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How to Start a House Church #7: Living Water

I just want to do a quick recap on what we have covered so far. Our first post talked about finding out what God wants from His church, to love and obey Him. Our second post talked about insisting on the leadership of God, which led us to talk about the one thing necessary of sitting at His feet and listening to what He says. We then looked at how being intimate with Him clarifies what is in our hearts so that we resolve to only build His kingdom (not our own), and then let His life become implanted, root down, and grow up out of us as surrendered soil. Finally we looked at how the Holy Spirit can be trusted to give spiritual gifts that build and strengthen the church.

Notice that none of these posts have been strategically centered toward growing in numbers or multiplication. We want to focus on the core motivation of seeking the kingdom first because once we do, multiplication automatically happens. It is the natural result of good soil (our soft hearts), good seed (pure truth of the message which is the seed of Jesus), and living water (the Holy Spirit). Today I want to focus on the Holy Spirit as Living Water. I also am including a great video that the Bible Project just put out in that actually visually ties together many of the scriptures that have been so central to our understanding of this theme in scripture.

Jesus Gives Living Water

In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman. She is at the well at what was an unusual time of day.  Most people went earlier when it was not so hot.  This indicates she may have been avoiding people. And it’s not really a mystery why. She is ashamed. She has had five husbands and the man she was living with now was not her husband, making her an adulteress (John 4:18). There at the well she meets a man, Jesus, who asks her for water. This well was dug by Jacob. The woman questions His motives asking why He a Jewish man would want water from her. He says, 

10 … “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Here’s what Jesus is saying—“Give me what you think you have that is so good so you can be open to hear what I have to offer you, which is infinitely better and more real.” She doesn’t understand. She asks how He will get water since He has nothing to draw with. She asks if He is greater than Jacob who dug this well. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t quite answer her questions exactly. Instead, Jesus answers her deepest need. 

He offers her living water instead…

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So this Jesus says He has the authority to give Living Water, but this woman doesn’t know what that even means, and to be honest, I don’t think most of us do when we read this story. I know I didn’t. I always heard that the living water was Jesus, Himself, but that’s not actually right. Jesus says that it is something that He gives. He is the giver of this thing called Living Water. He is the fountain. The dispenser. The distributor. 

I started asking Him to teach me what this living water is. It turns out that, in both Hebrew and Aramaic, “Living Water” is a term that refers specifically to fresh spring water. This water is filtered by and springing up through the ground (by the soil) that would fill up wells, pure and not subject to the impurities that infected cisterns. This fresh, pure spring water was used for ritual cleansing (Leviticus 14, Numbers 19:17, mayim chayim). The Greek does not have this concept of “living water” as fresh spring water, so the Greek language literally translates this phrase literally to “water that is alive” (hydōr zōn). This is also true. This water is literally alive.

What is this living water that Jesus was offering to give? Jesus never tells us in the story of the woman at the well. He does tell us a few chapters later in John, when He is in Jerusalem at the temple, celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths (Leviticus 23:33-43). It serves as a celebration of God’s provision for the Hebrews in the desert where he provided water in the desert (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13). Included in this celebration was a water pouring ritual, where the priest would actually retrieve “living water” from the well of Siloam for the basin near the altar which would then be poured out on the altar along with wine.

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37-39

There is the answer to the question the book of John left hanging in the story of the woman at the well. Here we learn that the Living Water Jesus is talking about giving is the same Holy Spirit that dwelled in Him. This Living Water, this Holy Spirit was not yet available broadly to the world, because Jesus had not left yet and the Holy Spirit had not been poured out (also see John 16). But one day we will be dispensers of what Christ has dispensed to us! The actual Spirit of God! This is amazing!

Think about the brilliant and agonizing symbolism of this. As the priest are pouring water and wine on the altar, Jesus knows that this symbolic act is prophetic of His life as a drink offering poured out for us.  He is the one who came by water and blood (1 John 5:6) would be the sacrifice that bled out for us (the wine of the new covenant Matthew 26:27-29). And not only did blood flow from Him to cleanse us remember, there would be two substances that flowed from the sacrifice of Jesus’ body when it was pierced by the Roman spear to make sure He was dead (John 19:32-34): blood, the sacrifice that makes worship even possible, for no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life; and waterThis symbolic and prophetic flow caused by the piercing of Jesus’s side represents Jesus as the source of both the cleansing forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit that would come from Him to fill out hearts and overflow to the world. No wonder Jesus stood up and shouted this invitation for to come and drink! 

Jesus was promising to pour out into those who trust Him a sustaining power, the Holy Spirit, that would consistently fill us fresh and flow through us for the glory of God. 

Water from this well of salvation was prophesied from the ancient days.

 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation…“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.  Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 12:3-6

He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. Isaiah 49:10

Not only this, but the prophets predict the rejection of this fountain of Living Water (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:12-13) and also the reality that from Jerusalem there will one day flow a constant fountain of living water (Zechariah 14:8) and this water will come from the Bride (Song of Solomon 4:15). Read the agonizingly beautiful lament and promise of this living water.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary.
13 Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
Jeremiah 17:12-13

On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. Zechariah 14:8

You are a garden spring [a fountain of gardens], a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. Song of Solomon 4:15

All of the sudden, Jesus offering of Living Water to the woman at the well makes sense to us. He is absolutely greater than Jacob! He is going to be the fountain that gives us Living water and we, the church, are going to be fountains that pour it out to others! This is too wonderful!

What’s more, on this particular day of the feast, there would have also been shouts of Hosanna (“Save now”), the very same cry that would accompany the palm branch procession of Jesus into town the week of His death. During the Feast of Booths, Psalms 113-118 would be at the temple and read in memory of God’s faithfulness in the desert (Psalm 78:15-16 and Isaiah 48:21 also talk about this). Look at these references to how He provides for us with salvation and by providing Living Water for our souls. Imagine these verses being recited in the presence of Jesus during this festival.

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,  who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water. Psalm 114:7-8

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?  I will lift up the cup of salvation (yasha) and call on the name of the Lord. Psalm 116:12-13

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (yasha). Isaiah 12:3

Note that these last two verses contained the root word (yasha) for the very name of Jesus (Yeshua)! Savior! Jesus is the well of salvation—the access point and outlet of this Living Water! Jesus, whose very name is deliverance and salvation, is Himself the well! He is the cup! The container from which the water is delivered to us! We drink the Holy Spirit from Jesus. He gives it. What’s more, as my friend Harris says, our response to all he gives us in Psalm116:13 is just to lift up our cup and ask for MORE! And then we who are filled will also overflow as a source for others. And so it was in the context of this scripture that Jesus stood up and shouted, yes shouted, John 7:38!

Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.

And we cannot leave off the next part of verse 39…By this he meant the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is Living Water

This connection between the Holy Spirit and water that John makes in John 7 connects to the prophets of the Old Testament and their visions of a Holy River flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1), from presence of God (sourced from under the altar!) out to the world!

Let’s look at Ezekiel 47:1-6: 

The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side. 3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” 

This River of Living Water flows from the altar of God, from the temple, the spiritual site of worship. This pure, fresh flowing, Living Water would not be found at the temple ceremony anymore (which is good since the temple would be destroyed shortly), but instead would flow out of Him and into the hearts of people worshiping in Spirit and Truth through the Holy Spirit and their worship would be pouring back the love of God received directly at the altar of heaven in pure worship through the sacrifice of Jesus and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. 

Not only this, friends, but at the end of the age we see the most amazing picture come into view:

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ Revelation 7:17

Again these things we only see partially now, in these broad strokes. We do not know how all this works, but we see here this picture of a Living Water cycle. Starting at the cross (John 19:32-34), flowing from His throne (Revelation 22:1), poured out to us (Romans 5:5). Jesus has authority to give us the Living Water (John 4), and then Jesus is saying Rivers of Living water will flow from our hearts in pure worship like the water ceremonially daily poured by the priests onto the altar at the feast (John 7:38-39). 

image not copyrighted–feel free to use widely for teaching!

Jesus is now fulfilling the prophecies of Zechariah, inviting His people are meant to be vessels containing water for the altar and bears an uncanny connection to the Feast of Booths.

They will drink and roar as with wine; they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar (or drenched like the corners of the altar). Zechariah 9:15b

Imagine a priest pouring water and wine out and Jesus shouting this out, announcing to all in His perfect timing—Rivers of living water would soon finally pour out, first from Jesus, the Well of Salvation and then from our own hearts! 

The altar was about to be moved from the physical temple to the spiritual realm. Jesus, our one sacrifice of atonement was the blood that satisfied our sin debt, the wine that fills our cup of salvation and establishes engagement covenant that He would not drink again until He drank it with us. This same lover of our soul who gave Himself for us is also our source of Living Water. Now, the only “sacrifice” we would have left to make would be our lives poured out and flowing continually with Living Water in true worship facilitated by Spirit and Truth. Look back at John 4:13 to see how this works!

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus gives water that satisfies and springs back out of us. Our identity as soil makes this picture in John 4:14 even more beautiful. Remember, “living water” always referred to an underground fresh spring. Imagine by extension then, the effect of an underground stream of life to soil that is dry and unreceptive. Water loosens us up, it frees us from our hardness, water keeps us soft and able to host the seed. Not only that but it springs up from inside of us! From the ground. So again, the soil becomes the conduit for the power of God—first in hosting the seed of Christ and then from being a conduit of living springs of water that will give new life to the world, drawing others to its flow. Our hearts would be filled to overflow with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We would then be dispensers too, fountains where others can come and drink!

Flowing from the Inside 

God is stirring up from inside us, from the soil up, a new thing from unexpected and limitless sources that will bring the kingdom of God alive in the world. And it cannot be stopped. Amazingly, we get to be the outlet.   

This reminds me of a story from a missionary friend-of-a-friend in Kenya:

I lived for a month in the Turkana region of Kenya during a drought that had lasted for years. Everything was dead, dying, or drying up. Animals. Crops. Hope. So I prayed for rain. I stared up at the sky day after day praying and believing that God would send rain to that land. I carried around my rain jacked everywhere as a symbol of my faith. It never rained. Years later I found an article announcing the discovery of five large aquifers underground, wells containing 66 trillion gallons of water just underneath the Turkana desert sand. I had spent weeks staring up at the sky wondering why God wasn’t moving when all along the water was just beneath my feet. Just because God isn’t moving the way you hope or expect doesn’t mean He’s not moving. Maybe you just need to look the other way.

This flow of Living Water from inside of the ground, the soil of our hearts, is something the world is not expecting. The media is not expecting it. Thechurch is not expecting it. We need to make way for it to come! We need to encourage this flow, then get out of its way as it floods over boundaries and valleys and mountains. This living water cycle of the Holy Spirit is spillinglike a river out from the throne of God—to the people whose hearts are turned toward Him—and through the people’s hearts back to God and out to the world, drawing others to drink! But that’s only the beginning…where it gets fun is when we recognize what we have received by God filling us with His love by His Spirit.

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:5-6

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5

10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

The Holy Spirit washes us in renewal and regeneration (Titus 3:5-6), seals us as God’s possession (Ephesians 1:13-14), moves us from shame and disappointment to hope (Romans 5:5), the one through whom we call God“Father” (Gal. 4:4-7), makes the life of Christ resurrect and come alive in us (Romans 8:11) and builds us up as one body in holiness (1 Cor. 12) springing up righteousness and justice and making us dwell in quietness and trust (Isaiah 32:15-20). And did you notice that it has been “poured out” (Titus 3:5-6 and Romans 5:5)? 

The Holy Spirit will be an advocate for us (John 16), He will come to us to make clear right from wrong, to show us the evil in the world and to prove the righteousness of Jesus in our lives. He will guide us in truth. He will convey God’s heart to us, He will tell us what is to come. He will glorify God and will give us everything that belonged to Jesus, which is all that belongs to the Father! 

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:7-15

The change that the Spirit brings us became so vital and necessary to those who follow Jesus, that the Spirit was soon seen as the new law, the “Law of the Spirit,” (Romans 7 and 8). This new law of the Spirit that Paul talks about was given, as recorded in Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, symbolically on the very festival that celebrated the giving of the first law when God gave Moses the ten commandments! Oh, this Living Water, the seal of the new covenant with Jesus! Oh this baptism of fire that consumes our hearts with love for Him!

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4

Have you ever thought about the fact that the first act of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ at-large was to equip the followers of Jesus to engage with people cross-culturally and introduce others to the life that can flow from Jesus? The Holy Spirit was given in part so that we can help others understand the love of God by sharing it in a language and way in which they can relate. The Word/Message is translated, contextualized, and personalized for the listener by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The Spirit is the deposit and proof that we are in Him and He in us (Eph. 1:13-14, 1 John 4:13). Through the Spirit we are guaranteed our inheritance when we trust Jesus for our salvation, and we become “one” with the Father, the Son, the Spirit and the Church—just like Jesus prayed we would be (John 17), because He is inside us! When we experience relationship, Jesus says we become unified with the trinity somehow in this Spirit-mediated power, love, and life. God’s Spirit is active from creation to the birth of Jesus (the Father sending Jesus), anointing Him for ministry, promised by Him as the ultimate advocate unifying agent between us and the Father, poured into us (through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5)), and pouring out of us back to Himself (our worship in Spirit and truth (John 4)), and pouring out to minister to this world, actively recreating the Kingdom of God with every Spirit-led step we take. In this way, unity with God is made possible through His love contained in this Living Water, this substance that is the life of Christ and now is life in us! Not only that but His power will also give life to our mortal bodies! 

Let’s Get Personal

Now I want to ask a very personal question. Do you ever feel like sometimes you can’t get THAT excited about God? About worship? Do you feel that guilt and pressure that you should be able to get into it faster, to love Him more, and honor Him more constantly, and want him more than you do? Could this be because we keep trying to source our love for God from our own hearts? This is futile. 

Did you know that the person and work of the Holy Spirit is the very thing that makes our worship possible? He is the source. True love, and true worship, comes from the Spirit (Living Water) filling our hearts with God’s love (Romans 5:5). We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Our love for God actually starts with God pouring Himself into us—His blood which is our reconciliation to God, His Living Water, His love, His Spirit, His life into our hearts. With living water filling us and overflowing out of us, the source of our worship is not even our own love for God. It’s His Spirit in us poured into us and then pouring back out in worship and overflow to draw others (John 7:38-39)! He is our source. He is always our source. We just have to yield to His love and be the soil that gets soaked in His grace and mercy every single day. 

How do we even start wrap our minds around this? Remember the story told by Andrew Murray. Say that you take a cup that is filled halfway with coffee, and I ask you to pour me a glass of water, what will happen if you pour water into the cup half filled with coffee? It is still coffee (just really gross and watered down). If, however, you totally empty the cup and clean it, then pour fresh water, the flavor is pure and tastes like water, not coffee. It’s pure because the coffee is totally gone. We are the cup of coffee, friends. Unless we let go of control and our own agenda and pour out all that remains of us, becoming empty, we will never know the fullness of His Spirit or the delightful experience and satisfaction of His completely filling us. 

All He wants is all of you poured out so He can be poured into you. It’s the same thing required of Jesus, so He has every right to ask it of us. He emptied Himself to take on our sin for us becoming a servant (Phil. 2:7). We finally pour out the cup of our life to God in total trust. Then we are washed clean of our sin by Jesus—emptied of our guilt, shame, efforts, striving, self-promotion, self-preservation. He pours the Living Water of the Holy Spirit into us and our worship becomes overflow. It is a receiving, recognition, and re-cycling of His glory and power and love. When we are really open to host Jesus, worship becomes a pouring out of God’s Spirit inside us—deep calling to deep. Worship from a heart that is empty and ready to be filled by the love of God by His Spirit becomes pure overflow. 

