If you are interested to start a Simple Church, please go to our learning tool either in the Get Real app under the Study Tab or in our website (http://rlcc.ph/simplechurch/). Make sure that someone meets with you to process what you are learning there. Don’t just go through the course by yourself. Contact PM or Des for help. Also, don’t forget to view this in landscape mode and use an earphone so that you can hear the audio well. Thanks!
The theory that almost everyone I meet (that is, those who know about churches) believe is that churches cannot exist without Sunday services. Even if it does exist, it will not succeed. It will fail eventually. It must have Sunday services, and, together with it, all other programs that make up a church, in order to flourish and grow. Who would go to a church without Sunday services? Will you even call it a “church?” People will always ask, “Where is your church?” which means, “Where do you hold Sunday services?” People will always look for Sunday services before they can even feel like “they went to church.” Remember how you felt when you were not able to “go to church?”
Of course, it’s not just Sunday services that we’re looking for. There has to be a resident pastor, too, someone who has the experience and the expertise to run the “church.” He (or she) must be seminary-trained as much as possible, or else that church would be highly suspect. It would be good if there is more than one pastor. It would be called a “multi-staff” church, and it will most likely become more successful than a church with only one pastor. You will then have a senior pastor and other pastors who can handle various kinds of ministries (e.g. a youth pastor, an administrative pastor, a singles pastor, etc.). If it has these ministries or programs, and thousands of people are attending, then we will call it a “mega church,” which is what a “real” church is all about, as some people will argue. Churches with these kinds of structures and set-ups are called “real” and all other models are not real. Even if they do exist, they will not last long. Simple or smaller churches will not succeed. So goes the theory.
I beg to disagree.
A simple inductive Bible study of the word “church” in the Bible will show that this theory is wrong. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus talks about the church with no reference at all to its structure. What is important is just its foundation, the belief that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus instructs His disciples how to disciple one another as a church, and he adds that where two or more are gathered in His name, they are in fact a “church. In Acts 5:11, the word “church” is applied to all the believers who were scattered in Jerusalem. This is similar to Acts 8 and 9, where the word “church” is just applied to believers wherever they are, without any reference to where they meet or how they meet. In Acts 11, the word “church” is applied to believers in certain locations, but again there is no reference to a service. They gathered to learn together, but there was no “service.” There are many others instances in the Book of Acts where the word “church” simply refers to believers who were either gathered or scattered. Having a worship service is really just a modern idea.
In the epistles, for example in Romans 16:1-5, the word “church” is applied to believers who met in homes. In First Corinthians, the word “church” is used to refer to all Christians in Corinth, regardless of where they are or how they meet. Their meetings, in fact, are quite different from our “worship services” today (see 1 Cor 14:26 for example). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul uses the word “church” in a generic sense, not limiting it to those who are actually gathered. He does the same thing in his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. He uses the term to refer to the body of believers scattered in different places. But in Colossians he applies the word “church” to a group that meets in a house (Col 4:15). He did this again in Philemon 1:2. So all in all (and we have not really covered the other epistles or even the whole Bible) the word “church” has nothing to do with worship services or programs at all. It has to do with the people of God wherever they are, whether they are gathered or scattered, for as long as they are identified with Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
Historically, this is also true. Buildings called “cathedrals” did not exist prior to the 313 AD. So for the first three hundred years, the “church” existed without worship services. Down through the centuries, communities of faith existed without formal programs. Even today there are churches in many parts of the world that do not have large buildings or worship centers. Many churches in China don’t even have pastors! The House Church Movement today continues to expand side by side with mega churches in many parts of the world. In other words, there is nothing in Scripture nor in history that proves that churches cannot exist without Sunday services. In fact, if we’re just open to the idea, churches can even thrive and flourish even though they don’t have worship services!
So does that mean that worship services are wrong? Of course not! Does it mean that church programs are wrong? My goodness, no! Then what’s the point? The point is this: these are not essential to what it means to be a church! A church can exist without them. There’s nothing wrong with being part of a church that is simple and not complicated. There’s nothing wrong with NOT having a worship service every Sunday. You can attend one, and it’s not wrong. But if you don’t attend one, it’s not wrong either! Just because your church is simple (for example, it does not have an ordained pastor or it doesn’t have multiple programs), it does not mean it’s not a real church! It can still grow and flourish! The Scriptures and history itself testify to that. God’s purpose for His people can still be fulfilled. In other words, let us stop thinking or saying that if a church is simple, then it’s not real, or there is something missing, or it’s not enough, etc. We are simply arguing this based on experience, tradition and culture. But when we look at the Scriptures and history, our arguments fall short!
