Thursday, October 30, 2003

Deep thoughts from someone much deeper than me...

I read something recently on Todd Hunter's blog that I thought was very profound and insightful. I wanted to share it, so here goes:

Merely messing with models of church is not going to get us where we want to go.

Without a serious intent (For instance, check out William Law: A Serious Call to Devout and Holy Life.) to pursue spiritual transformation, our self-centered characters will overwhelm any system of church AND keep us from submitting our personal, God-given kingdoms to the Kingdom of God. I am not saying this to bash the church. On the contrary, I am wondering if the church or “how one does church” really matters or is at all to blame—within reason, of course. And of course there are some better ways than others. We are all trying to find a better one.

But, the people I most admire and respect in life are not focused on “church” as a place, event or thing. They just quietly participate in non-descript churches and submit themselves to be used by God, to be ambassadors of his Kingdom in those communities of faith…as everywhere else in there their life: no dualisms. That attitude—whole life self-surrender—is rooted in a different kind of life: life from above, eternal life. It is what we must pursue for our selves and those we serve. It will make most models work.

But again this does not mean we abandon our pursuit of better models. It means that models are second; spiritual transformation is first, in community, for the sake of the world.

For Christlikeness—life in the Kingdom will overcome:

The works of the flesh: selfishness, etc.
Paranoid fear of others, especially “leaders”
The need to get your own way
Meanness and manipulation
Doing “whatever it takes” to feel safe and secure
The routine ignoring of the Spirit
The routine ignoring of the agenda of the Kingdom

Here's a link to Todd's blog:

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

An idea who's time has come...Or not.

I think I may have found a solution to the whole issue of expensive church buildings:

Monday, October 27, 2003

Vineyard then and now...

I've been involved in the Vineyard (on and off, mostly "on") for close to twenty years. As such, many of the Vineyard values have become my own values. I know that I've tended to see ministry, ecclesiology, scripture, etc., through Vineyard lenses. At the same time, I've noticed a shift in the Vineyard over the years; from a "movement" to an "institution". To me, "institution" speaks of lack of movement; a "fixedness". From what I've read and researched about John Wimber and the early days of the Vineyard, this shift was already well underway by the time I joined up in 1984.

What prompted fresh reflection on this was that I recently received an email from the Vineyard NorthWest, which contained a link where one could read the various lecture notes from their most recent Church Planting Conference. Here's the link, if anyone's interested:
There's some good information (not just for "church planters") and, sadly, some not so good information. I guess, as with many things, one has to eat the meat and pick out the bones.

One item that really struck me was a document entitled, "Money and Budget Basics", written by the Vineyard NorthWest Regional Church Planting Coordinator. Here are a few quotes from it:

"Throughout the life of your church you will spend somewhere between 45% to 55% of your income on payroll. 30% on Facilities cost. That leaves you 25% to 15% for all other expenses, ministries and giving."

"How soon is too soon to go full time? ... A church that gives $80,000 to $100,000 a year should be able to pay a Pastor at least $30,000 to $40,000 a year."

"As soon as you begin receiving money you can begin gradually taking a housing allowance."

"You (the pastor) are the church's major asset."

What hit me was the clearly stated expectation that up to 85% of the money given by church-goers should go towards a pastor's salary and a building. It seems that "ministries and giving" is only considered deserving of the remaining 15% or so.

How different this attitude seems from that of John Wimber in the early days of the Vineyard. Here's a quote from Carol Wimber in her book "The Way it Was":

"It was such a relief to let God run his church...Right away we began to give the weekly offering away to the needy. When the offering basket went around, those who had, gave and those who needed, took. We had very few financial needs as a church. Neither John (Wimber) or Bob (Fulton) took a paycheck, having outside professions, and the Masons (they rented a Mason's Hall for their meetings) asked only for a token amount for weekly rent. I remember that when it came time to pay, they wouldn't take anything at all."

This was a church of 70 people that grew very quickly into several hundred and had to move to a Junior High School and then a High School. From the beginning, Wimber placed a great deal of emphasis on giving to those in need. Apparently, more so than on buildings or salaries.