Here is the mystery. Though we are not God, and we do not desire to be God (that’s where Lucifer went wrong and Jesus went right), we do experience the fullness of God in us by the Holy Spirit given to us by Jesus. Our own lives we lay on the altar, and His fire consumes the sacrifice of our praise until nothing is left of us. We are completely cremated by the fire of His presence, beauty, and glory. Our hearts are now the site of worship—the temple of worship, the container of Living Water, just like Jesus! It’s just dust that remains—We become soil again. It’s just His glory that remains and consumes us. That’s the gospel of the ground. We become nothing. He becomes our everything…our “One Thing.” That’s the invitation. 

Our whole life is now about hosting God, flowing in this Living Water, making His name famous and not our own. We start to get freed up from all the expectations others lay on us and instead we become free to spend our lives in a gentle rhythm, a content obedient following of His way of peace—easy and light. We get to become a part of this living water cycle as we worship Him and flow out to others, priming the pump of their worship too by pouring into them and drawing the thirsty to Living Water. Out of this soil of our hearts springs Living Water! 

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst.But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.  I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:17-20

Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Ezekiel 47:9

The reason we need to keep a soil mindset in all of this is that His “springing up” new places for life is all done by Him alone and for His glory alone! Hallelujah! When we lose ourselves in God, His glory becomes our only boast (Romans 5:1-5). Scripture foretold this response of this song of praise that would erupt in us and pour out of us. God knows that our greatest enjoyment will be found in letting God’s glory show itself. 

Are You Thirsty?

We have to fully come to terms with our desire, or lack thereof, to be fully filled by His Spirit.  You say you already have this Living Water? Do you have it fresh? Do you have it for today, for right now? Because what happens with old water is it gets stagnant and dangerous. He wants to pour out fresh water in you continually. He already knows what you need. Come to the water. Get it fresh. Are you thirsty? 

Maybe you are not.  There is a direct analogy between physical thirst and spiritual thirst. We all know that humans need a certain amount of water to survive, but to really thrive, we need a lot of water. Last year I had some health issues and realized I was in a constant state of dehydration and did not even know it. I resolved to drink more water. There was only one issue. I never got thirsty. Have you ever gone so long without drinking enough water that you don’t really get thirsty anymore. Going so long without hydration, I felt like I needed it less (or didn’t acutely feel my need FOR it). But the reality is that people need water or we die. I started making myself drink water even when I was not thirsty, because I knew I needed it. Do you know what starts to happen when you drink as much as you are supposed to drink? You actually get thirsty throughout the day again! Your ability to thirst gets turned back on. We remember thirstiness.  

If you have kids in your life, you know this already. Kids get thirsty. And when they do it’s not casual. It’s this immediate, DIRE need for water all of the sudden. I remember when I was little I would get so thirsty. I would be out with my Father and ask Him for a drink and he would hold his had like a cup was in it and offer me an imaginary drink of water.

It’s cruel, right? I know. I used to get so mad! Why would he offer me something but never actually give it to me? Even though my father meant this as a joke, how many of us wonder if our Heavenly Father is somehow withholding the Livng Water of the Holy Spirit from us?

I think many Christians are afraid that God is doing the same thing to us somehow, or that we just don’t know how to get a hold of it. When you accepted Jesus, did you know you were simultaneously being promised a gift of Living Water? Most presentations of the gospel that I have heard make absolutely no reference to the offer of Living Water, the Holy Spirit. Have you ever asked Jesus for that gift? Do you know it’s biblical to do that:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13

How do we get thirsty? Start drinking up this Living Water by sitting with the One who gives it. Choose the “One Thing.” Sit with Jesus. Ask Him to start teaching you. Ask him questions with your Bible and a journal in front of you(maybe a computer or concordance so you can search the scripture quickly). Ask Him to start teaching you. And wait for His voice. Ask Him to help you recognize it. 

He knows how to give good gifts to his children (James 1:17). He sees you and knows you (Psalm 139). He knows exactly where you are and what you need…fresh. For this season. For this day. For this moment. For this pain. For this brokenness. For this thorn in your flesh. For this question. For direction. We start to drink from the Holy Spirit, little sips at first—maybe, just the simple act of asking Jesus to give us Living Water. This spiritual water does quench our thirst, but when we start drinking this living water, we get thirstier and thirstier all the while knowing we will never thirst for any other answer to our soul thirst. And that’s ok, because the supply is ENDLESS—we are never thirsty again because we are ALWAYS drinking it fresh! That’s the invitation, at least. God, turn our thirst back on for Living Water. Make us thirsty.

He’s still offering this water. Are you thirsty yet? What would it feel like to have this thirst met by the fresh fire and living water of the Holy Spirit that wants to fill you, flow out of you, empower you to contextualize this message to lead others into trust, and make it possible to hear the voice and do the will of the Father in every situation just like Jesus did? 

It occurs to me that actually that some of us don’t ask to flow with the Holy Spirit because we are afraid He might actually come to us in a way that feels scary, or that He will ask us to do something we are scared to do, or show us something that challenges our very frameworks and doctrines of Christianity. Maybe our denomination has place very strict rules around our dealings with the Holy Spirit. What if you just ask Him to give you wisdom in this? Pray a simple prayer like the one below…then wait for Him. Some of you will be praying this prayer for weeks without feeling anything different. But He will always answer us if we keep asking. He wants to make you a spring of Living Water. 

The Overflow

You can flow out globally in the same power that Jesus did. You can walk in the same authority over, sin, death—the schemes of Satan will not overwhelm you. Now it’s no longer you but Christ in you, your treasure in a jar of clay. The curses and oppression of the enemy and this world will not overtake you.

Jesus called out the sin in the woman at the well because although she thought she needed to hide, Jesus knew she needed to be seen. He called out her sin so she would be able to see Him rightly, not as someone able to give her a list of rules, but as the source of a life-giving flow that would eradicate her sin, not by pronouncing judgment of her guilt or demanding adherence to the law, but by pouring out a blinding, all-consuming love from and for Him. In other words, our desire to obey and live rightly can come from two places: it can be based out of fear, like a threat—If you love me “you will obey my commands” because you have to out of obligation…Or it can flow out of a fresh passion that says if you love me, then naturally “you will obey my commands” because you can’t help it…you are so enthralled with me that your love overflows in hearing my voice and following where I lead you. Obedience becomes an adventure! Holiness happens as a result of staying in the flow of this River of Living Water. Through this River, that flows fresh within us, the soil, we can be refreshed, filled, and enlivened by the same things that move HIS heart. 

Why?—because you are constantly drinking from the fountain of Living Water that Jesus gives—His actual Spirit, His source of life in you. How exactly this happens is a mystery. Christ in me? How is this possible? Because we are soil and He is seed. And His Spirit is the water that brings Him to life in us—reconstituting and resurrecting Him fresh in our own hearts and minds to bear fruit. The offer is there. Will you take it?

 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you,because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” Seek the Lord while he may be found;call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:1-6

The Spirit and the bride [us] say, “Come!” And let the one who hears [Jesus] say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Jesus, I am asking. Give me this Living Water. I thirst for you—Make me thirst deeper. Make me crave you. Give me tastes of your Spirit until I just want more and more, fresh everyday.

More Jesus. More…

Come Lord Jesus! Let your Spirit wash and adorn Your Bride as we wait in eager anticipation. Let your Bride be pure, set apart, ready, and waiting!

from the Bible Project
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How to Start A House Church #6: Spiritual Gifts and the Fully Functioning Body

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:7

The only difference between a small group and a house church is that a small group sees itself as a break-out group under the leadership of a larger institution while the house church sees itself as a fully functioning body under the leadership of God.

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

Here is the whole point of this post up front. It is vital that when Jesus comes back He finds a church body where everyone is operating in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that He gives so His bride is fully functioning under His leadership. A house church is a small group that asks the Holy Spirit to equip the people gathering in your home with the gifts of the Holy Spirit so they can build one another up together to full maturity. These gifts of the Holy Spirit are the inheritance of all who believe as prophesied by Jesus Himself, even until the last days. (Mark 16:15-20, John 7:38-39, Joel 2:28)

Since going on this road, less than a year ago, we have had people multiple people healed. We have had three people freed from demonization. We have seen God give prophetic messages that came to pass over and over. We have experienced apostolic ministry of people who have come and spoken into our community with power, strengthening us. We have been shown hospitality by complete strangers and watched as God continues to use ordinary people to build His kingdom. We are watching as God builds an underground network of disciple makers across the country. It’s not that we are hiding underground, or persecuted by our particular government (as many of our brothers and sisters), I just mean that we are under the surface and multiplying rapidly–like mustard seed. Last we counted, God is popping up baby global worship communities in at least 8 states and 7 international countries within less than a year!

As we have broken into even smaller groups and saw a new explosion of God’s gifts as we went even smaller! As the new groups found themselves devoid of the normal teachers and leaders, they asked the Holy Spirit to lead their time together at the feet of Jesus and saw Him prove Himself faithful to build His church!

Even the smallest worship communities can expect to be the place where God inhabits, where He dwells, where He moves (Psalm 46:5). Wherever two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of you. (Matthew 18:20) In small communities, spiritual gifts have room to operate, and everyone can contribute in their own unique way to the body of believers (1 Cor. 14:1).

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 1 Corinthians 14:26

Every person in the worship community needs to be keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, operate in the gifts the Holy Spirit gives, able to study scripture and listen to the voice of God for themselves and the community (John 10:27-28), to participate jointly in corporate worship, to teach, serve, and disciple one another. We take turns with this. (Colossians 3:16, I Peter 4:10)

IN MEETING SMALL, WE RECOGNIZED OUR COLLECTIVE POVERTY

Remember, the only difference between a small group and a house church is that the house church sees itself as a FULLY FUNCTIONING BODY under the leadership of Jesus. By extension, we decided early on to not import teaching. We don’t stream it. We don’t buy pre-made “plug and play” bible studies. We ask God to raise up teachers from our small groups who are taught by the Holy Spirit in their time at the feet of Jesus abiding with Him (1 John 2:27). Don’t have a bunch of teachers ready to go?

CONGRATULATIONS!

You have reached the CRUCIAL first milestone in your baby church community—you have recognized your need for God, you’ve acknowledged your spiritual poverty. Now you ask Him for His gifts honestly and in desperation. You pray as a collective body for God to pour out His gifts on your motley crew.  He will give them because now you know and believe that you actually need Him and His gifts. You are now in a place to eagerly desire them (1 Cor. 14:7)

WHY SPIRITUAL GIFTS USUALLY AREN’T VISIBLE IN BIG BUILDINGS

OK. Time for a caveat…I’m NOT saying that the smaller spirit-led house church is the only way to experience the gifts of God, but I can honestly say that every time we gather I say “Wow, look what the Holy Spirit gave us today—we never could have done that without Him.”

Do you say that at the end of your church services? Larger services normally mean more human organization, more of a receptor mode in the audience (I mean congregation), and a nervousness about letting people speak to the whole group (what if they go too long, are operating in the flesh, or just a crazy person you don’t know that showed up and wants to use a microphone). On the extreme side of the spectrum, things are timed to the second in order to produce the service and make sure everyone is out by game time, by the time the childrens church volunteers are hungry and tired, or by the time the next service has to filter in. None of these issues exits in a home church. You can speak when you need to speak and trust the Holy Spirit to work all things to good, even if someone is “off” there is the whole body to lovingly correct and test. If people need to leave early, they just go. If people need to stay and pray, they stay. Giftedness can operate freely under the suggestions Jesus and the apostles give for order and authority.

Let’s talk about why spiritual gifts are not usually the mode of operation in large gatherings. As small gatherings like we see in the early church grow from spirit-led movements to become institutions you will have disagreements on scripture and leadership. Instead of humbly bringing up the disagreement and going to the Holy Spirit in prayer for unity, churches will split or begin new denominations and write for ourselves a very specified theology, organizational structures, bylaws, financial needs, values, and goals and projections, etc.

The business model of growth and planning trades the small reliant organic move of small, hidden things for the more reliable methods of planning and production. There is more to lose. There is reputation, money, and renown at stake. In a house church, there is nothing at stake. It can all be up to the Lord to lead—for better or worse, because the only thing at stake is His glory. But it’s always for the better when He leads!

The contemporary church plant decision to grow by “going big” is usually based on several decisions: church trends (which was the mega church—this is changing very quickly), viable numbers in the community for the financial ability to buy a building and pay salaries, theological concern for avoiding error, a central teaching figure or visionary, and sometimes an emotional or sentimental response against the idea of “splitting” or “moving out.”

So a building is obtained. Naturally, the space is larger (with accompanying pressure to fill it and pay for it), a stage is needed (with production and media capability and an unbiblical pressure to make it an “excellent” product), roles and tasks are assigned and set for ease and efficiency. What is the problem? The problem is that gifts are not needed in a big building.

In big buildings, the responsibility of the individual “member” can become minimized or relegated to menial tasks that aren’t central to the multiplication of the kingdom. These people who are volunteering for these tasks will often not know how to make disciples or feel like it is their responsibility to make disciples because they are already “doing their job.”

There begins to be a greater distance between the stage (leaders) and the congregation (led ones). The physical space between stage and congregation is there, but the spiritual distance between laypeople and leaders looms even more distinct. It is difficult for the local church attendee to feel comfortable walking up on stage with a word from the Lord or with a scripture to offer or a hymn or song to sing. Everything is already programmed. The gifts are not needed. People settle in as receivers or task-oriented workers. And growth by multiplication stops or slows drastically.

The consistent payment and sharply trained capability of several church staff (or hundreds) assigned with the task of Sunday production takes care of everything and assures that everything goes smoothly. But here is the thing. Jesus was never concerned about production. He said there was one necessary thing—to sit at His feet. This is not to say small home churches who gather as part of a larger family, in large settings together is bad! I think it is possible to still maintain a large weekly gathering, but we have to flip the model.

FLIPPING THE MODEL

Currently, in the scenario I mentioned above, the model is to plant a small church and make it grow bigger and better! This is the attractional model—nicer facilities, full-time salaries, more programming, better seats, better coffee (this last one is not a critique—I fully support coffee at church).  It avoids confrontation and shock, not wanting to scare anyone off. But having a building does add extra distraction and drains resources of time and money and energy.

If small home churches can resist the urge to get a building (which I think you should), you will need to split (because homes are only so big). And if you split, you will have a new body needing to function, because the teachers can’t teach both groups (well, they could now with miracles of modern technology, but they shouldn’t—otherwise you won’t see the new teachers emerge). And the new body will be driven in desperation to the feet of Jesus asking for His gifts so they can operate in power and love and truth. People encounter confession, worship, and deep prayer in their first visit because the presence of God is the treasure that we have found and we won’t trade it in to seem more normal when really, God can defend His own glory. An apostle will help shepherd the baby churches through these young days.

What if you are already a large church? Can you embrace a small, micro-church model? Yes, if you flip the model: Large group gatherings of the smaller churches are purposed for worship, apostles’ teaching, and celebration (Spirit-led, humble, joyful, intentionally limited in production). Small groups need to then become the site of prayer, discipleship, communion, confession, and the widespread functioning of the gifts.

Normally in churches with small groups, the Sunday service is the big meeting that draws everyone together for worship and teaching. Flip the model and you might choose to meet with your home groups on Sunday morning. The reason our group decided to do that was that we needed to pull out of the Sunday tasks we were all involved in. Many in our home group are worship leaders and so we were so busy with practices and run-throughs and services (some of us in multiple services) that we needed “church” to be radically reframed for us.

Does the church have to be small to see a renewal of Spiritual gifts?

Not necessarily.

But it is interesting that the early church had a naturally limiting factor—because they were persecuted, they met in homes. When a home became too big, they had to split the group logistically. We see evidence for public teaching but not church buildings. The church met primarily in homes (1 Cor. 16:19, Col 4:15). We do not know for sure, but it’s likely that the first non-home church building was not built until the after persecution died down with Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313AD.

Meeting in our homes on Sunday felt strange but served to flip the model enough to start us asking the right questions. What does God really want? What did the early church do? Why?

Normally the way that the “life group” or “small group” models work is that a leader facilitates a plan that has been given to them by leadership or sometimes the group leader will teach or guide the gathering. But Wait!

