Minggu, 28 Desember 2008

Shadow of the Cross Indonesia


SHADOW OF THE CROSS
(DI BAWAH BAYANG SALIB KRISTUS)

Pendahuluan

Latar belakang

Indonesia merupakan negara yang memiliki keanekaragaman baik suku maupun budaya, masih ada kurang lebih 200 suku terabaikan yang belum mengenal Kristus. Ini pun bertambah dengan lahirnya “suku-suku” baru diperkotaan, yaitu yang akan kita sebut sebagai kaum subkultur. Mereka yang termasuk kaum subkultur ini diantaranya, seperti anak jalanan, para gelandangan, anak geng (bermotor yang disebut bikers, penguasa suatu wilayah/daerah/terminal biasa disebut “jeger”,dll, skaters, komunitas tattoo & body piercing, penggemar musik “underground”, punkers dan masih banyak lagi.
Pesatnya perkembangan informasi, ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi saat ini membawa dampak yang signifikan pada pertumbuhan anak, remaja dan orang muda. Entah mereka beragama Kristen maunpun latar kepercayaan lain. Tidak ada seorangpun yang kebal dengan pengaruh era ini.
Bilamana orang percaya tidak berdiri teguh dalam kebenaran atau “standtrue”, maka dunia tidak dapat melihat standar hidup di dalam Tuhan yang sebenarnya.
Glen Fredly dalam album Terang (Christmas Album) menciptakan sebuah lagu yang asyik banget. Saya akan kutip sebagian liriknya:

“Jadilah terang jangan di tempat yang terang”
Jadilah terang di tempat yang gelap
Jadilah jawaban jangan hanya kau diam
Jadilah jawaban di luar rumahmu

Jadilah garam jangan di tengah lautan
Jadilah harapan jangan hanya berharap
Jadilah jawaban jangan hanya ucapan
Jadilah jawaban jangan tambahkan beban

Itulah sekelumit syair lagu tersebut yang menjadi “rhema” bagi saya secara pribadi. Perlu ada orang yang mau bersinar di tengah kegelapan dunia dan menjadi jawaban bagi mereka yang ada di tengah kebingungan. Kedatangan Kristus semakin mendekat dan Iblis pun kerja lembur menghancurkan generasi muda kita. Ia menyesatkan banyak orang dan tanpa sadar mereka berjalan menuju kebinasaan. Sayangnya, banyak diantara orang percaya pun yang tak ada beban melihat orang lain binasa tanpa Kristus. NIlai hidup cara dunia yang egois dan mementingkan diri sendiri, tanpa sadar menjadi bagian hidup mereka, yang mengaku diri sebagai “anak Tuhan”. Sangat ironis sekali.
Inilah saatnya bagi tiap anak Tuhan untuk berdiri bersama untuk menerangi publikasi yang negative, yang mencemari gaya hidup anak-anak Tuhan dan mulai berfungsi menerangi mereka yang berada di dalam kegelapan.
Shadow of the Cross (Di Bawah Bayang Salib), merupakan sebuah pelayanan yang dibuat oleh Morria Nikcles di Amerika Serikat untuk memenangkan, memuridkan dan merintis komunitas bagi kaum subkultur di sana. Kaum subkultur merupakan kaum yang terpinggirkan dan dihindari oleh masyarakat atau biasa disebut kaum marginal.
Pelayanan jenis ini jarang sekali mendapatkan dukungan financial, baik di markas besarnya di Amerika Serikat sekalipun. Morria harus mengambil kerja sebagai kasir di pertokoan sambil menyelesaikan studi IT-nya di sebuah universitas. Begitu pula dengan rekanan pelayanan ini di berbagai negara seperti Inggris, Lebanon dan Indonesia. Kami semua bergumul dalam doa dan juga menjadi “tentmaker” untuk mencukupi biaya operasional pelayanan maupun kebutuhan sehari-hari.
Penyataan missi Shadow of the Cross adalah sebagai berikut:
- To live the truth (untuk menghidupi kebenaran)
- To educate with love (untuk mengajar di dalam kasih)
- To minimize misconceptions (untuk memperkecil konsep yang salah)
- To provide peace of mind (untuk menyediakan pikiran yang damai)
Morria yang sangat terbeban pada kaum Gothic dan juga para gelandangan. Ia senantiasa memberi diri bagi mereka untuk menuntunkan mereka pada Kristus dan secara periodik melakukan bantuan sosial bagi mereka yang hidup di jalanan dan mengalami kesepian. Mereka juga membentuk “simple church” di rumah mereka, bagi mereka yang rindu mengenal Tuhan lebih lanjut.
Saya, Dave Broos, ditunjuk sebagai Regional Director untuk Indonesia di dalam mengembangkan pelayanan bagi kaum subkultur di Indonesia. Meskipun harus diakui kami belum optimal menjalankan pelayanan ini. Kami baru melakukan pelayanan friendship evangelism dengan membagikan kesaksian atau tulisan kami melalui dunia maya dan juga mengadakan pelayanan doa & konseling melalui YM, email dan SMS. Pintu yang terbuka bagi kami di Indonesia barulah melayani komunitas dunia maya.
Kami tengah berdoa agar kami pun dapat mengembangkan sayap pelayanan ini dengan membuka “youth shelter”. Sebuah rumah penampungan bagi anak-anak yang diusir dari rumah akibat kenakalan atau ditolak. Sebagaimana dulu saat kami melayani di kota Surabaya, kami membuka rumah kami sebagai rumah bagi mereka yang diusir oleh orangtuanya.
Mengapa kami rindu untuk membangun sebuah komunitas yang beratmosfir keluarga? Sebab kami banyak menemukan anak muda yang tertolak di rumah bahkan hidup dalam dunia hitam akibat tidak tahu harus kemana untuk berlindung lagi.
Saat ini, pelayanan Shadow of the Cross, merupakan bagian dari The Eagles Nest Ministries Bandung yang kami rintis di kota Bandung tahun 2008 lalu. Shadow of the Cross, merupakan bagian dari departemen missi penjangkauan kami pada unreached people dan unchurched people group. Pada tahun 1998, salah satu mentor kami, orangtua rohani kami, Inban dan Rozanne Caldwell, telah menjadi alat Tuhan, saat kami bersama-sama berkomitmen pada Tuhan untuk menjangkau suku terabaikan dan orang belum bergereja di Indonesia untuk memperlebar Kerajaan Tuhan.
Buku ini merupakan persembahan saya bagi setiap rekan Shadow of the Cross dan juga tubuh Kristus yang ingin menggenapi Amanat Agung Kristus Yesus.





Apa yang dapat kulakukan bagi mereka Tuhan?

Saat kuberbincang dengan teman sesama pelayan Tuhan, mengenai penjangkauan terhadap kaum subkultur ia pun tertawa. “Dave..Dave, ngapain ngurusin orang susah? Bukan untung malah banyak buntungnya.” Aku sempat terheran-heran dengan jawabannya, malah rasanya aku bermimpi. Temanku yang sering berkhotbah tentang missi, penjangkauan dan penanaman gereja menyampaikan perkataan seperti itu.
Kuambil sebuah keputusan untuk berdoa bersama istriku, Novie. Kalau aku terlalu banyak mendengar perkataan manusia, kemungkinan besar aku akan menjadi “discouraged” (lemah), dan lalu melupakan beban yang Tuhan taruhkan dalam hatiku ini.
Sambil menantikan jawaban Tuhan, aku pun mulai pergi berkeliling kota-kota di Jawa Timur dengan, salah satu ayah rohaniku yang lain, Pr Christopher K, dari Zoe Ministries Malaysia.
Saat itulah 3 hal yang Tuhan berikan padaku bagi kaum subkultur ini yaitu:
• Pergilah, muridkan dan ajarkan mereka segala sesuatu yang telah Aku perintahkan (Mat 28:18-20)
• Bapa menghendaki setiap suku bangsa (termasuk kaum subkultur) berdiri dihadapan Anak Domba (Why 7:9)
• Bapa menghendaki Kerajaan Tuhan turun di muka bumi (Mat 6:10)

Saat kami menanggapi pangilan ini, benar saja sangatlah tidak mudah. Jarang sekali bagian tubuh Kristus dapat melihat bahwa kaum subkultur ini juga butuh Tuhan Yesus.

Kami melihat diperlukannya orang-orang yang berdiri teguh dalam kebenaran hingga dunia dapat melihat Kristus yang ada dalam dunia ini. Bila orang Kristen tidak melakukan apa-apa, apakah gunanya kematian Kristus di atas kayu salib? Tuhan mati dan bangkit dari kematian agar terjadi rekonsiliasi hubungan antara Dia dan kita sehingga kita dapat mengerti isi hatiNya dan melaksanakan amanatNya selama kita ada di muka bumi ini. Dia mati bukan hanya agar anda selamat dari api neraka dan selama di muka bumi hidup kaya dan berfoya-foya, tanpa memeperdulikan orang lain. Kalau pemikiran dan cara hidup anda seperti itu, saya kuatir anda tidak sungguh-sungguh mengenal Tuhan Yesus.
Pada perkembangannya misi kami pun bertambah bukan hanya sekedar mengabarkan kabar baik, memuridkan dan membentuk komunitas bagi kaum subkultur tetapi juga memperlengkapi generasi dengan pendidikan sekuler dan jiwa entrepreneurship untuk dapat mengentaskan kemiskinan dan pemulihan ekonomi bangsa ini dengan membuka lahan baru pekerjaan.
Kami pun membagikan standar kehidupan kristiani secara lebih terbuka pada umum melalui Stand true Project (Proyek Berdiri Dalam kebenaran). Dimana kami mengajak semua anak muda dan mereka yang berjiwa muda untuk bersinar di tengah kegelapan dan menjadi garam di tengah dunia yang hambar.
Hati kami trenyuh dengan meningkatnya angka aborsi di Indonesia dan bilamana kami membaca di surat kabar. Banyak sekali iklan yang melayani mereka “yang terlambat datang bulan”, suatu layanan aborsi yang secara halus dan terselubung ada di surat kabar kita. Namun acap kali kita tidak menyadari akan hal itu. Atau kita tidak mau tahu? Kesadaran akan hal ini harus ada pada anak muda Kristen hingga saat mereka membina hubungan tidak melakukan seks sebelum pernikahan. Atau bilamana mereka “terlanjur” melakukannya, jangan sampai mereka mengaborsi bayi dalam kandungan itu.
Tuhan menaruhkan beban dalam hati kami untuk memberi “warning” pada gereja Tuhan agar jangan sampai kita mendukung tindakan aborsi sebagai sebuah alat KB sebagaimana yang terjadi di Amerika Serikat. Dimana klinik aborsi marak bermunculan bagai cendawan di musim hujan.
Selain itu kita juga harus mengajarkan bagaimana berpacaran yang benar pada putra-putri kita agar tidak terjadi kasus-kasus bayi yang lahir di luar pernikahan. Atau bilamana terjadi sekalipun jangan sampai kita membuang atau mengusir mereka. Kita harus tetap berdiri di dalam kebenaran Tuhan namun dengan tangan yang penuh kasih mengangkat kembali “anggota keluarga” kita yang telah salah dalam bertindak.
Kami mendukung pergerakan pro life di tanah air kita, Indonesia. Kita harus melindungi bayi-bayi yang tak bersalah dari pembunuhan keji yang bernama aborsi. Jangan sampai kita melegalkan pembunuhan bayi-bayi yang tak bersalah. Mungkin orangtuanya yang salah jalan tetapi jangan binasakan bayi-bayi itu.

