“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! =)

 

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The Call To Evangelism – Erik Fish

Erik Fish brought a fresh word on Evangelism to the everyone at Student CPx: Concentrate in Las Vegas in 2009. Enjoy…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Call To Evangelism on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

Proclamation & Demonstration…

Before I start I will warn you that this post will be bent towards the Gospel being “Demonstrated”. Obviously, both are necessary & Biblical. However, because we have seemingly focused more on one side (proclaiming) for so long we may need an extreme kick in the butt to move us back towards a healthy balance of both. So, I don’t want any comments about how there must be “both” – let that be a known theme throughout the post. =)

gospel-fight

Many of us who are professed Christians have been raised with a wonderful set of beliefs, doctrinal statements, moral code, and can, if put on the spot, share that set of beliefs with just about anyone. Those who accepted Christ later in life probably became indoctrinated very quickly. We have been taught about the importance of “sharing our faith” (The Gospel) with others. There are TONS of resources on effective ways to “communicate the Gospel”, or proclaim it to others. Many of them are wonderful-a lot of them are not. From handing out Gospel tracks to learning practical ways to share “our story” (Testimony) there seems to be a very strong push in America towards a Proclaimed Gospel….

Over the years we Christians have become very good conversationalists, debaters, authors, persuaders, & defenders of our set of beliefs. There have been thousands of books/blogs written not only on sharing the Gospel (with words), but also defending the Gospel. The Gospel message is powerful in and of itself. But, why has the Gospel (“good news”) been reduced to mere words shared from one person to another? Why have we settled for a proclaimed Gospel masterfully crafted with the right words in order that we may wrap our minds around it? We have become brilliant “wordsmiths” in our pursuit of trying to convince unbelievers they should agree with us, and accept Jesus like we have. Was the Gospel meant to only be “proclaimed”, or did God have something else in mind?

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Wow. These few verses are littered with the Gospel’s transforming power in the lives of the Thessalonians. It also depicts how the Gospel was proclaimed “with words” AND demonstrated “in power”. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of only trying to convince unbelievers they should “think like I think”, or “believe what I believe”. Oh, and the whole “let’s SHOW them the Gospel with our actions”/”social Gospel” thing is not what I’m talking about either. (Not that those are bad things-just NOT what I’m getting at) In my struggle with this I went to check out what Jesus did…

Throughout the Gospels it would appear as if Jesus’ favorite thing to do was physically heal those in need. In fact, over half the stories of Jesus doing anything in His life involved miracles, and supernatural events taking place. In fact, many times Jesus uses very little words when interacting with those who don’t yet “know Him”. Think about a few off the top of your head… “Your sins are forgiven, rise, take up your mat and walk”, “your faith has healed you”, “Come out of this man you evil spirit!” He then tells that same man, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Does anyone else find it interesting that Jesus did not feel the need to sit down with them for hours to “make sure they understood” what had just happened? It’s also funny that He didn’t enroll them in a “new members class” or discipleship study group. We could go on for hours. The point is that Jesus not only proclaimed His message and the “good news” through teaching, or sharing with words, but he also demonstrated it with POWER. That power was through His Holy Spirit. He gave that same Holy Spirit to US…

John 14:12 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

newsupdate071508bClick the picture to read about this boy being healed…

Yes, your Bible says it too. Go check. It says that we will do even greater things than those things we see in scripture-because He is going to the Father. Later in Acts we read about the Holy Spirit being left on the earth for The Church as Jesus went to heaven.

We don’t like to think about these things because we can’t wrap our minds around them. We are logical people. Supernatural things & miracles are illogical. We ignore things that we can’t explain with our cunning words, and hide from things we don’t understand. So, we go through our entire lives dismissing them, and convince ourselves that “the supernatural” doesn’t exist. The God I serve is a supernatural God-yes, still.

Frankly, I have no desire to “go to bat” with my life for anything less than a supernaturally powerful, Creator God. Many of us believe in Jesus with our minds. I’m not so sure that as many of us believe in Jesus with our hearts. “Jesus doesn’t live in our minds, He lives in our hearts”, is something my friend Brian Orme said one time that really rocked my boat. We must ask ourselves, “Am I Christian based upon a list of beliefs that I’ve subscribed to, or based upon the POWER of the Holy Spirit moving in my life like we see in 1 Thess. above?”

