Sabtu, 19 Januari 2008

One To One Spiritual Mentoring

The Family Tree:
One-to-One Spiritual Mentoring
Rad Zdero © November 2000
The Need for Spiritual Mentors
As we look around us and absorb the entire spiritual landscape of this crazy planet, we’ll notice that Jesus is on the move through his people. The church is growing numerically in leaps and bounds worldwide. There is some good stuff going on and much to be thankful for.
If we take a closer look, however, there is something missing, something that there is a lack of and yet a desperate need for; there is a cry in the body of Christ for spiritual mothers and fathers, also called mentors or coaches, who take deliberate personal interest in individuals and help them grow.
If we turn to the world of sports, many accomplished athletes have personal trainers, whether they compete in individual or team sports. In the academic realm, those pursuing Master’s or Doctoral degrees each have their own supervisor who encourages and guides them in their research. Even families of one or two parents give personal attention and care to their few children, until these kids grow to adulthood and are then able to become parents themselves. Yet, in the Christian community, we have somehow contented ourselves to huddle in large groups, perhaps even in small groups, but have lost the power of one-on-one, feeling perhaps that it’s unnecessary at worst or necessary but impractical at best.
Biblical Examples
How did we get here? I think the answer is that we’ve forgotten the basic Biblical examples of those who went before us. There are numerous examples from scripture of personalized spiritual training, but let's briefly look at two, that of Paul and Peter.
For instance, Paul the great traveling apostle founded numerous Christian communities in the Mediterranean world of the first century, and his personal letters to churches comprise about half the New Testament. But, he didn't start off to be a spiritual "superstar". In the early days after his awakening to Christ, he was befriended and mentored by Barnabas, a fellow who had been around the block a few times spiritually (Acts 9:22-27 and 11:22-26).
Paul was quick to catch on, though, and soon was investing in the lives of other individuals like Timothy, Titus and Silas, in the context of the daily ebb and flow of life and ministry (1 Cor 4:14-17; 1 Thes 1:1; Titus 1:4). Notice that Paul was always thinking two or three generations down the line, well aware of the impact he could make not only on Timothy, but on those whom Timothy had a chance to apprentice (2 Tim 2:2).
Similarly Peter, the big fisherman from Galilee with a loud mouth and bad temper, was coached by Jesus himself. They fished and prayed together, walked the desert roads side by side, worshiped in the Temple, ate and drank, and slept and talked, together. After several years of investment by Jesus, Peter would be ready to take on the mantle of leadership for the fledgling Christian community (John 21:15-17), which would soon burst out of Jerusalem under the power of God’s lead.
My Personal Experience
“Well”, you might be thinking, “that was then, this is now. That’s all about that ancient stuff. Sounds good though, but what does this have to do with me? Does that kind of stuff actually go on today?” As far as I've got the exact story straight, back in the 1940s Dawson Trotman, founder of the Christian organization called The Navigators, discipled Waldron Scott, who in turn did the same for Leroy Eims, who then mentored a businessman named Bob. Bob then spiritually coached Tom, who mentored Don, the Navigator staff at the university I attended. Dawson Trotman, however, also used to get together on Saturdays with Bill Bright, the founder of the well-known Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), in order to pass onto him the basics of how to disciple someone.
Now, this is where the rubber hits the road for me personally because a fellow named Dave, whom I met in the first week of my first year of university, was staff with CCC. From that point on for the next 2 years, he and I would get together regularly and frequently to pray, talk, play video games, eat lunch, and study the Bible in the context of campus life and my involvement with the CCC student group.
Then after CCC pulled off the campus, Dave encouraged me to throw in my lot with the Navigator student group. Well, I did. And for the next four years, the Nav staff there named Don (mentioned earlier) took a personal interest in me the same way Dave had earlier. Eventually, I came on as associate campus staff with the Navs and was further mentored at key points in my life by an older and wiser Nav staff named Jeremy. While on staff, I had the opportunity and privilege to spiritually coach a few students one-on-one. One of these students in particular is deliberately carrying on the process by mentoring some highschool kids one-on-one and seeing change take place in their lives. Since leaving staff, I have continued to mentor a number of other people who have caught a passion for discipleship chains.
I didn’t know Dawson Trotman and he didn’t know me, but because of his willingness 50 years ago to be available to God and to invest his energy into a few individuals, my life has been significantly touched by my personal spiritual mentors, Dave, Don, and Jeremy. To them and to the God who worked through them, I’m very grateful.
Some Practical Tips
As we proceed in discipling someone or being discipled by someone a bit further along, there are a couple of helpful tools or tips to keep handy.
First off, choosing who we should invest in is an important decision. Spiritual coaches are needed for:
those on the threshold of faith who need help working through final barriers, whether they be intellectual or emotional
new Christians who need to be grounded in the basics of prayer, scripture, lifestyle choices and trusting God
growing Christians to be matured and challenged to discover their gifts and start applying them to help the body of Christ
believers who are actively trying to share their faith or are in the process of mentoring a younger believer
those in pain or crisis who need support, whether that means just being there to listen, pray, comfort, etc.
emerging leaders to develop in their ability, confidence, and vision to lead
Second, the goals and expectations of the process will vary depending on the people involved and the understanding set out by the mentor and mentoree. It may just be about growth in one area, such as Bible study or a ministry skill. For instance, a friend and I used to meet weekly over a period of a year and a half. We focused specifically on keeping each other accountable for evangelism among our friends. We would pray for specific people and talk about how it was going with these friends one week. On alternate weeks we would be reading through some helpful articles and looking at related scriptures. In most cases, though, the friendship may naturally develop a more holistic tone in which marriage, finances, family, sexuality, culture, career, academics, etc, are addressed. We should not be afraid to share our own struggles and victories in these areas. This will keep it real.
Third, how often and for how long you get together needs to be clear so that the two extremes of burnout and losing touch be avoided. I like to make a weekly time with someone one-on-one for at least an hour or two. In a previous coaching role, I got together with a friend, who was a new believer, every Friday night for dinner, a movie, talk time, and some prayer, over a 9 month period. This usually was an entire evening out. It was both relaxing and invigorating for both of us.
Fourth, know that we will reproduce after our own kind, whether we like it or not. It is important to model things as much as it is to teach because, as someone once said, "more is caught than is formally taught". This is about life-on-life ministry. If we are weak in prayer, then it may not come as a surprise that the person we're helping along will develop the same habits. If we are strong in one area, such as evangelism, then it's likely they will develop the same spiritual muscles. I am not implying here that the person we are coaching has no mind or personality of their own and that they will simply mimic what they see in us. This may not be the case for growing or mature believers, but it is likely with new Christians.
Fifth, the duration of the mentoring relationship is not necessarily meant to be a lifetime commitment. It may be intense with frequent contact only for a season, such as a school year or two in connecting with students in a campus setting. Because the purpose of this process is to nurture and release the person into ministry and life, rather than control and keep, circumstances such as graduation or a geographic move mean that contact will become occasional. Recognize that the relationship needs to change as circumstances do. This is normal and healthy. It may be appropriate at times that the spiritual "coach" and "athlete" discuss the boundaries and expectations of the relationship to ensure it stays healthy.
Lastly, only same-gender mentoring is recommended, unless unusual circumstances exist or there are extremely clear boundaries and safeguards, because of the potential danger of a mentoring bond developing into an inappropriate romantic one.