Kami sedih melihat gaya berpacaran yang sudah kebablasan diantara anak Tuhan sendiri. Kalau dulu seorang yang sudah tidak perawan atau perjaka sebelum mereka menikah merupakan sebuah aib, sekarang ada fenomena yang luar biasa. Saat seorang remaja masih perjaka atau perawan justru ditertawakan. Bukankah dunia sudah gila? Berapa banyak artis yang merupakan anak Tuhan, menikah dalam kondisi sudah hamil duluan? Itu yang artis hingga tersorot bagaimana dengan yang bukan artis? Ini juga merupakan tanggungjawab kita bersama untuk berjuang dan mengajarkan anak-anak remaja kita di dalam kasih agar mereka tetap menjaga keperawanan dan keperjakaannya hingga masuk dalam lembaga pernikahan. Sebab kita merupakan anak-anak Tuhan, yang diberikan kemampuan untuk menguasai diri. Kita ini bukan binatang yang dipimpin oleh hawa nafsunya. Kita ini anak-anak Tuhan yang memiliki roh Tuhan.

Selasa, 23 Desember 2008

Merry Christmas and a happy new year 2009

Merry Christmas and a happy new Year 2009. Harapan kami di malam Natal kita sekali lagi berjumpa secara pribadi dengan KRISTUS. Doa kami sekeluarga ada penghiburan dan kekuatan yang baru di malam Natal ini.

We that love and care for you,

Dave and Novie

Senin, 08 Desember 2008

Keeping Church Simple


Keeping Church Simple
By Greg Hubbard



PART I: THE JOURNEY TOWARD A SIMPLE UNDERSTANDING OF CHURCH


My story from the past fifteen years is so intertwined with my beliefs about church that I could not begin to separate one from the other. So, I am going to weave my story and my convictions about church together as I retrace fifteen years of my life for you.


In 1989 I made a last minute decision to go to Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary (CBC&S) to prepare for ministry of some sort. I made this decision based on the feeling I had after taking two short-term mission trips during high school. One trip was to the Caribbean nation of Haiti, the other to the Central American nation of Honduras. On the return flights home from each of those trips, I had an overwhelming sense that for the first time in my life I had been part of something that really mattered. This was a confusing thought, though, because I knew on the one hand that I was not gifted to be a third-world missionary. I also knew, on the other hand, that I was not gifted to be a pastor in the traditional American sense of the word. Yet I felt a sense of longing to prepare for ministry.


Out of blind obedience, I decided to scrap my college and career plans. I changed my plans three weeks before my first semester of college was to begin, and enrolled in CBC&S instead of Indiana University.


During my four years of undergraduate study at CBC&S I began to put words to something I had sensed for awhile: “Something was wrong with the church in North America.” Partially motivated out of youthful rebellion, yet partially motivated by a sincere notion that something wasn’t right, I set out to figure out and, hopefully, remedy what was wrong. Little did I know where that journey would lead me over the subsequent fifteen years!


I first suspected that the problem with the church was a generational problem.

During my undergraduate years at CBC&S, I began to study church growth and church planting. These subjects were not part of the mainstream curriculum of my conservative college, but they were creeping into the curriculum through some more progressive-thinking professors. I learned that the church in North America was experiencing most of its numerical growth from rapidly-growing suburban mega-churches and from new church plants. Much of the material I studied concerning mega-churches and new church plants dealt with a specific target audience: the Baby Boomer Generation (those born roughly between 1946 and 1964).

I was fascinated by mega-churches, new church planting, and the corresponding demographics of the Baby Boomers. These theories were combining two areas I had previously seen as distinct: world missions and pastoral ministry. The lines were now being blurred. I began to feel like I had found my unique niche for ministry.

It all made sense except for one glaring inconsistency: I was not a Baby Boomer! I was born in 1970. As I studied the demographics of the Boomers, I realized that I was not studying the demographics of myself or of my high school friends. We were very different. Only later would I learn the labels for our generation.

Still, the whole idea of a church targeting a generation with the gospel was exciting to me at that point in my journey. As I learned more about my own generation, I became aware of the longing I had within me to see my generation come to know Christ in a real and relevant way. I began to have a heart for my own high school friends.

All of this led me to believe that the problem I sensed with the church was directly related to generational issues. The North American church had just begun to understand the Baby Boomer generation. This understanding led to massive growth in mega-churches and new church plants. I wondered what might happen if the North American church began to really understand my generation. I was excited by the possibilities. After attending a nation-wide, cross-denominational conference with two hundred other people who were wondering the same thing, I decided to get serious. I decided to devote my life to seeing the church reach my generation for Christ.

Only later would I realize that this generational issue was not the core problem of the North American church. Instead, this generational issue would turn out to be the first piece to a puzzle that I would have to put together in order to get to the core what was wrong with the church.


Supplemental Readings:

Psalm 78:1-4
Jesus for a New Generation by Kevin Graham Ford (InterVarsity 1995)
13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail, by Neil Howe & Bill Strauss (Vintage Books 1993)

I next suspected that the problem with the church was a cultural problem.

After college, I spent five years involved in church planting in the New York City Metro Area. Part of that time I spent on a church-planting team in the New Jersey suburbs. The remainder of that time I spent working in the offices of a church-planting organization on Long Island. My time in the New York City Metro Area taught me much about culture. The culture of New York was different from the Midwestern culture in which I had grow up. The northeastern United States, New York in particular, was further along the postmodern cultural transition than the Midwest. I learned about the cultural transition first-hand as I lived among New Yorkers. During the same period of time I was learning about this cultural transition “second-hand” by reading various books about the postmodern culture shift in North American and how the shift impacts the North American church.

These experiences helped me understand that North America was fast becoming the next great mission field. This realization helped me understand that I could only be Christ’s ambassador in the postmodern culture of North America by seeing myself more as a missionary to a “foreign” culture, and seeing myself less as a pastor to my “native” culture. Though I was still young enough to consider myself a native to the postmodern culture, I had grown up in middle America’s evangelical church, which meant that I was truly an immigrant to the emerging postmodern culture all around me. I would have to learn to engage this culture as a missionary.

To engage the culture as a missionary, I would first have to do what all missionaries must do when they engage a culture: I would have to “learn the language of the culture.” In my situation, this did not mean that I would have to learn a new spoken dialect as much as it would mean I would have to come to understand the norms of the people. I would then have to engage the culture on its terms, spending massive amounts of time with the natives in order to understand their worldview and how that might impact their understanding of the Gospel.

Only a few years had gone by since I had devoted my life to reaching my generation for Christ. Yet already I began to see that the problem with the North American church was much broader than I initially assumed. The issues were more than just generational, they were cultural.

In 1999 I left New York and moved to Las Vegas to rejoin my college friends as part of the leadership team of Apex, a church specifically targeting my generation. But even before I arrived in Vegas, I had already become aware that generational issues were not at the core of the North American church’s problems. My early experiences with Apex would confirm this. The average age at Apex was right in the middle of my generation. Yet the people who were part of Apex did not always fit neatly into generational categories. For example, there was a seventy-year-old man who related to our style of ministry. On the other hand, there were twenty-five-year-olds who hated our church. We were about more than just a “ generationally-targeted” ministry. Sometimes we described it by saying that Apex was more about an attitude than it was about an age. That attitude was really the understanding of the emerging postmodern culture.

Once again, I thought I had found the answer to my question of what was wrong with the church. I would reorient my life to be a missionary to postmodern North America. Again, this understanding, though proving to be a vital piece to the puzzle, would only lead me toward a deeper understanding of what was wrong with the church. My journey had just begun.


Supplemental Readings:

Acts 17:16-34
Acts 18:1-17
Missional Church, ed. By Darrell L. Guder (Eerdmans 1998)
The Church Between Gospel and Culture, ed. by George Hunsberger and Craig Van Gelder (Eerdmans)
Transforming Mission by David Bosch (Orbis 1991)
The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George G. Hunter (Abingdon 2000)
Resident Aliens by William Willimon and Stanly Hauweras (Abingdon 1989)
Ancient-Future Faith by Robert E. Webber,
Foolishness to the Greeks by Leslie Newbigin (Eerdmans 1986)
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Leslie Newbigin









I then suspected that the problem with the church was a theological problem.

I had only been in Las Vegas for a few months when my fellow Apex leaders and I began sensing some issues brewing beneath the surface of our seemingly “successful” church. These issues would have been easy for us to ignore since people were coming to our church, and offerings were steadily increasing. But we were not satisfied with that. The church had grown to hundreds of people. The crowd dynamic was exciting. But those of us who had first “dreamed her up” in college had begun missing the radical and intimate community we had experienced in college.

We began to realize that somehow we had accidentally experienced what it really meant to be church with each other back in our college days. Back then we cherished our experience of community with each other so much that we had covenanted to start a church together someday. We were largely motivated by an intense desire to keep our community together. Yet in the process of starting and leading this church, we were on the verge of losing our community with one another. Beyond that, to the extent that we still were living in community with one another, only about fifty out of our five hundred people were really connecting to each other in a deep and meaningful way. The others enjoyed our Sunday “show,” but they frequently came and went. Apex attracted many visitors, but although the front door was “wide open” bringing these visitors to our church service, our “back door” was cracked open as well. In response to this, we tried implementing small group programs, but in the end, most of the groups were small and unhealthy and were not effectively closing the back door. We felt a dilemma. How could we really be what the New Testament Church was?