Another thought that really struck me today was that Paul was a highly educated man (both in the Jewish and Greco-Roman realms), yet he was a manual laborer (tent-maker) with a low income. At times he allowed churches he had planted to support him during his mission trips, but most of the time he worked a job all day and taught at night, so as not to be a burden or hinder the gospel of Christ. Paul worked his "day job" in Galatia, Corinth, Thessalonica and Ephesus (1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:7-8; Acts 20:31-35; 1 Cor 4:12; 9:6). In 1 Cor 9, Paul explains his "support philosophy". After making a strong argument for why he could claim entitlement to donor-support, Paul says three times that he made no use of this right and never intends to do so in the future (1 Cor 9:12, 15, 18).

Paul seems to have seen being a "full-time" minister as a potential obstacle to the gospel and his credibility. Perhaps he valued his tent-making job as one more way of being "all things to all men" amongst those he desired to reach. He was one of them, not an aloof cleric. Of course, we have to remember that the closest modern-day equivalent to Paul's ministry would be a missionary, not a pastor. Yet Paul advised the churches to follow his example in this regard. Take a look at 2 Thess. 3:6-13.

Most of Paul's instructions about money had to do with giving it to those in need.

His attitude towards money, of course, echos that of Jesus. Paul acknowledged the right of teachers and Apostles to be paid, yet didn't claim this right and advised others to follow his example.

This is, in some ways, very challenging to me. As much as I'd like to earn my living by ministering, sharing the gospel, studying scripture and teaching, who am I to think that what was good enough for Paul isn't good enough for me? The heart of the issue (in my mind) isn't whether or not pastors should get a salary, or whether a church should have a building, but the unquestioned assumption that they should, even at the expense of "ministries and giving". Lord, help me to keep Your priorities straight and not buy into accepted assumptions or things that exalt my needs above others.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The Doughnut Club

Someone posted this on a house-church discussion board. Supposedly it's based on their actual experience. Whether that's the case or not, it's a great little parable.
- DC

The Doughnut Club

When I was a salesman for Porsche Motorcars, the dealership I worked for hosted, every Saturday morning, a "doughnut club". It was scheduled for 8AM (an hour before the dealership actually opened) and was simply held at the back of the showroom, using the service department's counter as a "buffet". Anyone who was interested was invited, and the get-together usually drew 10 or 12 people.

Among the participants were many rich and powerful people whose only common interest was their love for the Porsche cars. Some were car owners, some where multiple owners, some were prospective owners, but whatever their situation, it was clear that their zeal for this car motivated them to attend. Believe me, people of this import had much better things to do on a Saturday morning than eat doughnuts at a car dealership, but never the less, they came. It was clearly important to them.

Once in a while, one of the regulars would have to miss a gathering, and others would spend much time trying to learn why their friend wasn't there, and hoped he was all right. There grew a genuine caring for one-another. Much of their conversation centered on their lives, their careers, politics, the economy, and most of all... the Porsche.

They had such a great love for this "machine", that they spoke of it fondly and with much adoration. They wanted to understand it better, and learn more about its inner workings... its "mysteries". Their quest to know it better seemed to add some needed substance to their lives!

They became good friends, respected one another, and encouraged each other to learn more about their beloved machine. They shared ideas, resources, and knowledge. They showed great compassion for each other, and genuinely cared about their colleagues.

The group's activities began to carry on beyond those Saturday morning gatherings. They started golfing together, dining out together, and calling each other "friend". But with all their closeness, they kept their associations loose and casual. They rarely had any expectations of each other, and were satisfied to simply "know" each other. The group of friends considered this to be a "wonderful time in their lives".