Resist the urge to control these meetings from the top down!!!

Instead, make listening prayer your focus. You are meeting together at His feet—ONE THING NECESSARY. Focus on His presence. Confess sin and remember Jesus through communion. Be the Bride together and be led by Him. It is His responsibility to lead you by His Spirit. He promised. When the group insists on the leadership of God, they will be Spirit-led, people can expect to encounter the power of God through the unifying gifts of the Spirit at work in each believer in the community (even in their children, who meet with the grown-ups usually!).

You can trust the leadership of God in your large and small contexts. Expect Him to make your small groups a fully functioning body. We think too little of ourselves, our small groups, and of the Holy Spirit. Instead of planning everything out to give what you strategize as the best chance of success, teach your people the first five principles in this series, to learn what God wants, to insist on His leadership, to do the one thing necessary by sitting at His feet, resolving to only build His Kingdom, and being good soil for the Word. Then current pastors of large congregations will be able to operate as apostles and the number of shepherds and teachers and prophets and evangelists will multiply like wildfire. The church will grow and be adorned like a bride. (Revelation 21:2)

“HOUSE CHURCHES WON’T WORK HERE”

I have had a lot of people say that house churches would not work in a North American context. Here is why I disagree. We already have small groups functioning within larger church models. This shows me that people are hospitable and eager to connect in a more intimate setting. You would just have to get used to a few things:

  1. decentralized church structure that depends on God’s leadership
  2. multi-generational gatherings with children involved
  3. reliance on the Holy Spirit to a level that may make some uncomfortable (increase of silence/waiting)
  4. renewal of spiritual gifts that many thought died out a long time ago

I truly believe there is a correlation to the widespread gifts of the Holy Spirit becoming evident again when the church becomes smaller, not bigger! Here’s the core reason why. It’s not the size of the community that matters, but reliance on and desperation for the leadership of God.

With a rise in numbers often comes a felt need for organization and structure and order and keeping up appearances that happens. Disciple-making disciples are not made in big high-production meetings. You might see steady personal spiritual growth from good teaching, but you will not see multiplied organic natural growth until your people are motivated by love for Jesus to obey Him by making disciples under the leadership and power of the Spirit. When human order takes over the role of Spirit leadership, we fall into the trap of preferring human leadership over the leadership of God (see Principle #2: Insisting on the Leadership of God).

LEADERSHIP FOCUS MOVES BACK TO GOD

The leadership of our house church is intentionally not based around a particular structural model or a key human personality or main teacher. It’s built around an Ephesians 4 framework that the Holy Spirit is giving gifts to ALL OF US. Because of this, the whole body should yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit and receive and operate in these gifts, including at least prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding, and teaching gifts. Apostles will be needed as new church groups multiply.

When your people are on fire with the passion of the Holy Spirit, they become concerned with those who do not know this freedom and love and abundant life. This life lived in God’s constant presence automatically moves the site of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, discipleship and teaching “out of the building”—not by streaming. I am talking about live, contextualized, personal and in small groups or even better, one-on-one. Not because you are telling them to, or because it is the new strategy of the church but because they are actually moved by love to obeying Jesus in making disciples!

LOVE FOR GOD DRIVES EVERYTHING

I have already made this point in previous posts, but this is really important. If love for and from God is not at the center of His church, we have missed the whole point. We abide with Him in community, we trust His leadership completely, we wait for Him to move before we move. And when we love Him we will obey Him. We will do what He commanded. And He commanded us to make disciples out of love for both Him and people. When we love God greatly, nothing is embarrassing anymore compared to your love for Him. You’d do anything to make Him happy. You would even leave the comfort of your church building to make His name known among the nations. You might even open your home.

A FEW OF THE MAIN GIFTS

There are many spiritual gifts: evangelism, prophecy, discipleship, teaching, apostleship (Ephesians 4:11), word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, miracles, kinds of healings, helping, administration, distinguishing between spirits (discernment), tongues/interpretation of tongues, giving, leadership, mercy, serving (Romans 12:5-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-30).

For now, let me explain five of these gifts from Ephesians 4: evangelism, prophecy, teaching, shepherding, apostleship (Ephesians 4:11) in a way that the early church most likely knew these things and the way our community knows them. It’s not scary or intimidating. It’s beautiful AND these are for you as God gives them to your community:

EVANGELISM

By evangelism, I do not mean cold-selling Christ by knocking on doors, handing out tracks, and leading people in a prayer giving their lives to God. Some of these strategies have been useful, but I am actually talking about doing what everyone who was healed by Jesus naturally wanted to do—tell people what He did for them! For those of us who have truly seen His mercy and love and healing, we can scarcely keep it in. It is the Living Water of the Holy Spirit flowing out of us and into the lives of people. I am talking about the fruit of our lips. I am talking about just telling people actual good news of what Jesus is doing in your life! This is not complicated. It takes a little while to be comfortable telling your story, but once you start, it is very, very addictive because you see God change lives through Christ’s blood and your testimony! That’s evangelism. You preach the good news of Jesus (evangelisomai (εὐαγγελίσωμαι)) in your life and your community! We are miserable if we are not! (1 Corinthians 9:16) You get their phone number and you start discipling them, even if they have not received Christ yet!

TEACHING AND DISCIPLESHIP

Discipleship is a general call to all believers. By discipleship, I am not talking about formal processes of training or formal mentorships or discipleship classes that culminate in a graduation of rite of passage of some kind. I am simply talking about loving people at the deep level Jesus modeled with His twelve disciples and the other people He called to follow. We invite people into our homes. And though this seems a little countercultural and strange to us, we follow the model of Jesus by winsomely invite ourselves into their lives and homes too (Luke 19:5).

Yep. Invite yourself over. Christianity is countercultural sometimes. While you are together, you do genuinely fun things (Jesus went to weddings and fished and took naps while his friends fished) but also you do not neglect to look at their hearts. Discipleship is asking the people ALREADY in your lives something like these two question in a way that feels natural to you:

  1. How is your heart?
  2. How has your time with Jesus been going?

HOW IS YOUR HEART?  gets at the core of a person’s emotions and deeper places. If it’s not great and they don’t know Jesus, offer to pray with them and LISTEN for what the Holy Spirit is saying to you FOR them. Ask them if they want to be restored to relationship with God so they can talk to Him—tell them what Jesus did for you and allow them to confess faith in Jesus! If they know Jesus, you should also ask something like—

HOW HAS YOUR TIME WITH JESUS BEEN GOING? which will either be an iron sharpening iron discipleship conversation for both of you OR will reveal that they are not spending time with Jesus, which allows you to just have the conversation about what Jesus is teaching you!

That’s evangelism and discipleship…genuine two-way vulnerable conversations about loving and obeying God, led by the Spirit. That’s it.

Teaching is a part of discipleship but teaching is also a spiritual gift. In other words, some people will be more able to see connections in scripture and convey them in a way that people easily understand and internalize. These people will feel supernaturally compelled to tell others what they have been learning and will do it in a clear way.

PROPHECY

Prophecy is perceiving God’s thoughts for your community, your friend, or your own life. We are told to eagerly desire this gift specifically, because prophecy builds up the church, either by correction or encouragement.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:7

We abide in Him and learn to hear His voice. When we pray, we listen first, and we ask God what the person needs and how to lead them back to His heart. Which leads us to shepherding, which should be a prophetic role as well.

SHEPHERDING

Shepherds are those who really see people. Out of love for them, we go after them. That’s why it’s difficult to shepherd an impossibly large group. We notice if even one sheep goes missing. We track down the missing sheep in love and we bring them back to community. We see the sheep who no one else sees and pay attention to them. We identify the injured sheep and we tend their wounds under the guidance of Jesus and His Spirit. We carry the lame until they are healed and can walk again. We fight off wolves and thieves. We stay awake and sober and watchful. Since we shepherd under the great shepherd, there is no pressure here. All we do is take the sheep back to the feet of Jesus. But shepherds see the sheep.

APOSTLESHIP

Apostles are shepherds in nature but shepherd multiple groups of people not just one small group. They check on the different groups and help correct, encourage, and mentor the shepherds/pastors. They plant new churches wherever God leads. They are evangelists at heart and also move prophetically in response to the Spirit. They have the big picture of God’s global glory in mind and they keep the vision of the Kingdom and the Bride mentality at the forefront of all the smaller church bodies. While they may have mass mediated messages, they will be most effective by traveling around personally and visiting their people. These are often people from the local churches who feel called to go out to plant churches. Those churches they plant need local shepherd, teachers, prophets, evangelists, and apostles. So apostles may find themselves broadly gifted in several areas with one or two main gifts.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS ARE USUALLY NOT NATURAL GIFTS

There are things that need to be done in every gathering of the church—plenty of ways to serve in your natural preferences and proclivities. But remember, spiritual gifts are not tasks. Tasks keep people busy. Natural gifts make you arrogant and useless. Spiritual gifts keep people dependent on God. We have to know the difference.

For those who view themselves as naturally gifted, you need to empty out all your natural gifts and let God fill you with His gifts from His Spirit in a way that you will know that He alone is the source. He may use you in your strengths, but from what I have seen, that is the exception to the rule. God loves to show His glory in us. Not by how good we are at things, not by our own polished excellence, but by our yielding all our rights and kingdoms to His reign and rule. Becoming servants. Becoming slaves to Christ.

For those who view themselves as being “gift-less,” your spiritual gifting is not washing dishes, cooking, or holding babies. Those are ways to serve and show love, but you have spiritual gifts waiting for you. You are not a maid in the presence of god. You are a daughter or son. You can expect God to bless you so that you can see His glory in you. So that you get the privilege of serving out of your weakness, not your strength. Stop allowing tasks to fill this desire to serve through Spiritual Gifts. He has that for you!

Most of the time, God will spiritually gift someone in their weak areas. So for example, instead of taking someone who is organized and a naturally gifted speaker to teach or evangelize, he may use someone who is insecure about their shyness, their ability to understand or speak in public (think Moses). Instead of someone who seems naturally dominant and like an alpha leader, you will see shepherding/pastoring gifts emerge among the meek. You see God’s delight in using people in their weakness. And it does become a delight even for the person operating in the spiritual gift, because God truly does get all the glory. And we find ourselves rightly related to God, as His servants, His obedient children, His devoted bride. He becomes the center of our world, for real this time, because we need and want Him to be.

TESTING FOR GIFTS BY DISCERNMENT IN THE SPIRIT, NOT A TEST

Having you ever taken a spiritual gift test? Here is the interesting thing. You can’t really trust spiritual gift tests. They tend to actually show you what you are naturally gifted in, but spiritual gifts are actually gifts that show up when the Holy Spirit is allowed to take over your life. Here’s what we have found.

Once we recognize our need to be able to function fully as a complete body in a small group, you will become aware of your poverty and begin to ask God for gifts. Those already functioning as apostles, shepherds, and prophets with the gifts of discernment, words of wisdom, or knowledge, will start to notice the Holy Spirit gently highlighting these gifts as you worship God together under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They will notice teaching gifts as people organically and simply share what God is teaching them.

We may start to notice prophetic gifts because people will look like they are listening to someone else while the group is praying and they will look up suddenly or seem confused at first. When you ask them what happened later, they will say, I think God just told me something—to which you say, “well let’s see!”  someone more mature in the gift of prophecy may want to filter it first for beginners for their benefit and then you encourage them to say it if it seems to build up the body, either by correction or encouragement.

We notice apostles because they will be interested in other communities and how God could link you to outside groups. You will notice evangelists because they are always talking about how good God is and what He has been doing in their lives. You will notice other shepherds because they pay attention to people. Teachers are always taking notes and asking questions and teaching even as they are learning by the way they participate in the group. To notice a gifting, you have to have God’s vision for people at the heart level. This is how Jesus saw people, and it is only possible by the Holy Spirit. This is how David was chosen from all his stronger, older brothers.

Man looks at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart. When God reveals someone’s spiritual gifting/s, you should ask the Lord and then bring it up to the person and ask the person to pray about it. Then you encourage the person to function. Give them space to try. Give them room to grow and make mistakes. Small groups allow for this kind of merciful, humble environment. There’s nothing at risk in a place where you feel safe in your vulnerability. Love rules there. To make this work you need ground rules for your community. 1) Do everything out of love and generosity 2) Speak the truth in love 3) Let love cast out fear 4) Be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other.

Your small group will begin to notice the gifts explode in your home group. You will start to read the Bible and see yourself in the pages of Acts. You will read the gospels and realize that you don’t have to make excuses for the hard sayings of Jesus, because you have surrendered to the Way of the Kingdom. You don’t hoard money or food or time because you have nothing to protect anymore. You have resolved yourself to a dangerous vulnerability that is painful and joyful all at the same time. You start to participate in the rejection of men and the sufferings of Christ. And it is a glorious death to self.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS SHOW UP AFTER FULL SURRENDER

Here’s the thing—spiritual gifts only emerge after someone has fully surrendered their lives to God, their good and bad traits, trading them for “God traits” but especially their natural gifts and strengths. We have to count ourselves as truly poor and having nothing. Let me tell you how this worked for me. I had to trade in my anxiety, pride, lust, greed, manipulation, worry, deceit, laziness, and control to Him. I was happy to give those away. I begged Him to take those things. But I was not as ready to part with the things I considered my assets. But I realized that instead of my ambition and drive, He wanted me to learn to wait for Him and follow His lead so He could show His power.

Instead of my initiative, which I always considered a good thing, He wanted me to follow!

Instead of my ability to teach and communicate, He wanted me to listen and follow and teach other people to just listen and follow.

Instead of planning and strategizing, He wanted me to trust and rest and follow radically, insisting on His leadership, riding on the wind of His Spirit.

Instead of casting my vision and ideas, He wanted me to perceive and yield to His vision, which is usually only given step by step for those of us who are natural visionaries. Because that way, He gets ALL the attention, focus, and glory.

What is this process like? First, we make the initial decision out of our love and obedience to Him that we will and must surrender EVERYTHING because that’s what He wants. That may be your initial conversion to Christ but it may also need to happen in “Christians” who have been trying to follow Jesus for a long time. After this decision, a longer, more terrible, more beautiful process starts.

As we go lower into humility and resolve to do the ONE THING NECESSARY, to sit at His feet and resolve to just let Him lead us into a life of full surrender, He starts taking us on a tour of our hearts, where he shines a light on all that is not Him in us. And He clears out the soil of our hearts—all the thorns, rocks and hardness (Mark 4). Christ is planted in us and begins to root down into us. We lose our ability to function without Him, we actually return to rest, quietness and trust (Isaiah 30:15), because we need Him. Then He grows the kingdom out from us. My effort does not produce His fruit and I can do literally, absolutely, nothing without Him (John 15:5). My attention, obedience, and yielding to Him in love is the thing that makes the kingdom grow. Imagine if we as the whole church returned to actually needing God’s Spirit for growth?  

Welcome to the kingdom! Are you ready to go lower—to move underground like mustard seed, to pour into others one on one—in small groups or big—to embrace the glorious inefficiency of the kingdom? Be the soil. Host the seed of Christ. Be watered by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, the Word, the Way Truth and Life, will multiply out of you. His fruit (not yours) will grow in you. Are you ready to just spill out His life through the fruit of your lips, where nothing belongs to you and you resolve to know nothing but Christ? His Spirit will flow from your heart by His gifts to build up the church building of living stones and draw all men to Him. In this way, His church body, His Kingdom will grow.

Wake up Bride of Christ! You have a king who is demanding your surrender—and to those who yield to Him, to those who choose His way of love and death to self, He has given us the kingdom and the gifts stored up for us!

I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11

…I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Joel 2:28-31

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How to Start a House Church Principle #5: Be Good Soil

“my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it…instead of thorns the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:11-13

I am about to share with you a secret that not many people know. This secret is not hidden. Anyone with ears can hear it. But few will understand it. This has been a vital principle of growth for our community.