Some of our leaders went out on a week-long trip to visit innovative ministries around the country who were reaching our generation. The ministries we visited used a wide variety of approaches. At one particular stop on our trip, we visited a church that was in the process of decentralizing into a group of smaller churches, or house churches. It was this stop that impacted us the most. What we saw happening in these house churches was exactly what we were missing. We had based our entire ministry on our “show,” which was exciting and good, but missing the essence of what church really was.

In the following months as we processed our discovery, we began reading books from people who were further along on the same journey. Through our reading we saw that what we were contemplating was not just the next great model for church. Instead it was much more radical. What we were contemplating was a better understanding of our theology of church.


At this point in my life I already had a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from CBS&S. I was certainly capable of writing a theologically accurate and Biblically sound definition of “church.” However, what I knew was not reflected in what I practiced. I was living with a blind spot. Though I knew in my head what church really was, I practiced a different idea of what church was, one that was conditioned by my culture. I was living out an understanding of church centered on the assumption that church was a “place where” certain things happened. I knew better, yet I played along!

Apex was different from most of the churches I had known. We had enhanced much of the stuff that happened at our “place.” We had made the music, the teaching, the atmosphere, and even the attitude of the place more authentic and more relevant to our generation and to the emerging culture. Yet we had never challenged the “place where” assumption behind church. We just assumed that church must be a “place where” certain things happened, and we had set out to make the things that happened as good as they could be in our context.

Our culture’s “place where” assumption about church comes out in many of the simple, innocent phrases we commonly use regarding church, such as:
Where do you go to church?
What time does church start?
We don’t go to church anymore.

Our culture has allowed the North American entrepreneurial spirit to control our theology of church. Because of this, our real primary definition of church (though we would never say this) is that church is a non-profit organization! Church in North America has become the spiritual version of the corporation, only with kingdom growth as the bottom line. So when we examine questions like “what is wrong with the church?” we automatically begin by trying to make the non-profit organization more effective. It never even occurs to us to question whether or not the non-profit organization is really the best understanding of what church is.

This leads to logical outcomes. Non-profit organizations (though not bad or good things in and of themselves) must put on excellent programs if they hope to impact the busy, distracted people of their target audience. In order to put on excellent programs, they must hire talented staff people, they must recruit large pools of volunteers, and they must buy or rent first-class facilities. And, of course, in order to hire talented staff and to acquire first-class facilities, non-profit organizations must raise large sums of money. If the church understands itself as a non-profit organization, then it has little choice but to raise large sums of money so that it can hire talented staff and acquire first-class facilities so that it can put on excellent programs so that it can actually impact a busy and distracted target audience. There is no other way to operate if we understand the church primarily as non-profit organization.

The problem is that our theological understanding of church is not primarily that of non-profit organization! Instead, we understand church primarily as being the people of God who are sent out on God’s mission. Once I came to admit this fact, then everything I had previously assumed about church began to rapidly change.

After spending a few years processing this renewed theological understanding of church, I began expressing the essence of church in even simpler terms. Now I would say that church, in its simplest form, is “plural for Christ-follower.” If two or more Christ-followers are together, they are an expression of church. Of course, there is ultimately the universal church made up of all Christ followers in all times and all places. But church often is expressed in more tangible, small meetings between two or more Christ followers.

This understanding was vital to me because I previously defined church by what it did instead of by who it was. Even in our early days of planting house churches, we insisted that a group must do certain things regularly in order to be considered a church. But we would never consider this as a viable way to identify a Christ-follower (the term I am using for Christian). We would insist that a Christ follower is one who follows Christ, or one who has been saved. We would not say that a Christ follower is one who reads the Bible, prays, and uses his spiritual gifts. Though a Christ follower will, in fact likely do these things, it is not the doing of these things that makes one a Christ follower. A Christ follower is identified by who he is (or, stated better, by whose he is), not by what he does. This is true because a Christ follower does not always perform perfectly to a set of standards, yet this does not change his identify as a follower of Christ. Once we accept that a Christ follower is identified by whose he is, not by what he does, then it is possible to see that church (defined as plural for Christ follower) is defined by who (or whose) it is, not by what it does. Two or more Christ followers coming together are church whether they are doing “Christian things” or whether they are watching television. Though a healthy church will do certain things, it is not the doing of these things that determines whether or not it is in fact an expression of church.

What a huge puzzle piece this discovery was for me! It led Apex into a five-year transition. We began to de-centralize our church into a network of smaller communities. As we decentralized, we were not against organizational tools like church buildings, paid church staff, and church programs. We had just come to understand these tools as totally optional and definitely secondary. This understanding changed everything. Although we held on to our weekly large meeting for awhile, we began meeting in smaller communities in each others homes (or wherever) for our primary church meetings. At first we called these smaller communities house churches. After a while, we found the term house church to be confusing, so we opted for more accurate descriptions such as simple church or organic church. However, even these terms confused the real point, which is that what we were becoming was actually just church. There was no need for labels or titles once we understood what we ourselves meant by church.

Our smaller communities began as mini-organized churches meeting in living rooms. We copied many of the elements of larger church in our homes because we did not what else to do. Although a few communities flourished this way, most began discovering that they had to function more like a family and less like an organization if their community was to survive and flourish. As a general rule, the communities that included a meal as part of their meetings were the ones that became healthy communities that functioned like families.

These theological issues of church, which were a key puzzle piece to understanding what was wrong with the North American Church, would cost me and our church many things. First, it cost us many people. Early on in the transition, we lost many people who decided to go back to mega-churches instead of completing our transitional process. Second, my convictions that paid staff persons were not essential to church would eventually cost me my “career” as a paid professional pastor. Third, it cost us our reputation in some circles as some long-time Christians misunderstood our intentions in de-centralizing our church and thought that we were, at worst, seriously misguided and, at best, not very strategic. In the end though, the benefits of a simple understanding of church would far outweigh its challenges as we started really being church more than doing church.


Supplemental Readings:

Matthew 18:20
Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35
Acts 16:11-15, 22-34
Acts 18:6-7
Romans 16:3-5
The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
The House Church by Del Birkey (Herald 1988)
The Church Comes Home by Robert Banks
The Naked Church by Wayne Jacobsen (BodyLife 1998)
Houses That Change the World by Wolfgang Simson (OM Publishing 2001)
Cultivating a Life For God by Neil Cole (ChurchSmart 1999)
The Organic Church Planter’s Greenhouse Intensive Training Even Participation Notes by Neil Cole & Paul Kaak (CMA 2003)

I finally realized that the problem with the church was a personal problem!

But intertwined in our structural and theological rediscovery of church was an even more primary piece to the puzzle. The puzzle had so many pieces in place, but the center piece was still missing. And as I looked at our puzzle and pondered the question of what is wrong with the church, what I found in the center of the puzzle is not what I expected to find. What I found was a mirror.

Right at the center of the puzzle was my reflection staring back at me. The problem with the church, though partially a generational issue, partially a cultural issue, and partially a theological issue, was primarily me. Yes, that’s right, the problem with the church was me. Before you hire someone to take me out in order to rid the church of its problems once and for all, I hope you will understand that I am speaking figuratively! I am speaking on behalf of us all. The problem with the church is me, or, more accurately, the problem with the church is us.

Our hearts are not healthy. My heart is not healthy. It’s healthier than it was when I first voiced this realization. I anticipate it will be healthier yet in the days and months ahead. But the truth is, our hearts are not healthy.

A few people began speaking into my life and helping me understand this. They helped me understand more fully that God really loves me, that the primary image of God is that of a Father loving me as His son. It’s a lot like the Prodigal Son Parable, where dad would give everything for His kids. Once I let this profound truth seep into my heart (instead of just my head), then I quit trying to follow a religious system in order to gain God’s approval. That led to me giving up the struggle to gain my fellow-man’s approval. I began to love other people not out of a sense of obligation, but out of an overflowing of an awareness of God’s love for me. I began to have enough love inside me to allow some of it to overflow to those around me, starting with my wife, my kids, and then radiating outward to my closest friends and beyond.

These understandings started coming in conjunction with my 30th birthday. When I turned thirty years old, I did some soul searching. I had a hard time believing I was no longer in my early twenties! I came to realize that my life was no longer about me. I had been married long enough that I should have been better at loving my wife than I was. I had a daughter at the time (now I have a son also). I was struggling with the transition from being the kid to being the father. I had lived my whole life primarily interested in what I could do and what I could get from others. I saw my 30th birthday as a transition point where I would have to start focusing my life on giving more than receiving. I was going to fail as a husband and as a dad if I didn’t change my perspective. I was going to fail as a church leader and as a friend as well.

I shared these thoughts with a trusted mentor. I shared how I was trying to become more of a giver and less of a receiver. Being a few years ahead of me on the journey, he knew exactly what I was feeling, yet he leveled with me that I could not do what I was trying to do! Instead, he challenged me to focus on receiving (yes, getting!), but only by receiving from God. He instructed me that I would never be able in and of myself to really give more than I received. Instead, I would have to start trusting my Father to constantly give to me so that could overflow with love to give to others. I was being challenged to start trusting God instead of just believing in Him. I was being challenged to allow God to heal my heart so that I would have something to give: something to give to my wife, something to give to my kids, something to give to my friends, and something to those who would come behind me in the journey of faith. I took my mentor up on his advice. I’m still learning how to do it, but my heart is healthier today than it was on my 30th birthday. I am learning to focus on receiving from my Father so that I can turn around and give to those around me.

My same mentor friend, seeing that I had made some progress, shared another thought with me a couple of years later. He described the life of following Christ by saying, “It’s not about being right, but it’s about giving your life away.” Those are words I intend to ponder and implement over the upcoming years.

All of this is part of my most recent piece to the puzzle of what is wrong with the church. I am now looking at the mirror at the center of the puzzle and working on the health of my own heart. I do so in order to have something to give to those who surround me. And as I have more and more to give to those who surround me, I am finding that those who trust in the Father as I do are my church, and those who do not yet trust in the Father as I do are my mission field. It is really that simple. I am focusing on my relationship with my Father, praying daily “Father, help my relationship with You to be the first thing on my heart today.” As I slowly but surely “get God right” I find it quite natural to start “getting church right” as well.


Supplemental Readings:

Luke 15:11-32 (read with The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen)
The Book of Galatians
1 John 4:7-5:5
He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen (Insight 2000)
Authentic Relationships by Wayne & Clay Jacobsen (Baker 2003)
The Only Necessary Thing (along with anything and everything else) by Henri Nouwen (Crossroad Publishing 1989)
Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli (NavPress 1998)
PART II: PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF A SIMPLE UNDERSTANDING OF CHURCH


Practical Implication #1: Learning to see what is happening with the church globally.

