A Field to Plant

Years of life and ministry in a traditional church context had atrophied me into a missional paraplegic.  Strapped to my institutional chair, I looked out into a wider world longing to engage with it yet finding no means to do so.  When I read about the “Pockets of People” concept in Neil Cole’s Organic Church, it felt as if someone had said, “Rise and walk.”  I finally had some place to put my foot down and get traction toward the enterprise of making disciples.

Neil defines “Pockets of People” as, “Any network of relationships where a believer has or can gain influence.” The concept is also known to missiologists as the oikos or “household.”  These are webs of relationships and along their strands the gospel was always meant to travel. To maintain the organic metaphor and facilitate the translation of these materials into other cultures and languages, we’ve deemed this concept “the field.”  For new Christ followers, the field will naturally consist of their current sphere of influence.  As disciple makers, our job must be to challenge and support them to share the saving message with their unredeemed associations.  Those who’ve been churchified for many years will have to work a bit harder to find a fertile field in which to plant the gospel as most if not all of our relationships often consist of Christians.  I have a friend who’s started a regular prayer time at his work and invites believers and unbelievers to join in or leave requests.  I know a couple that has begun a Life Team among their neighbors.  Personally, I’ve taken up a hobby that I’m really not that good at but includes many very welcoming people who do not consider themselves followers of Christ.

So, what about you?  Do you have regular interaction with unbelievers?  Seeds cannot be sown in the barn.  The gospel seed must land in a field to take root, bear fruit, and grow.  If you have a field already, then start praying over it for “blessings from above.”  Then watch for opportunities and be ready to share the good news.  For more on this watch for the next installment, “Seed to Sow.”  If you don’t have a field, find one.  One way to do this might be to start engaging your immediate neighbors.  Another might be to pull your kids out of their Christian sports league or school and become the most involved parent volunteer ever.  Or you could carve out time to take up a new hobby and participate in it with unbelievers.  Meetup.com is a good place to start to find one of these. (I got that last piece of advice from a non-believer.)

Once you’ve identified your field, we’d love to hear back from you on how its going.  You can use “The Three O’s” to journal your prayers or just comment below.  Blessings to you as you go into the field.

Blessings from Above

In 1 Cor. 2:4-5 Paul recounts to the Corinthians how he went about his missionary enterprise.

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

When going out to make disciples our temptation might be to consider how we can make a convincing case for the truth of the gospel.  While it’s important that we express the message with the clarity and passion of which its worthy, the results come from the action of God’s Spirit on the heart.  God’s wisdom expressed in the gospel is paradoxical and enigmatic.  We diminish it by deconstructing it enough for the human intellect to grasp.  When the Spirit enables a person to take hold of the mystery of the gospel that wisdom remains intact. The result is a disciple of Christ rather than of us.

This is why the first harvest need is “Blessings from Above.”  We need the Spirit of God like rain, to soften the soil of human hearts. Evangelism isn’t bringing God to lost people but announcing the identity of the one who has been wooing them all along. Our ongoing prayer should be that God would go before us drawing people to himself.

The Spirit like the sun shines needed light on the truth by confirming the message through real acts of power. If we go to announce the kingdom authority of the living God, we need to be prepared to demonstrate it among those whom we’re trying to reach.

Both of these crucial elements come from above and are out of our control except as we obey the command of Christ to pray for whatever we will in his name and through faith to receive it. Prayer that is persistent, expectant and specific must saturate our work and our week. That’s why Paul in the “grow” passage in Colossians 4:2-6 said “Be devoted to prayer.”

The 5 Harvest Needs

As a person with an apostolic bent, I traffic in strategies.  I don’t just want to know that I’m supposed to go out into the world and make disciples, I want to know how and I want to show others how.  The 5 PoP’s which I first encountered while reading Organic Church by Neil Cole, immediately engaged my disciple making drive with the real world in which I live.  I still attempt to carry out those five simple principles week to week and have found them to be fruitful.

