Thursday, August 31, 2006


A friend and I were talking the other day when, in the course of the conversation, we started talking about the word of God. We recognized that the Scriptures are merely seed. I'm not maligning the word of God when I say "merely seed." Seed is absolutely essential if there is to be fruit. That's what God is interested in - fruit. The purpose of the seed is to release the life within it whereby it yields an abundance of fruit. As long as it remains in seed form, there will be no fruit. So I say "merely seed" because the seed has not fulfilled it's purpose until it yields a harvest of fruit.
There is an abundance of seed, but a scarce amount of fruit. Week after week, the seed is dispersed, studied, analyzed, memorized, quoted, explained and taught with seemingly little fruit to show for it. Obviously, having an abundance of seed has not resulted in an abundant harvest.
Have we deceived ourselves into thinking that if we know the Scriptures we'll be fruitful? The devil knows the Scriptures probably better than any of us. So what is missing? If we have the basic ingredient for fruit, why is there so little of it?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Corporate Abundance

Speaking of abundance, I wonder if individual believers are only following the pattern that the western church has set forth in lavishing good things upon itself. Jesus told a parable that addresses the prevailing consumeristic attitude of the western church.
In Luke 12, Jesus tells of a rich man whose land was so productive that he had no more room to store his crops. In a quandary as to what to do, he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. God called this man a fool because he laid up treasure for himself, not being rich toward God.
The rich man in this parable bears a striking resemblance to the prosperous church that says, "We have more than what we have room for. Therefore, we'll build bigger facilities to accommodate all that we are taking in."
Question: Does this kind of church fall into the category that Jesus describes as those who lay up treasure for themselves, not being rich toward God?
Secondly, in light of this teaching of Jesus, what should the church do to be rich toward God?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Abundant Life

One of the most oft-quoted verses is John 10:10: "...I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
This is a favorite verse of a self-indulgent culture, used to support and confirm our excessive and extravagant lifestyles. We have somehow gotten the idea that this verse validates lavishing ourselves with good things. But we've missed the significance of what Jesus is saying due to our consumeristic mentality.
The abundance is not for us, but is to be given out to others who are in need. The abundance is the overflow of what we have need of. The Scriptures make it clear that we use what is sufficient to meet our needs, and the abundant overflow is to be given to those still in need. 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 clearly speaks to this point, as does 2 Corinthians 9:8-9.
What would happen if every believer began to practice giving their spiritual and material abundance to those in need? What changes in our lifestyle would be necessary to start giving of our abundance to others in need?
Maybe the first question we need to consider is whether we are even aware that we have an abundance. Is it possible that we have grown so accustomed to our lavish lifestyle that we mistakenly assume that all we have is not abundance, but merely that which is only sufficient to meet our needs?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Gathered Together

I was reading Luke 13 when verse 34 caught my attention like it never had before. Jesus said to the city of Jerusalem, "How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!"
There was this sense that what he said to Jerusalem 2000 years ago he is saying today to the city I live in, Harrisburg, PA. Of course, this applies to any and every city. His desire is to gather the people of the city together under himself. This wouldn't be orchestrated by man, but by the Spirit, after the fashion of John 3:8, "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
I envision The Spirit drawing people together in huge public gatherings where the atmosphere is so heavy with the Lord's presence there won't have to be any planned speakers, music, ministry, etc. It will happen by the leading of the Spirit under one name, and one name only - Jesus.
Though many might think this is wishful thinking, I believe it's something God desires. Why not pray, believe and act to that end? What might be the results in a city where a seemingly spontaneous gathering of 100's, swelling into thousands over time, gather to worship and exalt Jesus, and depart to serve and be his witnesses with the love and encouragement imparted to them through their spiritual brothers and sisters?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Walking on Water

That which is taking place today reminds me somewhat of the incident of Jesus walking on water. The disciples were in the boat when they saw Jesus walking on the water, though at first they were fearful, not recognizing him. But Jesus identified himself to allay their fears, whereupon Peter called out asking Jesus to bid him to come if it was really him, to which Jesus answered with one word, "Come!"
It seems that many are hearing Jesus say to them, "Come!" However, what they experience in doing so is very unsettling because they have never walked that way before. It's a whole different experience. Like Peter, they leave what they have been accustomed to, walking into something totally unfamiliar, which is frightening in and of itself. Again, not unlike Peter, when the scary and unfamiliar surroundings are noticed, we can easily become overwhelmed. Jesus rescued Peter, saying, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
If we have heard the Lord say "Come," are we still sitting in the boat? And if we have gotten out of the boat, why are we doubting if he told us to come? Are we looking back at the boat where many of our friends may be, or are we looking ahead at Jesus as we walk toward him?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Being and Doing