The Challenge
This all sounds pretty intimidating to be sure. Where do we start if we want to get involved in this kind of process? Don’t we need qualifications or training or experience? Don’t we all need mentors ourselves before we can even presume to help someone else along? Yes, all these things are good and helpful, no doubt, and should be strongly encouraged. But, it doesn’t take a spiritual guru to touch the life of just one person. If we know how to be a good friend, then that’s a great starting point. It only takes regular folk like you and me to grow in our passion for Christ and make ourselves available to God and one other person.
This isn’t to be a mechanical or technocratic exercise. People are not projects. Rather, let us take the apostle Paul’s example who said to his spiritual children: “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (I Thes 2:7-8).
In the end, if we take to heart the Biblical mandate for spiritual mentoring, the example of those who went before us, and what Dawson Trotman once asked, “Where is your man? Where is your woman?”, then let’s be prepared to watch our spiritual offspring grow into a family tree beyond our wildest dreams.
Suggested Resources
Coleman, Robert, et al. (1994). Disciple Making: Training Leaders to Make Disciples, online self-study course at
Eims, Leroy (1978). The Lost Art of Disciplemaking, Zondervan,.
Gumbel, Nicky (1993). Questions of Life: A Practical Introduction to the Christian Faith, Cook Ministry Resources.
Henrichsen, W. (1988). Disciples are Made-Not Born, Chariot Victor Books.
Hull, B. (1984). Jesus Christ Disciple-Maker, NavPress.
Kreider, Larry (2000). The Cry for Spiritual Fathers and Mothers, House to House Publications.
Petersen, Jim (1993). Lifestyle Discipleship, NavPress.
Sanny, Lorne. Making the Investment of Your Life, (4 audio cassettes), NavPress.
Stanley PD and JR Clinton. (1992). Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed, NavPress.
Zdero, Rad (2004), The Global House Church Movement, William Carey Library,
About the Author
Rad Zdero, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. He is part of ‘HouseChurch.Ca’, a team intent on birthing a network of house churches in the greater Toronto area. He is also the author of The Global House Church Movement, available from William Carey Library, Contact,, 905-820-8846, Mail: Box 42067, 128 Queen St. South, Mississauga, ON, Canada, L5M-4Z0.

Kamis, 17 Januari 2008


No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper and every tongue, which rises against us in judgement, we do condemn. This is our heritage as servants of the Lord and our righteousness is from you, O Lord of hosts. If there are those who have been speaking or praying against us, or seeking harm or evil to us, or who have rejected us, we love them. We bless them in the name of the Lord. We release them into your hands and we are ready to forgive them.
Now we declare, O Lord, that You and You alone are our God, and besides You there is no other -a just God and a Saviour, the Father, the Son and the Spirit - and we worship You!
We submit ourselves afresh to you this day in unreserved obedience. Having submitted to you, Lord, we do as Your Word directs. We resist the devil: all his pressures, his attacks, and his deceptions, every instrument or agent he would seek to use against us. We do not submit! We resist him, drive him from us and exclude him from us in the name of Jesus. Specifically, we reject and repel:
Infirmity, pain, infection, inflammation, malignancies, allergies, viruses and every form of witchcraft.
Finally, Lord, we thank you that through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; we have passed out from under the curse and entered into the blessings of Abraham whom you blessed in all things:
Exaltation, health, reproductiveness, prosperity, victory and God’s favour. Amen.
Matthew 5:43-45, Romans 12:14, Galatians 3:13-14, Genesis 24:1

Senin, 14 Januari 2008


Reaching our Cities with House Churches
Rad Zdero
Copyright © April 2002
The Purpose
This is an open letter to all individuals, local churches, denominations, and mission organizations in the Body of Christ who consider themselves ‘Great Commission’ Christians, that is, believers who take seriously the Lord’s directive to make disciples of all nations1. The motivation for those of us who consider ourselves such is that as many people as possible in our cities will have a chance to hear about, receive, and experience the awesome person of Christ in the context of a local community of believers.
What follows is a proposal that offers a practical way forward in saturating neighbourhoods with the good news of Jesus in a long-term, sustainable, and natural way. Specifically, to accomplish this, it is proposed that a vast network of house churches and cell groups be planted and multiplied consciously and strategically in every neighbourhood, apartment complex, institution, and commercial setting.
The Vision
The Nature of the Church. Picture if you will, spread out all over the city, mostly in homes, but also in offices, coffee shops, apartments, meeting rooms on the local university campus, small group huddles of 10-30 people committed to getting to know each other and God. They are called ‘house churches’. They gather to explore issues of faith, family, the media, culture, suffering, relationships, career, and social action. They may be working on projects, looking at the Bible, praying, crying, and playing. They have discovered that the secret of life is to love God and others and to connect with and become more like Christ. These folks simply want to rediscover the power and person of Jesus in community, as his early followers did. No buildings, expensive programs, highly polished worship services, or professional pastors are required.
The Mandate of the Church. So powerful has their experience of relationship with each other and Jesus been, that many neighbours, co-workers, family members, and friends, who may not even believe in God and may be suspicious of ‘church’, are chomping at the bit to get in on the action. These groups continually grow and become so big that they multiply themselves into new groups that are strategically placed in new neighbourhoods, commercial and business settings, and educational institutes. These ‘house churches’ are not led or hosted by traditional clergy but by average folks, called ‘elders’, who have a deepening love for Christ and other people. The few high profile leaders with ‘apostolic’ calling do not seek to exercise control or power over these groups, but rather wish to empower them with training, resources, and prayers, emphasizing a few essentials rather than a long list of requirements.
The Boundary of the Church. To network together, these house churches meet house-to-house, organize dynamic citywide large group events for teaching and worship, and/or have a select group of mobile teachers that circulate from group to group like blood through veins. In addition, leaders of these groups from across the city and across denominational and organizational lines meet several times each year. They pray, exchange resources, and coordinate their efforts to strategically plant new groups in unreached segments of their city.
The Expansion of the Church. As people are released to follow their calling to start new groups, without even knowing it, they are swept up into a movement, their movement, God’s movement, which will touch many generations to come. This is part of an emerging reformation in their generation, an underground revolution of faith that will transform their city and blaze across their region, their nation, and the uttermost parts of the earth. God is asking us to be a part of his restoration work, his divine revolution, in the world today. Are you up for it?
If this vision excites you, dear reader, please read on. Before we examine the steps of getting to where we could be, let’s take a look at where we are, particularly in North America.
The Current Situation
The Current Strategy
The contemporary strategy in North America and in much of the West to reach and disciple those without Christ, has primarily been the use of one of three approaches: large-scale evangelism, church growth, and/or church planting.
Large-scale Evangelism refers to the work of ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which travel from city to city to hold meetings in partnership with local churches. Local church volunteers are trained in techniques to effectively follow-up people who indicate a decision for Christ and incorporate them into local churches, neighbourhood discipleship groups, or one-on-one mentoring relationships. Similarly, television and radio ministries that have national or international attention, such as 100 Huntley Street and Trans World Radio, provide some form of Bible study resources and addresses of local churches to assist new and growing converts. It has even been reported that Trans World Radio has been instrumental in starting 20,000 ‘radio churches’ over a 2-year period in China2.