Then it happened. One of the members of the group felt that with his organizational skills, he could take this little group of Porsche fans to new heights! He was a born leader, and found it easy to motivate the others to hear his ideas about a "new" and "better" way. He proposed organizing the group into a real "organization"... a "club" with a name, dues, a logo, memberships, bylaws, elected officials... well, you get the idea. He convinced them that it would improve and enhance their love for the Porsche. They could have sanctioned events, driving demonstrations, car shows, technical training sessions, lectures by prominent Porsche enthusiasts, etc.

He conveyed the picture of a grand organization that would gain much attention from the community, and would surely draw in more and more people. As their membership increased they could do more things for the community, and draw even more interest. They could eventually buy a building to hold all of their activities... which had the potential to draw even more dues paying members! With the proper management, this "club" could spread to other cities, and maybe even throughout the world!

Well, the little group bought into the idea and moved ahead with the grand plans. It was decided that the fellow with original idea would facilitate things, and be their leader until they could hold a proper election. As the weeks and months progressed, things were coming into order, and the club was beginning to look like the organization they envisioned. They were holding events, product knowledge training sessions, public demonstrations and shows, and they even created program to show Porsches to groups of school children so that they could witness the "uniqueness" of this awesome machine! The community was beginning to take notice of this group of fans, and many came to their meetings just see what it was all about. Membership was growing, and great amounts of money were coming in to the club's bank accounts. The plan was working!

Then it happened... again! Some of the original "doughnut club" attendees were starting to grumble about the management of the club. They weren't satisfied with how their monies were being spent, and how the "leaders" seemed to distance themselves from the rest of the membership. And they questioned the true motives of some of the newly acquired members. They seemed to be joining for the fun activities, and didn't really seem too interested in the founding group's "true love"... the Porsche. They seemed to come for the picnics, the social functions, and the "new model year" celebrations. It seemed like their hearts were more in love with the "club about the Porsche" than with the "Porsche" itself.

At the same time the club's expectations for the elder members was wearing them out. They had to head-up committees, lead training sessions, organize events, manage the building/property, and "be there" on a moment's notice to handle whatever needed done. The dues kept increasing because it clear how much more the club could do within the community. They wanted to reach out to those who wanted to know more about the fabled cars. Who were they to let "money" get in the way of "spreading the word"? So they gave what was asked of them.

The work required by the club became so difficult and demanding that several of the original group started asking themselves, "remember when we used to simply get together on Saturday mornings and talk because we loved the cars?"

"Remember how much fun it was?"

"And easy it was?"

Well, it wasn't too much longer before those elder members left the "club" and went back to getting together simply to be "with" each other... to be with those who's only motive to come together was to share with one another their "true love".

It was easy... simple... and most of all, satisfying!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

First Church of the Blob

Earlier tonight (when it was still Friday) was our third “ekklesia” meeting. It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been at this for three weeks; I’ve already seen an increase in the depth of relationships and sharing and caring. We’re learning and making adjustments and remembering to be patient and flexible and not expect too much too soon. One example is that we figured out that by using paper plates and cups for our community meal, clean-up would go a lot faster, thus leaving more time for fellowship. It’s little things like that that we’re learning; some things very practical, some very spiritual (although who says spiritual isn’t practical or vice versa?).

We’re also beginning to experience the leading of the Holy Spirit upon us as a community. By taking our time and giving everyone the opportunity to share we’re starting to see how the Lord is speaking to us as a group. For example, we’ve collectively discerned that we need to focus on exploring who Jesus is. As a result, our teaching and dialog in the coming weeks (and maybe months) will be on various aspects of who Jesus is. Our desire is to keep Him at the center of what we’re doing.

Over dinner tonight, some people shared about what God had been speaking to them during the week. The subject of the Marysville teacher's strike came up, which led to some impassioned discussion and, ultimately to prayer for reconciliation between the teachers, the administration, the board and the parents & children. We prayed for one of our members who is a school teacher and also prayed for one of our young people, who has an important test tomorrow. This was followed by an extended time of musical worship and then more prayer and some great sharing. It’s so exciting to see and hear people “coming out” and sharing, praying, singing, asking questions, offering viewpoints, caring for one-another, etc. We see more and more how valuable and precious each individual is to the Lord and to our little community.

