Monday, April 11, 2016

A Kingdom Outpost: More Than A Meeting

There have been many “Aha” moments in my life where a realization hits that changes everything.  A few years ago I had one such epiphany. Prior to this moment I had given my life to starting churches that multiplied.
I heard the Lord say to me, “So if you get hundreds of thousands of people meeting together in homes all over the world do you think that will be enough to change the world?” 
It wasn’t that starting churches was a bad idea, I am still investing in that. But there is more, much more, to be done beyond a meeting. The church is meant to work together, not just worship together––in fact working together is worshiping together.
Since then I have been a part of starting more than churches, but missional kingdom outposts. Yes, these are indeed churches of a sort, but meeting in regularly scheduled bible studies is not the aim, and often isn’t even what happens. 
Is a regularly scheduled meeting a good thing? Of course it can be. The meeting, however, does not make a church, any more than a regularly scheduled meeting is what makes your family a family. Can a church exist without a scheduled meeting? Yes it can. 
There are no sermons, Sunday schools or “services,” in these kingdom outposts, yet the Scriptures are the foundation to all they do. People live and work in community, not just sing songs and pass the plate. There are no offerings taken, but there is tremendous generosity. The people of these works share their lives together. They are giving so much more than their time and ten percent of their treasure to the kingdom work. These people are giving up their whole being––their sweat, provision, vocation and sense of purpose and identity––all to Jesus.
I would measure the disciples coming out of these outposts against any coming from traditional church forms. I’m not being boastful, just honest. I have spent time with some followers of Christ from this movement and they are not like the typical churchgoer. As my friend and associate Dezi Baker says, "they are different enough to make a difference."
I realized a while ago that you can’t produce a world changing disciple with a one hour service on Sundays and a midweek hour of bible study. The deluded idea that this is how we do our spiritual work is both vast and void. Disciples are made in the hard work of real life––in the marketplace, not a meeting place. Our impact should be felt in the populace not just in the pews. We should measure our influence out on the streets not in the seats.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A New Trend in the Kingdom of God

I have the privilege of traveling around the world equipping people to release Jesus movements. I see first hand what God is doing globally.
One trend I am seeing everywhere is the planting of new works that may be church (in a broader definition) but are so much more than a local church according to our common understanding. For lack of a better language I refer to them as kingdom outposts. These outposts share a few common characteristics:
·      They create micro businesses that employ people that are becoming kingdom agents in the world and provide a needed product for the neighborhood.
·      They involve providing a localized spiritual family in sustainable community (often living in close proximity, together under a single roof or on a shared property). For these people, church has become so much more than a once a week event.
·      They often practice sustainable farming (even in urban settings) to provide for the spiritual family and often the neighborhood as well.
·      They often do volunteer work to clean up neighborhoods and serve the community in tangible and often thankless ways. Painting buildings, building or fixing homes, planting trees, picking up trash, feeding the homeless are things that are a part of the regular rhythm in these outposts.
·      They often work closely with very marginalized people in their neighborhood and provide a path toward self-sufficient living and kingdom fruitfulness.
·      They are able to change rapidly and start new things whenever the opportunity presents itself.
·      They are beginning to find each other and network on a global scale...which is exciting.
There are multiple reasons for these shifts. Here are a few:
·      Reliance on tax-free donations is tenuous in a future that is rapidly becoming hostile to Christianity and many well-established ministries will discover this in an abrupt and sobering moment.
·      The artificial separations of secular and sacred as well as clergy and laity are being dissolved. The result will be a global impact of God’s people that are no longer segregated from the world.
·      Sustainable, local and green enterprise is not just a fad; this is a strong movement that provides a kingdom opportunity to serve our world and its inhabitants in a responsible way.
·      Disciple-making on the job and on the streets is far more effective than two one hour meetings a week at a church building.
·      Providing jobs, raising entrepreneurs and equipping people to prosper in this rapidly changing world is a necessity.
I am actively involved with one such kingdom outpost in Los Angeles, CA. Here we have launched a few micro businesses as well as a sober living home and a twelve-step recovery meeting. In the coming weeks I will post information about some of these incredible works and tell some of the stories of people who have changed the entire direction of their lives for Jesus. You will be encouraged and challenged.