Oikos

Missional church planting is gathering people together to become an extended family of God’s people.  It happens incarnationally, life-on-life, through interpersonal and compassionate connection.

Last night Becky and I went to Roman’s Hair Salon to get our hair cut.  We were Roman and Lee’s last customers of the day.  Roman cuts Becky’s hair and Lee does mine.  As we were waiting, we heard Roman speak powerfully into the life of another customer whose daughter had recently come out of a deep coma.   Roman was encouraging her not to fear but to rely on the Lord for healing.  After the customer left, I kidded Roman that she is a counselor and should call her business “Roman’s Hair Salon and Counseling Service.”  She laughed and blushed!   It was evident that she was honored.

Lee was soon cutting my hair (basically cutting it all off and trimming my eyebrows as she does every two weeks!  The best kind of hair cut for an old man like me!).  Lee asked how often Becky and I exercised, and I then asked her about her exercise as well.  In our conversation I mentioned that there were two types of exercise, exercise of the “body” and exercise of the “heart.”  She paused and then asked what I meant by the “exercise of the heart.”  I described God forming our inmost being so that we think and behave like Him.  For the rest of the haircut she talked and talked about her understanding of this and how it was touching her heart.  Although speaking with a deep Vietnamese accent, I was able to hear most of what she was saying.  She wanted to know more about “heart exercise.”

In the meantime Roman was describing to Becky her role as a counselor.  “I love my customers,” she said.  “I believe God gives me a gift of hearing and advising them.  I am bold in my speech.”  Becky asked, “Who is your counselor?”  She paused, thought for a while, and finally said, “I guess God is.”  She also testified that a doctor helped her mother, a refugee from Ethiopia, with glaucoma surgery and only charged her $500, which her family was able to raise.   Becky reflected later that perhaps hair stylists are like proverbial bartenders:  When asked, “How are you doing?”, customers may likely respond, “I am having a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day!”  People sit with aching hearts and words just come tumbling out.  The server listens and gives words of hope.

After our haircuts Becky and I congratulated Roman on new décor of her beauty salon.  With tears she began to tell us her journey over the past six months.   She almost lost the salon because of high rent and lack of customers.  She told how the owner, believing in her, reduced the rent; how an exceptional 25-year-old resource person through Groupon taught her how to advertise; and how a new friend had unexpectedly decided to redecorate her salon as a special favor to her.  “I know it was God,” she said, pointing up.  We were touched that these searchers with little Christian community were yet acknowledging God in their lives.

We began to talk about how lonesome North America is, how we live in proximity to many people but without neighborliness, and yet how we need each other to live and survive in this world.   As we shared, we asked both Roman and Lee to become part of our extended family, our “Oikos,” and begin a spiritual journey with us.  Becky and I gathered Roman and Lee in a small circle and prayed with and for them.

We are learning that people-gathering is done relationally, heart-to-heart, with prayer, calling people into community and allegiance to God.   We are on a journey . . . .  Pray for us.

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The Celebration

“Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (Psalm 105:3)

The Mission Alive Celebration was filled with stories of God’s work— the story of a searcher coming to Christ in Mesquite, the story of church renewal in South Carolina, the story of church planting in Denver, and the story of equipping for church planting and renewal through Mission Alive.  Chris Altrock, Mission Alive board member and preaching minister of the Highland Church of Christ in Memphis, who also emceed the program, called these “remarkable stories of God’s breakthrough.”

“My favorite part,” said church planter Charles Kiser, “was when Corey Rose, a member of ONEcommunity Church of Christ, spoke about his participation in that Mission Alive church planting by saying, ‘It’s like I’m a minister or something!’ People like Corey are coming out of darkness, into the light, and being equipped and released into God’s mission . . . .  Praise God!”

Mission Alive board member Allen Close, unable to attend because of a skiing accident, gave a video testimony about the renewal of the Lexington church near Columbia, South Carolina through ReVision.   He tells of multiple conversions of college age students, outreach among Hispanics, and young people who not only raise money for the poor but also minister personally in their contexts of brokenness.  Allen said he had sometimes felt “like an Old Testament prophet carrying an unpopular message” but the church has undergone a mighty transformation.  Listen to Allen’s testimony of transformation through ReVision:

Robbie James’ journey to church planting in Denver was the story of how God worked in several “living rooms” over a decade – from the Van Rheenens’ living room in Abilene to living rooms in Denver.  He focused on the role of prayer and reliance upon God.  “Prayer is not the means to an end,” he declared. “It is the end!”  He reminded us:  “God loves you!  He really loves you!”

Gailyn and Becky Van Rheenen told the story of Mission Alive from its inception.  “Equipping kingdom communities on mission with God” has become our core identity leading to the planting of 20 churches in 18 cities in 9 states/providences of the United States and Canada; renewal of 7 existing churches through ReVision; and the training of 47 certified coaches working in 35 churches.  “To be faithful to God and his kingdom,” Gailyn said, “both existing churches and new church plantings must become disciple-making cultures on mission with God.”

 “If   you set out to make disciples, you will eventually build the Church. If you   set out to build the Church, there is no guarantee you will make   disciples.  It is far more likely that   you will create consumers who depend on the spiritual services that   professionals like yourself provide for them” (Breen and   Cockram, Building a Discipling Culture,   p. 6-7).