Church Growth refers to initiatives designed to increase both the qualitative experience of Christians belonging to a local church and the quantitative numerical growth of adherents to that local body. Qualitative approaches include Natural Church Development (Christian Schwartz), a well-known program that focuses on increasing the overall health of a local church by self-evaluation and utilizing strengths to offset weaknesses. Quantitative outreach strategies include neighbourhood distribution of the Jesus video (Campus Crusade for Christ), Evangelism Explosion (D. James Kennedy), the Alpha video series (Nicky Gumbel), the use of the small group meta-model popularized by Willow Creek Community Church (Bill Hybels), and the large scale men’s movement Promise Keepers (Bill McCartney). As well, in North America, an increasingly common appeal3 has been made to restructuring local program-based churches to the two winged cell-celebration approach of the so-called ‘cell-church’ model. This model has seen explosive harvest growth all over the planet4.
Church Planting refers to the start-up of new local congregations either from scratch by denominational catalytic church planters and/or by mother churches spawning daughter churches by sending a team of committed members to start the new project. These churches may start off in a house or a storefront, but the goal is eventually to amass numbers to necessitate the rental of a facility or the purchase of a building. One of the most successful denominations in this regard has been the Southern Baptist Convention, which currently plants 1500 new churches each year5.
All these efforts will undoubtedly continue and need to be applauded and encouraged because of the harvest that has and is being reaped through them by the Lord of the harvest. I believe God will continue to affirm any efforts to get back to biblical faith and practise.
The Current Results
Taking a closer look though, our situation in North America seems far from rosy despite the enthusiastic and seemingly widespread implementation of the above three strategies. What has the outcome been?
A recent survey of religious life in the U.S. reveals that during the typical week in the life of an American adult, 41% attend church, 36% read the Bible, and 18% attend a small group or cell group meeting6. However, only 8% of Americans can be considered ‘evangelical’ Christians, meaning they believe the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches, that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth, that they have a responsibility to share their faith with non-Christians, that eternal life is gained because of a grace based relationship with Jesus Christ rather than from ‘good works’, and that God is the all-knowing all-powerful creator of the universe7.
For those of us who know about the explosive growth8 of the church in almost every other part of the world, these seem meagre outcomes for the amount of time, effort, and money that’s been expended.
The Current Problem
A number of factors have brought us to this point. Materialism, secularism, pluralism, and relativism have seeped into the soil of our society and the church. Others have suggested that we are only temporarily in the low end of a continual sociological cycle of religious apathy and religious revival experienced in all societies. Some have interpreted the Scriptures such that we are seeing the beginning of a great apostasy from the Christian faith as a sign of the last days before Christ’s return9. Additional factors10-11 recognized by many, and the focus of this paper, are the twin problems of form and function.
By form is meant the way churches are organized locally using a ‘cathedral’ model, which is based on the three myths of a special man running a special service in a special building. These are elements that many have come to see as indispensable for the church to function properly. Now, none of these things in and of themselves are evil or wrong, but they can hinder the Body of Christ from functioning as effectively and Biblically as it could. Why? Pragmatically, the identification of ‘church’ with particular activities, places, and people can easily prevent believers from ever really becoming a part of the fabric of the city’s neighbourhoods to be a rubber-meets-the-road influence. Biblically, gatherings in the typical New Testament house church12 were Spirit-led, open, interactive, and participatory13, being much different than today’s highly programmed Sunday morning services in buildings. Moreover, first century homes could accommodate at most 35 people at one time14, thereby nurturing an up-close-and-personal atmosphere.
By function is meant the church’s enactment of the Great Commission as ‘join us’ rather than ‘go to’. Because the form of many local churches is a very centralized ‘cathedral’ model, a sort of ‘temple mentality’ develops. As such, the natural consequence is that a church begins to function evangelistically with a ‘suck in’ rather than a ‘reach out’ attitude, i.e. ‘come join our local church’ rather than ‘go make disciples in the highways and byways’. This, once again, deters believers from getting into the rhythm of life in a given neighbourhood or other context as insiders and influencers for Christ. A far deeper impact on a city could be made if increased numbers of small house churches were proliferated to geographically saturate a city (‘horizontal growth’), rather than making existing congregations larger in fewer geographic locations (‘vertical growth’). This would be like sprinkling salt crystals all over a meal, rather than placing a few large blocks of salt on just a few spots. Which method would make the food taste better?
The dilemma is not that we as the Body of Christ are doing nothing and that God is not in it, it is rather that we could be even more effective and fruitful and don’t even realize it. Even if we did realize it and knew what to do, would we have enough courage to rethink our view and approach to ‘church’ and do what it would take to reach our cities? A humorous, but true, definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. This applies all too well to our current situation. But, I believe, there is indeed a sensible and Biblical way forward. This requires a paradigm shift in our thinking.
The Way Forward: A Proposal
A picture of what could be was described earlier in ‘The Vision’. There are three practical steps necessary to see the picture emerge, namely (a) looking for local ‘men of peace’, (b) training workers, and (c) transitioning existing ‘cathedral’ church structures.
(a) Wanted: ‘Men of Peace’
Biblical Pattern
A man or woman of peace is a local person who welcomes a mobile ambassador of Christ into their home and receives the message they bring. They then serve as a local spiritual lighthouse within their community. Let’s look at the examples of Jesus, Peter, and Paul from Scripture to see what patterns emerge in seeking out people of peace.
It is reported that Jesus sent out a group of his disciples to travel and preach from village to village. He gave very detailed instructions for the mission, which are worth quoting in full:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ ” 15
A look at the New Testament reveals that Jesus followed his own advice by traveling from town to town16, staying and eating with those who were receptive to him17, instructing some people to stay as ‘local’ fixtures in their community18, while on occasion calling certain individuals to follow him and become ‘mobile’ workers as he and his twelve disciples were19.
Later, the apostles could do no better than to imitate their Master. Peter received a vision to visit Cornelius20, an influential Roman officer who had been seeking after God but had yet to hear the message about Jesus. By the time Peter and his companions had arrived, Cornelius had invited a houseful of friends and relatives to hear what the apostle and companions had to stay. The message about Christ was eagerly received by all those gathered as evidenced by their baptism by God’s Spirit and in water. On another occasion Paul and his team visited a riverside21, knowing people gathered there to pray. They engaged a group of women in conversation about Christ, after which they were invited home. The entire household was baptized. Moreover, Paul’s team also had the habit of appointing local elders for the church in each town, while the apostolic team continued to travel22.
Several interesting strands emerge from these examples. First, Jesus and the apostles organized themselves into teams, most likely for the sake of mutual accountability and support. Second, they were to rely on God to meet their physical needs while they stayed focused on the task of looking for a house of peace. Third, if they found such a person, they were to enjoy the hospitality of their host and see this as God’s provision for them. Fourth, they were to stay in that home and build a base of operations there. This ‘house of peace’ would act as the spiritual outpost within that particular town or village. Fifth, Jesus and the apostles were ‘mobile’ workers, whose job it was to start house churches that remained ‘local’ within a given community. Sixth, they never spent an undue amount of time in a given community that resisted their message, but moved on in search of a more receptive audience.