Lindsay's comment on yesterday's post concerning the purpose of the church goes straight to the heart of what it's all about. He has put his finger on the primary issue when speaking of purpose - the correlation between doing and being.
There continues to be this overwhelming emphasis in the teaching that is coming forth on how to do Christianity. Books are written, seminars are held, materials are produced and sermons are preached on how to (you fill in the blank). Thus we are ingrained with the need to do.
As Lindsay has stated, we are to be bearers of his presence, to be vessels of his love, to be demonstrations of his mercy, to be reflections, clear representatives of who he is now. Here's the $64,000 question: How can we be those things without doing something?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Church Purpose

With the church being in such a state of flux with leaders trying to discover where to go and how to get there, what works and what doesn't, I simply pose one question: What is the purpose of the church. Why is it in existance? What is it to be about in this present age?
It would be interesting to hear the answers by many who are involved in dialogue and writing about the church, where it's at and where it's going.
What do you think?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Solid vs. Liquid

Michael Frost, in his book, Exiles, refers to Pete Ward in describing the differences between solid and liquid church.

"In his book Liquid Church, Pete Ward argues that there needs to be a shift from solid church to liquid church. He defines solid church in formal, institutional parameters: a more-or-less coherent congregation with a distinct organizational structure meeting in a particular place at a particular time. In solid church, faithfulness tends to be equated with church attendance; success is measured in terms of numbers; worship and teaching are standardized, producing a bland and inoffensive diet of middle-of-the-road music and safe spirituality; and membership has become an exclusive and self-serving commitment, little different sociologically from membership in a golf or tennis club.
"According to Ward, liquid church, by contrast, takes its identity from the informal and fluid notion of believers in communication with each other. This rather simple idea, if carried through in practice, has significant implications. First, liquid church is not an institution, but something that we 'make with each other by communicating Christ.' It exists in networks of relationships. Second, the basis for church life is found not in organizational patterns or buildings, but in people's spiritual activity. Ward reemphasizes the suggestion that 'church' should be understood as a verb rather than a noun ("I church, you church, we church"). It might not seem all that radical, but rarely is it seriously embraced by many Christians today. Third, liquid church does not have to take the form of a weekly congregational meeting: 'Worship and meeting will be decentered and reworked in ways that are designed to connect to the growing spiritual hunger in society.' This points to the fundamental motivation behind the idea of liquid church, which is mission."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What's in a Name? Part 2

Continuing from yesterday's post which began with the question: "Is the small house church all we need, and if not, where to then?"
Our dividing up and separating ourselves from one another into specifically named churches, be they house churches or institutional churches, exposes our individualistic mindset which reflects American culture. This is foreign to the kingdom of God.
Years ago, Juan Carlos Ortiz used a metaphor of potatoes in his book, Disciple, describing the love God's people are to be practicing.
Each individual potato belongs to one plant or another in the garden. At harvest, they are picked and put into one sack. Though they are together now, they have only been regrouped, not unified as one.
Being prepared for food, they are peeled, cut, and put into a pan. But they still haven't lost their individuality. Ortiz writes, "But what God wants is mashed potatoes. Not many potatoes - one mashed potato."
Mashed potatoes lose their individual identities as they become one, taking on a whole new identity. They've gone through a process that has radically changed them. This reminds me of Jesus' statement in Matthew 7:14: "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."
The word "narrow" in that verse means afflict, narrow, throng, suffer tribulation, trouble. Acts 14:22 says "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Jesus promised that in this world we will have tribulation.
From Scripture as well as church history, we see that God's people who go through the fires of tribulation have the impurities burned off whereby they come forth refined as gold from the fire. Petty differences will have been incinerated, and the people of God will be one, radiating the love and the glory of God.
Again, I believe that it is an issue of the heart, not of form or structure. God will continue to process us in whatever way necessary to get us to the place where it no longer will be an issue of what kind of temple, be it house church, cathedral, auditorium or stadium, for they all become inconsequential when "the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb are [our] temple"(Rev.21:22).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

What's in a Name?

My friend Ron poses a thought-provoking question:

"Is the small house church all we need, and if not, where to then?"

I don't think I have a definitive answer to that. In fact, I wonder if anyone does. But I have some thoughts that I have been mulling over that might relate to this question.
The small house church is not all we need, just as the traditional church congregation is not all we need. The same problem of exclusivity and isolationism often exists in both. Frequently they take on the appearance of a social or private club. With that goes a certain degree of pride in belonging to this or that particular group. Evidence of this is seen in the naming of particular churches. Why is a name necessary? The common response is that it's needed for incorporation, tax purposes and business purposes such as the purchasing of property, etc. However, all of these things are part of the world system. Is there anywhere in Scripture that the church is described or shown to be part of the world system?
I suspect that the real reason for naming our churches is rooted in the same spirit that was found in the builders of the tower of Babel, who said, "and let us make for ourselves a name" (Genesis 11:4). We take great pride in the ministry of our own particular church, the number of people it has, those who are "saved" under its name, etc. Yet Scripture says that there is no other name under heaven whereby men can be saved other than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).
There is no local church in Scripture that has a name. They are designated by the city they are located in, i.e., the church in Ephesus. The individual house churches of which the church in any given city consisted were simply referred to by the person's home in which they met, i.e., "Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."
This whole thing is a heart issue. When our hearts are so captured by Jesus, our love for him will transcend the need for any name other than his. Only his love shed abroad in our hearts will kill our pride that separates us from each other with the names by which we exalt ourselves.
But how do we get to that point? Check the next post for part 2.