One of my favorite parables Jesus tells is of the four soils. I had heard it many times before, but I didn’t understand it until God started teaching me through it in late 2016. It’s through this story that He rescued me from panic attacks and anxiety. I’m going to tell it to you in three layers. I’ll tell you the story first, then we will try to really understand how it is like the Kingdom of God by truly perceiving each “character” in the story the way Jesus did, through the lens of the natural, the spiritual, and the personal.

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times. (Mark 4:3-8)

Jesus explains what this means.

The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown. (Mark 4:14-20)

THE MAIN CHARACTERS: SEED, SOWER, AND SOIL

The seed is the “word” (verse 14) The word can be understood in the natural realm as something that is spoken, the message, the logos. It can also be scripture, which is called the “Word of God” because it is inspired by His Spirit. But do you know who is called “The Word/Message/Logos”? Jesus! Jesus is the word who was with God and in God and through whom the world was made. He was “the word” made flesh who dwelled with us, pitched His tent with us, abiding among us (John 1).

Further support for understanding Jesus as the word/seed is found in Paul’ calling Jesus the “seed of Abraham” (Galatians 3:16). Looking at Jesus asa second Isaac. God promised descendants through Abraham (his natural son was born of natural means), but Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Abraham was asked to sacrifice His son (but was stopped because God provided a sacrifice), but God, the Father gave His son as a sacrifice for sin so that the descendants of Abraham could know the presence of God and multiply to include the gentiles. Christ is the seed, the kernel of wheat, that fell to the ground and died, and now produces many seeds. (John 12:24) Jesus is the message. He is the Word. He is the seed.

Who is the sower, the one who sows the word? It is anyone who speaks the message–but in this case it is also the Father. Jesus was sown by the Holy Spirit into Mary’s womb and spoken to us by the Father, first by prophecy (Isaiah 53), then by the Messiah Himself. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (Jesus, the Word) that whoever would believe would not die, but have life unending.” (John 3:16) The sower is the one who speaks the message of the truth and love of Christ. He is invested in seeing the message grow and multiply. He is a world changer.

What is the soil then? It is our hearts. The seed is sown “in them” (verse 15). In this parable, we are the soil, not the thing that grows. What Jesus is talking about here is how the message of Himself is being received. How do you receive or host the seed of God’s Word–Christ Himself? Each one of our hearts represent a type of soil. Let’s explore our heart conditions.

THE FOUR HEART CONDITIONS

Which of the following best describes your heart?

The soil of the path has been hardened somehow. Hardness can be a result of being trampled, cold, or dry. Maybe you have been trampled and crushed by something from your past–from growing up, from past trauma or pain. Some people have naturally hard personalities. It’s almost in their make-up. If this is you, you might be stubborn, which can mean you are very capable and resilient. But God doesn’t want resilience from you. He wants reliance on Him. You might know a lot about Jesus and even believe He is the son of God, but you may have never accessed the Living Water of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17; Acts 18:24-25; Acts 19:1-6).

Are you hard towards God? Whether you are hardened by the past, hard by make-up, or hard from spiritual dehydration, nothing good can come from hardness. If you hear about the truth of the joy of Christ taking over your life it will not sink in. It will stay on the surface and the enemy will steal it. You will not even remember it’s there. You will forget. And you will stay hard. No one will be able to convince you.

Or…you can ask God, the Sower, to plow your heart wide open so He can speak to you. It will hurt. You will feel exposed. But He will speak to your heart and you will be soft again. And you will come alive. God loves to sow in impossible soil. Remember Abraham and Sarah the ones too old to bear children, or Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus? Hard soil is no match for the power of God. He is after your heart.

Rocky soil in the natural realm is where growth is constantly frustrated from underground. Unlike the soil in the path, here the soil itself is soft but it is full of hard things. The seed will start to grow and then the roots will hit the rocks, allowing the plant to grow, but only to wither under the heat of the sun. There is no fruit. If this is your heart, maybe you feel like you keep running into the same obstacles to growth: habitual sin, pride, fear of man, anxiety, doubt, insecurity, love of self, etc. No matter how hard you try, you just run headlong into these hard, immovable obstacles. When you receive the offer of Jesus talking over your life, you can’t see how that would be possible. There’s too much blocking Him. You are discouraged and feel the weight of failure. It takes enormous amounts of energy to even think that there is hope. That you could ever lift these things out of your life. Guess what? The hope is found in the fact that you cannot–it is impossible–for you to move these things.

But friend, the invitation is that you have a good sower who can lift these rocks out of you, above the surface. Out of the way. And all the things you have been hiding. They will be finished. And what used to be an impossible obstacle will become an uncut altar of remembrance. And just like the altars of the old days, it will be a marker of The Sower’s power and His faithfulness. Your testimony will be about His strength in your weakness. The shame will be gone. You will be free. And we who love you and who have prayed for your freedom will worship when we see the thing above ground that used to keep you root-bound.

Our God is the great mover of stones. And there was one stone that was rolled away that was also immovable. He does not want you living in darkness. He is perfectly willing and able to move the huge thing standing impossibly between you and resurrection life! He is strong enough.

It is growing lots of things in it–things that choke the life out of the plant. Thorns are sharp and pointed. They are like daggers, wrapping around and puncturing all life-giving things, until they have taken over the territory. Thorny soil is soft, but it is divided in attention. Thorns and weeds steal nutrients, they are invasive and they are nearly impossible to kill. When you pull them up, which is painful, it will regenerate if only one bit of the vine falls back to the soil.

There’s only one way to kill thorns. You have to burn them. The only problem is that you cannot do that. Because in this parable, you are just soil. So we see here that the thorns of anxiety, worries, cares of this world, desire for things, and the deceitful love for money and the things it can buy.

We try to “find time” but really, if we are honest, we have lots of time, we just spend it on what seems more rewarding or urgent. But urgency is often created by false fears and pressures. We have not decided that God is the best thing. We are still trying to balance being a Christian with being in this crazy world. These are mental distractions that steal our time and attention from Christ.

We find our minds filled with everything but fruit. We can look and talk like we are excited about Jesus but there is too much else competing. We need to weed things out but we don’t know how. We don’t know what it would look like to live from a place of rest because we have been taught that productivity and responsibility are the marks of a good Christian. But we’ve been going about that all wrong. The most responsible thing we could do is to return God in rest, quietness and trust (Isaiah 30:15) and let Him produce the fruit. He is zealous for His own name. This spiritual rest not breed laziness. Quite the opposite. You will never be more delightfully busy than when you are only focusing on Jesus. The difference is, you will be doing work that builds His kingdom, not yours.

Does this seem impossible? Could all these weeds of worry, reliance on money, and desiring more technology, furniture, clothing, cars, better houses, upgrades on those houses, activities for our kids so they can be well-rounded, the pressure of serving at your church, the pressure to keep up expectations of others and ourselves. How do we make it stop? Well, we can’t. We are soil. The only way to make it stop is to lay down and surrender.

Because…the seed of Abraham, Himself, laid down on the altar of shame and disgrace, our sin upon Him, and wrapped around His fixed eyes, over his anointed head, around His pure mind–a crown of our thorns. And HE was bruised and crushed for our idolatry and distractedness and our misguided affections.

Jesus took these thorns to upon Him so you would be free. Your mind can be clearly focused on the Kingdom of God. Your love of money destroyed by the call of the one who says drop your nets and “follow me.” Though, as descendants of Adam and Eve we once live under the curse of the ground, (Gen. 3:17ff), but that curse has been lifted (Genesis 8:20–21). We have a powerful God that wields a refiner’s fire (Mal. 3:3). We have a sower that gave Christ who baptizes with the Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11; Acts 2). “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers.” (Isaiah 10:17)

We need everything to be burned out of us. And we know it will hurt, we know this burning out is something we must ask Him for and then withstand throughout the process as all the things we thought were important burn. All the “other things of the world” that garner our affection, resources, and attention get pulled up and out of us and it looks like we are left with nothing.

Which we are…finally.

Good soil is empty soil. It is open and ready to accept seed. It simply rests and then yields–first to the seed, then to the roots, then to the water, then to the fruit! A seed planted in good, moist, soft, empty soil is re-hydrated by “living water” (that is water under the surface). Then the seed grows out of the soil and produces a harvest. In the case of wheat or corn, the kernel planted simply multiplies more of itself, 30, 60, 100 times more!

Good soil hears, accepts, and yields to fruit. That’s it. Doesn’t that take the pressure off? We simply yield as Christ grows in us and takes over our lives. My effort does not produce His fruit. We just get to pay attention to Him and follow Him into love-driven obedience as He multiplies His kingdom through us.

What were we made of in the beginning, friends? We are made of dust and to dust we will return. (Gen. 3) We are formed from the earth and breathed into by the breath–the very Spirit, of God. And though we are just dust, like the Sower will tell you that we are His greatest treasure and His greatest hope for multiplying His Word, His seed, Christ to the world!

For us, it means that we must be emptied. Andrew Murray gives a beautiful picture in his book, Absolute Surrender, regarding a cup of tea. We will use coffee because I am American and coffee is better than tea. So say that you have a half a cup of coffee and you ask someone to please fill it with water. Suppose the person you ask simply tops off the coffee with water? What will you have? Some really disgusting watered down coffee. So, if you have a cup of coffee and you want water, you need to empty the cup.

Some of us have never truly emptied out completely.

If you keep trying to pour water into coffee, you just keep drinking watered down coffee. You need to empty out so there is room for fresh, pure water. What do you need to empty?

EVERYTHING.

Truth is, there is no balance when it comes to our lives. It is all Christ or nothing. There is no balance–He demands everything of us, our very death to the things of this world and to self.

God wants all your sin and accompanying shame and guilt. That should have happened at conversion. But what He wants now (if you have not given it) is complete permission to take you over. That means everything else has to go. You cannot serve both God and man, or God and money, or God and your own desires.

Not only that, but our good stuff is demanded of God as well. Our good reputation dies, because we will be persecuted. Our renown and legacy and fame no longer matter, because our one goal is the glory of God. Our abilities, skills, acquired areas of learning and knowledge are counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7-11) We lay each earned and valuable thing down that has been defining our identity in order to only be identified with Christ. (1 Cor. 2:2)

We are His. That is all. And that is enough.

We become literally poorer because we no longer work ourselves until all hours of the night for profit and we give generously to all who ask. We become humiliated and less socially appreciated because while we used to be able to juggle all the parties, meetings, assignments, and social things, now we only want to be at the feet of Jesus. We don’t care about climbing the ladder of success because we realize our reputation we were trying to gain so that we could be an “influencer FOR God” is actually a waste of time, because He is the influencer–He is the mover of hearts. He is our very capable leader. We see that those who are truly seeing fruit multiplying out of their lives are those who are going lower not higher.

We go lower and emptier and we finally become good soil.

We rest. And then, we start seeing the astounding beauty of Christ, the seed of Abraham, the root and the shoot of Jesse (Revelation 22:16, Isaiah 11:10). We rest and we sit at His feet and we listen to what He has to say and we finally understand the depth of His love for us. And we decide that learning to listen, and hear, and love Him in the way He wants to be loved is the best thing to waste our lives doing. We pour out our expensive time and energy on His feet. We waste ourselves in worship.

Guess what happens then? Fruit.

People come to Jesus when they experience His presence, specifically, when they experience us in His presence. My attention has been on Jesus for the last three years. It has been a reshaping and a tearing up and a deconstruction like I never could have imagined. I am not the same person.

I was the wife who idolized and found her identity in her husband and children and in my job and my church ministry, and who now worships only Jesus. I still love my husband and children, and I still love to teach and minister to people, but I find my identity rooted in Christ and His life growing up in me. I rest now. I open up to Him. I show Him my heart wide open. I ask Him every day to tend to me. To cover me. To be the one thing. To grow and multiply Himself out of the soil of my heart.

Now all of this starts to make sense:

Christ IN ME, the hope of glory. (Col.1:27)

For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live, not I but Christ who lives WITHIN ME. (Gal. 2:20)

What if we all let lay down like soil and let Jesus just take us over? What if we let Him grow in and through and out of us and see Him multiply Himself out of all this “going lower”? What if those seeds dropped to the heart soil of those around you and took root? What would that look like?

It would look like multiplication–the Kingdom of God taking over the world!

THE GROWING KINGDOM

The kingdom is this unseen thing, spreading sometimes invisibly underground. Within the soil. It is a kingdom of hearts who have given all their allegiance, even their very lives, to the King of Heaven.

20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in you.* Luke 17:20-21

Wherever you go, you carry the seed of the Word in your heart and mouth that it falls onto heart soil whenever you yield the fruit of His Spirit in you—love, compassion, humility, peace, joy, and goodness and righteousness. This is God’s means of multiplication and kingdom expansion.  The kingdom of God is within you, growing out of you, and it’s growing fast!

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:31-33

By the way, did you know that mustard plants are notoriously invasive? You know what mustard and yeast have in common? They both multiply very quickly. Yeast multiplies by budding. The bud multiplies through cellular growth where the nucleus splits itself and becomes the center of a new a daughter cell, which may separate or stay in a chain formation connected to the mother cell. Sound like a house church? The kingdom grows like that! 

Mustard seed germinates almost immediately. Germination is the process of growing from a seed to a seedling. It requires a warm and soft environment (receptive heart), water to reconstitute the seed (the Holy Spirit), and the root grows down and the shoot grows up, sprouts leaves and is now a seedling, viable to produce food from photosynthesis. In fact, there were laws against planting mustard in Jewish gardens. It would cross over fences and walls. It was out of control. I love thinking about the kingdom of God this way.

“[Mustard] grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once.”**

Pliny, the elder, in 78 AD writes about mustard

That is how the kingdom is supposed to grow. It should spread quickly and pop up in unexpected places so that it is impossible to get the place free of it once it has taken root. We are talking about growth that is often unplanned, wild, and “happily disorganized” to borrow a term from Mother Teresa. I think we are about to see an expansion of the gospel that is out of control because we are going to realize our role in it. First, to rest as soil, to let Jesus grow out of us fueled by Living Water of the Spirit, bearing His fruit in the world, then to rise in this new life and sow everywhere, in every heart God puts in our path. Now that we are in his agenda, not ours, now we can actually be about His glory not ours, and actually be effective for the kingdom—on the front lines!

God does not want our projects. He wants our hearts. It’s time to get back to God’s principles of growth. Speak seed. Go back to soil. Let’s just focus on the “one necessary thing”–the seed-word, Jesus. Let’s spend our lives in worship at His feet and see what He does!


*Some translations say “among you,” but the you in the Greek is singular, and it seems like it doesn’t make sense to say the kingdom is among you, singular. “Within you” is a much more consistent translation with the message of Jesus that a person must be born again from the inside out by the Spirit.

**Pliny the Elder, Natural History, translated by Harris Rackham, Loeb, 1950, Book XIX, Chapter LIV.

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How to Start a House Church Principle #4: Only Build His Kingdom

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

In seeking to pursue and announce the kingdom of God (Matthew 10:7, Matthew 28:19)), we model what Jesus did on earth. We demolish arguments and reject every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God in Christ, and take captive every thought and desire that would set itself up against the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Son of God (2 Cor. 10:5), returning to submission under God’s Kingship in repentance, rest, quietness, and trust (Isaiah 30:15).

OUR JOB

In obedience to Jesus, we seek the kingdom of God first, above every priority on earth (Matthew 6:33) trusting Him completely so as not to get bogged down by the anxieties of the world, the desire for riches or our renown, or the chasing after other possessions or security. Believing that we can neither serve “both God and man” (Gal. 1:10) nor “God and money” (Matt. 6:24), we respectfully decline the offer to build any kingdom that is not His. Any spiritual and material gifts He gives us to will be used to grow the kingdom (Matt 25:14-30). We don’t hoard wealth, we give it with profound generosity, trusting Him to provide for us as we go. Our primary job is to announce the good news of kingdom (Matthew 3:2). Everywhere we go our feet are fit with the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15), not as the world gives, but as Christ gives (John 14:27), a deep abiding peace of His presence that flows out to create a kingdom of mercy, righteousness and justice. We are ministers of that peace to the world (Matt.5:9).