In a post from last week on this blog, there is a recollection by Carol Wimber about the early days of the Vineyard, when they still met in a house. She described how the presence of the Holy Spirit was like a “sweet heaviness”. I can remember feeling that "sweet heaviness" back in the mid-80’s at the Denver Vineyard and have wondered what ever happened to it. Why did it eventually lift? Lo and behold, tonight we had an extended time of musical worship and that “sweet heaviness” of the Lord was there. One of our members shared a vision about the Lord being like a “big blue blob of love” that was seeping through all the cracks and enveloping everything (imagine the movie, “The Blob”). Another compared it to honey. Wow.

It was so cool tonight to be playing worship songs and seeing how people had found their own place and way to worship. Some sat at the dining-room table, others on the sofa, others on the floor. Some stood. Some played shakers and other percussion instruments that we had strewn about. Carla put a stack of musical charts of all the worship songs we know out on the dining-room table so that if anyone wanted to sing a particular song, they could dig out the chart and hand it to us. We would then play that song. It worked really well.

As we sang, the thought struck me that anyone who walked by on the sidewalk in front of our house would be able to see into the large living-room window. They would see a group of people with hands raised, worshipping. It was a dry and pleasant evening outside, so I hope there were a few "onlookers". It's going to be really good this Summer, when we can open the doors and windows and let the sound of worship waft out into the neighborhood.

All of this tonight reminded me again of the words to a Dutch Anabaptist hymn that was written in the 1600’s, called “What Is This Place?”:

What is this place where we’re meeting?
Only a house, the earth it’s floor,
Walls and a roof sheltering people,
Windows for light, an open door,
Yet it becomes a body that lives,
When we are gathered here,

And know our Lord is near,

Words from afar, stars falling,
Sparks that are sown in us like seed,
Names for our God, dreams, signs and wonders,
Sent from the past are what we need,
We in this place remember and speak,
Again what we have heard,

God’s free redeeming word,

And we accept bread at His table,
Broken and shared,
A living sign, here in this world,
Dying and living,
We are each other’s bread and wine,

This is the place,
Where we can receive,
What we need,
To increase God’s justice,
And God’s peace.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


John 13:14
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.

John 13:34
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 14:13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

Romans 15:7
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Galatians 5:13
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Galatians 6:2
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Ephes. 4:2
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephes. 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephes. 5:19
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Ephes. 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephes. 6:18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Ephes. 6:18
Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.

Philip. 2:3
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;

Philip. 2:4
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Col. 3:9
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Col. 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Col. 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1 Thes. 4:9
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another

1 Thes. 4:18
Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thes. 5:11
Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

1 Thes. 5:13
and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

1 Thes. 5:15
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.

Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:25
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 13:1
Keep on loving each other as brothers.

James 4:11
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

James 5:9
Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

James 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

1 Peter 1:22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1 Peter 4:9
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

1 Peter 5:5
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Sunday, October 12, 2003

John Wimber...what if...

I stumbled across the following article quite by accident while researching something else. It's from the website of Dawn Ministries (, an organization that works with networks of "Simple Churches" (aka house-based churches). As one who has been closely associated with the Vineyard for many years, I found it to be thought provoking:

John Wimber...what if...

Dear Church,

In the 80's and early 90's, the Lord used John Wimber and the Vineyard movement in my life in significant ways. It was through their books and conferences that I went through a "paradigm shift" regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So, it was with great interest that I recently read Carol Wimber's tender and personal biography of her husband (John Wimber: The Way It Was).

One part of the story struck me as being particularly significant and I found myself wondering what would have happened if John had chosen a different path than he did. It was the fall of 1976 and the Wimbers were still part of a Quaker church in Yorba Linda, CA. (They wouldn't plant their church until May of 1977.) Following the Evening Service each Sunday, a group of people began to meet together in a home.