As Americans it is very hard for us to admit the facts that are now being widely reported to us: The church is growing faster in other parts of the world than it is here in the U.S. In places like China and India, the church has grown faster than in North America in recent decades. This has happened through church planting movements, which allow small, simple churches to multiply rapidly. We often lose sight of this because we see the explosion of mega churches in many suburban areas. What we do not see, however, is the shrinking of the church in urban and rural areas. What we do not see is that the population is exploding much faster than the church is growing here in North America.


Supplemental Readings:

Church Planting Movements by David Garrison, available at www.imb.org/resources.



Practical Implication #2: Learning to See Family as the Primary Image for Church

There are two problems that emerge from trying to figure out “church.”

First, when we try to figure out “church” we often start with a cultural assumption that church is a non-profit organization, or a “place where” something happens, as discussed above in the introduction. Early on in our house church days, we were really just doing big church shrunk down and stuffed in someone’s living room. We still had a teaching time (the house church version of a sermon) and usually a signing time (acoustic guitar instead of the full band). If no one could play guitar, then we would “just pray” instead. We took communion formally in a small room. We even passed a jar to collect some cash. It wasn’t all bad, but it was silly in many ways. We were trapped in our institutional understanding of church even when we moved it into a house. This began a long journey of learning what it meant to be Christ followers with each other. Many of us had to work on what it meant to be a Christ follower apart from “going to church.” And, even those who had something meaningful to share about that had to figure out how to do that with an intimate community of others. Groups struggled to discover who they were. Some went to one extreme and insisted on keeping “teaching” time and “singing” time. Others went to the other extreme and just hung out without any agenda ever. Many landed somewhere between. All of us were awkwardly trying to live out relationship with Father with each other.

The second problem that emerges from trying to figure out “church” is that we are focusing on a secondary issue. Healthy churches only emerge when people are following Christ in a healthy way. It has been said that a church is only as healthy as its disciples. Or, put another way, once we get “God right,” then we will get church right. Once our hearts are healthy, once we understand the love of our Father for us, then we will overflow in our love for each other, and we will be unable to help but to “get church right.”

We arrived at our idea of church from the back door, by stripping down our institutional idea of church to its relational essence. A healthier process would be to focus in on our relationship with our Father, and then allow that relationship to spill over into all of our other relationships.

Some Christ-followers find it necessary to go through a period of detoxing from church in order to get their relationship with Father right. Detoxing means taking a set amount of time to intentionally rest from Christian activities: going to church, going to Christian events, listening to Christian radio, reading Christian books, etc. None of these activities are bad in and of themselves, but sometimes we can’t focus on our relationship with our Father because we are so distracted and busy.

Once we come to experience our Father’s love and begin healing our hearts, we naturally start to turn to others. We begin living out, quite naturally, the one-another commands of the New Testament with people around us who are also experiencing Father’s love. This then becomes the basis for “church.”

Church is then not defined by a “place where” assumption. The church still gathers, but often in more intimate communities, and often in homes, though the church can gather almost anywhere. The primary image that describes what church looks like shifts from non-profit organization to family. Churches in many ways resemble extended families. Church gatherings are often closer in size to family gatherings. Churches, like families, are led by parents. Churches, when healthy and mature, naturally reproduce. You don’t have to convince them to do it, because the process is actually quite natural and even rather enjoyable. Churches, like families, value their kids, make supreme sacrifices for their kids, and include their kids in most (though not every) aspect of who they are. Churches, like families, are connected to other churches (families), though not in a hierarchical way, but in a relational way.


Supplemental Readings:

Acts 10:1-2, 44-48
Acts 16:14-15, 29-31
Acts 18:7-8
The Cry For Spiritual Fathers & Mothers by Larry Kreider



Practical Implication #3: Learning to Question our Most Frequently Asked Questions!

Meaning no disrespect to those who ask, I must admit that most of the questions that we are asked about simple church are the wrong questions! We humbly acknowledge this because these are the same questions we spent much time asking ourselves. The questions we are most frequently asked include the following:

What do you “do” at a simple church meeting?
How do you control these churches doctrinally and morally?
What do you do with kids in a simple church?
How are finances handled in a simple church?
How does leadership work in a simple church?

There are, of course, some reasonable answers to these questions which are included below.

But first, let’s consider if these are the best questions to be asking! What is it that these questions all have in common? I have come to realize that these are all questions that we ask as we try to take what we’ve learned about church under the “place where” assumption, or the “non-profit organization” assumption, and apply it to a simple church setting.

We are used to having an order of service when we go to church, so we ask “what shall we do at house church?”

We are used to having control structures in place to preserve a certain denomination’s theology and to make sure that we don’t “blow it” morally. Because we have grown accustomed to these control structures, we ask how we can preserve theology and morality without such structures.

We are accustomed to dropping our kids off at class, attending the church service with other adults, then picking our kids up afterwards and hearing all that they have learned about Jesus. We enjoy this convenience (at least until we get the phone call asking us to volunteer as a children’s worker and to teach a room full of kids about Jesus!). With this in mind, we ask what the arrangement for kids would be like if we met in a house.

Finances are a major issue in the non-profit organization, as discussed above. We are accustomed to elaborate systems for teaching tithing, collecting and accounting for offerings, ensuring bills are paid, and systematically distributing missions and benevolence funds. We shrink at the prospect of having to re-invent all of those systems within our little house church, but what else would we do?

And last, but not least, is the question of leadership. We are accustomed to a board (or multiple boards or teams) that run the church either according to a representative government model, or a corporate business model, or some combination of the two. How does this translate into church in the living room, we wonder?

Many of our questions stem from our “place where” / “non-profit organization” understanding of church. We’ve even been taught which Bible verses justify (or even mandate!) each element of our non-profit organization’s structure. After all, 1 Timothy 3 was intended to give the qualifications for “board members,” right? We jest. Of course Paul did not have “board members” in mind, but probably a very different understanding of what it meant to be an “elder” than what we have come to understand.

Having established that these frequently asked questions are not the best questions to be asking, here are some general responses nonetheless!


What do you “do” at a simple church meeting?

Simple Church meetings are open to many activities. No two simple churches meet in exactly the same way. Some simple churches have a set meeting time each week just to ensure that everyone does gather and make a priority to meet with God and with each other. Some simple churches are meeting throughout the week, intermingling individual lives with one another, allowing each other to be more spontaneous about when it is time to engage in spiritual disciplines and when it is time to have fun together.

Some groups have embraced the Greenhouse theory of “D.N.A.” (Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, & Apostolic Mission). Under this theory, each simple church looks to keep all three elements as part of its core identity, whether only two or three are gathered, whether an entire community is gathered, or whether multiple communities are gathered. Regardless of the size of gathering, there is church when there is Divine Truth (awareness of God’s presence and the freedom it His love brings), when there are Nurturing Relationships (awareness of each others’ needs and genuine love for one another), and when there is Apostolic Mission (awareness of the spiritual and physical needs of those around us, and the mission to them which we have as the church).

Other groups get this more intuitively and are able to spontaneously be what God has called them to be.

As far as specific activities that happen in the midst of simple churches, they are not new ideas, but often fresh expressions of familiar ideas and include, but are not limited to, the following:

Churches break bread, not only in the sense of remembering the body and blood of Christ, but also in the literal sense of sharing meals (and the preparation and clean-up) with each other. Both the spiritual and the physical aspects of Biblical “breaking bread” come back together as one as they originally were.

Churches pray, not only in the formal sense of thanking God before a meal and asking God to heal the sick, but also in more contemplative, meditative, and experimental forms. Churches practice the Biblical concept of blessing as they pray for each other and speak into each others’ lives.

Churches teach, not only through reading a section of the Bible and making life application from it, but also by allowing each person in the community to come to meetings prepared to share what they have been learning from their week with God.

Churches worship, not only by singing praise songs accompanied by musical instruments, but by actually creating in the image of the Creator (which may include original artistic expressions to God through songwriting, poetry, painting, cooking, writing, etc.).

Churches serve the needs of others, not only by planning service projects, but by simply noticing what needs are present in the room or in the neighborhood and spontaneously responding to those needs.

Churches laugh together and cry together. Churches hang out and eat meals and play video games and go on trips and go to movies and play board games and flat out enjoy life together. Churches go through the worst parts of life together crying with each other and working through conflict and saying goodbye to loved ones and listening in silence to a friend whose life has fallen apart.

Since churches are like families they go through the most profound moments of life together and the most mundane parts of life together, and everything in between.

Since church is plural for Christ-follower, and Christ-followers are holistic people who simultaneously live the sacred and secular, churches are holistic communities that simultaneously live the sacred and the secular as well.

Once again, it is important to realize that churches are really identified by whose they are, not by what they do. Only when they realize whose they are will they really begin to do what they are designed to do.


Supplemental Readings:

Acts 2:42-47
Romans 12:9-21
1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (read in the broader context of 1 Corinthians 12-14)
Authentic Relationships by Wayne & Clay Jacobsen (Baker 2003)



How do you control these churches doctrinally and morally?

There are two ways to respond to this question!

The first way to answer this question is to acknowledge that simple churches do have a natural form of accountability that comes through relational lines. Every church was started by another church or by a church planter who has within himself an understanding of the things of Christ. These relational/family lines provide the best kind of accountability. DNA is passed from generation to generation, much like in a biological family. Sometimes simple churches incorporate more formal special training opportunities (classes, retreats, books), but these are only supplements to the relational training that happens naturally.

The second way to answer this question is to probe into our motives for asking it in the first place. In all honestly, only God controls His church. When we ask who is in control we are asking a dangerous question because we are assuming that the church works better if a human(s) ultimately controls it. What we ignore in asking this question is that some of the most structured and controlled church denominations and systems throughout history have been plagued by moral failings and doctrinal issues. Control structures have not proven very effective in eliminating these things. We have come to a place where we fear that control structures may do more to limit the spontaneous expansion of the church than they have done to preserve its purity. Based on this, we would rather err on the side of freedom than err on the side of control. In fact, it is the very presence of controlling leaders (not the absence of such) that has led to the emergence of heresies and cults throughout church history. This fact is a major blind spot in today’s understanding of church structure.


Supplemental Readings:

Acts 15:22-35
Houses That Change the World by Wolfgang Simson



What do you do with kids in a simple church?

If the primary image of the church is that of “family,” then healthy churches should deal with their kids in the same way that healthy families do. This means that kids are frequently included in the life of the church and in its meetings.

Families with small children often have to modify their lifestyles in order to deal with their kids. It is looked upon as a privilege rather than an inconvenience to do so. Church life should follow the same pattern. What better way to spend a church meeting than in pouring into the spiritual lives of the next generation?