A quick word of warning for those of you who begin to step out in faith and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit: God is interested in your obedience to Him. HE will produce the fruit. Do not allow worry, fear, or a heavy weight to press down on you as you begin to step out in faith. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) I can promise you from personal experience that as you step out in obedience more the Lord, who sees your faith in little things will trust you with greater things. Walking in the faith and power of the Holy Spirit is not easy. It takes time and practice. It also takes discernment to listen to God’s voice and be LED by the Spirit.

This past week my family and I have spent time begging God for more. More of His Spirit, more power, & more faith. We ask Him to Baptize us with His Holy Spirit, and POUR His Spirit out on us to empower us for works of service. We have been intentionally looking for opportunities to step out in faith, and see the Gospel Demonstrated in Power. Will you join us…?

Last Call Church Planters…

We have extended registration for Student CPx – Austin!

SCPx Austin promo simple

You don’t want to miss this powerful 10 day hands-on simple church planter’s training. You’ll get to spend time with seasoned practitioners like Neil Cole, Tony & Felicity Dale, Brian Orme, and many more! The cost for the entire 10 days is just $250. Austin locals can receive a $50+ discount for opening up their home to host one of the simple churches! Register NOW!

Neil Cole

Tony & Felicity Dale

Brian Orme

I hope to see you all there. The Student CPx family is an ever-growing family of kingdom minded campus/simple church planters who are spread out all over the country. It’s been a good family to be a part of in the past year. Look forward to new members joining the family this summer…

church, my personal Lord & Savior.

“It was NOT church that died on the cross for us. In fact, church is one of the very reasons Christ died on the cross. He died, as our bridegroom, that we, a broken and dirty bride might be made pure and clean – ready for His return…”

Have you accepted church as YOUR personal Lord & Savior? Has church entered your heart, and become the leader of your life? Have you allowed church to “take the wheel”, & be in the “driver’s seat?” Have you committed your life to church, and begun to share about your faith in church with your friends and family? I trust that you have invited those friends and family into a personal relationship with church so that it may transform their lives, allow them to play a part in the kingdom, and grant them eternal salvation in heaven.

(Before anyone gets upset, or defensive please know that my ABOVE use of the word “church” is directed at all different forms/models of church – mega, simple, house, attractional, incarnational, institutional, conventional, traditional, missional community, etc.)

I am attempting to illustrate how we worship our individual church, or “form” of church sometimes MORE than, or ABOVE Christ. It seems as if we have become “Dependent” upon those things rather than Jesus Christ. The above sounds, and IS heretical. However, we have not merely replaced the word “Jesus” with “church” in this blog post, but it is evedent in our actions – we are guilty of heresy in our practices. Why is Jesus not enough for us?

Be it mega-church or house church we all tend to fall into the trap of thinking it is one of those things that is the answer, and not Christ. We want to give people one of those things before Christ. We want them to find “community” and relationship in one of those things. We will talk about our “churches” sometimes with more excitement and enthusiasm than our Savior Jesus. how often do we offer church to people before we offer them Christ? Sure, our well-intentioned desire is that they might find Christ once they “join” a church or get involved there. I would submit that they need to know Jesus through YOU, and therefore become a PART of the body of Christ-the Church-as a result.

Here is a prime example of what I am referring to: I have a friend who has a pretty intense drug/addiction problem. After being “clean” for a while I learned that he had “re-lapsed”, and was not doing so well. We were riding in the car as he shared with me how he had been clean again for 3 days, started going to AA meetings again, and wanted to start going to church again (By this he meant he wanted to start attending a weekly service on Sunday mornings). I immediately asked him why he wanted to “go to church” again , and he replied, “because I want to get right with God, get close to Him”.

It hit me that we have substituted church for Jesus. At best we have made them synonymous when they are NOT. Church has become the default way to get close to God. Church has become the answer, and not Jesus. My friend is not in the wrong; he didn’t know any better. I was extremely excited for him, and his PURE desire to clean up, and “get right with God”. This is not an accusation towards him, but us, as the body of Christ. What picture have we painted for the world? Have we offered people church before Jesus? Why is that the default “solution” before Christ?

