go and love Jesus. I offered up a secret prayer that God would “SAVE HER FROM CHURCH”, and “to Himself”.

As “Christians” here in America we are sometimes the quickest to slip into idolatry. A primary scheme of the enemy is to take things that are “good” and convince us those things are more worthy of our worship than Jesus. (Even “worship” itself! See how sneaky satan is) We get easily distracted, and accidentally start worshiping the created thing instead of the creator of the thing.

For years this mentality that “church” is what will “save us” has tainted our view of Jesus, and what it means to BE a part of the Body of Christ. Of course, nobody comes out and says something like, “salvation is through faith in church”, or “you must go to church to be saved!” But, it is something deeply ingrained into the Christian culture here in America. Because we have lost sight of every believer’s call to make disciples, and settled for a religious system made up of a few select people who do so for us, we have communicated to the lost world that it is in fact “church” that will save them first and foremost, not Jesus. The above story has actually led me to believe that many people may actually need to be saved FROM church in order to know Jesus as Lord as opposed to the other way around. The world needs Jesus. They don’t need church. The beauty is that when the world has Jesus they are automatically a part of THE CHURCH. Relationally they have everything they need, and are being obedient to everything they have been called to as a part of the larger Body of Christ.

NBC News Reports on House Church In U.S.

Below NBC News Reports on House Church Trends in the U.S. This is a great picture of some practical reasons why many American Christians are seeking out more personal, intimate, & financially practical ways of “Being the Church”. Statistics show that billions of dollars are spent each year in America on church buildings. Many Americans are choosing to meet in places that already belong to them…their homes! This frees up tons of money to be used for other purposes. Of course, there are many other reasons that we, as a family, and I.G. as an organization choose to pursue Jesus in these types of contexts. Yes, it is beautiful for financial resources to be freed up. It’s great that in these contexts each individual gets to, for the first time, start playing an ACTIVE role in where their resources are used. But, we also love things like the beautiful intimacy of relationship that cannot be avoided in these contexts. We love that each person involved must play an active role in the community and making disciples. We love getting to see ordinary followers of Jesus empowered to live out the most basic teachings of Jesus for the first time in their Christian lives. This is a beautiful thing…

Check out the NBC News Report…

Movement “Nuggets”…

There’s a lot of talk about “movements” these days. Whether it’s  “Church Planting Movements“, or a youtube video that goes “viral”, there’s no question there are some “Kingdom principles” to glean from current happenings. There are many faith based organizations pursuing and contending for a “Gospel movement” that surpasses anything we can make happen through our own man-made efforts. These movement characteristics often cannot be explained outside of being described as “miraculous moves of the Holy Spirit”. Many missional strategists have gotten together years AFTER a movement has begun to study the various steps that were taken leading up to the movement.

I have been fascinated by these studies for several years now, and have made it a personal/organization goal to pursue practices that have “movement principles” within their DNA. I certainly do not have anything “figured out”, and there is definitely NOT a formula one might “plug in” to produce a “movement”. However, I can’t help but think that some of the things we are beginning to see happen here in the states as a result of our various organizational practices contain some powerful movement “nuggets”. Lots of people are labeling what they are doing a “movement”…I can’t say that we are “there” yet, or ever will be. (Or, for that matter, that we would ever be a self-described movement, but rather allow outsiders who look in to describe what they see as “that”) What I do feel confident about is that these things we are seeing happen are heading in the right direction, and are rooted in the multiplication of individual disciples in the context of new Spiritual Families being birthed. What you will see in the below video is something we have the pleasure of seeing take place on a regular basis all over the country…Praise Jesus.

Cameron is a student who went through SCPx in Austin this past summer. He lives in DFW and is back there living out the training he received at SCPx. Cameron is one of MANY students who are being equipped and RELEASED to live out their faith in “movement” ways.

Spiritual Family…

This is a phrase that is becoming more popular among evangelicals in America. It is something that we, as individuals, and as an organization have been fascinated with and explored for a couple of years now. How do we promote the DNA of healthy disciple-making/church planting movements while fostering a sense of strong spiritual family? For the first couple of years we fell to an extreme side that neglected seeing healthy “spiritual families” fostered while attempting to see new churches multiplied – this is simply not possible. We are now moving into a season where our language is changing, and taking on more of a “familial” feel & practice…

Anymore, we try to focus much more on the well-being of the individual disciple, & health of the “spiritual family” that disciple is a part of (or has birthed) than we do “how many new churches have been planted”/how “sustainable” this or that “church” is. Families are made up of both genders, and reproduce quite naturally. It has been in God’s plan from day one in the garden. We now view “churches” more like families in our own lives, and in how we equip & release lay-people to live out their faith. It is only natural for an existing family to send out it’s kids to start new families. If a new family is birthed and remains healthy it will contain a culture that empowers and releases the “family members” to birth new families. They are sent out to start new communities of faith! Of course, the relationships with the extended family are still there, and have frequent “family reunions”! The key is that the new family is no longer dependent upon their “parents” anymore. This is a good thing. This SHOULD happen. Any “spiritual family” (church) that is not birthing new “families” (churches) must examine itself to see what has grown unhealthy in their DNA.

We have learned a lot about Spiritual Family from our friends, The Orme’s, in San Diego. Brian, and his family are who we partnered with this past summer to host Student CPx in SD. They equip students at UCSD to make disciples and start new simple churches on campus. At the same time, they place a HUGE value on healthy “Spiritual Family”. Check out the below video they recently posted about how they view this type of family in San Diego…

What are you learning about “Spiritual Family” in your current context? How important do you feel it is? Is it necessary to foster this sense of family in the context of Church Planting and “movements”?

Student CPx San Diego = Legit.

2 down, 3 to go. Student CPx in San Diego was incredible. Not sure if you followed the twitter/facebook feeds that were going out all throughout SCPx, but they were nothing short of supernatural! The way God is building spiritual family, and releasing ordinary followers to step into their destiny is like nothing I have ever experienced. Students are being set free to begin living out the works of scriptures that they once thought they were “not allowed” to pursue. Praise Jesus!

There are too many stories to tell. You can CLICK HERE & HERE to view some pics from the week.

There was a LOT of personal inner healing that took place as students were taken through SOZO sessions. Once they worked through some past baggage & junk they began stepping into their identity as ADOPTED CHILDREN of the LIVING GOD! It is unbelievable how many of us operate out of an “orphan spirit” throughout our lives as “Christ followers”. Once we step into our identity as sons & daughters of the King we are confident in who we are in Him, and who He is in us. We now know the authority we carry as His kids! We have the keys to His Kingdom! He gave them to us to unlock & usher in the Kingdom ON EARTH as it is in heaven!

Once our students begin understanding & walking in their supernatural identity we start equipping them in disciple-making & kingdom lifestyle formation. This is concluded by a time of commissioning students back out to their campuses & individual contexts to make disciples, Baptize new believers, & start new churches among those new believers!

Here’s a video of Tiffany, who stepped into her identity as a daughter of the King during Student CPx & got Baptized in the fountain on the UCSD campus!

On Friday night (Aug. 6th) we will kick-off Student CPx here in Austin, Tx. This will be the second Student CPx here in Austin. We are excited, & trusting that God will do even more this summer than He did last summer. As many of you already know we have seen several beautiful new student led house churches birthed here in Austin since SCPx last summer along with several new believers & Baptisms! Join with us in prayer for SCPx in Austin, as well as Phoenix & Kansas City!