Having said this, families occasionally need to get a babysitter so that the adults can have some free time to relate on an intimate level. This same pattern can be practiced by the church as well.


Supplemental Readings:

Matthew 18:1-6
Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:1-9, 11:18-21



How are finances handled in a simple church?

There are many options for this. In our network, we encourage everyone to meet the financial needs of those in their simple church family first. Then, with whatever money is left, give back to the church network to help start new churches and network the existing churches. We provide two ways for people to do this: by giving at our monthly gathering of churches, and by sending gifts to through the mail.

When we honestly read the New Testament again “for the first time,” we notice that financial giving was primarily about meeting the needs of the poor. There are also subtle references to supporting people who give their full-time attention to ministry (though the kind of ministry more closely resembles what we would call missions than it does pastoral ministry). What we don’t find in the New Testament is a command to tithe to an organization to allow the organization to function. This is not to say that tithing (an Old Testament principle that can teach people much about generosity even today) to an organization is “wrong” in and of itself. This is to say that the New Testament teaches sacrificial giving and sharing of material wealth to those who are in need and the New Testament teaches that some (though certainly not all and probably not most) full-time missionaries are entitled to financial support from the church.

Once we acknowledge what the New Testament actually teaches about giving, it becomes far simpler to follow New Testament patterns in our church life. We prioritize sacrificial sharing of our material wealth with those in need, including those who gather with us in our small communities as well as those who live on the other side of the globe. We are also open to giving financial resources to support local or international missionaries. Beyond this, most expenses are minimal and can be dealt with without elaborate financial systems.

Simple churches and their networks sometimes incorporate in order to allow their members to receive tax benefits for their financial gifts. Though this is a legitimate practice, it is certainly not high on our list of priorities as to what it really means to be the church. Our preoccupation with giving in order to get a tax deduction is, once again, an idea we have incorporated into the church because of our “non-profit organization” assumption. It is more of a luxury, and certainly not a necessity, to get a tax benefit for sharing our wealth with those in need.


Supplemental Readings:

2 Corinthians 8-9
1 Corinthians 9:1-18
1 Timothy 5:17-18
Luke 16:13
1 Timothy 6:6-19



How does leadership work in a simple church?

Once again we must think of family as our primary image of church instead of thinking of non-profit organization as our primary image of church. Once we do that, the idea of leadership becomes simple. Leadership then resembles parenting more than it does managing.

Two kinds of leaders emerge in simple church networks: stayers & goers. Stayers are the spiritual fathers & mothers within a simple church. They serve as the overseers of the family. They pastor the flock. Their leadership style is comparable to a mother or father in a healthy biological family. Goers are more apostolic at heart. They go throughout the network planting new churches and networking the existing ones together. They often act as overseers of the network.

Various authors have come up with more elaborate leadership concepts for simple churches. These systems try to identify how simple church leadership corresponds to Biblical terms such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, elder, and deacon. Though some of their ideas may be valid, I have not found myself to be smart enough to positively identify how each of these roles plays out in today’s church. For my simple mind, I have only been able to distinguish between the stayers and goers. Perhaps the roles mentioned above are more complex explanations of the simple reality that some leaders stay in a context while others go from context to context. In the end, it is often easier to identify leadership roles in the rear view mirror (by seeing what God has done with a person over a period of time) than it is in the windshield (trying to label and predict who will play what leadership role before the test of time).



Supplemental Readings:

Luke 10:1-12 (read along with Luke 9:1-6 & Matthew 10:1-16)
Ephesians 4:11-16
Romans 12:3-8
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
I Timothy 3:1-13, 4:12-16

Kamis, 27 November 2008

Where do I turn when the church reject



by The Lady Michaela
 This page was inspired by this letter sent in: Every "christian" church I have gone to has shunned me away.  A lady, today in a dress came up to me and my friends and handed us some flyers and said "here you go dears I think you need to bring Christ into your lives." I just wanted to scream:  I DO  HAVE CHRIST IN MY LIFE!   I love God with all of my heart and yet I'm being told I'm a satanist because I wear black..  Help please, help me understand this, what do I do, where do I turn?  
It's too bad there are some ignorant Christians in the world but there are far more wonderful loving Christians out there, and it's a shame because of the few ignorant ones that so many nice kids should get turned off to church.  I do know exactly how you feel...I too have been stared at and even prayed over by a visiting evangelist at a church I use to attend.  I think he thought I was a witch or something!  I really hope you all will be encouraged to continue looking for a good church because going to the "right" church is very important.  If you do not allow God to help you grow through this painful experience it will continue to hurt and stunt your growth as a Christian. Give the rejection and hurt to Him. Jesus promised that offenses would come and the best thing I can do for you, is to be honest and help you grow through this pain and rejection, otherwise I really wouldn't be operating in His love.  (Although it makes me quite upset when I receive stories like this.)  A lot of our brothers and sisters in the Lord are blinded by the fact that we all do not fit into the Christian Cookie Cutter Mold they believe we should fit into.  We are all individuals and the Lord uses those unique qualities in us to reach others like us.  Some suggestions I might want to offer you would be to perhaps mail a letter to the pastor (of the church that rejected you) and tell him LOVINGLY exactly what happened and then tell him that Jesus Christ is your Lord and savoir and that because of your attire, some in his church thought otherwise, and that is not right to judge on the outward appearance.  You could tell the pastor to visit ChristianGoth.com to better understand where you are coming from.  You could quote 1 Samuel 16:7 to folks who give you flyers suggesting you need the Lord.  "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7.....if memorization or nervousness is a problem, you could carry this scripture printed out on cards to hand to those rejecting and judging you (in Christian love.)  I have that scripture on a picture holder keychain on my coffin shaped purse for such an occasion!  When you ask "why is God putting you through this".....like I said earlier, Jesus did say offenses will come, even sometimes by our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  I also asked myself that very question when it happened to me.  The answer, I soon found out was: SO I WOULD KNOW WHAT IT FELT LIKE!  It was a painful lesson for me that I too needed to work through as you do now.  I can honestly with all my heart say, I understand, how you are feeling....I know the pain and hurt of that rejection....but, what you need to do (and it is not easy, you need to forgive those folks) God will deal with them....you need to rise above the situation, and be the best Christian you can possibly be.  That way you know that YOU KNOW you are right with the Lord and He is looking with eyes of approval on you.  Your walk with the Lord will eventually shut the judging mouths of those who hand you flyers or say nasty remarks.  Above all, to finally answer the question of where do I turn?  You go running straight into the arms of Jesus!!  You cry...you yell...you tell Him whatever is on your heart concerning this whole ordeal and then turn it over to Him.  Leave it there with Him at the cross...and if it happens again, do the same thing!  Run to Jesus, but NEVER, never run away from Him because of what others do to you.

Kamis, 13 November 2008

I Am A Christian


I am a Christian


When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I 'm found and forgiven."

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!

 
 By Maya Angelou
 

Kamis, 06 November 2008

SET MY DAUGHTERS FREE!


 "SET MY DAUGHTERS FREE! --WE NEED GODLY WOMEN TO EXPRESS HIS UNLIMITED PURPOSES"

by Robert Ricciardelli
Chains That Bind

The Lord has been speaking to me of the continuing need to bring revelation and truth globally regarding women. I believe we are seeing, and will begin seeing, even more women released with Kingdom mandates and impact like never before in history.

Women have been shut up, looked upon as second class, or having no class, and put into bondage in many parts of the world. This has become the expected in regions of the world that have rejected Biblical truth, and unfortunately at the same time, it has been the norm in some places that value Biblical truth. I am directing this message to those who are called the Church, God's people.

It's very hard being a woman. It has been that way throughout all of history. In many places of the world today, the culture looks upon women no different from thousands of years ago. In many ways, women have become the slaves of men; men who, in general, have little interest in womens' personal needs, very little interest in their feelings, their emotions, and their sufferings.

Throughout human history, men have used women for sexual fulfillment, to tend to the children, and for a variety of domestic duties. All over the world, women have been dominated and humiliated. And until modern times, men actually held the power of life and death over women, and still do in some tribal regions.

Male and Female Made in His Image

This harsh treatment of women, which is pretty much the general pattern of human history, was not the original design of God. Sin brought it in. And it, therefore, corrupted the original relationship between man and woman. It is very evident to me through God's word that He created man in His image both male and female. "He" is in God's image and "she" is in God's image, and both of them were called to co-labor in ruling over the earth with Him.

Genesis 1:26-28:

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"

It is sin that broke this divine partnership of co-laboring the Lord had established from the very beginning.

Genesis 3:16:

"To the woman He said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'"

But thank God for His son Jesus who came to break us free from the bondages of sin.

Our Minds Justify what Our Hearts have Chosen

Most of us in our life have been raised in families, doctrines, and cultures that have influenced our mindsets far from Biblical truth. Severe and hurtful consequences occur even when we slightly sway from the contextual truth of God's word. It is amazing what the doctrines of man have come up with through the centuries. We can pull out Scriptures to fit every mindset our heart has chosen. Our minds justify what our hearts have chosen and we misuse His word in self-gratifying justification.

If we believe that woman was born only to help men with man's agenda, we are in deception. Many men today still pull a Scripture out of context to enslave women to meet their needs. We cannot continue to create, maintain, or tolerate doctrines contrived by man to serve man. Sound doctrine from the Word of God is divine revelation and understanding from the context in which it was written, and the context to which it is to be applied.

Advancing Kingdom

I am not denying the unique differences of men and women. I am not endorsing secular feminism. I am not politicizing for more women in church leadership. And I am certainly not endorsing Christian women to ever revolt against male leadership. I also am not pretending to have all the answers, but I do know this:

"We need Godly women to be free in expressing His unlimited purposes for them in advancing His Kingdom."

Galatians 3:27-29:

"And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you."

In our Father's Kingdom, there is neither male nor female in regards to His promises, His authority, and His ability to bring His Heavenly will upon this earth through ALL who belong to Him. I have not always seen it this way and I certainly have behaved chauvinistically in my past. But I see with much more clarity now, and although I am not a theologian, freedom for women is the view from my porch.

Jezebel's Reprise

I believe the "Jezebel Spirit" has been played and overplayed regarding women. It seems to me these days, that many anointed women of God with a backbone have been labeled a Jezebel at one time or another. The truth is, we have seen this spirit manifest itself in both men and women, and often it is preceded by an Ahab spirit. If a strong-willed male or female is not walking in humility, there can be an opening for the Jezebel spirit.