BEING SUBJECT TO CHRIST AS OUR ONE KING

While we are subject to governing authorities as long as they do not conflict with our obedience of God (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:11ff), but our main objective whether we live as slave or free is to unashamedly make disciples wherever we are placed. Even as we honor authorities, our heart’s allegiance is not to governments, institutions, organizations, or denominations, but to God Himself who has established the reign and rule of His Son Jesus Christ (Phil.3:20). As heirs to this promise of ruling and reigning with God (Rev.20:6), and as those under His authority (1 Cor. 15:22-26), we desire to see His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:13). We only build for Christ now. There is no time to build for any other kingdom.

We lay down our lives for our friends and for Christ. (1 John 3:16). We seek to diminish that He may become greater. In doing so, we lose our desire to be noticed or affirmed. We serve out of love and submission to Christ and one another. We lose our fear of man (Gal.1:10) and therefore they lose their ability to manipulate us into building their kingdoms. We make disciples easily because we understand this to be our main purpose, so we learn to do it in a way that is natural and compassionate for us individually. We intentionally seek to become better disciple makers, not through strategy, but by listening to God on behalf of and alongside others. (more on this later)

RUINED FOR ALL ELSE

Now all of who have died with Christ, have died not metaphorically, but in the most real way possible, a spiritual death to our own definitions of good and evil, and to our quest for riches, renown and reputation. We actually die to self. We must. We are slaves of Christ. We are ruined for anything else but the kingdom.

We have to acknowledge how those truths are not simply creed of church jargon. We have to actually decide if we are going to leave fishing nets, which represents dependable livelihood, We have to decide if obeying God is worth leaving our income, homes and land (which represent security), parents (Luke 9:60), children, and wives and husbands (temporarily–not in divorce) if God calls us (Luke 18:28-30). We have to be ready to leave ministries and even friends and family who genuinely need us at the drop of a hat because Jesus is worth it and we can’t look back (Luke 9:62). When we work for the kingdom of God, the only voice capable of commanding us is the voice of God. Just like Jesus, we work for the kingdom.  It is the narrow way that few find.

Here’s what Jesus said this will be like:

  • Foxes have holes and birds have nests but you will, at least at times, have no where to lay your head
  • You won’t be anxious about your life, what you’ll wear, what you’ll eat,
  • You will give your possessions to everyone who asks and practice hospitality joyfully,
  • You will help anyone you see who needs immediate help around you, many times at the expense of your schedule
  • You will turn your cheek when you are injured,
  • You will be motivated by love for God, not fear of man,
  • You will not live by bread alone, but you will live on the Word of God.
  • You will let the dead bury their own dead, but you will go and proclaim the kingdom of God
  • You will put a hand to the plow and never look back
  • We will follow Him like sheep, like one who hears the voice of the Lord, because we do.  

Could it be that the tension we try to live in is because we are not actually obeying Christ in seeking the kingdom first but trying to coexist in two kingdoms? Some of us are even building kingdoms we thought were for Christ, but we know in our hearts we are not on the front lines.   What are the kingdoms you’re building, friend? Is it his or yours?

PULL HIS CART

Remember how in session two we talked about coming under the yoke of Jesus? I want to expand on that saying of Christ here and extract all the beauty from it. He says “take my yoke upon you and learn from me because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke is a piece of carved wood that goes over the necks of two animals and attaches to the cart or plow. I always had asked Jesus to help me with my life—I used to ask Jesus to help me pull my cart, but then He asked me to leave my cart and come be yoked with Him and pull His. Here’s the picture again.

I finally realized Jesus and I were pulling two different carts!

The question is: What is the cart your pulling? Is it your cart or His? Are you ready to leave yours by the side of the road and come be yoked to Christ to pull HIS load?

There were a lot of really great things on my cart—things FOR HIM! So why would he ask me to leave it? Because those were my kingdoms, my temples, my gifts, my strengths. I left my cart on the side of Bethel Church Road three years ago. Now I only serve him in my weakness and His strength. I carry His load now. And I’m on the front lines. And I see His fruit. And it’s much more effective than what “my ministry” was before. What I found out was that my effort did not produce His fruit. His fruit is only realized as we abide in Him, listening and yielding in love driven obedience to His voice. That’s why it’s so important that we know His voice (from the last post). Here’s the amazing thing about His kingdom. According to Jesus, it will not be a hard thing to build the kingdom. It will be an easy and light load. I always felt my load to be heavy. Not anymore. Not in the same way. I still feel the anguish of Jesus, I participate in His sufferings, but I do not feel the pressure I used to live under all the time.

THE ALREADY-NOT-YET KINGDOM

The Kingdom began to be “with us” when Christ was born. (Luke 1:33) Christ announced it as He moved at the will of His Father through the earth. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”(Mark 1:15) We also see a fulfilled endgame of God in Revelation 11:15, when the angel announces a complete realization of God’s Kingdom: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

So we somehow live in a kingdom that is already realized but at the same time, we are building and announcing it! God is infinitely present throughout time, in time, and across time. So the kingdom is already His and not yet, because we have not seen the full realization of it in the earth. This is a beautiful tension we get to dance in. We are being invited to enter into and live in the kingdom of God right now in the way we live. The problem is very few can perceive it. As long as the church keeps running ourselves like the world, according to human structures and models, we will not enter into this kingdom reality. Entering the kingdom requires the trusting spirit and simplicity of a child. Just read the gospels and see how different life would be if we actually lived out what Jesus said the kingdom should be like. This was not for a mere 12 disciples. This was supposed to be all of us living in the kingdom mentality and operating in a kingdom reality in-not-of the world! We are supposed to be aliens and sojourners here, like exiles. (1 Peter 2:11-12) Are you ready to get on the front lines?

HOW DO I START?

Well, it’s simple. You listen and obey. God will start to move in your heart through circumstances, through scripture, through God meetings, through prayer, and through your time sitting at His feet.

Be brave. Let Him guide you. Actually. No contingency plans. Just sheer listening and obedience.

God’ purpose for you is not accomplished by building a resumé and earning a platform or level of influence. We live in a resumé culture, but God is inviting His people to rediscover our kingdom work placement outside of our qualifications. Think about what goes on a resumé. We piece together (sometimes literally) this picture of our qualifications, our education, our accomplishments, awards, and references (what others think of us). And then we present this to God and expect Him to “use” us, as if those things entitle us to placement in kingdom work. Since joining the front lines, I have been struck with not so much “how God has used me,” but how He did not choose to use me.

OUR USEFULNESS IS ONLY IN OUR AVAILABILITY

Here’s the thing about our Father’s wisdom. He keeps us humble by often asking us to operate out of our weaknesses and insufficiencies (that is, what we do not have), not our strengths (think Abraham, Moses, David, Gideon, Ruth, Joshua, Mary). He has recently seemed to ONLY “use me” in my places of weakness. I am very sorry to tell you this. Kind of. But it’s actually really good news. Are you ready?

Your usability for the kingdom is not your skills and qualifications, but your availability and intimacy with God. That’s it. But what about all my skills I have worked so hard to build? What about all my qualifications? Well, most people that I see being used mightily of God on the front lines of the kingdom are operating out of reliance, dependence, and the very clear recognition of God’s strength in their weakness.

WHY GOD CHOOSES WEAK, CHILDLIKE, AND FOOLISH PEOPLE

Recently, after a very busy week where my time with Jesus had been limited to just quick prayers, I actually came in angry and yelled at my husband the following borderline blasphemous statement: “If you were God, why would you actually make it impossible to function without you? Why can’t I even pull myself together for a few days without sitting at His feet!” My sweet husband looked at me, dumbfounded, then smiled and uttered a simple, “I don’t know.” Poor thing. Somebody give the man a trophy for putting up with me through this process—over and over.

But now I know why God asks us to operate from our weakness and in complete dependence on Him. He does this to keep us locked into trust—reliant on Him and His power.

Warning: Living in this kind of trust and reliance will destroy your ability to function without Him.

But here is the wisdom I think, behind why He does things this way. You know why we can’t function without Him? It’s because He wants relationship. That IS the goal! He wants oneness with you. He wants trust. He wants intimacy. He wants to lead you in real time, like He led Jesus, step by step.

The solution–yield. Find yourself at His feet. All. The. Time. This is the truth from the ground.

YOUR PLACEMENT IS NOT A PUZZLE

Be warned, all you planners. He does not always place you where you think you should be placed in the harvest. Your “being used” may not be tied to your job description, your skillset, or your ideas of “usefulness.” Instead your ability to be used is determined by your availability and sensitivity to Him leading you into step-by-step trust, just the same way Jesus lived, in complete dependence on hearing, knowing, and obeying the directions of His Father in every situation.

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19

For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. John 12:49

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. John 6:38

To re-phrase, because this point is crucial, you can stop trying to find and lock into your “role” in God’s plan…simply ask Him place you daily in his agenda, his arena of glory and to open your eyes to what He is doing and direct your steps and words to love Him and serve others in those places. You will be amazed at the opportunities to bring the Kingdom into this world that come your way when you lay down and just becomes clay in His hands. Focus on Him, not you. Seek his righteousness and His kingdom rule first and everything else will come. As you rely on the Spirit more and more, you will notice SPIRITUAL gifts emerge. These might align with your natural giftings, but they probably won’t (because of the principle of God delighting to use us in our weakness). Your natural gifts may still get an outlet, but it will not under the same pressure to find a way to use those for God. It will just be out of JOY of a child playing with a gift their dad gave them! Serious joy! Your spiritual gifts will be the ones given to you, well…by the Spirit…as you seek Him and serve Him in quiet, hidden places.

In this mindset, our usability is based in us being at His feet as soil, hosting His life as seed, abiding “in Him” as fruit-bearing branches, and at His side in the field. He reserves the right to move us and lift us up to places we never aspired to be or bring us all the way down to the lowest task.

It will drive you crazy until you decide to be soft and obedient and let Him be who He is. He is the Lord of the Harvest. What if you forget about your life plan? Desire only to be led by Him (which requires learning and recognizing His voice, which happens when you listen to someone for a long time). Die to all the things He asks you to die to (this is a very personal process). Your life then will naturally get wrapped up in His presence, His purpose, and His praise, and He will take you on a great adventure that is beyond your plans—beyond your wildest imagination!

SERVE OUT OF REST

One of our problems in Christianity is that we have prioritized a theology of usefulness and hard work instead of availability and rest. We believe God desires our rest and reliance on Him. The people he chooses to use are not the wise and learned ones, but the available ones who sit at His feet and know His voice. The most useful person to God is the most lovingly, trustingly reliant. Our only pertinent qualifications are our deep, continual connection to Christ, the desperate, penetrating thirst for His Holy Spirit to lead and empower us for witness, and a passion for His glory, not ours. That’s all. Again, our usefulness to the kingdom of God boils down to simple trust, listening, openness, reliance, availability, and immediate obedience out of all this love and trust. He is calling the weary and burdened to build out of a place of rest! To take His yoke and learn from Him. He describes Himself as gentle and humble and our yoke as easy and light. That’s how we build the kingdom.

2At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:25

These five things about Jesus and the Kingdom of God are vitally important:

  1. The person of Jesus and the message of the Kingdom should be simple enough for a kid or uneducated person to grasp. The kingdom accessible to anyone God reveals it to—usually not those relying on human logic or wisdom, but usually those who are childlike in trust that seems almost foolish.
  2. The Kingdom is revealed by Jesus (in scripture) and by His Spirit. The Son reveals knowledge about the Father and the Father’s will. He later said He was going to do that even more through His Spirit, who will also intercede for us according to the Father’s will! (John 16, Romans 8:26-27)
  3. You can perceive the Kingdom! You are meant to see it happening in front of you as you walk carrying the gospel of peace! We are to build this kingdom with living stones (people)! That means God can give you insight into peoples’ hearts so you can pour out His healing and salvation in Jesus’s name. You may heal the sick and cast out demons along the way…this is supposed to happen. But your true joy will be found in just being His–in being washed in His blood at the cross, in knowing and being known by Him, in your name being written in the book of life. `
  4. The kingdom is near. It is within you. Because (as we will talk about in the next session) the Word of Christ is planted in you and grows His life out of you and you multiply His seed to the heart soil of others where it also grows and bears fruit and spreads and Jesus takes over the world just by your attention being on the one thing necessary—paying attention to Jesus, the seed of Abraham, the kernel of grain that died and now is living IN US!! It’s pretty effortless! It’s just us being rested soil, and Christ growing in us! We joyfully speak the Word too, and in doing so, we plant it in the hearts of others.
  5. It is a kingdom of peace and rest for the weary and burdened and we get to provide that for people. We get to invite others into peace. We can help break yokes off of people and hand out forgiveness, mercy, and justice like free ice cream! It’s so exciting to just follow Jesus!

WHAT IS HE CALLING YOU TO DROP?

I love the way Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors and they left their nets and their tables and followed Him. What is the equivalent of that for us today? Is he asking you to drop something so you can move freely into the front lines of the Kingdom?

What would it look like if the church began to live like this? To return to rest, quietness, and trust and to spending our attention and focus on hosting Jesus and nurturing the Kingdom of God on earth. What if we were so singularly focused on Jesus that everything else paled. What if our only ambition was to see Him known among the nations of people? Would that change how we spend our time and efforts? Would that shift our attention off of ourselves and the trivial things of the world long enough to wake us up as a global church?

Bride of Christ, it is time to wake up and come alive again in Jesus. You have been called to leave your cart, take your blinders off, refocus, drop what you are doing and seek first the kingdom of God. People need Jesus. They want to see the Father. And He has chosen to be in the world through His people who are filled and flowing with the Living Water of the Holy Spirit. What an extraordinary gift to be living in this time and place!

Wake up Bride of Christ! The Kingdom of Heaven is HERE! MARANATHA! COME, LORD JESUS!!!

Verses about the Kingdom:

Luke 1:33
and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”

1 Corinthians 15:24
Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.

Revelation 11:1
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers there.

Revelation 11:15
Then the seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and loud voices called out in heaven: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 20:4
Then I saw the thrones, and those seated on them had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image, and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. And they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 22:5
There will be no more night in the city, and they will have no need for the light of a lamp or of the sun. For the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever.

Psalm 2:6
“I have installed My King on Zion, upon My holy hill.”

Psalm 22:27
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD. All the families of the nations will bow down before Him.

Psalm 72:11
May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.

Psalm 86:9
All the nations You have made will come and bow before You, O Lord, and they will glorify Your name.

Psalm 145:13
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful in all His words and kind in all His actions.

Isaiah 9:7
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 14:2
The nations will escort Israel and bring it to its homeland. Then the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.

Isaiah 54:3
For you will spread out to the right and left; your descendants will dispossess the nations and inhabit the desolate cities.

Isaiah 60:12
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly destroyed.

Daniel 2:44
In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever.

Daniel 4:34
But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity was restored to me. Then I praised the Most High, and I honored and glorified Him who lives forever: “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.

Daniel 6:26
I hereby decree that in every part of my kingdom, men are to tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, and He endures forever; His kingdom will never be destroyed, and His dominion will never end.

Daniel 7:14
And He was given dominion, glory, and kingship, so that every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:18
But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever–yes, forever and ever.’

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How to Build a House Church Principle #3: One Thing Necessary

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14

When thinking about what God wants, about what thrills his heart—it is just love that drives us to His feet in a posture of listening and learning. It is an intimacy with Jesus—such a closeness with God that Jesus talked about it as being “one” with Him. So much of our craving for relationships, for community, for social standing has a deeper root of a desire for love and respect that is only found in true intimacy and vulnerability.

Once, a woman named Martha invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 10:41–42). While she was busy preparing food, Mary, her sister, was nowhere to be found. Martha was understandably upset when she found Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus with the disciples and listening to Him.  Martha complained to Jesus asking Him to tell Mary to get up and help, But He said in response, 

“…Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” 

There it was. “One thing is necessary.” What was Mary was doing? What was that “one thing”?  