I became very convicted after the conversation with my friend. You see, I immediately began to think of the best place for him to go that would assist him in his pursuit. I named several options, one of which was one of the simple churches we had started. I am not at all saying it would be bad for him to go to one of those places. I am not even saying that he would not encounter God and be discipled in one of those places. However, why was that the solution I presented him…FIRST? Not to mention, why did I try to “pawn him off” to others when here he was sitting right in my lap practically begging to be discipled? We do not realize it is also OUR job to disciple others into a saving knowledge of Jesus-not primarily an institution or form of church. We, as the body of Christ get to evangelize others into the body. Once there, we get to disciple them as new members of that body. Yes, the body as a whole plays a part in that discipleship, but we, as the evangelizer/discipler play a huge part in that process. Bottom line: I need to disciple my friend. I need to give Him Jesus.

Whatever pursuit of BEING the Church you subscribe to I challenge you to subscribe to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior first and foremost. May that be what dictates our pursuit of BEING a part of the Body of Christ. I will be taking a personal challenge this week to make a mental note of every time I have a discussion about “church” in comparison to how many conversations I engage in about my Jesus. For it is not church that we place our faith in.

“It was NOT church that died on the cross for us. In fact, church is one of the very reasons Christ died on the cross. He died, as our bridegroom, that we, a broken and dirty bride might be made pure and clean – ready for His return. May we worship Him, and not the bride for whom He was murdered.”

“bASS Ackwards”

In continuation of previous post: “Compound Interest”

Our problem is that we are impatient. We want “get rich quick” schemes, and don’t typically like to work hard for things. We want things NOW, and we want them easy. We are this way with our money, and we are this way in our discipleship methods. Last week I posted “Where’s The Value?” suggesting that we do not value the things that Christ valued based upon how we refuse to disciple others in the way that Christ modeled for us to do so. (By pouring ourselves into just a few people at a time for a few years at a time in such a way that they can & will go and do likewise)

Not only do we want things fast, once we get them we quickly grow discontent with those things we so badly wanted. It intrigues me that we can have such a strong/pure desire to see someone come to know Christ (Neighbor, friend, co-worker, classmate, etc.) that we will pursue/invite them into a relationship with Christ, and think we’re “all done” once they have made a verbal profession of faith, and been Baptized. But, this is only the beginning! When someone commits their life to Christ they have simply committed to beginning a process of discipleship that will go on for the rest of their lives! How have we been tricked into thinking this is the END goal!? This is merely the FIRST step! For the disciples the first step was that they left everything the follow Christ. What if Christ had said, “sweet, I got you to leave everything to follow me, but now you can go ahead back to your life. I just wanted to see if you’d do it”!? Is that not what we do as Christians? We desire someone to “accept Christ”, and when they do we act as if we’re DONE! Picture it: A person has been shadowing us, and watching us. They have allowed us to introduce them to their future Savior. They’ve been wrestling for months with this BIG life decision. They’re finally ready, and we are excited. We lead them through what a decision for Christ means, and maybe Baptize them. Then, we act as if the “job is done” when all along the person thought they were just entering into the beautiful beginning by making that decision!

I know too many stories of people who were led to Christ, and then left high and dry. This is sad to me; I’ve done it before as well. At best we pawn them off to our church “leaders”, or a nearby church to do OUR job, as disciples of Christ, for us. It’s time we step up and take the call to live out the Great Commission seriously. It’s time we actually BE disciples of Christ, and not just call ourselves disciples. We must stop kidding ourselves. We must stop pretending.

So do we truly find value in “making disciples”, or just getting people converted? I would submit that the conversion is the beginning of a discipleship journey that is accompanied by life transformation. We must continue that process with a process of discipleship. May we all search our current lives to see who we are in the process of “leading to Christ”, and who we are discipling.