We need to minimize our labeling of God's people and heighten our discernment levels. May the Lord have mercy on our judgment of those He chooses, and also on how He may choose to use them. Those who have wrongful motives or wrongful spirits need to step down, regardless if they are male or female. We all need to be obedient and walk humbly before our God

Get Out of His Way

My wife Joyce always says that we need to activate a universal ministry called, "Get Out Of His Way Ministries International." I am in agreement with her. We need to simply get out of the way in our opposition of what clearly is the work of His Spirit. We need to see beyond our mindsets that the Lord is mightily using women throughout the world in ways that contradict the traditions and doctrines of man. There is a divine order of things as He leads us. We must submit to His order and not the order of men.

I am not ashamed that I have learned from women. My Godly mother taught me well, not only in my youth, but I continued to see the works of the Lord throughout her life until her passing six years ago. I continue to learn from my wife Joyce, and many other daughters of the Living God. Men are being taught by woman in many jurisdictions, and we cannot deny this regardless of doctrine.

Women Want to be Heard

Most women are not seeking to rule the world. Women in general are not seeking to rule at all. Most women just want to be heard. They have a voice, and it is of tremendous Kingdom value. The Body of Christ will have greater impact in our nations, communities, and churches as we release their gifts throughout the world.

J. Lee Grady of Charisma, has become a precious friend. A friend of his, Natasha Shedrevaya, is a female apostle who has started more than 350 churches. Natasha spoke of a young woman in Russia who ran a drug rehab clinic and has led many to the Lord. This young Russian woman's denomination, which is led by men, did not know what to do with her as they do not ordain women.

The fruits of her labor of love for the Lord had reached far beyond many men in that organization. She felt led to ask to be ordained, although she was not motivated by any title. After much deliberation, they decided that since they had never ordained a woman, they would ordain her as a half-pastor. So this young Russian woman is a half-pastor, and she continues to rattle the gates of hell in advancing His Kingdom.

I have such an appreciation for the way the Lord is using all that hear His voice, both men and women. We are hearing incredible stories of transformation from many parts of the world. Almighty God is pouring His Spirit upon all flesh. Men, women, and children are being released as living examples of His Kingdom expressed through mankind. I am encouraged and give Him all the glory. For those who need a paradigm overhaul or further scriptural insight, I recommend the book Ten Lies the Church Tells Women, by my friend J. Lee Grady

Selasa, 21 Oktober 2008

COMMITED TO PURITY



I am committed to Purity for my future mate because my Heavenly Father has lovingly instructed me to do so.
With God's Help I Will Do My Best To:
Plan my dates and outings so that I will not put myself in compromising situations.
Understand that true love really does wait.
Read God's word and seek Him daily for wisdom and strength.
Inform my family and friends about my commitment so I can be held accountable.
Trust in the Lord for His strength in my time of weakness.
Yeild to the Lord's instructions, trusting that His love and plan for my life is truly the best.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. Php. 4:8  

Sabtu, 18 Oktober 2008

OBSESSION WITH DEATH


Obsession with Death
The black clothing, the makeup, the thoughts, etc. Goths are often accused of being obsessed with death. If you are Christian AND Goth...it's time to move forward. I don't necessarily mean the clothing issue, black is symbolic of 'death' to self (if you wear black as a C. Goth let it be a constant reminder to you that you need to be 'dying' daily to self.) ~ Let's see what God's Word has to say about

Romans 6:1~4  What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  Certainly not! How shall we who dies to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of Life.
Romans 8:38  For I am persuaded that neither death not life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Philippians 1:2 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Colossians 3:5  (LB) Away then with sinful, earthly things; deaden the evil desires lurking within you; have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust and shameful desires.
John 5:24  Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him Who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life.
Romans 8:6  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
2 Corinthians 2:14~16  Now thanks be to God Who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life.
Romans 6:7~11  For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him...Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8~10  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, shall we be saved from wrath through Him.   For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. 
Hebrews 2:9  But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
1 Peter 3:18  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.
Hebrews 9:14  How much more shall the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
James 5:20 Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way saved a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
2 Corinthians 7:10  For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
1 John 3:14  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.
1 Corinthians 15:25~26  For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
Revelation 1:17~18 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He Who lives, and WAS dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of death. 
Leave the Darkness:
Ephesians 5:8-11  In the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the things done in the darkness, which are not worth anything.  But try to expose them.
2 Corinthians 4:6   For it is God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
Romans 13:12  .....Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Acts 26:18  ...to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.
Isaiah 42:16  I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known.  I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight.  These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.
Here are some very special words taken from an article by Pastor Dave Hart
TO CHRISTIAN GOTHS
"I believe that the Christian gothic/industrial community has been called for such times as these. Who else is more prepared to deal with dark days and painful times?  You are a tribe of poet/priests and poet/warriors called to fight the darkness you know so well. Like Stryder and the Northern Rangers in "The Lord of the Rings," you will be used to fight the shadows of fear and terror in the dark forests and murky swamps which lie outside the boundaries of the land of the Hobbits. Those Hobbits may never understand or appreciate the work you are called to do and the sacrifices God calls you to - but we do not fight the good fight for their approval. We do it because we already have His.
So what can we do in these dark times? Be who you are. Be confident in your unique calling. You are a chosen tribe, a holy nation of priests (I Pet. 2:9) and a peculiar people (special treasure) (Exod. 19:5; Deut. 14:2) of a Holy (unique, special, set-apart) God. Be imitators of Christ. Look in the mirror. Surrender the weights (of fear, bitterness, the past, the pain) that hold you down (Heb. 12:1-4), and walk in His way. Do not forsake the fellowship of like-minded believers. Read the Word. Walk the Word.  Remember where you came from. Come along side the misfits and the disenfranchised. Be ready to "die": to your old life, to your dreams, to your glory, to your sin-nature, to this world, to this body. Remember it’s all going to burn. Remember that our suffering will not last forever. Live to hear these words and these words alone: "Well done good and faithful servant" (Mt. 15:21, 23).         pastor dave  ~  Sanctuary International, San Diego

Rabu, 15 Oktober 2008

NO ONE ACCEPTS ME


No One Accepts Me
Mike Clawson
Do you ever feel like an outsider?
Do you feel like you can’t be yourself without people judging you, looking down on you? Have you ever wondered whether anyone understands what you’re going through? Whether there is anyone who cares enough to really get to know you? Do you worry that if people actually did get to know you they wouldn’t like you, that you’d just end up rejected and lonely?
Perhaps you know what it’s like to be mocked, shunned, excluded, or just plain ignored. Being a teenager is never easy. It seems like no matter how hard you try to fit in, there is always someone willing to put you down. The message you get from both parents and peers is that if you want to be loved you have to change. Why can’t people ever just accept you the way you are?
A lot of people act as though they’ll only accept us if we’re better, or smarter, or more popular or whatever. We feel like we have to earn the right to be loved; but then it seems like no matter how hard we try, we’re never quite good enough for some people. Do you ever just wish you could find someone . . .
. . . who will love you unconditionally?
. . . who won’t condemn you for your mistakes and failures?
. . . whom you can trust with all your hopes and fears, your tears and your triumphs?
There is one person who will accept you just the way you are.
God loves you for who you are and for who he created you to be. It doesn’t matter what you look like; it doesn’t matter what you’ve done; it doesn’t matter if you feel like no one could ever love you. God still loves you no matter what. You are God’s beloved creation! He knows everything about you—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and he still loves you! That’s why Romans 8:38-39 says: “I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can stop God’s love! We don’t have to do anything to earn it; it’s unconditional, and nothing we can do can separate us from it. Of course we’re still going to make mistakes and do things that disappoint God. But even when we do, God is already at work to find us, to forgive us, and to welcome us into his family with open arms. All it takes is for us to admit that we’ve failed and come running into God’s open arms of forgiveness and love.
We all sometimes feel like no one cares, like no one could possibly love us, like we don’t fit in anywhere. But just remember that God does care, that God will forgive all your failings and accept you just the way you are; and if you will receive that forgiveness, you can be confident that you will always have a place in his family.
If you would like to start a relationship with God and know for sure that you are part of his family, talk to him right now from your heart. You might say something like this:
God, I confess that I’ve made mistakes. I know that I’ve disappointed you. Thank you for loving me anyway, and for proving your love by sending Jesus to die for me. Thank you for accepting me just the way I am, in spite of my sin. I want to turn from those things and live for you from this moment on. Please be a part of my life and help me to follow you. Amen.

Minggu, 12 Oktober 2008

WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST


WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST

    I  am accepted...
I am God's child ~ John 1:12
As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ ~ John 15:15
I have been justified ~ Romans 5:1
I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit ~ 1 Corin. 6:17
I have been bought with a price, and I belong to God ~ 1 Corin. 6:19-20
I am a member of Christ's body ~ 1 Corin. 12:27
I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child ~ Ephesians 1:3-8
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins ~ Colossians 1:13-14
I am complete in Christ ~ Colossians 2:9-10
I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ ~ Hebrews 4:14-16
I am secure...
I am free from condemnation ~ Romans 8:1-2
I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances ~ Romans 8:28
I am free from any condemnation brought against me, and I cannot be separated from the love of God ~ Romans 8:31-39
I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God ~ 2 Corin. 1:21-22
I am hidden with Christ in God ~ Colossians 3:1-4
I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me ~ Philippians 1:6
I am a citizen of Heaven ~ Philippians 3:20
I have not been given the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind ~ 2 Timothy 1:7
I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me ~ 1 John 5:18
I am significant...
I am the branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life ~ John 15:5
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit ~ John 15:16
I am God's temple ~ 1 Corin. 3:16
I am a minister of reconciliation for God ~ 2 Corin.5:17-21
I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm ~ Ephesians 2:6
I am God's workmanship ~ Ephesians 2:10
I may approach God with freedom and confidence ~ Ephesians 3:12
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me ~ Philippians 4:13
THE MORE YOU REAFFIRM WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity!
info on this page from the book: Victory Over the Darkness:
Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ
by Neil T. Anderson

Selasa, 07 Oktober 2008

AN OPEN LETTER TO PASTORS FROM A PAGAN


An Open Letter to Pastors from a Pagan
I Have A Question To Ask You


Please allow this letter to speak to your heart. This letter was not written in anger. This letter was Annie's experience as she searched for Jesus Christ. Posting this letter is not intended to harm any one in any way. The purpose for posting this letter is to give insight into someone else's experience...and an opportunity for you to care.

Dear Pastors,

I am a Witch. I know that many of you think that I believe what I do because of a rebellious nature, but in reality, I follow this path because I have found something real. I have committed years to developing a spirituality that I can base my life on. However, I am beginning to realize that although it is real, it is not always fulfilling.