Modern Scenario
Although we should not simply blindly follow what the early church did in a different socio-cultural context a long time ago, there are principles we can employ. So, how could this kind of scenario unfold in our modern-day context? It may look something like the following.
In a particular city, there exists a fledgling house church network. Three or four Christians, perhaps each from a different house church, know they have been called by God to be foundation layers and mobile workers and decide to band together. Each one has a particular skill and expertise, i.e. spiritual gift, which is highly developed and empowered by the Spirit. The band gathers one Saturday afternoon for prayer and discussion, trying to understand where God would have them go to look for a man of peace. They divide the city into zones along obvious geographical and demographic lines. It’s decided to focus on a zone that is of average size, being five by five blocks square. They determine to frequent a popular tavern in one of the neighbourhoods every Friday night to get to know the regulars and perhaps have a few beers and play some darts.
Over the next few weeks they get to know some of the regulars and start developing some friendships. Conversations include everything from work to family to sports to the news to religion. One of the tavern regulars appears particularly open to conversations about faith and God. Over the next couple of weeks, a few of the Christians are invited home for dinner and conversation. Although the host still has some questions, he would be willing to get together once a week to have an introductory look into the life of Jesus from the Bible. He is encouraged to invite family members, neighbours, friends, and coworkers. The following weeks see a small group of six begin to meet at the host home. Genuine friendships develop, as does a desire to keep wrestling through barriers to faith. There’s lots of food, folks, and fun.
After one year, more people have joined and a few have made commitments to Christ. The apostolic team appoints two people as ‘elders’ and baptizes several others. The group is about ten strong now. They are not invited to ‘go to church’ anywhere, but are challenged to see their group, indeed, as the church and their home as a local ‘house of peace’ which reaches out in word and deed to their immediate neighbourhood. They are persuaded to multiply into a second home if their group gets too big. They begin to meet others that are plugged into the house church network in the city for support and accountability. The new ‘elders’ start to participate in monthly training sessions with others in the network (including the mobile ‘apostolic’ team) for resourcing, training, prayer, and relationship. The team is now ready to move on to the next zone to repeat the process.
(b) How the Early Church Trained Workers
The key people involved in this work of establishing and leading ‘houses of peace’ that penetrate our neighbourhoods and blanket our city will need to have adequate ministry training. Let’s examine the New Testament in search of any patterns regarding how such training occurred in the early church.
Jesus and the Twelve
The approach of Christ will be examined first. Although he knew his divine identity, he nevertheless recognized that the only way his work would endure after he left the scene would be if he left a legacy of followers who would follow in his footsteps and teach others to do the same23. The Scripture reports that Jesus “appointed twelve, that they might be with him, and that he might send them out to preach”24. In other words, he would spend intimate time with, carefully train, and later send out these men on his behalf. His job, in short, was not just to become the leader of a movement, but it was also to make these same twelve men capable leaders in their own right. He spent quantity and quality time with this small band, pouring his life into them. They were by his side as he taught, healed, forgave, prayed, confronted, and wept. He also gave them practical hands-on assignments to baptize, preach, and heal25. Jesus’ approach is well described by Robert Coleman in his classic book The Master Plan of Evangelism:
The time which Jesus invested in these few disciples was so much more by comparison to that given to others that it can only be regarded as a deliberate strategy. He actually spent more time with his disciples than with everybody else in the world put together. He ate with them, slept with them, and talked with them for the most part of his entire active ministry. They walked together along the lonely roads; they visited together in the crowded cities; they sailed and fished together on the Sea of Galilee; they prayed together in the deserts and in the mountains; and they worshiped together in the synagogues and in the Temple. 26
This was not only Jesus’ primary strategy but, in fact, it was his only strategy; there was no backup plan. It has been said that “but for the twelve, the doctrine, the works, and the image of Jesus might have perished from human remembrance, nothing remaining but a vague mythical tradition, of no historical value, and of little practical influence.”27 So much depended on the proper training of the twelve that Jesus took it upon himself personally to do so in an up-close-and-personal way.
Paul and the Posse
The apostle Paul took a similar approach by investing in a small group of young emerging leaders who worked closely alongside him as mobile apostolic workers. They included at one time or another the likes of Timothy, Titus, Silas, Mark, and Luke, and less well known men such as Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, Trophimus, Clement, and Epaphroditus28. It seems that no more than two or three of these gents accompanied Paul at any given time. They traveled the dusty Roman roads together, preached together, spent jail time together, started churches together, shared their lives as a team with their new converts, and ensured the proper training and qualification of local church leaders29.
Paul’s specific advice to Timothy gives some insight into his idea of the adequate schooling and moral qualifications of leaders:
If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.30
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.31
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings - what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.32
Lessons Learned
From this brief examination, we can see several important themes emerge.
First, the small group concept was employed to ensure an up-close-and-personal type of training. This meant that potential leaders would receive adequate individual attention from their coach, as well as have the opportunity to learn the necessary group dynamics of working together as a team.
Second, the apprenticeship model was employed. This meant that preparation of leaders consisted of practical on-the-job learning experiences as they laboured side-by-side with each other and their mentor.
Third, a multiplying discipleship chain mentality was evident. Jesus and Paul saw their jobs not simply as gaining followers and doing the work themselves, but in making capable leaders of their trainees. They were well aware that the impact made on their mentorees would be felt several generations down the line.
Fourth, they employed both mobile and local elements in their movement. The arena of service of a worker would depend on their availability, willingness, spiritual gifting, and sense of calling. Local workers (i.e. men of peace, elders, deacons) would lead the work from the spiritual beachheads that were established by mobile teams (i.e. apostles).
Fifth, moral integrity and maturity must not be exceeded by ministry competence. These must be kept in balance. Paul knew that new converts and those struggling with lifestyle issues, no matter how sincere, could not carry the weight of responsibility that labouring for the kingdom required.
(c) Transitioning Existing Church Structures
The question now arises whether it is possible for New Testament-style house churches to partner with and/or transition existing ‘cathedral’ churches organized along more traditional lines -- church buildings, professional clergy, and Sunday morning services -- to implement this vision of houses of peace strategically planted in all our neighbourhoods. I believe it is not only possible, but also necessary. This kind of far reaching impact on our cities requires the entire Body of Christ.
Currently, there are denominations and ministries working within or alongside local churches that have a similar vision to the one proposed here. The Lighthouse Movement33 has helped mobilize 8000 local churches to deliberately establish 1 million neighbourhood and workplace evangelistic units.
The cell-group movement, in which local ‘cathedral’ churches place equal emphasis on Sunday morning ‘celebration’ services and evangelistic ‘cell groups’, is exploding numerically worldwide, as discussed earlier34. Cell churches typically rely on some combination of strategically targeting specific areas in their city and tapping into relational networks. DAWN (Discipling A Whole Nation) has as its mandate the saturation church planting of some form of Christian church for every 500-1000 people35.
Although these efforts should be applauded and encouraged, there are additional steps that will need to be taken if a city is to be reached.