So of course I wanted to include this strategy in some training materials I produced for a recent trip to Albania but I thought that the alliterated acrostics would not carry over to Albanian.  So I revised the strategy to be what I call “The 5 Harvest Needs.”  This video can also be found under the “Big Picture” tab in the Life Teams app.  Over the next 5 posts I will consider each harvest need in turn to give further explanation on how to address each need, how they relate to each other, and how to utilize the tools in the app within that context.

The Best Reason Not to Evangelize

Here it is: People are a mess.  It’s a temptation to stay within our small circle and not borrow trouble.  I actually knew a pastor who readily admitted that the messiness of broken people was the reason he did not evangelize.  But we’ve not been given that option.  Jesus left the only ideal environment to come to this cesspool of a world so he could rescue us.  We cannot credibly claim to follow him and avoid the brokenness that will always leave a scar upon our hearts.  As Neil Cole points out, the Lamb of God sends us out as sheep in the midst of wolves but as the Good Shepherd he promises to be with us.  We must follow his instruction to be wise as serpent and harmless as doves but at the end of the day, we will be hurt as he was.  But here is our reward: In our moment of hurt and disappointment we experience fellowship with him.  So now that we’ve dispelled the best reason not to evangelize, go to it!

The Fourth “O”

The “Three O’s” tool under the “SESSIONS” tab in the Life Teams app can push a Life Team from being just another small group to being a militarized cell in the war on sin. Through strategic prayer we assail Satan’s strongholds and open the way for gospel progress. Additionally, the process of considering the Three O’s, pushes members of the Life Team toward the mission by putting weekly tension on each member to watch for the hand of God, seek opportunities and take victory over obstacles.

There is, however, a fourth “O” to be considered – “Ockwardness.”  Okay, I misspelled it (I’ve seen it both ways 😉 but however you spell it.  Asking a these questions every week can be difficult.  Especially in a “church-broke” culture, people expect to meet for a nice meal and a few “ah ha’s” then leave unchanged.  Asking the Three O’s can lead to pained expressions and awkward silences during the meeting.  When this happens the leader may be tempted to leave this exercise out of future gatherings  Don’t do it!  The Hebrew writer said we are supposed to spur each other on to love and good works.  As far as I can tell, being spurred isn’t a comfortable experience.  In this war, we can’t afford to let ourselves or others be comfortable.  Through divinely empowered acts of love and good works, God’s people take the land for his name.  Remember, we’re here to subdue his enemies before him until he comes again.  So push through the fourth “O” and use the Three O’s any time you meet.

Worship, Learn, Pray

The gospel takes ground within and among people as it moves through the repeating process that we call the Growth Cycle.  The simple message, small as a mustard seed, expresses its massive potential as it takes root in hearts, bears fruit through redeemed relationships, and grows to the next generation of Christ followers.  We as the gospel community should experience this process repeatedly in our personal lives and as we gather together.

Under the “SESSIONS” tab of the Life Teams App you’ll find three sub tabs – “Worship,” “Learn,” and “Pray.”  Each of these practices corresponds primarily, though not exclusively to one of the three phases of the Growth Cycle.  When we worship, the gospel takes root in our hearts as we rehearse what God has done for us in Christ.  One might think that learning would also be a means whereby the gospel takes root and it is but each of the resources we’ve included focus on obedience-based learning.  More than gaining head knowledge, participants are expected to process how they can bear fruit through gospel-driven life change.

Though a believer’s whole life should be lived on mission, prayer is where the gathered community primarily engages in the Great Commission together.  “The Three O’s” tool is designed to ensure that our prayer times together are strategic rather than purely reactive.  When we pray specifically together for the harvest, the gospel will grow to the next generation.

So, that’s the rationale beneath the shape of the “SESSIONS” tab.  Each sub tab should be engaged every time your Life Team meets to keep the holistic nature of discipleship in view.