Here are more stories – for ideas and inspiration. Some are complex plants, some simple. Although simple forms are not the only way forward, they are multiplying – easily reproducible and a great way to connect new people to Jesus Christ. I have therefore explored further qualities of The Simple Forms of New Testament Church in this NEWS.
Be faithful and courageous in making disciples of Jesus,
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS – 20 March 2013
NSPYA Plants Again: Having moved to Cockburn (in the south west region of Perth, Western Australia) because they were ‘impressed that God wants (them) to evangelise the area’, the NSPYA plant has now multiplied into Brookdale. This second Samoan church plant – seeded this year – has added 4 new families making a total of 33 involved. Social games and touch footy connect, but: ‘Our strengths in adding numbers are small group meetings held in the homes during the week,’ says planter Ben Tavao.
A Night Shut in With God: The Northampton House Church (450 km north of Perth, Western Australia) had New Year’s Eve with a difference – and have seen the potential of this for other times of the year. Community friends and unchurched family members were invited to a Night Shut in With God (6.30 pm to 7.00 am). The evening began with foot washing (symbolizing washing away the past year/month/day to walk into a new experience with God!) and included readings, Bible questions, times of prayer, Bible quizzes, music, food, non-alcoholic drinks etc. ‘It was an awesome night’, says Delys Reynolds, in whose home the first was held. ‘Even my husband who is not a Christian enjoyed the evening. It was not a sleep-over, but a Holy Spirit-filled night!’
The Station House Church: Mark & Cris Smedley and their kids realized their neighbors and friends were simply not interested in coming to church. ‘We were burning out investing time and energy into our church,’ they say. ‘We were just focused on people who were already Christians’. In 2011 they decided to open their home to their neighbors – and reach out to their community. Prayer walking each weekend – they were convicted they didn’t even know most of their neighbors. Now, they invite them for meals, share produce from their garden, run a kids club for the community, plan ‘spiritual camping retreats away’, continue to be involved in prison ministry (which they have done for some years), and have worship in their home each Saturday with a meal for all. Cris also has a weekly ministry to prostitutes in the city, providing friendship, counsel and prayer.
Come-and-See Book Club: Knowing her friends and workmates were not attracted by traditional evangelistic methods, Suzy – who works at Curtain University (Western Australia), decided to build on her networks. She prayer walked her building a few times each week, personally invited close workmates, put up posters and a ‘prayer box’ on notice boards – and launched the Come-and-See Book Club in early 2010. The group continues to expand, but of two workmates who joined one decided, early this year, to follow Jesus and be baptized.
For further stories – visit www.newchurchlife.com
South England Simple Church Retreat
NorthPoint Network Keeps Planting
Playing Cricket to find ‘Person of Peace’
The Simple Forms of New Testament Church – and Today: We have been looking at simple first century Christian communities and their relevance for us (see http://www.newchurchlife.com/index.php/simple-missional/). Here are more qualities –
1. Parents take responsibility for their children’s spiritual growth: There is only one reference to kids being part of New Testament church life, a natural reflection of the idea of church in homes. When believers from the Mediterranean port city of Tyre gathered to farewell Paul (the apostle) and his traveling companions, they all – men, women and children met and prayed with him on the beach. (Acts 21:5) In simple forms of church parents and households take responsibility for the spiritual development of their families. Kid’s love house churches where the spiritual instruction of families is not delegated to others, and where children, teens, and youth – cross generational and mixed ‘families’ (not only nuclear) – are the church.
2. Teens connect with the ‘big vision’ of simple churches: Early worship times involved every member, open participation, spontaneity, freedom, vibrancy, unpredictability – two-way conversation. Clement of Alexandria (150-215) was the first to mention the idea of one-way speeches or weekly sermons in early church history, observing even then that they did little to effect change in the lives of believers. Simple church is built upon conversation and involvement, exploration of the Word of God and its application to life in the context of food, fellowship and mission. More than that, the ‘big vision’ of glocal mission – planning and involvement in cutting edge projects locally, regionally and internationally (Acts 1:8) – gives teens and youth a sense of God’s heart.
3. There is no tensions over music, culture or ethnicity: Believers in Jerusalem churches shared many things in common – dress, food, drink, literature, songs and dance; but when the gospel reached into Gentile cultures, people gathered to worship Jesus as Lord and Savior – dressed differently, around very different meals and drink, reading entirely different literature, singing different songs and dancing to different music. The variety in our communities is enormous – no longer the homogeneity of the baby-boomer era when all understood the same illustrations and enjoyed the same music. Simple church provides opportunities to ensure faith is shared in relational streams in ways that people can understand and appreciate – that they can share with others.
4. They are inclusive: The transitional stories of Acts are inspiring and confronting. Although Jesus had modeled ‘the kingdom of God’ encompassing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, ‘slave and free’; and commissioned his disciples to witness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), it was difficult to acknowledge Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17), the sexually different (Acts 9:26-40), or Romans (Acts 10:1-11:18) as fellow believers and members of church. This caused tensions across boundaries proscribed by religious Jewish policy – but in simple churches all can be included without tension. They know the neighbor who comes is a Sikh, uncle who asks questions about grace is inter-gender, the new family present are struggling migrants – and they are to be ‘the body of Jesus’ for all!
5. They are good environments to hand on faith: No one can argue about the challenge of handing on faith to next generations. Although in churches most kids ‘accept Jesus’ by 14 years of age – by their early 20s, 50-80% turn from the faith of their parents. Sociologists point out – (1) the more complex a faith, the more difficult it is to hand on, and (2) faith is always reinterpreted by recipients – so faith systems keep changing, much more that most religious people like to admit. Simple churches provide a good environment for handing on faith: a safe place in which to reinterpret faith – and importantly, a model of church that they can reproduce for their next generation friends. Participation in defining faith and handing on faith are critical factors for receiving faith!
Resources & Inspiration check out www.newchurchlife.com.
MELBOURNE tomorrow: Mission13 Catalyst Training – March 21 with Alan Hirsch: for registration details, time and place go to www.buv.com.au.
MANILA: Global Discipleship Congress 2013 – May 22-25: Check out the program, speakers, fees, registration etc at www.gdc2013.com. This congress will be held in the facilities of Christ’s Commission Fellowship, a unique mega-church that multiplies entirely on G12 groups. While this model is contextualized to metro Manila and this Asian culture, the lessons of this church that ‘makes disciples who make disciples’ will be of significance to any who attend and speak with the pastor Peter Tan-Chi. Other presenters include Ravi Zacharias (commentator on contemporary culture) and Robert Coleman (Master Plan of Evangelism).
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