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. Luke 10:39

“At Jesus’ Feet” painting with oil by Nathan Greene

If that is true, that there is only “one thing necessary”, then we have to ask ourselves what that means for us and if we are really doing it. If Jesus is right, then the one thing necessary thing is choosing to take a listening posture in His presence. We ask Him to teach us and start sitting with Him face to face by faith, hearing His Word (both directly through His Spirit and the scriptures enlivened by His Spirit).

“ONE THING NECESSARY” LIVING

The only problem is very few of us have any idea how to do this. For me, there’s a lot of embarrassment in this for me because I didn’t actually learn to do this until about 3 years ago. I had studied scripture before. I had prayed a lot. I had sensed God moving and directing my life. But about three years ago when God showed me “one thing necessary” as a response to me hitting a wall with anxiety and panic attacks, I realized I had no idea what it meant to sit at his feet and listen to what He had to say.

So the first thing I did was sit on the couch and admit that I did not know how to do this with Him not physically there. He reminded me that He was actually there with me according to the promise in His word (Matthew 28:20). He WAS sitting next to me actually, just as real as He was sitting next to Mary. Believing that was the first step.

Then, I told Him I was ready to listen and asked Him what He wanted to teach me.

That first day, I sensed one word– “Peace” along with the impression that I needed to meet Him again. I asked him follow-up questions…”what about peace?” He whispered to my heart “Go and learn what it means that I give you peace not like the world gives.” I went back to scripture (via google because I could not remember where it was) and read his words in John 14:27. I wanted to know what the word “Peace” meant, and the other places it was used. I got curious, and it became like a treasure hunt and such treasure I found! His peace is not a shallow greeting, not an outer communal peace, but a deep pervasive peace of His rule in our hearts. It’s a peace that calms seas of our souls and that flows out in the Living Water of the Holy Spirit to the world.

It was in following God’s prescription for anxiety by doing “one thing necessary” that I fell in love with this Jesus, the peace-giver, and met Him all over again in the pages of the gospels, in the prophecy and promises of the Old Testament, in the letters to the early church. It was suddenly fresh again, after all these years following Him. It was different because I started to believe and trust that 1) He was actually there and wanting to talk to me; 2) Listening to Him in His actual presence was my ONLY necessary thing for the day–absolutely vital.

Just to be clear, He actually spoke words to me. Not through my ears, but in my Spirit—discernable words. At first, I could only hear a phrase at a time. Like the word “Peace” or a fragment of scripture I was supposed to read. At the beginning I asked Him a lot of “yes or no” questions because it was easier to discern that. I would sense a still small voice of the Spirit guiding and teaching me. The Holy Spirit enlivening scripture took me to Person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit of Jesus led me by His voice to scripture.

I started sensing Him correcting me moment by moment just like He lovingly showed Martha, “You are anxious about many things, but only one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42) He was so gentle with me. Along the way, I just simply stopped trying to fix my life and decided to seek Him and His kingdom instead—to take all the energy and time I was using for self-preservation, self-analysis, and my own reputation and glory and honor (the seeking of which strangely results in mostly shame and fear) and put all that into being with Him and in pursuing the kingdom.  

WHAT IF EVERYTHING MOVED THROUGH THAT ROOM?

This posture is the posture of a disciple—sitting at His feet, listening, learning from Him, hosting Him, being with Him, knowing Him more, asking His opinions, getting to know His heart, coming closer, walking out life with Him! The solution to striving, hustling, and over-production and the pressure of life, is to do the “One Thing” necessary—what Mary chose—sitting at His feet and listening to what He has to say. It’s loving, restorative time spent at the feet of Jesus, resulting in a joyful, intimate two-way relationship of continuous authentic connection to Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). I usually ask Him three things when I spend time with Him

+ Jesus, what do you want to teach me about my own heart?

+What do you want to teach me about yourself?

+What are you doing today and how can I be a part of it?  

(these three questions were always intertwined—isn’t that sweet of Him!?)

Many of us have experienced those moments of intimacy with Jesus before. Hopefully you have. Now imagine that you were able to extend this posture of “sitting at his feet” to the rest of your day and into every moment of your life, not only for a few minutes of quiet time, devotions, chair time, whatever you call it? Though these secret place, desolate, withdrawn moments/times are definitely important too (Jesus even modeled that), What if you did not get up and leave His feet ever, but every situation had to come into His presence before it could get to you? How would that change your life?

CONSTANT RELATIONAL RELIANCE ON THE SPIRIT OF GOD

This is very different than what most people know as Christianity. For years I thought the Holy Spirit’s job was to basically keep me obedient, to keep me pure, to help me live in the image of Christ, and to empower me to witness to others. He does do all of that, but I was still missing something crucial to Life in the Spirit here.

The role of the Holy Spirit is to actively teach us; to guide us; and to make us like Jesus by allowing us to live how He lived through an intimate, reliant relationship with the Father. We spend time at the feet of Jesus, we spend time in prayer, because we want to be able to know Him better—that’s the reward. We hear his voice often because we’re used to listening for it. We know the difference between our voice and His voice and the enemy’s voice the way I can distinguish my husband’s spoken voice among a whole house of other people. I know it because I hear it often. When he talks, I tuned in immediately. It’s not fuzzy or confusing. It’s clear because I am used to hearing it.  I have trained my ear.

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Psalm 40:6

Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
Isaiah 55:2b-3

God’s offer has always been to speak to us, in the Old Testament that was though prophecy and teachers, but now we have the Holy Spirit (and also apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers, according to His gifts).

THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES US, GUIDES US INTO ALL TRUTH, AND TELLs US THINGS TO COME

Jesus said that the role of the Holy Spirit will be to teach us and remind us what Jesus said, and even tell us what He did not tell people while on earth! He will speak to us what He hears from Jesus, tell us what is to come, he will make things known to us, he will remind us of what Jesus said.  

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:12-15

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26

If the Holy Spirit is going to teach me and make known to me all Jesus wants Him to, then I have to be able to understand Him. He has to communicate actual ideas, words, corrections, principles, and thoughts to me, not just vague impressions. Jesus makes the analogy to shepherds and sheep. He said, “My sheep know my voice and follow me.” John 10:27

I want to just go over some of the scripture on relying on the voice of God:

He humbled you, and in your hunger He gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your fathers had known, so that you might understand that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3 (quoted in Matthew 4:4)

You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9:20

Note: These two scriptures are about eating through the ears! God’s words proceeding from His mouth by His Spirit are connected to manna, which was reliable, needed daily for that day only! We rely on His word for daily guidance and instruction and life sustenance.

My sheep know my voice and follow me.” John 10:27

For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. Psalm 95:7-9

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Hebrews 3:7-8

49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” John 12:49-50

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. John 14:10-11

“When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 (this one is related to hearing teachers, but read the next one!)

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27

Isn’t this exciting?

This means I can ask the Holy Spirit to teach me things! Not only that, but I follow Him because He is a really good leader–a good shepherd, a good king. I follow Him because when He leads, I get to lay down and drink from cool rivers of life. When He leads, I see people around me set free!

But when it comes down to it, I follow Him just because I love Him. The sound of His voice leads me to more experiences of his love. So obedience to that voice isn’t by obligation; it’s out of love and joy. I believe that where He is taking me is actually the best place. And now I understand what He means when He says if you love me, you will obey my commandments. It might be hard sometimes, but it doesn’t feel heavy anymore, because it’s so joyful under His gentle leadership. The law has been written on my heart, and my heart of stone has been turned into flesh by the miracle of his gaze. My heart is soft toward Him now. I actually want to follow Him. I always said I did before, but now I believe He is capable of leading me really well. And I truly trust Him. I sit at His feet. That’s my only strategy.

ONE THING NECESSARY IN COMMUNITY

So you make ask “how does this relate to building a house church or small group worship community?” Well, when we are in community together, we take this same posture of asking God what He has to teach us together. We sit at His feet and listen.

That’s our “model” (though it really isn’t a model). It is a direct obedience to seek Him and His kingdom first in everything.

And He speaks every time. One of us will feel led to bring a song to sing, a scripture to share, a person to pray for, a message of encouragement (1 Cor. 14:26). And one of the most common things we say after we meet is “Wow! Look what God gave us together today! Did you see how He put all that together?”

We actually see this principle in Acts with the early church, of reliant listening for making decisions and God’s positioning for the church’s and individuals’ ministries (Acts 8:29, Acts 16:6-7, Acts 20:22). Some call it “waiting worship,” some call it “worship-based prayer,” we call it “sitting at His feet.” We are not the first ones to come across this approach to church and life. But it’s so exciting that we could never go back. When we see God’s plans and purposes gradually revealed by the Holy Spirit in a meeting of the church, through the priesthood of believers and the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, it’s absolutely mindblowing.

When we live in the presence of God, He teaches us and guides us. We sit at His feet and listen to what He has to say. Jesus said he can do only what he sees his Father doing, and say what His Father is saying. (John 5:19, John 12:49-50). Do we have that kind of abiding relationship with the Father that Jesus prayed for us to have (John 14-16). See what Jesus modeled and walk the way He walked. Get it from God. Everything instruction. Every move. It is a counter-cultural way of life. But it is possible if you have tuned your ear to hear His voice by doing the “one thing necessary.”

This kind of relational reliance on the Spirit of God is only possible when we actually relinquish our own leadership and our own scheduling of our time, otherwise we would just get really frustrated when He speaks longer than we allot Him time to speak or tells us to move contrary to our plan. We go into corporate worship listening, humble, honest, and vulnerable, just as we are. And we ask God to encounter us, to continuously keep our spirits healed and freed up, so He can give us what we need to minister to others and to Him. We are usually small enough to not need sound support so there is no attention spent on production. When we meet in a larger group we just simply set up mics and kept the sound as simple as possible. He leads us in real time, in response to our obedience He takes us deeper into His presence, and into His Word, both spoken and written, where true worship happens.

IS HEARING HIM EVEN IMPORTANT?

Some might say, well, we have the Bible which is the Word of God…isn’t that enough? Doesn’t needing to hear Him imply that scripture is not enough? Well yes. I would say scripture is not enough because we don’t only need to know and understand scripture, we need to know direction and application of scripture in real-time if we are going to operate under the actual leadership of God to seek the kingdom here as it is in heaven. This active following requires a voice, not in the ears, but in the soul/mind/heart. This sense is what people call “His voice.” Whatever you are sensing can be put into words, so as people describe what they are sensing/feeling/seeing/hearing in the spirit, they recognize it as ways that God “speaks” to us. So is “hearing” Him important?

Yes. Here’s why you need this:

1.Hearing His voice is proof of relationship.

Can you imagine if you were married to someone but you never heard their voice or saw them or felt them? That would not be much of a relationship.

We have developed a religious culture around busyness and service, but many of us don’t even know Him. We know about Him. We know the Bible. But some of us don’t really know Him as a PERSON that we are in relationship with. We use the phrase “relationship with God” too loosely and it has become church jargon for many who call themselves Christians.

2. Hearing His voice guards against false prophecy and stagnation.

Many people don’t realize they are supposed to talk with God. Some have even been taught by church leaders that God has stopped speaking. Some are scared because they are worried they may become theologically off-based. But the Bible is very clear on this point. Hearing the voice of God is a discipline of listening empowered and made possible through the Holy Spirit and the Word (both Christ and scripture). We are to eagerly desire to hear God both for ourselves and for others (eagerly desire the gift of prophecy). His Word never contradicts itself. It is always true. It never returns void. It always accomplishes what it set out to do. It always bears fruit (Isaiah 53-55). Knowing how to identify His voice (in addition to knowing scripture by heart) will help us discern against false prophecy from other sources. You can only learn to recognize it by the practice of listening in community and on your own.

Regarding false prophecy, false prophecy is always from a false source.  We can know that we are not false when we abide in Jesus. As far as testing, we also need to know the voice of God which is actually called the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13). we know that one of the signs of false prophecy is anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God. But we can also recognize false prophets by their lack of fruit (Matthew 7:15-16) and by knowing that their voice is not aligned with scripture and what the voice of God has spoken to those abiding (can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:12).

If God speaks differently to those in the body of Christ who are abiding, we can trust that He always clarifies and brings us to unity, not the unity of our human ideas, but unity in Christ as a mature body (Ephesians 2:1-16). He never contradicts Himself or scripture. False prophecy is avoided by abiding in the true vine, knowing the true shepherd, and knowing His voice. Knowing His voice also open us up to the spiritual gift of prophecy, which the apostle Paul says we are supposed to eagerly desire (1 Cor. 12:31 and 14:1). It becomes easier to hear God’s word for others, so that we speak not out of human sympathy, but in a mutual building up of iron sharpening iron according to the word, will, and heart of God (this sometimes requires a gentle tearing down).

3. Jesus did it and so should we.

If we are being made into the image of Christ, then we should walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). How did He walk? He was led by the Holy Spirit and He obeyed His Father (Matthew 4:1, Matt. 12:28, Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38). He made disciples by saying what His Father said and did what He saw His Father doing.

How would we know where to start?

We do it the way Jesus did–in complete reliance on the Holy Spirit. We have scripture just like Jesus did. We have the added benefit of the New Testament scriptures–the gospels and the letters to the churches. Jesus studied scripture, but just like Jesus in the wilderness, we need the Holy Spirit to know how to apply the truth of God’s word in the world around us. We need to know where to go and what to do! We need power! How do we know what our Father is saying and doing? We have to listen in quiet places so we can learn what His voice sounds like. We learn how to distinguish His voice from ours, (which happens as a result of sitting with Him and asking Him questions without any other voices around us).  Then, in the moment of crisis or intense ministry, we don’t question when we hear His directions. We don’t question because we have learned His voice in the secret quiet places of intimacy. We know His voice.

BONUS OF “ONE THING NECESSARY” LIFESTYLE: NO PRESSURE

Every single day, we position ourselves close to Him so we can hear His word. This allows us to align with what He is doing and assures that we are living in His will, yielding fruit in every season as we just focus on Him through our whole lives, day to day, minute to minute. Living this way takes the pressure off. In this easy and light way, finding your calling is not something you need to really worry about. It is not a matter of you knowing yourself better or finding the right “fit” to a career or ministry activity. It is not a matter of developing your skills to perfection, because it is not about what you have to offer God. It is ONLY about learning to listen and remaining available to obey.

God’s kingdom work is done from a position of rest. Like God’s people in Isaiah 30:15, for a long time, I was unwilling to say yes to returning, rest, quietness, and trust. Yet, this exchange of my way of life for His, of my kingdoms for His Kingdom, has become my salvation. One Thing living is a lifestyle of constant reliance on the voice of Jesus—it is a constant, daily, moment by moment response to hearing him. I had heard the invitation spoken to my soul. Rest. Sit at my feet and listen.

Maybe it’s too passive sounding for you. Maybe it seems like a lazy way to live in our industrious culture. Maybe it seems too easy, like you should have to work harder or be “more sinless” for Him to be comfortable being with you or to be allowed to disciple others. Maybe you think you can’t do it, like Peter walking on the waves—you’ve tried and failed. You are too fickle to be trusted with other sheep.

Maybe you actually think God can’t do it, like when Israel asked for a human king. Maybe you don’t trust God as much as you thought you did.

But God actually really loves you. And He has made a way to be with you just as you are. He’s not waiting for you to be perfect first. Jesus always reached out to people who felt unworthy, unlovable, and full of sin. He also tried to reach the prideful and arrogant (though they rarely heard the offer.) And He sent the 12 out to announce the kingdom of God knowing that one would betray Him and all would desert Him before He died. He entrusted the message to fishermen (Peter, James, John) and tax collectors (Matthew, Zacheus), and murderers (Paul).

WHAT IF I HAVE NEVER HEARD GOD’S VOICE?