First, we will need to start thinking like the citywide church. The word ‘church’ in popular discourse has come to mean a local ‘congregation’ of believers that meets primarily in a building. Furthermore, each city is separated into numerous ‘congregations’, functioning quite independently of one another. What I would like to suggest here is that we begin seeing each city or town as having only one church, namely the entire Body of Christ, regardless of denominational or organizational affiliation. Everyone that has a deep and personal connection with Christ is part of this citywide church. If we are to reach our cities for Christ in the broadest and deepest ways, we must get back to the New Testament in which each city or region was recognized as having only one church.36
Second, we will need to start acting like the citywide church. What I am proposing here is not some sort of centralized organization that administrates one giant citywide church, but rather a willingness on the part of all local congregations to partner together in a strategically coordinated effort to reach a given city or region. What this would look like is a coalition of partnering congregations who are willing and able to come together regularly, perhaps three or four times each year, for the purpose of prayer, resource exchange, division of the city into geographic and/or demographic zones of responsibility, and the development of a common training track for leaders. The key players in these gatherings will be some traditional but forward looking pastors, church planters, and leaders of small groups, cell groups, and house churches.
Third, we will need to release small groups and cell groups to be the church. Instead of seeing small groups as peripheral add-ons to the real church on Sunday morning and cell groups as only one half of a two-winged cell church, we will need to release these ‘little churches’ to act like the church. What I am suggesting is a prioritization of little churches over and above any large group worship services that continue to occur weekly on the congregational level. This will mean that mother churches give their little churches the freedom and authority to baptize, marry, bury, administer the Lord’s Supper, and exercise church discipline. This will mean that the evangelistic mandate for each of these little churches will be focused on the neighbourhood, workplace, or educational setting in which it gathers. This will also mean that these little churches are strategically placed in areas of the city that are considered untouched by the Body of Christ. The result is the emergence of a massive army of so-called lay people ministering by using the vehicle of ‘houses of peace’ in hitherto unreached areas of the city. Although not ideal, this will be a good step closer to the citywide house church networks established by the apostles.
Fourth, we will need to transition existing church structures closer to the house church network model. It’s always difficult to run before you can walk. It’s also tough to walk before you can crawl. Attempts to do so can cause a sort of trauma. During this revolution, there will be some local congregations participating in the city reaching coalition who have never even had a small group ministry. They’ve heard of small groups but never tried them. They will need to be encouraged and assisted in beginning a small groups ministry, in which their small groups are comprised mostly of members of their congregation and are not necessarily evangelistic at all. Furthermore, some congregations who have had years of experience with small groups may want to take the next step of moving towards a cell group model, in which the cell groups enjoy an emphasis equal to the Sunday morning large group. Even further along the line, there will be some congregations that are cell churches but who want to take the next step of dropping their building and reorganizing as a tight network of house churches. In his research into some of the most rapidly growing and multiplying church planting movements on the planet, David Garrison points out that one of the key ingredients is lay led house churches and/or cell groups of 10-30 people37. As such, each of these efforts in transitioning existing church structures somewhere further along the spectrum will go a long way towards reaching our cities with house churches.
This paper has attempted to paint a picture of a way forward in reaching our cities for Christ beyond the traditional approaches being applied. It is a call to continue reforming the church to more strategic and biblical practices. The tools proposed are:
Strategic Placement of a vast network of house churches (and cell groups) in unreached areas of the city
Leadership Training using the Biblical small group apprenticeship model
Citywide Church attitudes and coordinated efforts especially concerning strategic placement of house churches
Transitioning Existing ‘Cathedral’ Structures by increased implementation of small groups, cell groups, and house churches. This will move us closer to the New Testament house church network model.
If this paper has struck a resonant chord with you, dear reader, please contact me if you wish to discuss the matter further. May the Lord bring about ever-increasing cooperation among believers for his increased fame and for the sake of the harvest.
Breathe Deep
Rad Zdero
Recommended Reading
Bunton, Peter (2001). What History Teaches Us: Cell Groups and House Churches, House to House Publications.
Fitts, Robert (2001). The Church in the House (free online book at
Garrison, David (1999). Church Planting Movements, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, download free:
House 2 House Magazine:
Kreider, Larry (2001). House Church Networks, House to House Publications.
Simson, Wolfgang (1998). Houses that Change the World: The Return of the House Churches, Paternoster Publishing.
Viola, Frank (1998). Rethinking the Wineskin: The Practice of the New Testament Church.
Rad Zdero (2004), The Global House Church Movement, available from William Carey Library, .
About the Author
Rad Zdero, Ph.D., earned his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. He has spent the past 15 years starting and leading small groups and house churches in various contexts. He is currently part of a team starting up ‘House Church Canada’, which is developing a network of house churches in Southern Ontario.
Mail: House Church Canada, Box 42067, 128 Queen St.S, Mississauga, ON, Canada, L5M-4Z0.
Phone: 905-820-8846
1 Matthew 28:18-20
2 “China: Radio Churches”, Pulse, May 3, 1996.
3 Proponents include Paul Yonggi Cho (Seoul, South Korea), Ralph Neighbour Jr. (Touch Ministries), Larry Kreider (Dove Christian Fellowship), Larry Stockstill (Bethany Cell Church Network), and Dale Galloway (New Hope Community Church, Portland, USA).
4 Joel Comiskey, Home Cell Group Explosion, Touch, 1998. (The International Charismatic Mission in Bogota, Columbia, has 20,000 cell groups; Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea, is comprised of 25,000 cells).
5 North American Missionary Board (Southern Baptist Convention),
6 Barna Research Online, “Annual Survey of America’s Faith shows no Significant Changes in Past Year”, March 8, 1999,
7 Barna Research Online, “American Faith is Diverse as shown among Five Faith-Based Segments”, January 29, 2002,
8 China and India have an estimated 80 and 30-100 million Christians, respectively.
9 Matthew 24:9-14, 24; Rev 3:14-18
10 Wolfgang Simson, Houses that Change the World, Paternoster Publishing, 1998.
11 W.A. Beckham, The Second Reformation, Touch, 1997.
12 Acts 2:26, 5:42, 12:12, 16:14-15, 20:20; Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15-16; Philem 1:2
13 1 Cor 14:26; Col 3:16
14 Del Birkey, The House Church, Herald Press, 1988, p.55.
15 Luke 10:1-11
16 Luke 8:1-3, 9:58
17 Luke 10:38-41, 14:1-6, 19:2-9
18 Luke 8:38-39
19 Matthew 4:19-22, 19:21-22, 19:27-29, Mark 3:13-19
20 Acts 10:1-48
21 Acts 16:13-15
22 Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5
23 Matthew 28:18-20
24 Mark 3:14
25 Matthew 10:1; Luke 10:1-11; John 4:1-2, 8:1-11, 11:1-45
26 Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell, p.45, 1994.