Carol records what it was like (my bold):

November 28, 1976

There is a group of us that meet at Wickwires after church on Sunday night...It is a worship time. We just talk about Jesus, sing to him and pray. It's really great. We love it and it is the highlight of my week. No one leads. Different men are asked to share some verses or a thought from the Word, but everybody gets to share.

January 19, 1977

God has had mercy on us and we are in the midst of a beautiful renewal. The way the Spirit of Jesus moves on people is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced...

February 16, 1977

God continues to move and it's so beautiful to be a part of it and to watch what he does. I have never seen or heard anything like this before...With no one person being predominant, this thing continues to grow and grow...We have no program, no lesson from an appointed individual, but after worship (and sometimes during), different ones will share from the scriptures...and all on the same theme. God's desire to feed and nourish the hungry ones. His care of the weak and wounded. God works it all together....There is a sweet heaviness that keeps control and orders the meeting. At the end we break up into small groups and pray.

Perhaps without realizing it, Carol is describing key elements of the New Testament church, elements which are often significantly different from the experience of the traditional church in America.

1. "God works it all together....There is a sweet heaviness that keeps control and orders the program, no lesson from an appointed individual...No one leads". Jesus as the Master of Ceremonies vs the Honored Guest. He brings the agenda. He runs the show. The meeting is spontaneous, creative. No (Human) Order of Service here.

2. "everybody gets to share...different ones will share from the scriptures" Participatory church vs spectator church. See 1 Cor. 14:26. The group is small enough that everyone can share.

3. "There is a group of us that meet at Wickwires" I can't quite tell from the context but it sounds like Wickwires is simply a large home. In the New Testament, they would say "the church that meets at Wickwires". It was a house church. See Romans 16:5. The key thing here is not the house (it could just as well meet under a palm tree or in a pub). Rather, the critical component of church is a small group of people experiencing family like, intimate relationship.

To my way of thinking, this group was experiencing genuine New Testament church! However, because of their "paradigm" they soon felt the need to start a "real" church on a Sunday morning.

So, in the end, another traditional church was planted. Oh, it wasn't traditional compared to other churches of the time but in it's essence it was still a traditional church. The distinctives of those early meetings were left behind. In the end, it became a denomination not too terribly different from other denominations.

This is in no way a criticism of John because God used him to restore many things to the church. God has done many good things through the Vineyard movement. However, I wonder where things would be today if the original distinctives had been retained and a house church planting movement had been launched (as in the New Testament) instead of another denomination.

Wolfgang Simson (Houses that Change the World) writes: "The New Testament church was made up of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not by forming big congregations of 300 people to fill cathedrals and lose fellowship. Instead, it multiplied 'sideways', dividing like organic cells..."

What if... John had chosen this path instead of the one he did?

In these days, I believe God is beginning to raise up people who understand that America does not need another mega church or another denomination or another parachurch ministry. Rather, America (and the world) needs a return to the original plan - a multitude of small, organic, family like churches functioning under the direct leadership of Jesus.

Keep your eyes open! A new "paradigm shift" is coming.

John White
House Church Coach
Denver, CO

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

What a long, strange day it's been.

Today was a very interesting day. It began with a conflict with a brother in Christ. He had concerns about what I’m doing with exploring ekklesia and questioned my motives and intentions towards the church we came out of. That hit me like a punch in the gut and sent me to prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to search my heart. The cool part is that this brother and I dialoged through the issues and were able to resolve them together. I came to understand why he had the concerns he did and he came to understand that my motives and intentions are not destructive and that I share the same concerns. After we had worked through the conflict, as I was praying, the Holy Spirit led me to the following scripture:

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit whose who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” - Eph 4:25-32

What then followed was that throughout the day I received a series of very encouraging and confirming emails and phone calls. I’m convinced that we’re on the right track and are, in fact, joining into something that God is doing right now all over the earth.

