Category Archives: Simple/Organic Church

The results are in – people prefer short sermons followed by discussion.

To me this is ideal! What do you think?

Posted on January 18, 2014 at Church in a Circle

This week, I conducted some research on Twitter. I asked which people would prefer; short sermons with the opportunity for discussion, or long sermons without. The results of my poll were resoundingly conclusive – 100% of respondents would like to have short sermons or even long ones followed by the chance to respond and explore the topic together.

Now, I’m not going to pretend these are statistically significant results. This was a small sample group, and a very biased one. But I still think this is a simple and easy-to-implement strategy most pastors and churches can take on board, with the potential to equip and empower God’s people.

Next time you are preparing a sermon, think about stripping it back to the essential points, then letting people break into groups of 4 or so to discuss what they have learned. They could answer questions such as;

What stands out to you?

What did you learn about God?

About people?

Any life-lessons to apply?

How do you plan to apply them?

How can we pray for one another?

The advantages to this approach are huge. You are training God’s people to have spiritual conversations. You can give them the tools they need to think for themselves, and to communicate their knowledge to others. You are sending the message that the church is an equal laity under the headship of Christ, not artificially divided into “professionals” and “consumers”. You are giving them a chance to respond to God’s Word and message, and to teach one another.

However – please take note – this suggestion comes with the following warnings;

WARNING 1: Once people get used to participating and having a voice, they’re not going back. They will find it difficult to sit passively through lengthy monologues, once they realise they can be actively involved.

WARNING 2: Some people won’t like this. They think the current format for church is the way it has always been. They don’t realise the early church meetings were interactive, multi-voiced and participatory.

WARNING 3: Dialogue is an open floor, not a pop-quiz. People are allowed to give any answer at all. Pastors may have to go through a period of “unlearning” – instead of having all the answers, they have to learn to shut up and listen. Get used to a whole new way of thinking as you move away from performance towards facilitation and empowerment.

Don’t rely on the results of my not-very-reliable research – conduct a poll of your own. Ask your congregation whether they would prefer a 40 minute lecture next Sunday, or a 10-15 minute presentation followed by a chance to explore and discuss it together. Your ego may take a bruising if they tell you to shorten your sermons – but it could be the start of a new journey for you and your church community.

Read more great articles via Church in a Circle.

The Myth of Christian Leadership

On July 17, 2012 Frank Viola wrote a post entitled ‘The Myth of Christian Leadership‘, which I just re-read, that is both quite enlightening and definitely challenging.

In it he states,

“I believe that the New Testament envisions all Christians as leaders in their own sphere of ministry and gifting.”

“……according to the New Testament, there is no clergy/laity distinction. Instead, all Christians are kleros (clergy) and all Christians are laos (laity).”

“The clergy/laity dichotomy is a tragic fault line that runs throughout the history of Christendom. Yet despite the fact that multitudes have taken the low road of dogmatism to defend it, this dichotomy is without biblical warrant.”

As I read it again, along with the scriptures, I realized that I must agree with his findings.

I have always believed we as ‘followers‘ of Christ are also ‘ministers‘ of Christ. The idea of the clergy/laity caste system has been something I’ve struggled with even as a pastor. It is a chasm that should not be, especially when I read these verses of scripture,

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)

“But you must not be called ‘Teacher.’ You are all equal as brothers and sisters. You have only one Teacher. And don’t call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ You have one Father. He is in heaven. And you should not be called ‘Master.’ You have only one Master, the Messiah. Whoever serves you like a servant is the greatest among you. People who think they are better than others will be made humble. But people who humble themselves will be made great.
(Matthew 23:8-12 ERV)

So, in light of what I have written here, I encourage you to read Frank’s entire post The Myth of Christian Leadership and perhaps come back and share your thoughts no matter whether pro or con.

For extra reading check these too.

Christ is our Leader

Gatherings in the Early Church

I Don’t Like Servant Leadership

ReImagining Church

Spiritual Authority: Should We Claim It Over One Another

Hidden In Plain Sight | House2House Blog

This post is re-blogged  from House2House. As I read, it the scripture from Matthew 6 came to me also in regards to our Father taking care of us.

Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds? Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith? Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.
(Matthew 6:26-34)

Hidden In Plain Sight Posted on September 15, 2013 by Ken

As Tony walked up the hill to his cabin he saw a bunny. Tony hadn’t noticed the bunny until he was just a foot or two away from it. But now, startled, it ran off. Why didn’t Tony notice the bunny? Maybe because of the beauty of the woods surrounding the camp. Maybe he was lost in his thoughts. But he was surprised that he hadn’t seen it until it bounced away.