Becky concluded their presentation by saying, “We invite you to go on mission with us!  We may not have all the answers to ‘Where?’, ‘When?’, or ‘How?’ as we start.  We will find the answers as we journey together.  It’s too big for any of us, but together with God’s help we can do it.  Let’s go on mission together!”

We are thankful for the 205 people who gathered at the Riverside church building in Coppell for the event and graciously gave over $21,000 to God’s work through Mission Alive.

Neighborhood Fellowship

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

(John 1:14 The Message)

This morning Becky prayed, “We thank you for all of our guests who came and blessed our home last night.”  We were indeed  blessed!!  Twenty-four folks from 8 families came from our cul-de-sac and the houses behind our home.  A great time of neighborhood connection!  Melanie, a vivacious lady of Cambodian heritage, was the first to come and the last to leave.  She has lived on our cul-de-sac for 14 years without knowing any of her neighbors.  We had simply left a flyer about our “Holiday Open House” at her home and she in turn called and began a conversation with Becky.  In one evening she developed friends, hopefully life-long, life-changing relationships.

Kim and Paul came with their two daughters.  We heard about their dating; their marriage; their work; and their connection with Travis and Tammie, our next-door neighbors.  Kim, who works in HR with a local company, remembered a person of the old Meadow Ridge home owners association who used to do large community gatherings.  Many mentioned our need for further connection.

I also noticed Becky’s gift of hospitality—her joy in preparing for the evening and then being with all of those who gathered.

Many years ago linguistic consultant William Smalley of the American Bible Society coined the phrase “living in proximity without neighborliness” to describe many in the Western world.  He said, “In our highly complex society we have built cultural devices for keeping people close by from being neighbors unless for some reason we choose to include them.  These barriers provide a protection for us, keep us from having to associate with people who are not compatible, whose race or education, or social status is different from ours.  We can withdraw within the barriers for security from people and social patterns which conflict with our own” (“Proximity or Neighborliness?” in Readings in Missionary Anthropology, p. 302).

Randy Frazee in The Connecting Church says that the church must redeem impersonal suburban communities by multiplying simple intergenerational, geographical home fellowships for the purpose of both incarnational evangelism and spiritually forming people into the image of God.  This is easier said than done given the cultural scenario so graphically depicted by Smalley.  But the hunger for connection that we experienced illustrates that within each of us is an innate desire to connect heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul.  We are created to live in relationship.

Gailyn Van Rheenen

Mission Alive

An Elevator Speech

Randy Harris and I recently held a Theology Lab at the Boerne church just north of San Antonio.   During this lab I facilitated discussion about the interrelated biblical themes of mission dei (the mission of God), the kingdom of God, and incarnation.   During the discussion of each Theology we also reflected on related Practices and First Steps in developing these practices.

Randy Harris led us in reflecting on the major tenets of the Christian faith beginning with “humanity” and concluding with a theology of “church” and the nature of spiritual formation.  It was a transformative lab of church leaders!

During our final debriefing, one elder asked, “How can we summarize the content of this lab so others in the church can grasp what we have learned?  What is our elevator speech?” Continue reading

Kingdom Communities on Mission with God

Last week I blogged about Tiffany, a prototype of a post-modern person.  Tiffany is broken by sin and intimidated by “church” yet receptive to the Gospel.  I suggested that we use divine imagination to see “things as God sees them, to catch a dream as big as God is!”  This imagination helps us to jump out of “what is” into “what God desires us to be!” (Harris 2004).  It enables us to develop paradigms for church planting and renewal for people like Tiffany—for those living in the postmodern, post-Constantinian, and increasingly post-Christian contexts of Western culture.

This divine imagination within Mission Alive is embedded in seven small words:  “Equipping Kingdom Communities on Mission with God.”  These words form the essence of Mission Alive.

Equipping

Equipping at its core involves “character”—the spiritual nurture of the soul to reflect the qualities of God—his love, his holiness, and his faithfulness.  Ministry to Tiffany is defined by these qualities. She learns to walk with God by being with us, by seeing us “reflect the Lord’s glory” as we are “being transformed into his likeness” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Equipping also involves “skill,” or ministry practice.  How do we build a discipling culture which nurtures Tiffany to spiritual maturity?  How is she equipped within the community for works of ministry (Eph. 4:12)?  How is Tiffany nurtured to commune with God; become a part of a worshipping, transforming community; and sent out to make other disciples?  How does she develop God’s compassion for the poor and the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19)?

The church provides the matrix for both her spiritual formation and equipping for ministry. Continue reading

Is there a church for Tiffany?

Tiffany has led a sinful, broken life.  She is intimidated by “church” but searching for God.  “I’m not good enough to be a Christian,” she thinks.  “How can Christians accept broken me?  Can God love ME?”  The church wants to love and accept her but has forgotten how to speak the Good News of the Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15), minister at the heart of her brokenness, and guide her to become a disciple of Jesus. 

Tiffany typifies many in the postmodern, post-Constantinian, and increasingly post-Christian contexts of North America, where the church has been marginalized and no longer sets the dominant values of culture.  In this environment church attendance in the USA is projected to decline from 16.2 per cent in 2010 to 14.4 per cent in 2020 to 10.5 per cent in 2050 (Olson 2008; Kinnaman and Lyons 2007). 

Continue reading