Bottom line? I believe churches can exist even though it does not have weekly Sunday services or programs. I believe a real church can exist even though it doesn’t have an ordained, seminary-trained pastor. I believe a simple church can exist simply and productively, even though it does not have multiple staff. A church does not need a building or a worship center. All those things that we say are “needed” — even though there is nothing wrong with any of them or all of them — are actually not essential to what it means to be the church. A church can be simple, and it can be real at the same time. This is the reason why I am passionate about planting simple churches! Would you join me?
This is a follow-up article to Part 3 of the same series.
As you teach your potential leaders how to become missional followers of Jesus Christ, you need to rely on God’s processing methods. You need to pay attention to what God is doing to develop the hearts of those whom you believe God is raising up to become servant leaders. You cannot orchestrate this; you can only come alongside the leader and mentor him or her as this happens according to God’s timing. The Holy Spirit is the one raising up the leader, not you. He is the One working in the leader’s heart to make him or her fully devoted to the Lord. His goal is to transform the leader into the image and likeness of God through the power of the Holy Spirit by the word of God. Your goal is to cooperate with God in that process. So you must be ready when this happens through the following means…
- Teachings or Trainings – God would expose the leader through various teachings or trainings, whether formally, non-formally, or informally. It may come through people, books, events, and various sources. What is important is that the leader is learning something. You need to meet up with him or her in order to assess what he or she is learning, from what source, and how can he or she integrate that in his or her life.
- Testings – After each lesson, there will be a test. This is part of God’s processing of the leader’s heart. Will the leader apply what he or she has learned? After each lesson, wait for circumstances that could bring the leader to a testing situation so that they may cooperate with God. Teach him or her how to do so. These testings may be positive (like a promotion or a success) or negative (like a financial difficulty or sickness). The leader must learn to pass each test by applying what he or she has learned from God’s word, relying on God to give him or her strength in the process.
- Trials – These are difficulties that come upon the leader’s life as he or she is trying to obey the Lord. Like all other processing methods, God is forming the heart of the leader so that he or she can have the character of Christ. Obeying the Lord, even though there are difficulties or hindrances, is very important for a leader to learn.
- Temptations – Sometimes Satan will try to distract the leader to take shortcuts or to disobey the Lord. God allows these moments for a reason, so that he or she may learn to trust the Lord, and lean not in his or her own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
- Thorns – These are people that God allows to come into the leader’s life that would make it difficult for that leader to focus on the kingdom of God. God’s grace, of course, will be sufficient in such cases, but the leader must learn how to trust and rely on God’s grace in the midst of it.
- Tragedies – These are calamities that come upon a leader’s life that severely tests their faith in God. Although no leader would want to experience this, sometimes God allows it for a reason. During such experiences, it’s very hard for the leader to focus, so you, the mentor, must come alongside him or her, and learn how to comfort, sometimes without words (learn from the Book of Job).
- Tribulations – These are prolonged difficulties of many sorts, that do not just last for a moment but sometimes for years. The leader would often question God at such moments, but you, the mentor, must learn to walk with the leader so that he or she can learn to abide in the mercies of God, knowing that in the end the Lord will deliver him or her.
God allows some or all of these types of experiences to come upon the leader’s life in order to help him or her become the kind of person God wants him or her to be. What is crucial is to teach the leader how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and not try to fix himself or herself through human effort (Phil 2:12-13).
[Tweet “God allows some or all of these types of experiences to come upon the leader’s life in order to help him or her become the kind of person God wants him or her to be.”]
In order to help a leader go through these experiences well, you need to prayerfully COACH him or her. This involves the following behaviors on your part, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to do His mighty work in the leader’s heart.
- Care for him or her
- Obtain more information based on your observations
- Assess the situation together
- Challenge him or her to respond to God in faith
- Hold him or her accountable for his or her response
This is Part 3. Click here to read Part 2.
Just to review, remember the best way to develop servant leaders right from the very start of your small group is to SPOT potential servant leaders early on. You do this by 1) Seeing each person as a potential servant leader, 2) Praying for God to send workers into His harvest field, 3) Observing if any of your members are ready for leadership development, and 4) Talking to those who are ready for training.
Once you start doing these initial steps, you will see some people rise up (sometimes all of them). Some (or all) of your small group members will start to get involved in some form of outreach and evangelism. In our church, we call our program for outreach and evangelism Mission Possible 4 or MP4. Those who do so are prime candidates for more intentional leadership training. Here are the five steps to develop servant leaders intentionally, right from the start of your small group, or as soon as some of your members start getting involved in outreach and evangelism. Simply remember the acrostic TRAIN.