So, I have begun asking some tough questions, and I am giving this God of yours a second look. I have heard some amazing things about Him, and I have to wonder if they are true.

In search of answers, I have visited your churches. I have to admit that I am puzzled by what I have found there. I have sat in the pews hoping to gain knowledge, and instead I have walked away with only more questions.

In the first church I visited, I was met with shock and horror when you realized I am a Witch. Yes, I serve other entities, but what you failed to see was the fact that I was looking for your God. I did not come to your place of worship to disturb you. I came because, though you may not have been able to tell, I myself am disturbed. I have taken a great risk in entering your church, and I did not make that choice casually.

I’ve heard you teach that your God will accept anyone, but you yourselves looked on me with disdain. You told me that you could not speak with me because light is to have no fellowship with darkness. But unless I see this light, how would I ever be able to leave the darkness? If you cannot show it to me, then who will?

So I continued my search, in hope of finding those answers I crave. I was relieved to find a church that did not stare in horror when I entered. Your service was lovely, and I thought I had finally found a place where my questions could be voiced. Afterwards I listened as you spoke to your congregation of the building project and the goals that you have. You talked of donating your time to God’s work, but when I approached you later and asked if we could talk, you said that you had urgent plans elsewhere. As I watched you walk away, I heard you mention to a friend that you were in a hurry to leave for vacation.

I am impressed with your commitment to build a place of beauty for the worship of your God. But who will fill that building? The potluck dinners you mentioned are certain to draw a crowd, but what about those of us who are hungry for something more? I won’t be there, because your vacation was more important than taking the time to have a short conversation.

My next church experience was a bit different than the first two. I was able to slip into my seat unnoticed. Your sermon was about the fires of hell, and how all of those who God cannot accept will meet that horrific fate. Many others were moved to action by pure fear, but I felt nothing.

Your passion was obvious, but I found nothing helpful in the words you spoke. I believe there are consequences for our actions, but you have to realize that the threat of hell does not affect me as it does others. I live a hell on earth every day of my life. Even if that were not the case, I refuse to be forced into such an important decision by fear. So amid the terrified prayers of other seekers, I slipped out the door.

Eventually I found a church that seemed open and friendly. It was a little place, and I was immediately greeted with warm handshakes and several people introduced themselves. You knew what I was, and you were still kind. Quite honestly, I don’t remember what your sermon was about because I was still shocked due to the welcome I had received. So I came back the next Sunday, and again everyone was friendly. Each person I talked to was more friendly than the last, and a few gave me their phone numbers urging me to call if I ever needed anything.

Later in that week, the pain of my situation began playing it’s cruel games. I was desperate for some peace, but I didn’t know where to turn. So I picked up one of those phone numbers I had been given and made the call. I introduced myself, and was puzzled when the church member on the other end of the line seemed distant and detached. I plowed forward, hoping to connect with a fellow human being, but it was obvious the other person was disinterested in the conversation.

The situation repeated itself during two more phone calls, and it became apparent what was taking place. Your church people were more than willing to act concerned when there were others watching. It had been a contest of who could seem most Godly. But when the rubber met the road, and no one else was around to see, their true nature showed through. Helping the poor Pagan had become a sort of power struggle, a way to show who was the most pious. I am offended by this lack of respect and consideration.

So I have gone back to those entities that I serve, and they answered my call. It is a world where I know the rules, and they don’t change from day to day. They offer power and knowledge, but there is no offer of love. I possess strength and power and all the material possessions I could ever want; yet I have to admit that it is love that my soul craves. For a time, I can lock that desire away, but it haunts me. I still wrestle between wanting to know more about a God who claims to be All-Loving, and cursing Him for what I found in your places of worship.

If the people I have met there are His representatives, I want no part of Him. I am not na├»ve enough to believe that Christians are above being human, but your God inhabits your hearts, shouldn’t that be obvious?

It is likely that I visit one of your churches again someday. I have shared my experiences for your consideration, not so that you can offer an explanation, but because I wonder if you are even aware that your church has been presented in such a manner. I am looking to you for an example of your God, because I don’t know where else to look. If my search continues to turn up the same results, then I can only assume that your claims of God are false and I will look no further. I am prepared to accept that my questions have no answers, and that my search has been a failure… but I am still haunted by the thought that there must be something more to life than this. Will I find it at your church?

*based on journal excerpts of Annie Fintan, Refuge Ministries, while she was still a Pagan.

Sabtu, 04 Oktober 2008

MEMULAI PELAYANAN BAGI ORANG MISKIN


MEMULAI PELAYANAN BAGI ORANG MISKIN

   Gereja membutuhkan visioner yang memilih untuk tidak bermain aman,
   namun bersedia mengambil risiko dan beriman kepada Tuhan dalam
   merintis pelayanan yang inovatif di kota, khususnya bagi orang-orang
   miskin yang membutuhkan bantuan.

   Kehendak Tuhan bagi kebanyakan kita yang tinggal di kota adalah
   menunjuk kepada pelayanan bagi kaum miskin. Jika Tuhan telah
   memanggil Anda untuk memulai sesuatu yang baru di kota, seperti
   Tuhan telah memanggil saya, maka Anda akan melalui proses pemahaman
   akan kehendak-Nya, berjalan dalam iman, dan membangun mimpi Anda.

   Berikut langkah-langkah dalam memahami dan memulai pelayanan yang
   penuh tantangan ini:

   1. Izinkan Roh Menaruh Visi dalam Diri Anda

   Tuhan memberi kita penglihatan akan rencana dan tujuan-Nya dalam
   hidup kita dan mengizinkan kita untuk bermimpi dan memiliki visi
   yang jelas dan konkret. Semakin spesifik doa, tujuan, dan sasaran
   kita untuk visi tersebut, semakin besar kemungkinannya untuk visi
   tersebut dapat terwujud.

   Visi adalah gambaran yang membara di hati tentang apa yang Tuhan
   ingin lakukan melalui Anda di tempat tertentu bersama kelompok orang
   yang spesifik. Visi adalah pewahyuan tentang rencana Tuhan yang
   dapat terjadi. Dengan memercayai dan menindaklanjuti visi tersebut,
   mimpi dapat terwujud. Dua visioner kuno, Abraham dan Sarah, telah
   mengalaminya. Saya melihat tiga benang dalam struktur kehidupan
   mereka yang membentuk pola masa kini dalam memahami kehendak Tuhan:
   panggilan untuk taat, iman terhadap visi, dan hasil yang sudah
   diantisipasi.

   Panggilan untuk Meninggalkan Tempat Tinggal

   Abraham dan Sarah tinggal dengan nyaman di Haran saat Tuhan
   memanggil mereka: "Pergilah dari negerimu dan dari sanak saudaramu
   dan dari rumah bapamu ini ke negeri yang akan Kutunjukkan kepadamu;"
   (Kej. 12:1). Tidak mudah bagi mereka untuk menaati panggilan itu --
   banyak risiko dan pengorbanan untuk pergi ke tempat entah-berentah;
   di gurun.

   Sebuah "panggilan" akan selalu mengiang, bisikan dalam diri Anda
   yang mengatakan, "Tinggalkan rumahmu dan pergilah ke tempat yang
   Kutunjukkan kepadamu." Mungkin rumah yang kita tinggalkan bersifat
   geografis atau spiritual. Tempat yang ditunjukkan kepada kita
   mungkin adalah kota, pelayanan baru di lingkungan, atau cara hidup
   baru di mana kita berada. Yang terpenting adalah meresponi dan
   mengikuti visi yang lahir dari Tuhan dalam diri kita, tanpa
   menghiraukan risiko dan besarnya pengorbanan.

   Saat Abraham dan Sarah pergi, keponakan mereka, Lot, ikut bersama
   mereka. Kemudian, gembala Abraham dan Lot berselisih tentang
   pembagian tanah. Abraham, yang percaya akan visinya, memutuskan
   untuk berpisah: "Jika engkau ke kiri, maka aku ke kanan, jika engkau
   ke kanan, maka aku ke kiri." (Kej. 13:9)

   Lot melihat ke Timur dan "melihat seluruh Lembah Yordan banyak
   airnya, seperti taman TUHAN, seperti tanah Mesir" (Kej. 13:10).
   Seketika itu, Lot berpisah dari Abraham dan tinggal di Yordan.
   Abraham memilih tinggal di Kanaan yang berbukit-bukit, yang nampak
   tidak sedap dipandang mata. Di situlah Tuhan menegaskan visinya:
   "Pandanglah sekelilingmu dan lihatlah dari tempat engkau berdiri itu
   ke timur dan barat, utara dan selatan, sebab seluruh negeri yang
   kaulihat itu akan Kuberikan kepadamu dan kepada keturunanmu untuk
   selama-lamanya." (Kej. 13:14-15)

   Ada pelajaran yang dapat diambil dari peristiwa tersebut untuk
   visioner kota pada masa kini: mata iman tidak berfokus pada
   penampilan, namun pada pandangan yang luas dan penglihatan akan
   rencana Tuhan yang dapat terjadi. "Apa yang dapat kamu lihat secara
   luas, Aku dapat memberikannya kepadamu," kata Tuhan kepada orang
   beriman. "Apa yang tidak dapat kamu impikan, Aku tidak dapat
   memberikannya kepadamu."

   "Pandanglah sekelilingmu dan lihatlah" adalah kunci kepada
   keberhasilan di luar batas kemampuan manusia. Jika kita dapat
   memimpikan visi Tuhan dan spesifik dengan hasilnya, apa yang kita
   perlukan akan disediakan oleh Tuhan "yang menjadikan dengan
   firman-Nya apa yang tidak ada menjadi ada" (Rm. 4:17).

   Tuhan membangkitkan pemimpin yang memiliki mimpi dan visi yang
   spesifik, yang percaya kepada-Nya akan hasilnya. Surat Ibrani
   mengingatkan kita bahwa iman atau visi "adalah dasar dari segala
   sesuatu yang kita harapkan dan bukti dari segala sesuatu yang tidak
   kita lihat" (Ibr. 11:1).

   Saya percaya bahwa dalam diri setiap orang, tersembunyi visi Tuhan
   yang menunggu pemenuhan melalui iman dan ketaatan.

   2. Bangun Visi Secara Perlahan

   Setelah memahami kehendak Tuhan, kesabaran diperlukan dalam
   mewujudkan visi bagi pelayanan untuk orang miskin di kota. Seperti
   halnya janin membutuhkan sembilan bulan untuk dapat lahir sebagai
   bayi, butuh bertahun-tahun untuk mimpi atau visi dalam hati itu
   menjadi kenyataan.