The icing on the cake was when I went to the Christian bookstore to pick up a book I’d ordered and on a whim grabbed a copy of “Worship Leader” magazine (the Sept/Oct issue). I was happily surprised when I got it home and opened it up to an article entitled, “Worship Comes Home – The Power of Local Theology” by Larry Gerando. I would’ve provided a link to the article, but it’s not posted on Worship Leader’s website. Instead, here’s a few excerpts:

“The emergence of small, decentralized and fiercely independent bodies of believers (many of which will not even agree to call themselves “churches”) is, rather, the leading edge of a new Christian network, closely resembling the Internet, where a thriving hive of local cells, with distinct cultural, social and economic identities, create a connectivity that is as fluid as it is far reaching.”

“The message is clear: Small is better. Less is more. Affinity trumps assimilation.”

“The individuals at the forefront of this movement are suspicious of celebrity spirituality. They are searching for rootedness and connection. They don’t learn to worship by watching someone on a stage. They gather around a meal table and everyone participates in all aspects…”

“On several occasions, history has provided the needed critical mass to thrust the church out of its box and become the force in culture and society that God intended it to be. The winds of change demand we look hard at our forms and face the reality that a different church must provide a different response to a post-modern age. It is time for a reformation of how we actually ‘do’ church.”

“One of the most important aspects of these small churches is that they are created as reproducible units. They organize and develop spontaneously because they respond directly to local conditions. They have an aversion to central control and champion empowerment…”

“The day of the McDonald franchise church is drawing to a close.”

The back page of the same magazine has a commentary by Brian McLaren entitled “C”hurch versus “c”hurch. Here are a few quotes from it:

“Many of the youngest and most innovative church planters I meet are turning from the dominant models of mega-churches, and are seeking something more down-to-earth, organic, communal, missional.”

“’Community’ can easily become a slogan for people who want it commodified and delivered as a product. But more and more church planters are seeking to pay the price (a high price) for authentic community – living together in group homes or clustering in neighborhoods for frequent and ‘real’ contact between Sundays, designing their worship spaces like cafés or giant living rooms to enhance conversation, or foregoing public spaces altogether by meeting in homes.”

This is not what I expected to read in “Worship Leader” magazine!

I’m astounded by the sovereignty of God and by His patience and care. I began the day feeling isolated and misunderstood and ended the day feeling like I’m in the palm of His hand and convinced that we’re moving right into the heart of what God is doing in the church and world today. I'm excited!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Danny's Instant Sermons

I've added another blog called Danny's Instant Sermons. There's a link to it over on the right. It's a place where I'll be posting various bible-based sermons and rantings. The first "sermon" is about our use of the phrase "spirit of ...". I hope you find it interesting, informative, edifying and maybe a little uncomfortable.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Gordon Cosby on Leadership

(I borrowed a big part of this post from the NextReformation website ( because it's really good info and I wanted to pass it along. Check out NextReformation if you get a chance!)

The following are quotes from Gordon Cosby, of Church of the Savior in Washington, DC and were taken from Elizabeth O'Connor's book, "Call to Committment". Here are Cosby's thoughts on leadership:

"The first quality of leadership is to understand that the real issue is always an internal one... 'What in me blocks the coming of the Holy Spirit?'"

"The second quality of leadership is the capacity to take hostility. Any situation where there is hostility has the potential of being a step in a person's spiritual growth if that person has the capacity to receive anger without lashing back. Hostility is the consequence of fear which has its origin in separation from God.

"The third quality is the capacity to accept another person where he or she is. There is a bit of the manipulator in all of us, and a bit of the perfectionist.

"A fourth quality of leadership is the perspective which enables us to sort the little issues from the big ones. We need perspective; little issues act as smoke screens.

"The fifth quality of leadership is a willingness to fail and to let others fail. If God does a new thing through us, we must necessarily be trying that which has not been tried before, and there will be no way of knowing the outcome in advance.

"The sixth quality of leadership is a deep caring for people -- not just those who are important to us, those who can give us something, but for all people. Unless there are two or three persons at the heart of a community with the capacity to truly love, it is doomed."

If you're not familiar with Cosby and Church of the Savior, their story is quite remarkable. Here are some links to more into about them:

Sunday, October 05, 2003


A dozen of us met up this afternoon and went to see the movie "Luther", followed by dinner at a Thai restaurant. What a great movie. I was deeply moved at many points throughout the film.