This is for you. Don’t doubt it. He promised us the Holy Spirit. He does not lie. You have to learn the voice of God by spending time with Him. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes this voice is a leading or a prompting, but there are words and instructions the Holy Spirit wants to speak to you. Often He will lead us back to scripture. Sometimes he will give us pictures. We will seek Him and find Him when we search with all our hearts. He will not hide from us (Jeremiah 29:11-13). But there are some things that can keep you from hearing His voice:

  1. Lack of faith that He still speaks or that He’s actually there with you. But He is. He promised.
  2. A broken trust between you and God. Sometimes His voice is blocked because we do not trust Him or we are angry with Him. Usually we do not trust Him because we are believing lies about either who He is or who we are. You can ask Him to reveal those things to you or you can ask a friend who walks with God to sit and ask God with you and help you identify the lies. Once you return to trust in Him, you will be able to hear His voice, and because you are confident in His love for you and His plan for you, you will be able to obey His voice out of love.

Listen and hear that there is “One Thing” necessary and then say “yes!”—get to know Jesus again, or maybe for the first time. I mean really. What do you need to know? What does your heart have questions about? Sit at the feet of Jesus—and just let Him teach you. He will absolutely speak to you.  He promised He would (John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me). 

Here’s a worship song that has meant a lot to our community. We sing it in Spanish but you can sing it in English too!

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How to Start a House Church Principle #2: Insisting on God’s Leadership

A few years ago, I decided I didn’t care about having my own plans anymore. I didn’t care about my 5 or 10 year life plan or future security. I laid down again (and subsequently started losing concern for) my riches, reputation, and renown.  I just wanted to know what His plan was for the world and get in on it. What followed, in short, has been a painful and thrilling process of Him digging out of me all of the things that go against that. And as I fought and yielded to God (in a very sporadic obedience for a while), throughout the days and weeks the question rose up in my heart:

Do I really trust God’s leadership? Not just for me personally but for everything?

The deeper I go into trust the more I realize that living this way requires a complete reworking of my mind and a re-prioritization of my whole life. It’s a constant letting go of my agenda and asking to be brought into the agenda of God’s work in the world. Now for the truth. I used to feel more safe when I was in control. I still sometimes tend to go my own way–not just into sin (though that happens sometimes too), but also into my own plans and priorities.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

Do not be like the horse or the mule,which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Psalm 32:9

YOKED. An oxen would be yoked to a more experienced oxen to learn the pace of work. Not only that, but when a disciple would sit “at the feet” of a rabbi in Jewish traditions, they would ask “Rabbi, what is your yoke?”

“Rabbi, what is your yoke?”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

When we start to live under His yoke, which at first feels uncomfortable (not heavy, but just unfamiliar and unsure), we realize that His leadership is perfect and what He is leading us INTO is so much more amazing than what we thought our lives would be! How many times have I tried to lead God into my circumstances to bless my efforts and my plans? Oh wow. When we keep in step with Him we realize His priorities and plans are different from ours and to make matters worse, He does not even give us the full map of where we are going.

It’s all step by step. 

We hate this. But it’s also amazing. Because living this way is the only way we learn to listen and obey in complete and utter trust. Step by step in the Spirit–yoked to HIM–doing his work in the world, not ours, is thrilling because we get to break the yoke off others

To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke… Isaiah 58:6

The one who breaks the yoke of sin, heaviness, oppression, fear, and pride in our lives, calls us under His yoke (which is easy and light) so that HE can lead us into breaking the yoke of oppression of sin and pain in the lives of others, and invite them into this same easy and light way of trust. What a privilege! This invitation to be yoked and work the fields of the kingdom of God transcends our own plans for our lives. This is not simply doctrine. This call transcends career choices. This passion is not only a social justice agenda in the political realm, although God is pleased when we plead the cause of the oppressed. This is simply life in step with the Spirit walking with Jesus. What will this look like for us in community?

Being led by the Spirit through hearing/sensing God’s voice and responding in real time obedience is not tied to a denomination or doctrine (John 10:27, 1 Corinthians 2:13). It is meant to be the way of life for every follower of Christ so that we can experience and rely on the demonstration of His power and share His love powerfully with others, not just with wise words, but with real encounter of the Living God.

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:4-6

Living expecting that kind of powerful, intimate, constant leadership from Him is the reality He is inviting us into. And those who say yes are in for an amazing ride!

DISTRUST VS TRUST IN SCRIPTURE

When thinking about what God wants from us, we can see His story in the Old and New Testament scripture as an epic story of wanting us to love, obey, and trust Him and let Him lead us, truly believing He has good plans for us. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) The Bible boiled down is a story of distrust versus trust. Our decision to let Him lead us or not is based on our assessment of whether or not He is not a good and capable leader. The leaders that led well in God’s book were the ones that were determined to lead only by insisting on the leadership of God, those leaders who humbly reaffirmed God’s leadership and kingship.

Our confidence is found only in insisting on the leadership of God. We see distrust planted in the mind of Eve in Genesis, when the enemy question the voice and motives of God. We see this struggle of trust versus self-sufficiency when God promised Abraham a son in His old age. He slept with Hagar instead, leading to a tremendous amount of hurt because He did not trust God enough to wait for Him to move. Abraham’s faith in God was restored in the giving of Isaac and confirmed by his willingness to sacrifice him on the altar. God provided a ram for the sacrifice and an angel to stop his hand.

OUR CONFIDENCE IS FOUND ONLY IN INSISTING ON THE LEADERSHIP OF GOD

Moses felt ill-equipped to lead, but His confidence in God allowed him to say to the people about to leave Egypt, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” After God split the sea into walls on either side and the people walked across on dry land. Moses met in the tent of meeting often with God “face to face” as with a friend. So much so that his face shone with the presence of God. When God sent them to the promised land, He said that He would not go with them to the promised land because of the stubbornness of Israel (Exodus 33:3). God was so frustrated He said He would kill them all if He went with them. But Moses refused to go without the Lord. He said,

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:15-16

This pleased God and He loved Moses, so He Himself went with them. But all through the desert, we see distrust continue as the idolatry and complaining of the children of Israel. God disciplines them, they rebel. God meets their need, they complain again. When they got to the promised land, the twelve spies went into the land and only Joshua and Caleb trusted the Lord’s leadership and His invitation to go into the land. But Israel was afraid and they would not go in. God’s discipline was that they were sent back for that generation to die in the desert.

God would later remark in Jeremiah 2:2 ‘…I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.’ He loved being followed. But Israel craved meat and the riches and assurances of Egypt and the establishment of their own kingdoms.

When Moses died, God promised to continue His presence to Joshua and His people,

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”  Joshua 1:5-6

“The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Joshua 21:44-45

Why was Joshua confident in God? It is because He was in the tent of meeting with Moses. Joshua knew the power of the presence of God and the presence and experience of that led to His confidence in the person of God to lead.

The same is true for us. When we truly know by experience the love, power, and presence of God, then we can lead by following his leadership confidently. It’s when we try to lead out of obligation or personal responsibility instead of love for God that we get totally off track.

Joshua gave the choice again to the people this way as he was about to die, 14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

They chose Him.

Joshua led like Moses, by trusting God’s leadership and staying in loving obedience to His law. 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger…16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Joshua 2:10-2, 16-19

GOD LOVES TO LEAD US

Have you ever wondered why God has often chosen not to rule over people without their consent? It seems important to Him, somehow, for us to choose Him back–like we were accepting an offer from Him, though He could have mandated our obedience so many times. In the desert, the people of God again forgot to trust and so rejected the authority of God, just as Adam and Eve did in the garden, when their fear won out over their faith. Ironically, it turns out, fear, discontentment, and the desire for security we can see, hear, and touch, leads us into rejecting our only true source of security–Jehovah, the One able to fight for us and give us peace.

Throughout the Old Testament God continually “owned” the battles of His people. He fought alongside them and for them over and over. And the people let Him…for a while. And because He fought for them, God the warrior was, Himself, their peace. (Want proof? Check out this list of battles he fought as their king: Numbers 21:21-35; Deut 3:1-6; Numbers 14:39-45; Exodus 17:8-15; Joshua 6; Josh 10:1-13, 28-43; Judges 6-7; Judges 10-11)

When God fought with them, victory was assured. When the people fought without God’s help, they got slaughtered. You would think this would be amazing for them—the God of the universe, communicating with them and directing them, fighting battles in their favor. How exhilarating! How mind-blowing! So where did the people of God go so wrong? How did their relationship of shalom with God, where He was fighting their battles, get broken to the point that God sent them into exile? Didn’t they rely on Him for their food and water and even guidance into the promised land? Didn’t they watch Him fight for them?

Or maybe they were offended by the discipline of God when He re-payed their disobedience with loss on the battlefield? Maybe they were disappointed in the manna or the water from the rock…why wasn’t it wine?!  Maybe God’s provision wasn’t actually enough in their book. Maybe, by their criteria, He was not taking care of them at all the way they thought He should.

When God gave Gideon victory over the Midianites, the people wanted to make him king, but Gideon refused, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” (Judges 8:23). After Gideon died, the people continued asking for a king. Finally, the people asked Samuel for a king.

GOD’S PEOPLE CHOSE A HUMAN KING OVER GOD’S KINGSHIP

This was the final moment of real rejection, the moment of breach between God and His people in the Old Testament was when they asked for a king…a “real” king. This is the communal choice of Israel to choose human power and strength over God’s strength. And it is a full out rejection of His authority in their lives. God knew that they would ask for a king someday (Deuteronomy 17:14-16), but He still felt it as a rejection. In other words, this is the kind of God we serve: He anticipates our rejection of Him and still remains covenanted to us. What wild love!

Here’s the context…Samuel, a prophet, had sons who were not good leaders, so the people took this opportunity to demand a king (1 Samuel 8:2-3). Read what follows and see if you can hear the fear and pride in the people:

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king…

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” –1 Samuel 8:1-21

Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” 1 Samuel 10:6-9

Their choice led them build their armies, set up their own defenses, and make battle plans to fight their enemies. Can you sense God’s heart breaking as He watches the people choose a human king over a mighty God—choosing a political system for their refuge instead of the hand of the creator and sustainer of the universe?

Choosing to forge our own security leads us away from reliance on God’s ability to manage our lives and tells us to plan, build, and defend ourselves. We are afraid that He won’t follow through the way we need or want, and that fear matures into the resistance of peace and the rejection of God. In other words, we sabotage our peace by trying to create our own, submitting to the enemy’s cyclical attacks of fear, pride, and shame.

Saul ruled well enough at first, but lost the favor of God when he did not wait for God to speak. Saul was a king driven mad by his fear and pride (I Samuel 13:8-13). David, the king/priest after God’s own heart, returned to the leadership of God, declaring in his songs of worship that God was ruler and sovereign over all the earth. He loved the Lord so much that He wanted to build Him a beautiful temple, but God said no! I will establish your house and your peace. David yielded, eventually, to God’s provision and establishment of rest (2 Samuel 7).

Jehoshaphat, a later king trusted God so much that when being attacked, His response not to get his troops ready, but he gathered all the families and they STOOD BEFORE THE LORD. And he said, “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord…[Then a Levite prophet named Jahaziel said] “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 2:12-13, 20) Even in the Babylonian captivity, God proves Himself to be king of all kings and God above all gods to Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 4:34-37)

JESUS AND HIS RE-ASSERTION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

We see from the way that Jesus lived that He walked in complete dependence on His Father. This is countercultural for us. Our culture teaches us to be self-sufficient and independent, but Jesus shows us how to be dependent on the Father in unity and love. But because Jesus was the sinless seed of the Holy Spirit, He relied on God in a way we have never experienced.

49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

John 12:49-50

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. John 14:10-11

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19,

What was the response of the Father to Jesus humbling Himself to take on a servant nature and demonstrate reliance on Him? Read Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The Father was pleased to exalt Christ as King because Christ took on servanthood and acknowledged His Father’s leadership.

LEAD BY SEEKING HIS FACE

So what does that mean for church leadership? We model the example of Christ by radically trusting and rely on the leadership of God through His Word and through His Holy Spirit who is alive in us. If Jesus, being God, found it necessary to listen and follow His Father as his mode of operation, how much more will we need to follow the Father’s leadership and “stay in step” with the Holy Spirit in the same way! For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Romans 8:14

We insist on His leadership step by step, because that way we are able to respond in real time to what God is doing in the room. This is not a method, it is simple reliance and it has yielded the result that when we “meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues [or prophecy], and another will interpret what is said. And everything that is done strengthens all of us as it says in 1 Corinthians 14:26.

Leaders must lead by seeking the face, presence, and leadership of God (Psalm 27:8-9; Exodus 33:11-23; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; John 14:7), What this has been for us is relying on the active live-time leadership of the Holy Spirit in the moment, resisting the urge to produce and pre-plan our times of gathering. So whether we are gathered together for worship or just walking out our daily lives, we simply follow Jesus, listening for the voice and guidance of the Father, walking as Jesus walked, keeping in step with His Spirit of Truth, which is His Word (Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 6:17).

HOW IT’S WORKED FOR US

We believe God will direct you in how to navigate leadership. Currently, we have no formal elder system currently because we have not had need of it yet . We are small enough to make decisions and discuss together. We do have a few people who pray before we gather to see if there is a specific direction the Lord wants us to move in that day. We resist the urge to strategize or plan unless he tells us to do so.  We don’t move until He moves. When we gather to worship Him in our house, we do not usually plan who gives the teaching or what songs we would sing. We just gathered ahead and asked God what He had for us. Then we waited on Him to bring it. That’s it. God, what are you doing today and how can we be a part of it? Then we listen. We hear His voice for our community and ourselves.

Sometimes someone will mention throughout the week that God has given them something to share. They share with us and we respond and weigh it out and pray and correct one another as needed. It’s encouraging to see new or reignited believers shared stories of what God is teaching them and it is really profound stuff! We are not drinking milk. God is raising up His teachers, prophets, and shepherds for our gatherings. We have made every effort to maintain the bond of peace in the Spirit and God has brought us to unity over almost every issue, sometimes over the course of weeks or months, but most issues have been resolved.

If that sounds radical, we know it is, but it actually lines up with scripture. We are forced to rely on and listen for the voice of God every time we gather. And as we practice listening, we hear Him better. We ask Him our questions. He answers through the Holy Spirit confirming the same thing in several peoples’ spirits (especially those with strong prayer lives) and in scripture. We are finding that this model of leadership (God as leader), allows room for Him to be seen and experienced. We find that His presence is the whole point of our gathering. It is amazing to see the Holy Spirit serve and strengthen us as we simply pray and wait for Him, insisting on His leadership of our time.

We also learned that we were not the first group of believers led into this. The Quakers for example also practiced this kind of listening or waiting worship as they called it. And it’s been a really joyful thing for us and very restful to just rely on the leadership of God for our gatherings and our lives. Think you can’t do it? It’s actually really easy once you get past the initial awkwardness of silence. But as we learn to wait on the Lord together, we find that He is actually very, very faithful to speak and move in power, even in our home. Which is amazing and humbling to me.

People often ask me about the structure we have established for discipline or resolving disputes. We just pray and follow Paul’s advice to love and try to keep the unity of bond of peace in Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) according to the truth of scripture. We go to scripture and prayer to resolve disputes. We are honest with one another and we have weekly times of public and personal confession before we take communion together, which I’ll talk about later. All of these things have meant that God has been really faithful to be all we need in terms of leadership. The “elders” of the church are actually pretty young and are the first people that God led us to when we were forming the church. So they are not the oldest people, but the ones who have been in the community the longest. Wisdom is actually found in people who listen and know the voice of God and His Word, regardless of age. Paul saw this in Timothy. We see eldership as people who are mature in their faith and solid in their commitment to this group of believers and who trust the leadership of God together.

When insist on the leadership of God, He is pleased to lead us. When we insist on human leadership, He is hurt. So we choose Him. We prefer Him. We wait for Him.  We don’t move until He moves. We can do this because He is a good leader and we remember His miracles and victories on our behalf.