27 AB Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, Kregel, p.13, 1988.
28 Acts 20:4; 1 Cor 4:14-17; Philip 2:25, 4:3; 1 Thes 1:1
29 Acts 16:3-5, 22-36; 2 Cor 8:23; 1 Tim 3:1-10; 1 Thes 2:6-12; Titus 1:5
30 1 Tim 3:1-10
31 2 Tim 2:2
32 2 Tim 3:10-11
33 Lighthouse Movement,
34 Joel Comiskey, Home Cell Group Explosion, Touch, 1998.
35 Dawn Ministries,
36 Romans 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:2; Eph 1:1; Philip 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Thes 1:1
37 David Garrison (1999), Church Planting Movements, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention,
free booklet download from

Jumat, 11 Januari 2008


The Spontaneous Church
John White
John White is a graduate of Fuller Seminary who served as a Presbyterian pastor for 20 years in Denver, CO. He is currently the US Coordinator for Dawn Ministries. The Dawn Vision is for a church (a vibrant family of Jesus) within easy access of every person in North America and beyond. ( )
Spontaneous: From sponte meaning voluntarily. Occurring without apparent external cause, unconstrained and unstudied in behavior.1
Introduction. In general, conventional church in America could be called “the programmed church”. By programs, I mean man’s best efforts (plans, strategies, goals, meetings, etc.) to accomplish God’s purposes. This intentional approach is usually characterized by “the gospel of knowledge and duty.” That is, the assumption that Christians will become more godly and the Great Commission will be fulfilled if only those believers are given more information and are exhorted more forcefully to obey God (i.e., external motivation). While usually well intentioned, this approach is deeply flawed and is a departure from both the life of Jesus and the life of the early church. The alternative to the “program mentality” is an intimate, conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit (i.e., internal motivation) resulting organically and spontaneously in the life and mission of the church.
This discussion is central to our thinking about the house church movement. The current danger is that this “program mentality” will be brought along with the many people moving out of the conventional church and into house church. Already, some house churches have become simply conventional churches held in a home. (Some have humorously called this “Honey, I shrunk the church!”.) Our belief is that house church, properly understood, is much more than a mere change in venue. It is, in fact, a “whole different animal”.
With the help of Roland Allen (the great English missiologist from the early part of the 20th Century) and other authors, we will briefly explore three aspects of “the spontaneous church”. First, we will see that this concept is rooted in Scripture. It is foundational to the life and ministry of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And, it is modeled by the early church. Second, we will explore in greater depth the differences between “the programmed church” and “the spontaneous church”. Third, we will touch briefly on some ways to move towards this New Testament way of life and ministry.
I. The Spontaneous Church in Scripture. The life and ministry of the church grows out of the life and ministry of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
A. The Life and Ministry of Jesus: Nothing on His own initiative. John 5:19-20 is a foundational passage for understanding the life and ministry of Jesus. Consider the two following versions of that passage:
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, 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. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. 2
So Jesus explained himself at length. “I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing.3
Even though Jesus was the Son of God, He did not initiate or implement His own plans (no preaching, no healing, no raising the dead). Everything flowed from an intimate conversational relationship with His Father. The Father initiated. Jesus responded.4
B. The Life and Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Nothing on His own initiative.
Perhaps one of Jesus’ most surprising statements (at least to those who heard it) was when He told His disciples that it was a good thing that He was going away.5 This began to make sense when He explained that He would send the Paraklete (Counselor, Coach) in His place. One of the primary purposes of the Paraklete is to enable us to live and minister the same way Jesus did.6
Here’s what Jesus tells us about the way communication occurs within the Trinity. The Father tells Jesus everything that He is doing7. Jesus tells all that He has heard from the Father to the Spirit8. The Spirit hears from Jesus and passes that on to us. We hear from the Spirit and pass that on to others. We can see from John 16:12 that the Spirit functions the same way Jesus did. That is, He does not initiate on His own. He only makes known what He hears from Jesus. Jesus initiates and the Spirit responds.
Gordon Fee helps us understand the critical importance of the Spirit in our lives. “The Spirit is God’s way of being present, powerfully present, in our lives and communities as we await the consummation of the kingdom of God. Precisely because he understood the Spirit as God’s personal presence, Paul also understood the Spirit always in terms of an empowering presence; whatever else, for Paul the Spirit was an experienced reality.”9
C. The Life and Ministry of the church: Nothing on her own initiative.
1. Jesus as the Builder of the Church. Jesus is the Head of the church. He makes it clear that it is His church and He is the one who will build it.10 He calls us to join Him in the process. It is also true that He cares more about the fulfillment of the Great Commission than we ever could. Further, He is the expert on incarnation. We learn all of these things from Him. Therefore, prayer (especially the listening part) is the starting place and the foundation for all ministry.
2. Prevenience – He is always initiating. By saying that it is Jesus who is building His church, we are reminding ourselves that He is always the one who initiates. (His initiation is always a response to the prior initiation of the Father.) A helpful term for this is “prevenience” which means that which goes before or precedes. In a region or people group, Jesus is always working preveniently. This changes everything. It means that it is no longer our job to “make something happen”. Rather, we are to see what He is already doing and ask how (if) we are to join Him. (What we do flows out of intimacy with Him.) An understanding of and commitment to the prevenience principle is key to the organic nature of church.
The structure of the Jewish day illustrates this concept. The day begins with sundown. The first thing we do is sleep. This is a picture of “prevenience”. We awake to find a world where God has already been at work. Our job is to find out what He has been doing and see how we are to join Him in that day.
Eugene Peterson gives a great explanation of this concept. (We are called to) “…a cultivated awareness that God has already seized the initiative. The traditional doctrine defining this truth is prevenience: God everywhere and always seizing the initiative. He gets things going. He had and continues to have the first word. Prevenience is the conviction that God has been working diligently, redemptively, and strategically before I appeared on the scene, before I was aware there was something here for me to do.…there is a disciplined, determined conviction that everything (and I mean, precisely everything) we do is a response to God's first work, his initiating act.”11
3. The Spirit provokes spontaneous worship. Biblical worship does not begin with our own initiative. It is not motivated by a sense of duty or obligation. Rather, it flows from the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit. John Piper helps us understand worship from this perspective.
The role of the Spirit. “The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white-hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives.”12
The nature of spontaneous emotion. “It (genuine emotion) is there spontaneously. It is not performed as a means to anything else. It is not consciously willed. It is not decided upon. It comes from deep within, from a place beneath the conscious will…The feeling is there, bursting out of my heart. And it is an end in itself.”13
The insufficiency of duty in marriage. “Consider the analogy of a wedding anniversary. Mine (Piper writes) is on December 21. Suppose on this day I bring home a dozen long-stemmed red roses for Noel. When she meets me at the door I hold out the roses, and she says, “O Johnny, they’re beautiful, thank you,” and gives me a big hug. Then suppose I hold up my hand and say mater-of-factly, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.”
What happens? Is not the exercise of duty a noble thing? Do not we honor those we dutifully serve? Not much. Not if there’s no heart in it. Dutiful roses are a contradiction in terms. If I am not moved by a spontaneous affection for (my wife) as a person, the roses do not honor her. In fact they belittle her. They are a very thin covering for the fact that she does not have the worth or beauty in my eyes to kindle affection. All I can muster is a calculated expression of marital duty.”14
The insufficiency of duty in worship. “Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. This cannot be done by mere acts of duty. It can be done only when spontaneous affections arise in the heart.”15
4. The Spirit provokes spontaneous mission. As with worship, Biblical mission does not begin with our own initiative. It is not motivated by a sense of duty or obligation. No one understood this foundational concept better than Roland Allen who was one of the greatest missiologists of the 20th Century. In the biography written by Allen’s grandson, Leslie Newbigin writes the following in the Foreword:
“At the center of Allen’s message was the conviction that the Holy Spirit is the active agent in the Christian mission. For him Pentecost was the key for the understanding of mission. He could write about “The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church” because he saw it, not as a human enterprise, but as a divine activity. To understand that is to be delivered from the anxieties, the burdens and the sense of guilt which so often form the atmosphere of discussion about mission. Missionary thinking is still pervaded by Pelagianism. Mission is conceived as a task, rather than as a gift, an over-spill, and an explosion of joy.”16
(Note: Pelagius was a fourth century British monk who believed that salvation could be achieved entirely through human effort.)
