We’re in the very first stages of a transition. New Life Fellowship of Concord, NH was a traditional church that transitioned to a cell church. After ten years as a cell church, we just sold our building in town and are moving and morphing into a house church. We are not doing this intentionally. We’re simply following the Lord. The way we’re meeting has changed as much as the venue is now changing. We’re informal and relational.
Actually, the transition began with the way we worshiped. We added a period of silent waiting upon the Lord immediately following our music worship. And from there, we felt that the Lord wanted us to be less ordered and open up for more involvement by the people. As we invited folks to share what they sensed the Lord doing, we began to see that He was changing our focus.
Now we are hoping that we don’t just fall back on our earlier worship format. We don’t want to become–as one author wrote–“a church service captured by a living room.” We want to explore more fully anything that will draw us closer to our Father and to one another without compromising the Gospel or abandoning worship. But we sense our worship will change. And so will our outreach.
I’m not sure how we will meet without a plan, but the Lord knows; and we’re willing to let Him lead. He is the Head of the church.
We all agree that we’re teetering on the brink of the ministry of Jesus. People who need healing and deliverance are coming to us. We have always desired to have them see Jesus– “To Know Him and To Make Him Known.” We also know that in our age and culture, the only way to lead people to Jesus by demonstrating that He cares about their needs, their hurts, and pains.
I had a seminary professor, J. Christy Wilson. He had been a missionary to the Muslims in Afghanistan for fifteen years. He said once in answer to a question I posed: “You will never win a Muslim with an argument. You will lose every time. But the way they come to Christ is when they see Him heal their children or loved ones. They are won through the manifest compassion of God. Allah cannot heal. Allah does not heal.” Only a power encounter or revelation of Christ will bring Muslims to Christ. I believe that’s true of not only that group but of many modern people groups who have abandoned what they consider dead religion. Unfortunately, they threw out the baby with the bathwater.
Anyhow, I look forward to our first house church meeting this coming Sunday. Yes, we still meet every other Sunday and on off weeks, we meet on Saturday at barbecues to which we invite our friends and family who do not yet know Jesus. One week of outreach followed by one week of worship and prayer for those we love. That seems to be the pattern.
We do not feel that we have the exclusive corner on how to do church right and everyone else is doing it wrong. We feel that every church has a ministry if they want one. They fulfill a purpose that is specifically theirs. We simply believe that this is where God is leading us. And because we love Jesus, we can do nothing better than to follow. Unless of course, we’d rather be a museum than a ministry. Not us. We’re in this for life . . . all the way.
QUESTION: Wonder what God has for us as we abandon our old wineskin for a new one?
What a great day! What a beautiful morning. I slept until 9:15. Got up. Showered and shaved. Groomed my beard and hair. And dressed. Then went into the Cave and began a Custom Scan of my Cave computer. After that, I carried the laundry down for Marcy, greeted the ladies in my household, and went to my office downstairs. I made some coffee (haven’t had any yet, turned on the computer, scanned through my emails and answered a couple, then set up for my morning of writing to follow my first cup of coffee and prayer. So far . . . A wonderful, and joyful start to the day.
I love spending quiet, alone time with my Father. That comes with my first cup of coffee. I have a little sitting area, where I light my candle (inviting the Holy Spirit to make me aware of his presence and considering the flame as the ever burning love between me and Jesus). Then I sit with him in quiet for a season, mainly to still my mind. Sometimes I read a text of Scripture with that theme of quieting myself and being still before Him.
Once I’m quieted in his love and presence, I become spiritually Alert, sensitive, listening, waiting. I usually have a devotional reading and a book that I will go to if I don’t feel too much push toward it. I say “Push” because I’m always alert to anything that feels like a “push” to have to accomplish something. That is usually a sign that something in me is opposing the quiet and leading of the Spirit.
The Lord never pushes me . . . He LEADS me. He is in front, not behind. Sometimes he’s along side. But He has NEVER pushed me. He Draws. He leads. He sends. He walks beside. He walks ahead. He abides in one place with me. But He never rides me nor leads from behind.
That is one of the ways I recognize the voice of my Shepherd. “My sheep know my voice . . . And they will not FOLLOW another,” Jesus said in John 10. Are you one of his sheep? If you have been drawn by him and if you have the high privilege of being one of his sheep, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, then you have something to look forward to. And you will find Him when you search for Him with all your heart. You will find it when you are willing to give everything for the remarkable, wonderful joy of knowing Him–the Shepherd of your soul–Jesus of Nazareth . . . Risen from the dead. Alive and looking for you.
So I guess my day is going to be another adventure. Whether good things or bad things happen (for there is no guarantee that we will not suffer) He is with me and I am with Him. My day is in his hands. And as he takes my hand with his, He will lead me through whatever lies ahead. All in all . . . I’d say that’s a great day!
©2013, David C Alves
You know, I was sitting here wondering why I persist to type words into a OneNote 2010 page, when it struck me that writing is a true act of faith.
Who knows whether or not anyone will read them? I mean, most of us write because we want to connect with others. But honestly, my book did not sell anything like I thought it would when I dreamt of its release. For years I had ideas of what it would be like to be a published author. Not because I wanted fame or fortune. The realities are much different than movies. But because I wanted to serve and impact readers. Wow! Where was my head?