At that moment he heard God reminding him that often the answer is hidden in plain sight.

Last week at the house church that I attend we read Matthew 7:9-11. Jesus said, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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 good gifts to those who ask him!”

Later we were talking about some of the complexities that we were facing. One woman Let’s call her Lucy talked about being financially unstable for the first time in years. She even had to sell her car to meet her needs. She added that being in this position made her feel alone and vulnerable. The fear in her voice made it clear that she was having a hard time trusting God. I thought it was ironic that so many people mentioned prayer requests that dealt with the lack of jobs or job interviews. I have to admit that I have had my share of doubt lately when it comes to how God would provide.

But the answer was clear. We had just talked about it. If we need a fish, will God give us a snake? No. God wants to give us good gifts. Even though things were tight now for Lucy, God would not forsake her. He promised it and told her on the very night that she needed to hear it, but she missed it. It was hidden in plain sight.

That’s when I told the group about Tony and the bunny. Tony had used that story to encourage me just a few days earlier. I’m telling you now in hopes that it will encourage you.  Sometimes we need to slow down and look at how God has been providing for us even through the difficult times; how he’s been answering our questions; or how he’s trying to give us the patience to wait. Sometimes it takes a brother or sister in Christ to help us see what is hidden in plain sight.

Read more great articles via House2House Blog.

Words!

I read a challenging article today on Ann Voskamp’s blog that reminded me of the song ‘Words’ by the group Hawk Nelson‘. In her piece she wrote,

“Whoever said sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you? Was dead wrong. Ask a bearded guy from Louisiana or a tweeting PR exec en route to Africa to comment on that. Don’t ever forget it, kids: There is nothing more explosive than words. Words are nitroglycerin. Words can literally ignite a heart, detonate like a global bomb — or explode in your face.” Go ahead and check out the entire article here…. A Holy Experience

Yes, there are too many times we say things without thinking, things we regret. We say hurtful words, both intentional and unintentional, that can never be retrieved and, quite often to the people closest to us, to the ones we love.

Why do we do this? I think simply, for the most part, [in our sub-conscience] we feel we can get away with it and feel we shouldn’t need to be careful around them. However, if we truly love and cherish our family and friends then we will guard our tongues. Scripture tells us in James,

The tongue is like a fire. It is a world of evil among the parts of our body. It spreads its evil through our whole body and starts a fire that influences all of life. It gets this fire from hell. Humans have control over every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish, and they have controlled all these things. But no one can control the tongue. It is wild and evil, full of deadly poison. We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people who were created in God’s likeness. These praises and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen.
(James 3:6-10)

I hope and pray this will touch all of our hearts and cause us to really “think before we speak”.

Here is the song I mentioned. I hope you listen, watch, and apply the message it gives us.

Why I’m Not Always Positive and Encouraging

Another great essay from Chip Brogden over at ‘The School of Christ‘. When I read the article it resonated with me. Why? Simply because Chip has put into print what I have thought through the recent years. I hope you take a few moments to read the entire piece and be challenged in your spirit too.

Will a steady diet of positive and encouraging words cause me to see myself as I am, or will it seduce me into thinking I’m better than I really am? Do I wish to be entertained into spiritual dullness or challenged into spiritual maturity?

At first blush there would appear to be nothing wrong with something labeled “positive and encouraging.” Three Christian radio stations service my area, and all three of them make the same claim: that they offer positive and encouraging programming for the whole family. The appeal is obvious: no one wants to spend a lot of time dwelling on things that are negative and discouraging.

But I have discovered a flaw in this positive and encouraging, family-friendly environment that should be addressed. This desire to provide people with a positive and encouraging experience whether it is by radio or by television or by church service or by website creates an unrealistic expectation in the hearts and minds of the audience and congregation who have come to rely on “the ministry” to keep them properly fed. Content is judged not according to Truth, but according to how I feel about it. Do I feel good, positive, encouraged, uplifted, and happy afterwards? If so then all is well. Or is it?

We must seriously question things that pass themselves off as “ministry”. It is clear that the practice of “ministry” – whether it comes in the form of a sermon or a song – is becoming synonymous with “Christian Entertainment.” It is not so much what they say as what they fail to say. The most glaring omission in this positive and encouraging Christian sub-culture is meaningful reference and teaching along the lines of taking up the cross and denying self, and I would suggest this one thing sums up most of what is lacking in Churchianity today.

Finish reading via Why I’m Not Always Positive and Encouraging.