Gordon Fee supports this same idea regarding the role of the Spirit in the early church:
“Thus the Spirit is absolutely presuppositional to their entire experience and understanding of their present life in Christ;”17
5. The Spirit leads the church meeting. Watchman Nee, the Chinese church leader, explains the kind of church meeting that is described in 1 Cor. 14:26. “In this kind of meeting any gifted member of the church may be preacher and any may be audience. Nothing is determined by man, and each takes part as the Spirit leads. It is not an ‘all-man’ ministry, but a Holy Spirit ministry.”18
(For practical help on this kind of church meeting, see the video/DVD produced by House2House Ministries, “When You Come Together”19 )
6. The Spirit produces missionaries. More from Roland Allen: "The same is true of St. Peter and St. John, and of all the apostolic writers. They do not seem to feel any necessity to repeat the great Commission, and to urge that it is the duty of their converts to make disciples of all the nations. What we read in the New Testament is no anxious appeal to Christians to spread the Gospel, but a note here and there which suggests how the Gospel was being spread abroad…for centuries the Christian Church continued to expand by its own inherent grace, and threw up an unceasing supply of missionaries without any direct exhortation.20
7. The result of the Spirit’s work – the expansion of the church is spontaneous. Roland Allen: “As I have said spontaneous expansion is spontaneous. It is not created by exhortation. It springs up unbidden. Where men see it they covet it…”21
II. Implications for us: the Spontaneous Church vs the Programmed Church. Understanding some of the differences between the churches that many of us grew up in and the churches in the New Testament.
A. Functional vs relational. Which is the starting place – task or relationship?
1. Intimacy is central. Generally speaking, the church in the West has focused more on function (task) than on relationship (intimacy). Discipleship especially is seen as a task rather than as a relationship. We have developed programs and tools to accomplish the task but have often missed a profound connection with the heart of God and others. Motivation doesn’t come from within. Rather, we have to continually exhort people to do the right things. Over time they give up on the task because their hearts are not engaged.
2. The toll of the gospel of duty and obligation. Our gospel of duty and obligation (“make it happen ministry”) has taken a great toll on believers – especially those in leadership. One of the most difficult places to live as a Christian is in leadership of a church or parachurch ministry. In that environment there is huge pressure to “get the job done”. This pressure frequently destroys relationships with other leaders and even with God. (“Sixty percent of U.S. pastors don’t feel they have anyone they can talk to honestly about their job.”22) There is lots of activity but little genuine transformation23. In the end, there is often a high degree of burnout with disastrous consequences for the marriages and families of those in leadership.
3. Mission as a natural fruit. The house church model is a new (old) wineskin. It is very precious to Jesus and, therefore, it is important to not put the cart before the horse. (Horse = intimacy with God, living from the heart, listening to the Spirit. Cart = mission). The concern is that house church not be used simply as a tool to get other things done (like evangelism). We must not put the old wine (exhorting people to mission) in the new wineskin. Mission is meant be a natural fruit and not an obligation.
4. Mission like marriage. Consider the analogy of marriage. People get married out of love, not in order to have children. Children are the fruit of relationship. They happen naturally. This is the way God wants to birth things. Again, a movement will only be sustained if mission (children) is the fruit of a marriage, not its purpose. We would do well to ponder the primary reason for our existence. Is it functional or relational?
In writing about the Trinity, Darrell Johnson says, “And here is the Gospel: The God who is love draws near to me, a sinful, mere mortal, to draw me near to Himself, in order to draw me within the circle of Lover, Beloved and Love itself. I become a co-lover with God! It is the very reason for my existence.”24
B. External vs internal motivation. Does motivation for ministry come from the inside or outside?
1. Symptom vs cause. We all agree that the Great Commission is important. The key question is how it is to be accomplished? When we consider the issue of people not being involved in mission we need to make sure we are making the right diagnosis. What is the symptom and what is the cause? Diminished mission may be the symptom and not the cause. We are all committed to the concept of “mission”, the expansion of the Kingdom. The question is: how does this come about? Is it internally motivated by the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the believer? Or is it externally motivated by teachings, exhortations and structures from men?
Spontaneous: From sponte meaning voluntarily. Occurring without apparent external cause, unconstrained and unstudied in behavior.25
2. Those who have “life” don’t need to be exhorted. The reason that Christians don’t engage in evangelism and missions more than they do is not because they haven’t been exhorted. It is not because they don’t have enough training. Rather, it’s that they have so little “life”. Consider the story of Jesus. People ripped roofs off in order to get to Him. Why? Because they saw LIFE in Him.26 When people have that kind of life in them they will flow naturally into mission. It will flow spontaneously from the inside out. This is a much better model than trying to motivate people from the outside. (The reason that people don’t reach out is not that they don’t care. It’s that they have so little life.)
From Roland Allen: “This then is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its order life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share…”27
3. Our mission: the manifestation of the Spirit from within. Roland Allen: “The work of the missionary is education in this sense: it is the use of means to reveal to his coverts a spiritual power which they actually possess and of which they are dimly conscious. As the converts exercise that power, as they yield themselves to the indwelling Spirit, they discover the greatness of the power and the grace of the Spirit, and in so doing they reveal it to their teacher. But we are like a teacher who cannot resist telling their pupils the answer the moment a difficulty arises…The work of the missionary cannot be done by imposing things from without. The one result which he desires is the growth and manifestation of the Spirit from within.”28
Were Roland Allen alive today, I believe he would enthusiastically embrace the discipline of coaching. In the Christian context, the role of a coach is to help others listen to the Spirit in their own lives. The following comment by Tony Stoltzfus illustrates this foundational principle: “God initiates the changes He wants, and the Holy Spirit brings those things to the surface through teachable moments. The transformation of the client happens through experience and relationship, not the information you bring to the table. So let go of the need to fix the client, and allow room for the client to deal with God.”29
C. Prevenience vs Programs. Is ministry initiated by us or by God?
1. Functional deism. We have to learn to “do nothing on our own initiative” like Jesus. We have learned well how to do “something”. That is, to “make it happen”. This is the definition of a program – our best efforts to accomplish God’s purposes. This is functional deism. (God got everything started, gave us instructions and then left – ie, no Holy Spirit.) We would deny this as our theology. But the way we have “done church” exposes our true beliefs. As Evangelicals, in practice our Trinity has often been the Father, Son and “Holy Scriptures”.
Gordon Fee:
“I do not mean that the Holy Spirit is not present; he is indeed, or we are not of Christ at all. Nonetheless, despite the affirmations in our creeds and hymns and the lip service paid to the Spirit in our occasional conversations, the Spirit is largely marginalized in our actual life together as a community of faith.”30
“If we do not have the Spirit, Paul says, we do not belong to God at all; my concern is that in our having his Spirit, we not settle for a watered down understanding that gives more glory to Western rationalism and spiritual anemia than to the living God.”31
“In contrast to the common understanding of contemporary believers, first-century believers understood – and assumed – the Spirit to be manifested in power. So much is this so that the terms “Spirit” and “power” at times are used interchangeably.”32
Roland Allen:
“…Paul’s method is not in harmony with the modern Western spirit. We modern teachers from the West are by nature and training persons of restless activity and boundless self-confidence…We are accustomed to do things ourselves for ourselves, to find our own way, to rely upon our own exertions, …We are accustomed by long usage to an elaborate system of church organization…We cannot imagine any Christianity worthy of the name existing without the elaborate machinery which we have invented…With that spirit, St Paul’s methods do not agree, because they were the natural outcome of quite another spirit, the spirit which preferred persuasion to authority.