   Apa yang terjadi pada Anda sama pentingnya dengan apa yang Tuhan
   lakukan melalui Anda. Bersabarlah menunggu Tuhan, biarkan Tuhan
   mengerjakan karya keselamatan dalam diri Anda, dan kemudian bangun
   visi Anda secara perlahan, namun pasti.

   Saat saya dan beberapa orang melayani di New York, kami memulai
   pelayanan dengan visi yang cukup murni. Kami membutuhkan waktu untuk
   mapan sebelum kami melakukan banyak pelayanan. Namun, kami melangkah
   semakin cepat dan kami menjadi terdesak. Hasilnya adalah krisis
   dalam pelayanan: banjir permintaan dan kebutuhan, sedikitnya uang,
   pelayanan semakin sempit, dan staf kedodoran. Selama bertahun-tahun,
   kami berjuang untuk bertahan sampai kami memerlambat laju pelayanan
   kami, kemudian mengambil waktu untuk merenung, memikirkan fokus
   pelayanan, dan peletakan dasar spiritual.

   Intensitas pelayanan kota dapat menghancurkan bahkan visioner
   paling percaya diri sekalipun. Cara untuk hidup berkemenangan
   adalah membiarkan visi Anda tersingkap secara perlahan, hari demi
   hari, tahap demi tahap, mengikuti irama Roh.

   3. Ajak Rekan Sepelayanan

   Seorang visioner tidak dapat memenuhi visi Tuhan seorang diri. Visi
   itu harus dibagi. Butuh waktu untuk menemukan orang yang tepat. Ajak
   orang yang Anda kenal dan percaya, yang berkompeten, berkomitmen,
   dan yang Anda percayai serta yang memberi rasa nyaman. Jangan
   terburu-buru mengajak orang hanya karena mereka bersemangat. Tunggu
   waktunya Tuhan memberikan orang yang tepat.

   Butuh waktu lebih dari setahun bagi saya untuk menemukan lima orang
   yang bersedia dan mampu melayani bersama di San Fransisco. Yesus
   sendiri membutuhkan waktu tiga tahun untuk memuridkan dua belas
   orang pria dan sekelompok wanita. Barulah setelah itu Yesus
   mengatakan kepada Petrus, "gembalakanlah domba-domba-Ku" dan di atas
   batu karang ini Aku akan mendirikan jemaat-Ku" (Yoh. 21:17; Mat.
   16:18).

   4. Pilih Ladang Pelayanan

   Setelah mengajak rekan sepelayanan, langkah selanjutnya adalah
   secara perlahan dan penuh doa mengidentifikasi lingkungan yang akan
   dilayani. Tanyakan pertanyaan ini: Siapa yang Tuhan ingin kita
   kasihi? Lingkungan dan daerah geografis bagaimana yang nampaknya
   paling membutuhkan kehadiran Tuhan? Lingkungan mana yang nampak siap
   akan hadirnya pelayanan untuk mereka?

   Setiap kota memiliki daerah kumuh yang terabaikan. Kita bisa saja
   memiliki visi untuk menjangkau daerah kumuh seluruh kota, namun
   pelayanan kota akan efektif apabila kita fokus pada lingkungan
   tertentu.

   Selalu ada lingkungan dalam sebuah kota yang paling cocok untuk
   dilayani. Pilih daerah yang memiliki sejarah, riwayat, dan ciri khas
   -- yang menarik dan menantang Anda. Yang terpenting, pilih daerah
   kumuh yang ditinggali orang-orang miskin dan gelandangan.

   5. Tetapkan Pos Pelayanan

   Menetapkan pos pelayanan di lingkungan terpilih adalah langkah
   penting selanjutnya dalam memulai pelayanan kota. Idealnya, sewalah
   atau belilah bangunan yang memiliki corak budaya dan mudah diakses
   masyarakat. Orang yang berusaha Anda jangkau membutuhkan sebuah
   simbol komitmen dan kehadiran Anda. Masyarakat memerlukan sebuah
   tempat yang hidup, dan pelayanan membutuhkan tempat untuk
   berkembang. Sebuah pusat pelayanan akan mampu memenuhi kebutuhan
   tersebut.

   Jika Anda mengalami kesulitan -- entah itu masalah keuangan atau
   yang lainnya -- seperti halnya saya saat berusaha mengembangkan
   pelayanan di New York dan San Fransisco, percayalah bahwa Tuhan
   dapat melakukan mukjizat. Mukjizat adalah karya Tuhan yang tepat
   pada waktunya. Dari pengalaman saya merintis pelayanan di New York
   dan San Fransisco, tidak ada visi dari Tuhan yang mustahil.

   6. Bangun Komunitas

   Sebelum Anda melaksanakan misi pelayanan Anda dalam sebuah
   lingkungan, kelompok pelayanan Anda harus menjadi sebuah komunitas.

   Apakah komunitas itu? J. B. Libanio, yang menulis tentang komunitas
   kristiani di Amerika Tengah dan Selatan, mendefinikan komunitas
   sebagai berikut: "Sebuah kesatuan beberapa orang yang dinamis, yang
   melalui interaksi sosial yang spontan, terintegrasi oleh ikatan
   persahabatan, emosional, kesamaan sejarah, dan budaya."

   Sebuah komunitas terbentuk saat sebuah kelompok kecil berintegrasi,
   berjalan besama, dan ingin melakukan sesuatu yang lebih besar
   daripada yang dapat mereka capai secara individual.

   Sebagai suatu kelompok pelayanan, kita semua harus merasa terpanggil
   untuk hidup di antara orang-orang yang ingin kita jangkau. Hal ini
   membutuhkan komitmen jangka panjang. Komunitas berarti komitmen
   kepada satu dengan yang lain dan kepada rencana rekonsiliasi Tuhan.
   Komunitas diperlukan sebelum penyembahan dan misi dapat terjadi
   dengan benar. Sebuah kelompok pelayanan yang berharap untuk
   menjangkau sebuah kota dan lingkungan dengan kasih Tuhan, harus
   terlebih dahulu mengasihi dan menghargai anggotanya.

   Perbedaan dalam kepribadian, teologi, latar belakang, standar kerja
   dan kebersihan, talenta, dan panggilan dapat menghancurkan sebuah
   komunitas. Namun hal itu dapat diatasi dengan komitmen bersama
   terhadap proses dan berfokus pada visi Tuhan.

   7. Biarkan Misi Mengalir

   Sebuah kelompok Kristen kecil yang diorganisasi bagi misi dan
   setidaknya bertemu untuk menyembah, berdoa, dan saling menguatkan
   seminggu sekali, memiliki potensi untuk memahami visi Tuhan serta
   apa dan bagaimana Tuhan terlibat di dalamnya. "Handbook for Mission
   Groups" karya Gordon Cosby menjelaskan setiap langkah bagaimana
   sebuah komunitas terbentuk dan menemukan pelayanannya.

   Awalnya, sebuah kelompok berkumpul bersama visioner yang sudah
   mendapat visi Tuhan untuk melayani dan menyuarakannya dalam beragam
   cara -- dalam percakapan pribadi, dalam kepemimpinan, atau dalam
   nubuatan.

   Jika tidak ada yang meresponi, orang yang terpanggil itu menunggu
   beberapa saat untuk orang lain menceritakan panggilannya. Saat dua
   atau tiga orang meresponi, mereka memulai hidup mereka bersama,
   "saling mengasah talenta, dan berdoa bagi kejelasan dalam mendengar
   kehendak Tuhan bagi misi mereka".

   Panggilan itu mungkin dimulai saat seseorang mendengar bisikan
   (gambar, perasaan) Tuhan yang terus mengiang, yang mengatakan
   "berilah makan orang yang kelaparan", "sediakan tempat tinggal bagi
   gelandangan", atau "hiburlah penderita AIDS". Saat orang lain
   meresponi panggilan itu, implikasi dan perkembangannya akan
   terlihat. Prinsip penting dalam kelompok misi memerlukan komitmen
   bersama dan tanggung jawab bersama yang diterima oleh setiap
   anggota. "Hal ini dapat dilakukan hanya dengan mengenali talenta
   setiap anggota," kata Cosby. "Bahkan jika satu atau dua anggota
   tidak mengenali talenta mereka," peringatnya, "masalah gengsi dan
   iri hati akan mencuat ke permukaan."

   Orang yang memiliki multitalenta akan menghadapi godaan untuk
   memenuhi kepuasan ego dengan melakukan segala sesuatu seorang diri
   daripada bersama-sama. Tanpa komitmen untuk hidup dan melakukan misi
   bersama, sebuah kelompok misi tidak akan berhasil.

   Dengan komitmen bersama, sebuah kelompok misi akan bertahan selama
   semusim atau sepanjang hidup. Karya pelayanan yang sudah dilakukan
   itu akan menjadi karya Tuhan dan selamanya menjadi bagian dalam
   usaha Tuhan berdamai dengan dunia ini.

   Kadang, sebuah kelompok misi mencapai misinya dan kemudian bubar.
   Apa yang sebaiknya terjadi saat sebuah kelompok misi mati secara
   alami? Menurut Cosby, "Saat diketahui tidak ada lagi dua atau lebih
   anggota yang terpanggil, kelompok itu mungkin dapat meninjau ulang
   sejarahnya, bersyukur atas apa yang sudah dilakukan, dan merayakan
   matinya kelompok itu. Sering kali, diperlukan adanya kesadaran akan
   dosa yang harus diampuni, luka hati yang harus disembuhkan, dan
   keberanian untuk mengambil langkah selanjutnya."

   Jika kelompok misi memertahankan tahap perkembangannya dan arahan
   dari Tuhan, maka pelayanan akan terbentuk. Entusiasme akan dibumbui
   dengan hikmat, inovasi akan diwarnai dengan tradisi, dan banyaknya
   orang yang antusias akan diarahkan oleh Tuhan untuk mendukung dan
   membantu usaha komunitas. Kelompok misi mungkin dapat tetap menjadi
   bagian dari gereja atau berdiri sendiri sebagai komunitas
   penyembahan dan pusat misi sementara. (t/Dian)

   Diterjemahkan dan diringkas dari:
   Judul buku: A Call for Compassion; City Streets City People
   Judul asli artikel: Lift Up Your Eyes; How to Start an Urban
                       Ministry
   Penulis: Michael J. Christensen
   Penerbit: Abingdon Press, Nashville 1988
   Halaman: 53 -- 70