An interesting point about Luther (one that was a bit too obscure to appear in the movie) was that he actually envisioned three distinctly different types of meetings for the reformed church. The first was to be a traditional "Catholic"-style Latin liturgy for the (largely unsaved) masses who had only known this style of worship. Less emphasis would be placed on the eucharist however, and more on teaching. The second type of service would still be somewhat "Catholic" in style, but would be conducted in German instead of Latin. The attendees were still assumed to be largely unsaved. Luther saw the purpose of these two types of services as evangelistic in nature; using familiar forms and liturgies to introduce the parishioners to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The third type of service that Luther envisioned was to be for actual believers. Here's how Luther described this type of meeting:

"The third kind of service should be a truly evangelical order and should not be held in a public place for all sorts of people. But those who want to be Christians in earnest and who profess the gospel with hand and mouth should sign their names and meet alone in a house somewhere to pray, to read, to baptize, to receive the sacrament, and do other Christian works. According to this order, those who do not lead Christian lives could be known, reproved, corrected, cast out, or excommunicated, according to the rule of Christ, Matthew 18. Here one could also solicit benevolent gifts to be willingly given and distributed to the poor, according to St. Paul's example, II Corinthians 9. Here would be no need of much and elaborate singing. Here one could set out a brief and neat order for baptism and the sacrament and center everything on the Word, prayer, and love.... "

Luther was describing what we today would call a house church, or what the 1st, 2nd and 3rd century believers simply called ekklesia. These were not to be merely attachments to the parish church, but were to be self-contained house-based churches.

Sadly, this form of church was unrealized by Luther and his followers. This was probably largely due to a lack of mature believers who would be able to provide leadership to large numbers of house-churches. Political and social pressures also interfered. It was perhaps too radical a leap from the enforced rule of Catholic Christendom to the liberty of house-churches. Luther was also repelled by some of the violent excesses of some reformation groups and saw that a certain amount of centralized control was still necessary to prevent anarchy from filling the vacuum left by the ouster of Catholicism.

Other reformers, such as the Anabaptists, were able to make the leap to the type of "believers church" that Luther described, but were severely persecuted (by both Protestants and Catholics!).

Luther went on to write of his church for earnest believers: "As yet I neither can nor desire to begin such a congregation or assembly or to make rules for it. For I have not yet the people or persons for it, nor do I see many who want it. But if I should be requested to do it and could not refuse with a good conscience, I should gladly help and do my part as best I can."

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Our First Meeting

Last night was our first “ekklesia” in our home. A total of fourteen people were present, which seemed to be just the right number. Considering that for the most part there wasn’t an agenda, things flowed very well. We began at 6pm and I was surprised when I looked at the clock and it was 10pm. It didn’t feel like four hours had gone by. A handful of diehards stayed until about midnight, doing impromptu drum circles in the living room and later sitting around the table talking.

Here’s an abbreviated synopsis of some of what took place: Prior to dinner I shared scripture (mostly out of 1 Corinthians) about communion, the oneness of the body of Christ and how each of us is a valuable functioning part of the body. We had a fantastic meal together. Lot’s of interaction between individuals, sharing of scripture, encouragement, catching-up on one-another’s lives, etc. After dinner, we sat around the living room and prayed, sang worship songs (sometimes led by guitar, sometimes acapella), shared, ministered to individuals, had prophetic words spoken, etc. All of this occurred organically, not according to a schedule or plan. Every single person there was important. I was really impressed that in the same way that the meal was created by the sharing of items that each individual brought, so the ekklesia itself took the shape it did because of the individuals gathered together and the gifts from God that each one brought. I really felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. Carla and others agreed. We had some intercession for family members, and ministry to certain individuals, as the Lord led. The Holy Spirit really ministered to one of the teens we prayed for, including the giving of words of knowledge and prophetic words.