St Paul distrusted elaborate systems of religious ceremonial, and grasped fundamental principles with an unhesitating faith in the power of the Holy Ghost to apply them to his hearers and to work out their appropriate external expressions in them. It was inevitable that methods which were the natural outcome of the mind of St Paul should appear as dangerous to us as they appeared to the Jewish Christians of his own day.”33
2. Program evangelism vs power evangelism. This principle is described by John Wimber: “In programmatic evangelism, Christians witness to everyone they meet, in obedience to the general command of Scripture to ‘go and make disciples.’ In power evangelism the same command is obeyed, only differently. Each evangelism experience is initiated by the Holy Spirit for a specific place, time, person, or group…In programmatic evangelism, the Christian says, “In obedience I go. Holy Spirit bless me.” In power evangelism, the Christian says, ‘As the Holy Spirit tells me to go, I go.”34
D. Not both/and. Roland Allen believed that “the programmed church” and “the spontaneous church” could not coexist. “Nothing could be clearer than that Allen saw “mission” as the “unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church” who were impelled by the Spirit. The fact that Allen was not willing to accept a “both/and” perspective was one of the things that got him in so much trouble with the church leaders of his day.”35
III. How to become the Spontaneous Church. Some beginning steps towards a way of doing/being church that flows spontaneously from conversational intimacy with the Spirit.
A. Learning to do nothing on our own initiative. We have become addicted to taking the initiative, to doing “something”, to developing programs to accomplish God’s purposes. Giving up this addiction is difficult and requires that we go through a period of “detox”.
Don’t serve God. John Piper: “… (Ps. 50:15) forces on us the startling fact that we must beware of serving God, and must take special care to let him serve us, lest we rob Him of his glory. This sounds very strange. Most of us think serving God is a totally positive thing; we have not considered that serving God may be an insult to him. But meditation on the meaning of prayer demands this consideration…
If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine... Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Ps. 50:12,15)
Evidently there is a way to serve God that would belittle him as needy of our service. “The Son of Man came not to be served” (Mark 10:45). He aims to be the servant. He aims to get the glory as Giver.”36
B. Learning to listen to the Spirit to find out what the Father is doing.
“We learn to be attentive to the divine action already in process so that the previously unheard word of God is heard, the previously unattended act of God is noticed… (The Prevenient questions are):
What has God been doing here?
What traces of grace can I discern in this life?
What history of love can I read in this group?
What has God set in motion that I can get in on?”37
C. Learning to live from our heart.
Passion comes from one’s calling not from exhortation or from someone else’s passion. We shouldn’t project our calling/passion on others. Better to help them find God’s calling for them and let their passion emerge. Don’t promote one passion (such as evangelism or missions). Rather, get people hooked up to God’s heart and let each one find what they are called to do.
“Understand that you are God’s idea. You will be held accountable for using what he gave you to work with, not for pursuing someone else’s agenda…
The main way we enjoy God is by enjoying the use we make of the giftedness with which he endowed each of us – in service to others and in love, praise, and adoration of God. The things of life we personally and uniquely enjoy are there because of our God-designed giftedness.”38
“Jesus provokes desire; he awakens it; he heightens it. The religious watchdogs accuse him of heresy. He says, ‘Not at all. This is the invitation God has been sending all along.’”39
D. Learning to tell stories.
Our job? Discover and tell stories of spontaneous church and missions.
"Ivan Illich was once asked, "What is the most revolutionary way to change society? Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform?" He gave a careful answer. Neither. If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story."40
E. The Key to completing the Great Commission: Faithfulness
While the world has many strategies (such as marketing) to reach a large number of people, Jesus has a different plan. He emphasizes the quality of faithful obedience. In Lk. 19:17, the Master says,”‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’” 41 In Mt. 25:21, the Master says something quite similar, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. 42
We may think that the goal of making disciples of all nations is a huge and almost impossible task. We may think that this task will require an immense amount of work by brilliant and highly gifted people.
The Master, however, sees this differently. He is prepared to give us not one city but ten! He is not necessarily looking for highly gifted people but rather highly faithful (trustworthy, obedient) people. Our job is to be clear about the few, small assignments the Master will give us. If we demonstrate that He can trust us with the few and the small, He will give us the many and the large.
What is your assignment?
1 Webster’s II, New Riverside University Dictionary, The Riverside Publishing Company, 1994.
2The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) . Zondervan: Grand Rapids
3Peterson, E. H., & Peterson, E. H. 1997, c1995. The Message : New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs (Electronic ed.) . NavPress: Colorado Springs
4 Also see Jn. 8:28-29, 12:49-50, 14:10-14, 15:14-15
5 Jn. 16:7
6 Jn. 16:12-15
7 Jn. 5:19-20, 16:15
8 Jn. 16:12-15
9 Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, Hendrickson Publishers, 1994, p. xxi.
10 Mt. 16:18
11 Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, Word Publishing, 1989, p. 69.
12 John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Multnomah Press, 1986, p. 66.
13 Piper, p. 71.
14 Piper, p. 73.
15 Piper, p. 72.
16 Hubert Allen, Roland Allen: Pioneer, Priest and Prophet , Forward Movement, 1998, p. xiii.
17 Fee, p. 2-3.
18 Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Church Life, International Students Press, 1969, p. 119.
20 Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962, p. 7.
21 Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962, p. 155.
22 Tony Stoltzfus, Leadership Coaching, BookSurge, 2005, p. 86.
23 See Revolution and other books by George Barna.
24 Darrell Johnson, Experiencing the Trinity, Regent College Publishing, 2002, p. 63.
25 Webster’s II, New Riverside University Dictionary, The Riverside Publishing Company, 1994.
26 Jn 1:4
27 Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962, p. 7.
28 Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: Paul’s or Ours?, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962, p. 146.
29 Tony Stoltzfus, Leadership Coaching, BookSurge, 2005, p. 158.
30 Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, Hendrickson Publishers, 1994, p. 1.
31 Fee, p. 9.
32 Fee, p. 35
33 Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours? , Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, p. 6-7.
34 John Wimber, Power Evangelism, Harper, 1986, p. 46.
35 Hubert Allen, Roland Allen: Pioneer, Priest and Prophet , Forward Movement, 1998, p. xiii.
36 John Piper, Desiring God, Multnomah Press, 1986, p. 138.
37 Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, Word Publishing, 1989, p. 70.
38 Arthur Miller, The Power of Uniqueness: How to Become Who You Really Are, Zondervan, 1999, p. 111-112.
39 John Eldredge, Waking the Dead, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003, p. 233.
40 Tim Costello, Tips from a Traveling Soul Searcher, p. 33.
41The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) . Zondervan: Grand Rapids
42The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) . Zondervan: Grand Rapids