UPDATE: May 2021, we established elders after about a year and a half of waiting for the Lord to teach us about this. As soon as we felt the Lord tell us to do so, we prayed about who God was calling to be elders and confirmed them as those tasked with navigating how human leadership can support the leadership of God. Some people have been lost and some issues have not been resolved. Living in real Christian community is messy but really good because we know one another.

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How to Start A House Church Principle #1: Learn What God Wants

Welcome! I started writing these posts and making these videos when the Lord told me to start documenting our journey from our newly planted community, so let me say first that I am not promoting a method, or saying house churches are the only way to do things, but sharing basic foundational principles and describing how it’s worked for us. Some of the ideas and theology behind these posts are not fully grown, even though my writing style is fairly adamant. In fact, we are in a process of constantly learning new things and adjusting to one another as He does in the real-time context of our diverse communities and contexts. So I hope you enjoy the journey, but please know that when I write an idea, I offer it with a humble heart and hope that you will weigh it out among your community and move as the Lord moves you! Many blessings on your journey with Jesus…it’s a wild ride. It’s messy. But it’s beautiful. These posts aren’t short. They’re not meant to be a quick read but a helpful resource for you to refer back to and use to equip your people, so I try to be as thorough and accurate as possible, with lots of scripture to help you know you are grounded in truth. Also if you ever want to chat about how things are going, feel free to leave comments and I’ll respond as God allows and leads.

WE ARE THE BUILDING

The goal of God is to build a church made up of people, so His presence can dwell among us all the time, everywhere. In seeking to build a church made of living stones, we intentionally ask God to re-write our understanding of “church.” We don’t “go to” church we are the church. Church is not a building, at all. We are the building built on Jesus Christ, the Living Cornerstone.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house(or “temple of the Spirit”) to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”(Isaiah 28:16) Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Psalm 118:22) and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:4-9

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Our own bodies (individually) (and the body, collectively) are the places in which God lives and moves, not in a building. WE are the primary outlet for His ministry to others and to the entire world, not a building or program.  

WHERE GOD WANTS TO BE WORSHIPPED

Listen to Jesus explaining what was then a future reality to a Samaritan woman. She was asking where people should worship in Jerusalem or in Sychar, where Jacob’s well was. It was a question about where God wanted to be worshipped.

“believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:21, 22-24

She was confused and said.

 “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you am He.” John 4:25-26

Interestingly, Matthew mentions Jesus building his church (ekklesia-called out people) on the Rock following Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah.

LIVING STONES BUILT TOGETHER ON THE CORNERSTONE OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST

This new thing Jesus is building—this new synagogue, this new “place of worship,” is built on the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, the deliverer, the one who changes everything by His sacrifice and triumph over death. Keep that in mind.

Looking at the possible original words for church there, the Greek word ecclesia (called out people) or in Aramaic knista (assembly)—both words referred to “people” and both words came to refer to the place where those PEOPLE met. Our contemporary concept of church has become very connected to place. We go to church. Which church do you attend. Church growth. Church models. Church planting. The thing we plant is in a place. It is where we go, and who we are as connected to that place—going out FROM there. Most of the times we think about needing a building in order to be the church.

But imagine Christ as a huge stone upon which we, living stones are being built together by the apostles and prophets and by His Spirit connecting us. This is a picture of the church, a living container for the presence of God to be found AMONG us when we are gathered in community—anywhere and everywhere. When we conceptualize the church like this, we’re unstoppable, by governments, by pestilence, or by any power of hell.

In Hebrew, there are “three synonyms for synagogue:

bet ha-tefilla (“house of prayer”)

bet ha-kneset (“house of assembly”)

bet ha-midrash (“house of study”).

The term synagogue is of Greek origin (synagein, “to bring together”)

Remember when Jesus said, My Father’s house will be called a house/abode/dwelling place of prayer.

Jesus’s response was aligned with God’s heart as seen in the prophets. He was sick of the sacrifices and festivals and yet offended that people were not even making pure sacrifices acceptable to Him. He did not ask David to build a temple for Him, but said instead that the earth was His footstool and heaven was His throne! And yet, the people kept building Him things all the time. Bringing Him gifts that were beautiful in their eyes, but not in His, because of the people’s lack of love for other people and for Him. They were trying to fulfill a law outside of themselves, and fell short EVERY TIME.

Now, remember what I said about the new thing Jesus was building, this new synagogue, this new “place of worship” which is built on the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, the deliverer, the one who changes everything by His sacrifice and triumph over death. When Jesus died as the FINAL temple sacrifice, He fulfilled John the Baptist’s prophecy that He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We know that Jesus fulfilled and completely perfected the temporary model of temple worship space and in fulfilling the system perfectly, He shattered it. The Holy of Holies used to be the only physical place to experience the presence of God, because of the miraculous dispersion of the presence of God at the death of Jesus. When Jesus died, the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, (Matthew 27:51) This was God’s confirmation that the model of worship had forever changed into it’s original purpose, that we would follow Him into His Kingdom as a bride in waiting. And inviting the whole world to become the stones which form the building which God’s presence abides in.

So what is the role of places in this concept of church as a building of people?

NOTHING. It’s completely irrelevant.

But. In John 4, Jesus did say that worship would not happen in the temple in Jerusalem nor in Samaria but instead in the realm of Spirit and Truth. What does this mean? He doesn’t say exactly, but we see the Holy Spirit promised here as a mediating, life-giving means of worship (also in John 7:38-39) enabled us to be taught by God, to love one another, and proclaim the message with power and authority of God with great love. Worship would not mediated anymore by a Levitical priesthood. It would be opened to us by the one true way of Jesus’ blood as He serves as our high priest, and mediated by the Holy Spirit.

The temple was no longer needed.

But houses. Houses were needed.

HOUSES provide a removed, private, intimate place where God’s people can reflect on and celebrate being the church. It is a bounded, small enough place where people are seen (they can’t hide), prayed for, healed, and where communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, confession, fresh filling with the Holy Spirit takes place. In the book of Acts, we see a lot happening in houses and in smaller groups gathering in the synagogues building (Jewish, non-Christian).

THE PURPOSE FOR MEETING IN THE SYNAGOGUE OR TEMPLE BUILDING WAS FOR JEWS NOT CHRISTIANS.

The reason they were meeting in the synagogue was to convince the Jews to follow Christ. It was a missional, public placement of discussion and teaching. We do not see a New Testament emphasis on building “Christian church buildings,” and furthermore we acknowledge an Old Testament precedent for less extravagant places of worship (Isaiah 66:1-2). The church met in the synagogues (except for when they were driven out by those rejecting the message), so that they would be teaching in public and more people could hear and be added to the church community. But they did not go out and build spaces to meet in! Why? Well, there was the issue of persecution. But also, they functioned fine without them. They met in homes. Some might see this as a necessary forced choice (who wouldn’t choose a building?!) but think about what was accomplished in homes. Meeting in homes built a sense of family. They ate together, they knew each other, their lives were an open book, they had networks of people they were sending out and supporting in a very grassroots way, from a place of hospitality and love.

CAUTION: THIS MAY MAKE SOME PEOPLE A LITTLE MAD

Because of this early history we need to call out and offer a loving criticism to our brother and sisters regarding the exaggerated importance we have been placing on “church buildings.” We don’t reject meeting in church buildings, but we do see that church buildings can be a drain on resources and serving in/at them can very easily be viewed as our service to God, when our service to Him is supposed to take over our whole life in a public and visible way that draws outsiders into the body of Christ! When Jesus was asked the question where should we worship (In Jerusalem or Samaria), He answered: the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. (John 4:23-26). Anywhere in the world, worshiping Him who is Spiritually present EVERYWHERE, through our spirit, heart, mind and strength, empowered by His Holy Spirit, poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5) to write His law on the inside of us and then to overflow like a River, of His presence.

Jesus said in John 7:37-41:

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Again, this recognition of Jesus as the Messiah is tied to a NEW WAY of worship that is different from temple worship. It’s done internally, not externally. Not in a place but from the heart. In Acts chapter 2 we see the deep reality of what this new synagogue would look like. The day of Pentecost is the feast of first fruits. It also celebrated God’s gift of the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai. But on the day of Pentecost, God gave the disciples of Jesus a new law of the Spirit, written not on tablets but on our hearts! God’s Spirit, the Spirit that was in Christ, is now poured into us through baptism, not just of water, but of fire, meant to be in our hearts and overflowing like a River, making springs in the deserts, drawing all men to him. WE are supposed to be the container of God’s presence, our bodies in intimate community are the church, a people called of God, that is NOT walled in. It should be invading and flowing into every place we work and every person we meet. From our very private to very public lives.

Therefore, the place becomes joyfully irrelevant. This is not about tearing down the old model of church in a building. It is about empowering the body of Christ to FUNCTION as the priesthood of believers to a dying world. As sanctuaries. As places where others can meet with God! It’s time to ask God to awaken His church with His Spirit.

GROW UP, CHILDREN OF GOD

WAKE UP, BRIDE OF CHRIST! This is happening all over the world and God is preparing us for a new wave of power and to endure persecution .

“The paradigm shift when we think about structure…is that Jesus isn’t looking to inhabit buildings. We’ve had buildings. It hasn’t worked. So if we can begin to perceive the people as living stones, the people as the structure that’s going to bring the habitation of Jesus in our midst…then we can begin cultivating human structures of people—discipleship making movements, where we are bringing people together, understanding that THAT is the pathway that brings the glory and the presence of Jesus.” Sheep Among Wolves II

OUR STORY

What happened when we got a small group of believers together in our house was that we realized our poverty. We needed teachers, prophets, shepherds, apostles, and evangelists. We needed people who were able to extend mercy, hospitality, helps, healing, and all the other gifts mentioned in scripture. We found ourselves asking God to equip us to be the church. Trying to function as a body as a small group showed us that we actually needed more from God. Because if we really assessed the body of Christ we would see that we are, as a whole, very poor and immature because we have relied on a few gifted teachers and not asked God to equip us. And guess what, God answered our prayer. In this simple motley crew, God started raising up evangelists, shepherds, teachers, prophets, apostles, healers, hosts, mercy workers, intercessors, and administrators and we saw an explosion of gifts among us.

We started looking to scripture for models of how to anoint people into these gifts as they sensed God calling them into these new, and for many of us, scary things. We started recognizing ourselves in the book of Acts—oh yeah—we are seeing that happen among us. We started sharing our money, our food, giving what people needed. Sending people out to the world with our own resources, holding nothing as our own.  We started traveling to them to encourage them as they were placed in different places. God would open up places of peace for us to stay, and we started seeing vibrant new life springing up like rivers.  See God IS doing a new thing. We have been receiving milk for so long we have gotten drowsy and sleepy like babies. But we are not babies, we are meant to walk in childlike trust, but there is a maturity we must run toward. We are to be a bride.

It’s time to wake up, Bride of Christ! Prepare the way of the Lord!

BIG IDEAS THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING (otherwise subtitled: THIS MIGHT ALSO MAKE SOME PEOPLE FEEL BAD, BUT THAT’S NOT THE GOAL)

Church communities can meet together in homes, outdoors, or community spaces. Anywhere that’s free (including free church spaces if invited by other congregations). In a church without “church buildings,” we would not need to pay for building maintenance, utilities, marketing, or production costs. This allows our money to be directly given in ministry—sending out evangelists, supporting local outreach, and providing for our own people in need (Acts 2:45).

If this seems a little extreme, let me just push a little harder (YIKES). If a church building already exists, we see no biblical model in scripture for building bigger church buildings when they are outgrown, which confuses the definition of “church growth.” The correct biblical response to an explosion of numeric growth is increasing faith, strength in persecution, immediate discipleship, and dispersion (Acts 6:7, Acts 9:31, Acts 16:5). We should be urgently focused on sending out and strategic placement of believers in other small unreached community places so that the gospel may be preached to every person in all nations (peoples) and new assemblies of called out people can be built on the rock of Jesus the Messiah. (Mark 13:10)

When churches meet in houses or open public spaces there is literally NO overhead. Some resist the desire for establishment of salaried “church leadership” positions when possible to work locally, reserving consistent financial support for those serving in the full-time role of apostleship/missions where working locally may be restricted (1 Cor. 9). This would serve several purposes.

Here’s how this could look in some cases. The people who would normally have fulltime jobs as pastors at church buildings and who are most passionately learning about and teaching about God would be placed missionally OUT in the community in jobs to encounter unbelievers. Every person in the worship community would be seen as part of the body and bride of Christ and tasked, trained and activated only to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, operate in the gifts the God gives, to study scripture and listen to the voice of God for themselves and the community (John 10:27-28), to participate jointly in corporate worship, to teach and disciple one another. In this way, those leading in the communities are doing so because they are compelled by God, not paid. (1 Corinthians 9:12-18). Like Paul, many pastors of these communities readily lay down their rights to be paid full-time salaries, and work with their hands (so their mind and mouth stays free to minister) in flexible, tent-making jobs in the community for the sake of the gospel, and instead we claim as the priesthood of believers that God is our portion and our provider.

Even the smallest worship communities begin to see themselves as the place where God inhabits, where He dwells, where He moves (Psalm 46:5). Wherever two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of you. (Matthew 18:20) In small communities, spiritual gifts have room to operate, and everyone can contribute in their own unique, indispensable way to the body of believers (1 Cor. 14:1).

The need to not seek a building space first, but a kingdom first (Matthew 6:33), makes us extremely versatile, mobile, visible, and quickly multiplying (Luke 13:20-21). This also allows us to simply focus on what is important to Him:

  • The posture of doing “one thing necessary”: sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him (Luke 10:38-42), even if it’s hard (John 12:27-32) finding our peace and rest in Him (Mark 4, John 14:27, Romans 14:19, Isaiah 30:15)
  • Walking like Jesus. In spiritual unity with God—saying what our Father says and doing what He is doing as a holy people, set apart, and spurred on by love-driven obedience (John 12:49-50, John 5:19, John 14:15). Some call this a “shema lifestyle”-simply put, sitting at His feet to learn/hear His commands, listening, and obeying.
  • The good news of the Kingdom of God going out to the world. Preaching His Salvation/Healing/Deliverance through Jesus Christ alone (Psalm 3:8, Acts 10:38, Mark 16:17-18) locked safely into covenant by the Holy Spirit, and making disciples by baptizing them (by water into Christ as He baptizes them in the fire of the Spirit (Matthew 3:11) and discipling people to seek God’s kingdom in their own hearts (Matthew 28:19).
  • Unity with all believers in Jesus Christ as the only true way to God (John 14:6); showing mercy and compassion (Eph.4:32) and love for our neighbors, (whoever we are around at anytime) (Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:25-37)
  • Worship in Spirit and Truth (John 4) from every nation tribe and tongue (Rev. 7:10) as we celebrate the reality of kingdom to come, the foundations of which will be righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14). But we are also celebrating the already-not-yet kingdom that is within us, growing from our lives and hearts and spreading like wildfire to the hearts around us!

YOU: “I COULD NEVER DO THAT”

GOD: THIS ONE IS PERFECT FOR THE JOB

(Yup. Pretty Much how it works)

Now say that you are thinking you could never do this, let me just encourage you. When we opened our home there were at least ten VERY solid reasons why I shouldn’t. And almost every person I sought council from told me it was not a great idea except one. I could think of so many reasons why I was ill-equipped, not gifted enough, not the right person, otherwise needed, overloaded, with the propensity to build my own kingdoms. God told me to lead like Moses, by a type of leadership that insisted on the leadership of God, to lead by simply seeking the face of God. And so I yielded. I told the Lord, “If all I need to do to lead this group is to seek your face, then I can do this.” Our whole leadership team took this on as our one and only strategy, to let God lead us. I’m going to talk about that principle in the next post, but the point right now is that we said yes. And the others that stepped out into this said yes. Some of them were in their first year of marriage, some were about to leave college and decided to stay, some were questioning their faith, none of us had any idea what we were doing. And God done amazing things through our simple obedience of opening our house to host an assembly of believers.