WRITING FOR CHANGE
No, I believe that my first book and my blog have taught me a lot. I still want to connect, but now whether I do or not I realize that I write because I have something to say and I love saying it. I believe that God has given me a perspective that combines with a gift of encouragement, to help others to be all that they can be in Christ.
I also know how much I love a helpful book. I’m changed by the reading and applying of what I read to my life. When a good book mentors me, I’m a better man for that. I want to pass that gift along to those who read my books. I want my books to mentor, coach along the journey to Christ’s Kingdom reign.
Truly, faith is keeping at something, even when you don’t see the results you expected. It’s believing what cannot be seen but being assured that it’s the right thing to believe.
Before I completed and published my first book, I had breakfast with Gordon MacDonald at Friendlies. I wanted him to mentor me as a writer. He asked me to tell him my story. I talked. He listened graciously. I realized even while I was talking that I wasn’t communicating my passion for writing. Instead, I was telling him something else. It was as though God was allowing him to see something in me that needed addressing.
After breakfast, he recommended that I read a book. “This is not a Christian book I’m recommending, but it will be helpful for you to read it,” he said.
The title was In the Shadow of Fame: A Memoir by the Daughter of Erik H. Erikson by Susan Erikson Bloland, the daughter of famed child psychologist, Erik Erickson. As a sidenote, I’m just finishing a memoir of a woman who separated from her husband for a year and met Joan Erickson while walking along the beach. They became close friends. That book is entitled A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, by Joan Anderson.
In retrospect, I realized that my reasons for publishing were mixed. Shortly after I read Bloland’s book, I completed my book. I sought the Lord to purify my motives. Then I released the book at Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and for Kindle and Nook. Sales were mainly to family, friends, and fellow pastors. Of course my church family and fellow associational leaders encouraged me as well. But that was about it. For the first year, I continued to write. But then I stopped.
I went into a depression which, I later found out, was a “dark night of the soul.” I withdrew from people and things I usually enjoyed. I felt exhausted all the time. Because I was a busy pastor and associational leader as well, I began to question my calling.
Everything lost is taste and savor. Fortunately for me, I had praying friends and ministry partners. Some wise counsel helped me recognize God at work, not the enemy. He was taking everything but Him. Funny, because I thought I had given him everything already–many times. But He sees deeper than we ever could.
ON THE OTHER SIDE
I’m on the other side of all that now. It took two and a half more years to slowly let go of everything but Him. It was truly a spiritual winter. But the great thing about tracking through the winter with the Lord is that spring is the next season to follow. Spring is a time for sowing and planting, digging around and preparation.
Now I’m settled in a great peace, waiting only on Him. I am also searching out a coach on the road ahead of me in spiritual formation, while at the same time coaching those whom God has sent my way. But I’m no longer an expert–Dr. Alves. I’m merely a witness, testifying to whatever the Lord shows or entrusts to me.
And . . . I’m writing again. Writing by faith. My one prayer is that the Lord will use the process of writing by faith in my life first . . . And if He so chooses, in the lives of those who may be drawn by His Spirit to read.
QUESTION: Have you ever experienced what I’m talking about?
A pastor friend of mine from Nova Scotia shared his approach to preaching, teaching, and writing. He decided to not speak “against” anything. Instead he speaks and writes “for” what is biblical and good. This keeps him positive and lets people draw their own conclusions about how the positive message should inform their values and opinions (I think it keeps him out of the line of fire too, although he might disagree).
I’m beginning to think that I’ll adopt a version of that philosophy, but I’d like YOUR opinion. I shared with another friend in ministry and he said that Jesus often spoke out against things, especially injustice and sin. Who could do better than to follow the model of Jesus? Except that his approach led him to amass a huge crowd of enemies among the unrepentent and the religious heirarchy. Ultimately his values and worldview took him to the cross, where he absorbed their evil and took the penalty that their sins deserved. By the way, Jesus did this willingly. According to his own testimony, as the Son of God, he had at his disposal tens of thousands of powerful spiritual beings (angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, etc) who could have wiped out everyone around him and rescued him, but he surrendered willingly. Ponder that sometime.
I’m not sure, if Jesus walked today, that anyone would even listen to him. Well, they might listen, but I KNOW they wouldn’t HEAR. I’m certain, beyond a shadow of doubt, that he would be labeled a bigot, intolerant, noninclusive (he called the Syrophonecian woman a “dog”–meaning Gentile), he could get physical at times (as in the temple courts when he overturned the seller’s tables). No, he would not really be taken seriously. He would be viewed as unruly and narrow-minded, judgmental, holier-than-thou.
Perhaps that’s why we–as true disciples of Jesus–were invited to “go outside the city” and take our stand there, with Him. We are not taken seriously in this culture. No one’s listening to the warnings of implosion. No one, including the church, wants to hear messages or writings that confront our sin, hypocrisy (pretending to have virtues but acting opposite to them), or waywardness. We want positive, feel-good, affirm-my-sin-and-opinion, messages.
So . . . that leads me to my new approach. I’m not settled upon it yet. I know I’m called to write and speak plainly so that people can take warning, turn and be saved. But what do I do in an evil culture that’s not really listening? I think I should do what God does . . . I will speak ONLY to those who are really listening–that would be believers who want to grow and know intimate fellowship with Jesus. I will also speak to genuine seekers. And I will speak only what the Lord gives me to speak. That would be values aligned to his Word, the Bible. If people want to argue, they can argue with God. He who has ears to hear, let him/her hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV)
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
QUESTIONS: What do you think?