If you are not a blogger, or choose not to use your name, but would like to enter a comment, you can do so by using your name as "entombeni" and the password is "eureka." (No quotes with either.) Click on comment below.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What Defines Us?

Michael Frost opens the twelfth chapter of his book, Exiles, with the following paragraph.

"In the work that I do around the world with missional churches I am regularly asked about how exiles should worship. Even after I've told about the exciting experience of creating communitas, fashioning missional communities, eating together, living compassionately, serving the poor, and honoring our work as sacred activity, someone still wants to know what a missional church worship service would look like. In fact, barely a week goes by when someone doesn't contact me and ask to come and 'check out' our community, smallboatbigsea. This request is always followed by the next question: 'What day and time do you meet?' What assumption lies behind such a request? Answer: that we are primarily defined by a weekly meeting, and that if you attend that meeting, you can see all you need to see to get an understanding of our community."

That last sentence, ..."we are primarily defined by a weekly meeting, and that if you attend that meeting, you can see all you need to see to get an understanding of our community", speaks volumes about western Christianity.
It becomes quite obvious that western Christianity is very shallow when the primary focus is on a weekly "church service." It reveals an almost total lack of understanding concerning biblical community. That lack of understanding reveals the lack of biblical community. The church has little or nothing to offer to a world that is starving for true community.
Frost goes on to say that any "genuinely missional community operates at multiple levels and different times, as any organic, dynamic web of relationships would." He then poses these two questions: "Why can't we think of churching together as a web of relationships? Why are we obsessed with the singular event rather than seeking the rythm of a community churching together?"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Source of Life

In light of yesterday's post, using water as a metaphor of the church, I began to give some thought to the purpose of water. Though it has many uses, what is the very basic purpose of water?
One doesn't have to do any research to answer this question. Without water there would be no life. Water is indispensable.
It is obvious that water does not exist for itself. It exists totally for the sake of others, be it humans, animals or plants. It has meaning and purpose only in serving others.
We live in such a self-centered society that anyone who lives their life for others on a continual basis becomes a life-giving source in this culture of death. They draw people to themselves, not because they want attention, but simply because people are attracted to life. It is a natural occurance that cannot be avoided.
Jesus was the ultimate example. He was just being himself, living his life in behalf of others, and people were attracted to him like bees to honey.
The church, being created in Christ's image, has the same spiritual genes. If it simply functions as it is created to function, it, too, will attract people just like Jesus did. It no longer will have to try to attract people, they will be attracted by the Spirit of Jesus so evident in the church.
However, documented evidence reveals that the opposite is true. Instead of people being attracted to the church, more and more are repulsed by the church. Does this suggest that the church is functioning in the same self-centered manner as the rest of society? Has the western church become too much like water that has been collected in containers, just setting there, becoming stagnant, smelly, and mosquito infested? It is not flowing, moving in service to others, therefore becoming a source of sickness and disease instead of the life-giving source it's created to be.
The church, like water, carries life to this world. It will do that in the form of God-created rivers, fountains, lakes and seas, not stagnating in man-made containers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Simple Church

Mankind is notorious for complicating simple things. I believe this is what we have done with the church Christ is building. Pursuing the idea that the Builder of the church may intend it to be in a fluid state, what better analogy is there than water?
Every molecule of water consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. Very simple. So the formula of the basic structure of water is H2O. Nothing can be added to make it "more water" than what it already is. Though we have greater and lesser quantities of water, it all is the same simple structure, H2O.
Could it be that Jesus gave us the simplest and the most fluid structure of the church when he said, "Where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst" - Matthew 18:20. Two or three gathered people, plus Jesus gives us church. There is a condition, however. The gathering is in Jesus' name. I don't subscribe to the idea that anytime two believers are together they are "having church." The "in my name" phrase indicates the purpose for which they gather, which is Jesus, not a movie, not a ballgame, not shopping, etc., but Jesus. (There is much more significance to that phrase, but that's for another time).
Isn't the presence of Jesus in our midst what it's all about? So what more can we ask? He's the way, the truth(reality) and the life. As the Scriptures proclaim, he's the fullness of God. So we agree with Moses when he said, "We ain't goin' anywhere without you"(paraphrased).
Have we muddied up the waters with all the things we've thrown into the mix, thinking they contribute to making us a church? I wonder if all that we've added has only contributed to distorting the church and obscuring Jesus.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Liquid Church