“All Mixed Up, Don’t Know What To Do” – Man’s Expectations Have Crippled the Growth of The Kingdom

“…It would seem that this has all occurred because of the expectations of those around us, the expectations of other Christians. It is these false, man-centered expectations that have caused the dilemma we are in today. The expectations of God, and the challenges of the scriptures are diluted to fit into our easy, comfortable, certain, and risk-free lives…”

I am a people pleaser. Some might accuse me of loving attention, and being in the center of it. As a young man in the midst of “ministry”, “church planting”, or whatever you want to call it I am haunted by what the world deems as effective ministry. (Most define effectiveness by the numbers of people we are able to draw to ourselves, and into our weekly events). I have chosen to pursue the narrow path, though difficult, and seemingly impossible. By no means do I have it figured out, and will spend the rest of my life seeking to stay on this path. This is the path that seeks to pour into a few others at a very deep level. Loren Cunningham, in one of his books, breaks down what it would look like if each Christ follower spent three years pouring into 11 people, sending them out, and then starting over again. By the end of the 13th three-year cycle the entire world is reached with the Gospel of Jesus. The problem with this is that no individual could receive credit for a movement of God like the one described above. Only God could be traced back, and given credit for such a thing happening. I often wonder if any human will ever live in such a way that does not expect credit, or glory for things they think they have done, but insists that God be glorified.

I am convinced that man’s expectations for numerical growth have crippled the growth of the kingdom of God. I know far too many burned out “church planters” who sought to plant a church, but could not meet the high expectations of the “mother church”, or other supporters. On the other hand, I know far too many “church planters” who have “succeeded” in the numerical growth of a “congregation”, therefore, meeting man’s expectations for success, but generally speaking, have failed to raise up true disciples. Of course, the “success” puffs up, and leads to pride. God is soon squeezed out of the picture, and little Glory is given to His name. Man’s kingdom is grown, and God’s kingdom is seemingly ignored. The type of success described above usually revolves around a single person who is a type A, driven leader. (Please know that I am not referring to ANY one church in particular for either of these examples. If you are suspicious that I am speaking of YOUR church then you may be seeking the approval of someone besides God, and the mere fact that the word “YOUR” is before the word church should bring conviction from the Holy Spirit). Once again, I feel there is a healthy balance with everything. I do not think large churches that grow fast are bad. I simply feel that when the pursuit of numerical growth at a weekly event takes priority over discipleship we have strayed far from the example Jesus has left us in scripture. Of course, I do not know a single pastor who would actually admit to pursuing numerical growth over discipleship, but a simple glance at a church’s budget, and how much energy is put into weekly services is a simple way to reveal the truth.

A new metric for success: One challenge I frequently submit to myself, and others who seek the narrow path is this: “If you were to, hypothetically, remove the weekly service from the picture, what would be left? Clearly, if there is not a large ‘chunk of meat’ remaining (Home teams/small groups, local/global investment, outward focus, and other things that should function outside of a weekly event) then there is a problem.

The scary thing is that so many of us fall into the trap of what man tells us is “effective ministry”. I have, and continue to struggle with this daily. Though we say with our words, in theory, and on paper that we hold discipleship, accountability, seeking the welfare of our city, intimate relationships, etc. as highly important, our default is to focus on how smoothly run, and attractive our weekly service is. If we can successfully fill a room full of people once a week then we have accomplished success. Our vision begins to get cloudy, and we trick ourselves into thinking that our brilliantly communicated “sermons” are what is primarily needed in the lives of those involved in our churches.
Just one example: Barna Group research disturbingly shows that less than 25% of weekly church-goers attend a small group with other believers during the week. The good news is that this percentage has almost doubled since 1994. However, in 14 years we still have less than a quarter of our “congregations” plugged into an environment that allows for intimate, accountable, discipleship relationships. (http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=45) Scary.

We must stop treating people as numbers on our weekly attendance records, and start focusing on individuals. In order to do this we must drastically change the way we do things. We simply cannot continue doing the same things over and over expecting different results. One practical way to do this is to allocate more time, energy, efforts, and resources on things other than our weekly gatherings. I wonder what would happen if we shifted our view of “church” off of a weekly large group gathering, and onto developing intimate relationships with other believers in order to be Jesus in our neighborhoods, jobs, schools, lives, etc.?

Have our church buildings, and services become our idols? Have we accidentally allowed them to replace the pursuit of deep, Biblical community with others?

7 “In that day men will look to their Maker, and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. 8 They will not look to the altars, the work of their hands, and they will have no regard for the Asherah poles [a] and the incense altars their fingers have made. 9 In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation. 10 You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines, 11 though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain.” Isaiah 17:7-11

“Jesus set us free from ourselves. Turn us to you, and your expectations. Empower us, by your Spirit in us, to grow YOUR kingdom, and not our own. Teach us how to seek your approval through our faith in you. Amen.”