We talked a little bit about the road ahead and a few people shared the sense that we will go through a time of difficulty and disillusionment, which is a necessary precursor to deeper relationships. One of our members, who is gifted in the prophetic, had many encouraging things to share, as well as a lot of words of wisdom. One thing she pointed out is that groups tend to go through four phases: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. We are in the Forming stage. The Storming stage is that time of disillusionment and tension. If we hold to our commitment to wrestle through that together we will come into our Normal state and then we’ll really begin to see some fruit (Performing). She also shared a vision she had had, which was very confirming and encouraging to me personally and I think to the group also. Carla sensed that there is also a time of deeper repentance coming, which will precede an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I like repentance, because it means turning from our own ways and moving in God’s ways. We have much to learn and grow into together.

We are also exploring how to aid a family we all know who needs assistance in a stressful situation, and there were volunteers to visit a member’s unsaved relative who is in jail.

Wow. Upreach, inreach and outreach. Can’t wait for next Friday. Tomorrow (Sunday) we’re going to go see the movie “Luther” and then have a dinner discussion about it.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Del Birkey on Renewal

An excerpt from a great book by Del Birkey entitled "The House Church":

The human tendency is to become enamored with debilitating and devitalizing enculturations. Thus, each local church ought purposely to make an enormous effort to restore truly biblical priorities and values to the life of the church. The goal of this effort is to experience the joy of renewed life together. A careful analysis and deliberate commitment to those essential New Testament principles of body life is a good starting place for anticipating renewal.

First, the church must become in practice what it is, an organismic body which lives out its life in a counterculture community of faith. The New Testament features a church which is a distinct body of people, a new humanity, a new race, brought into existence by a new and supernatural creation. As such, the church becomes a new community in tension with its culture at fundamental points while having similarity at the same time.

As the body of Christ, it can affirm anew Christ’s headship in his absolute sovereignty as Lord of creation as well as culture. Armed with the gospel which can serve as the destroyer, preserver, and creator of culture, the church can again experience the normal vitality that results from being united with Christ’s resurrection.

Second, the church should embrace its primary reason for its existence inherent in its gathering together. The church is ekklesia. God’s people are not merely “called out from.” More specifically, the church is that group which “assembles together for” worship and service. The hallmark of the early church’s assembling together was the presence of the living Lord in their midst. This was true even when only two or three gathered for the celebration of his supreme worthiness (Matt. 18:20).

These facts translate into a divine call for every assembly to achieve radical authenticity, reflecting an authentic expression of Christ’s body. In the New Testament, one finds authenticity as the norm, not highly developed structures or liturgies. In view of this, formalities and structures which inhibit the free and participatory worship of the whole assembly are suspect.

Third, the church’s ministry must become grounded in the priesthood of all believers so everyone can contribute his or her share in the work of the ministry. In the restoration of corporate giftedness, the gifts of the Spirit enable every member’s work of ministry. Ministry is not solely the responsibility of a minority of the elite. The happy result intended will be that every part is working properly for the edification of the whole body. (See Eph. 4:15-16)

Fourth, the church must model servant leadership of both men and women to achieve true greatness. Greatness, as define by the Lord, is being a “servant to the servants” (Matt. 20:26-28). Leadership concepts based on a positional model must give way to a relational model. This in turn will renew the leadership and allow the affirmation and full potential of ministering women. Secular behavioristic models which induce, motivate, and congratulate appropriate behavior must give way to the dynamic modeling message of the Master-Servant, whose followers are intent on becoming servants to the servants.

In summary, the recovery of essential New Testament principles will be the first intention of the renewalist. Renewal is a dynamic spiritual force encompassing both the individual’s personal life and corporate community life. The renewalist will maintain a high view of biblical authority coupled with a holistic perspective.

Furthermore, one cannot ignore the New Testament documents which characterize those early house churches in any genuine quest for renewal. They may, in fact, contain the insights for striking the balance between a strong revelational theology and a vital relational theology. They may also encourage the establishing of an alternative model for church revitalization.