- Teach them how to be missional in their lifestyle.
- Rely on God’s processing methods.
- Assign them to leadership roles in your small group.
- Increase their responsibilities over time based on faithfulness.
- Nurture their faith, hope and love through personal mentoring.
We will discuss steps 2 to 5 of TRAIN later. But to begin this process, you must teach them how to be missional in their lifestyle (just click each link below to know more about how to become missional follower of Christ). This involves teaching them how to…
- Generate New Contacts
- Offer God’s love in tangible ways
- Begin spiritual conversations with seekers
- Reveal their personal testimony
- Invite seekers to study the word of God with them
- Narrate the good news about Jesus Christ
- Guide seekers toward genuine conversion
- Judge if new converts or old believers need help with their conversion
- Orient new converts or old believers about the church and the Christian life
- Involve new converts or old believers in the community of faith
- Nudge new converts or old believers to grow in their faith
- Care for new converts or old believers inside the community
- Obtain information about their past
- Uncover their emotional freeze points
- Neutralize their emotional freeze points
- Speak the truth in love with them
- Encourage personal responsibility and humility
- Let go and let God take care of the rest
- Begin mentoring relationships with healthy believers
- Understand healthy believers’ learning needs and style
- Instruct healthy believers according to available resources or opportunities
- Love healthy believers unconditionally but firmly
- Develop healthy believers toward spiritual maturity
Once you complete this process (all 23 steps will take some time), teach them how to TRAIN others, just like what you did for them (2 Timothy 2:1-2). Remember to do this (leadership development) by faith, trusting in the Holy Spirit all throughout the process. He will use you, others, circumstances, and the word of God to develop these servant leaders.
[Tweet “Remember leadership development is done by faith, trusting in the Holy Spirit all throughout the process.”]
Here is a diagram that can help you picture these steps.
This is Part 2 of this discussion. Click here to read Part 1.
To develop servant leaders right from the start of your small group, you need to learn how to SPOT potential leaders. As you begin your small group, you need to do four important things immediately.
- See each person as a potential servant leader – The truth is that God sees each person as a potential servant leader (Genesis 1:26-28). But what we see with our physical eyes are people with a lot of problems, or who are still immature, or who need to be helped first before they can help anybody. Actually, both are true in God’s eyes. He sees the potential but He also sees the work that needs to be done (John 1:42). We are to see our members from the same perspective. Given God’s help through His Holy Spirit, anybody can be somebody for God’s glory.
- Pray for God to send workers into His harvest field – The second thing you need to do is to pray for God to send workers into His harvest field. This is what Jesus did and commanded His disciples to do (see Matthew 9:35-38). Challenge each member of your small group to get involved in evangelism as soon as possible. In our church, we use the acrostic SHARP to help people choose how they would want to participate in what we call the MP4 process. The person who responds with action (not just intention) is the person whom God is already preparing for leadership. Tell everyone about the need for evangelism, i.e. for reaching out and finding the lost, etc. As you tell them, it would be good to show them by your example that you are also involved in it as well. In other words, you must challenge them both by your words and by your actions.
- Observe if any of your members are ready for leadership development – Not everyone will respond to your challenge. You must continue to pray and challenge everyone in every meeting, regardless of their response. Those who follow your example are the best candidates for leadership development. Pay attention to them. Give them some time to see if this is just temporary or whether God is creating passion in them for the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
- Talk to those who are ready for training – Once a person gets involved in evangelism, and you see their passion for it, then it’s time to talk with that person heart to heart. Tell that person of your desire to develop leaders right from the very start of your small group. Tell him or her about the process (I will discuss this process, which is called TRAIN, in my next blog post). Give him or her at least a week to pray about it, if necessary, so that his or her decision will not be impulsive. In our church, once a person decides to become a leader, he or she will join what we call a Timothy Accountability Group or TAG. This group consists of people who are being developed as leaders. They meet separately as a group, or the small group leader will meet with each one for personal mentoring. As a small group leader wanting to develop leaders, creating such a separate group for leadership development is crucial (Mark 3:13-19).
In summary, the best way to develop servant leaders right from the very start of your small group is to SPOT potential servant leaders. You do this by 1) Seeing each person as a potential servant leader, 2) Praying for God to send workers into His harvest field, 3) Observing if any of your members are ready for leadership development, and 4) Talking to those who are ready for training. Do this by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit and you will see servant leaders rise up from among the members of your small group right from the start of your small group.
[Tweet “God sees the potential but He also sees the work that needs to be done in each person.”]
Click here to read Part 3 of this series.