Pete Ward has written a book titled Liquid Church. Though I haven't read it, the metaphor fascinates me. It suggests a huge paradigm shift in our thinking about the church.
Traditionally, the church has been thought of in solid forms, with buildings being the most common. Have we missed, however, the foundational function of liquid in the formation and growth of the church?
Consider: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" - John 3:5.
"He who believes in me, as the Scriptures said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.' " - John 7:38.
These two statements of Jesus are just a tiny example of the many, many references in Scripture using water as a metaphor for the life and activity of God's people. By not recognizing the fluidity that God apparently intends his church to function in, have we locked ourselves into such a static and solid form that is so rigid that the smallest of movements causes a shaking and breaking?
Water, on the other hand, is free flowing, able to go around, over, under and through obstacles that confront it. Able to seep through the tightest cracks and smallest of openings, water can begin to saturate and fill up the most unlikely places. Not only is it a source of power, but most importantly, it provides life wherever it goes.
So much is being written today about church structure, recognizing that what is currently in existence is not working. Could our problem be that we're thinking solid structures, not liquid structures? Unlike the solid structured church, the church that is a liquid structure is free to flow with the wind-like movement of the Holy Spirit.
While I'm not suggesting that the church is the water spoken of by Jesus in the above mentioned Scriptures, I am suggesting that the time has arrived to make a radical change from solid to liquid structure for the church.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Yesterday Joan and I were at a wedding that was far different from any we have ever participated in.
To begin with, it was on a small, uninhabited island in the middle of a river with the only access being by boat. Being that everything was outdoors, most everyone was dressed casual, very casual. The whole bridal party was all barefoot, with the groom and his groomsmen dressed in shorts, sleeveless vests and white bow ties. The bride and her attendants were dressed more traditional. The party was happening before the ceremony even started and picked up again after the ceremony ended.
The guests ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other. There were conservative Mennonites and Seventh Day Adventists along with a free-wheeling, beer guzzling crowd plus all those between the two extremes. Everyone enjoyed themselves.
I was reminded of Jesus and how he loved parties like this, with everyone imaginable. He showed no partiality, equally comfortable with the wild partyers as well as the more conservative religious.
If we are being conformed to the image of Christ, than we, his church, should be coming into greater freedom and ability to associate with whoever God brings across our paths. As we allow him to live his life through us, I believe we'll get the same response as Jesus did in the days of his flesh. People, especially sinners, loved being with him, along with those who were truly seeking to walk in loving obedience with God. As we are fully submitted to let him live his life through us, people will be drawn to us, not realizing that it's Jesus in us that they are really drawn to.

Friday, August 11, 2006

In his book, Exiles, Michael Frost quotes Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "If you want to build a ship, don't summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs and organise the work; teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean."
Frost then makes this observation: "In the West, the mainstream church is too focused on motivating its members to embrace the technicalities of shipbuilding without ever having first inspired them with a yearning to sail the high seas."
The first, shipbuilding, is mechanics. The yearning for the high seas, however, is a vision of passion that has been instilled deep within from hearing the voice of God. For these, shipbuilding is merely a means to an end, but the western church as made shipbuilding the end in and of itself.
Increasingly, more and more are leaving the shipbuilders union, tired of expending their efforts on vessels that are landlocked. Though they may not all know what to do, they know that there is something deep within that is calling them to the open sea. Setting their face into the wind, they are beginning to discover what they have been created for, the exhilerating freedom, and yes, the danger of the high seas. But this is where Jesus is walking, issuing the challenge to come and follow him.

Friday, August 04, 2006

For several months I've been wrestling with starting a new blog in place of the present one, On to the Kingdom. This is the culmination of a day of frustration with my server. Unable to get into my blog to post anything, I came to the conclusion that now was the time to initiate the new blog. So here it is. It isn't yet in its completed state, but I'll be working on it in the coming days.

I'm in the midst of reading Michael Frost's book, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture. There are some excellent reviews on the book, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel. However, I will be referring to it.
His premise is that the true followers of Jesus are exiles, because he was the ultimate exile. He allowed himself to be exiled on planet earth. "And like all good and faithful exiles, he enters fully into life in this host empire without giving himself over to it completely." Like the Jews that were exiled in Babylon, so we are exiles in a foreign empire. Frost refers to "Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, who finds many parallels between the contemporary Christian experience of dislocation, uncertainty, and irrelevance and the experience of the Old Testament Jewish exiles in Babylon." However, the encouraging news appears in the subtitle of the first chapter, "God will rescue the exiled people."

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?