Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How'd They Do It?

Something to ponder from The Forgotten Ways, by Alan Hirsch

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Question

About four years ago I attended a seminar on missional church where the speaker asked a question. “How many Christians do you think there were in the year AD 100?” He then asked, “How many Christians do you think there were just before Constantine came on the scene, say, AD 310?”
Here is the somewhat surprising answer.

AD 100 as few as 25,000 Christians
AD 310 up to 20,000,000 Christians

He then asked the question that has haunted me to this day: “How did they do this? How did they grow from being a small movement to the most significant religious force in the Roman Empire in two centuries?” Now that’s a question to initiate a journey! And delving into this question drove me to the discovery of what I will call Apostolic Genius (the built-in life force and guiding mechanism of God’s people) and the living components or elements that make it up. These components I have tagged missional DNA, or mDNA, for short. So let me ask you the question—how did the early Christians do it? And before you respond, here are some qualifications you must factor into your answer.

• They were an illegal religion throughout this period. At best, they were tolerated; at the very worst they were very severely persecuted.

• They didn’t have any church buildings as we know them. While archaeologists have discovered chapels dating from this period, they were definitely exceptions to the rule, and they tended to be very small converted houses.

• They didn’t even have the scriptures as we know them. They were putting the canon together during this period.

• They didn’t have an institution or the professional form of leadership normally associated with it. At times of relative calm, prototypical elements of institution did appear, but by what we consider institutional, these were at best pre-institutional.

• They didn’t have seeker-sensitive services, youth groups, worship bands, seminaries, commentaries, etc.

• They actually made it hard to join the church. By the late second century, aspiring converts had to undergo a significant initiation period to prove they were worthy.

In fact they had none of the things we would ordinarily employ to solve the problems of the church, and yet they grew from 25,000 to 20 million in 200 years!
So, how did the early church do it?

The rest of the sample chapter...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Trait of Great Leaders

“Great leaders are ambitious for the people who follow them. They measure their effectiveness in leadership by the growth in the people who work at their side. We are in the people-growing business, both in terms of their character being more Christlike, and in their gifts being identified and deployed to achieve their full potential and to maximize their contribution to the total enterprise.”

Eddie Gibbs
Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture
IVP, 2005
pg 146

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Preaching" the Gospel in Culture

“we must recognize that that while the broader culture has changed, most evangelical churches have not. The broader culture has ‘shifted’, and hundreds of new cultures have emerged within the existing cultural milieu. It is time for the North American church to enter its emerging global context….
You cannot grow a biblically faithful church without loving people and preaching the gospel. But loving people means understanding and communicating with them. Preaching the gospel means to proclaim a gospel about the Word becoming flesh – and proclaiming that the body of Christ needs to become incarnate in every cultural expression.”

Ed Stetzer and David Putman
Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community
Broadman and Holman, 2006
pg 14,15

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Kingdom of Love

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 , Dr. Gregory Boyd wrote,

“A more radical teaching on love couldn’t be imagined! Most of us could not help but be impressed by someone who could speak in a beautiful angelic tongue or who possessed powerful prophetic gifts. But these abilities amount to nothing more than religious noise – a clanging cymbal – unless motivated by love and used for the purpose of love. And who wouldn’t be impressed by someone who understood all mysteries or possessed all knowledge? Yet if they do not use these marvelous gifts to ‘come under’ others in love, they are altogether worthless. And who could criticize someone who had mountain-moving faith or who gave away all their possessions or even heroically sacrificed their life? Yet Paul says that if these aren’t done for the purpose of loving others, they are devoid of value, at least from a kingdom-of-God perspective. They may be very impressive within the context of a religious version of the kingdom of the world, but they are utterly insignificant in the kingdom of God, except insofar as they manifest Calvary-like love.
The only criteria that matters, then, in assessing whether anything has any value within the kingdom that God is building on earth is love….However impressive a gift or achievement may be in its own right, it has no kingdom value except insofar as it manifests God’s love – except insofar as it looks like Jesus Christ.
How might our churches be different if we took Paul’s teaching seriously? What would happen if the ultimate criteria we used to assess how ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ our churches were was the question, are we loving as Jesus loved? The truth of the matter is that we are only carrying out God’s will and expanding the kingdom of God to the extent that we answer that question affirmatively. No other question, criteria, or agenda can have any meaning for kingdom-of-God devotees except insofar as it helps us respond to that question.”

Gregory Boyd
The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church
Zondervan, 2005
pgs 44-45

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Relationship with God

“It is for this one reason – dynamic relationship – that the human species was created. We were designed by God for God. God created us out of the love relationship of the divine, and Adam and Eve were the offspring of that love. God created Adam and Eve so that there could be a relationship on Earth between humans and God like that in the heavens among the Godhead itself. If heaven is defined as union with God, then eternity is a relationship Eden.
Sin is not primarily rebellion against God’s laws or an assault on moral principles. Sin is an offense because it violates our relationship with God….God wants our obedience in the context of a relationship – which far exceeds unthinking obedience played out in a vacuum. God wants our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our souls. God wants our love.
God created us for two-way conversations – for full-blown, no-holds-barred conversations. God wants us to be fully engaged in the exchange.”

Leonard Sweet
Out of the Question…Into the Mystery
Waterbrook, 2004
pg 54

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lord of the Dance

“God is like a dance. We are invited to enter, for He has entered us and begun to sing.
I heard Walter Wangerin say that if a European wants to understand something, he takes it apart. If an African wants to understand something, he dances with it.
In European countries, God has been declared dead. That’s what happens when you take something apart. In Africa God is dancing across the continent with His bride. The church is profoundly fruitful there.
Will Willimon writes, ‘You and I can give thanks that the locus of Christian thinking appears to be shifting from North America and northern Europe where people write rules and obey them, to places like Africa and Latin America where people still know how to dance.’
‘Write rules and obey them’ – that’s what the Pharisees did! Remember that the religious people crucified Jesus. They took Him apart and tried to cut Him down to size, but they couldn’t control Him. He is the Lord of the dance.”

Peter Hiett
Dance Lessons for Zombies
Integrity, 2005
pgs 105-106

Sunday, May 13, 2007


"Although the discipline of solitude asks us to set aside time and space, what finally matters is that our hearts become like quiet cells where God can dwell, wherever we go and whatever we do. The more we train ourselves to spend time with God and God alone, the more we will discover that God is with us at all times and in all places. Then we will be able to recognize God even in the midst of a busy and active life. Once the solitude of time and space has become a solitude of the heart, we will never have to leave that solitude. We will be able to live the spiritual life in any place and any time. Thus the discipline of solitude enables us to live active lives in the world, while remaining always in the presence of the living God."

Henri Nouwen
From Making All Things New
quoted in The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful LifeCrossroad Classic, 1999
pg 42

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Being Dangerous

“The most critical issue facing Christians today is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality, or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into ‘nice people.’…
What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? What happened to the category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? What happened to the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, who had no fear, who spoke the truth no matter what the consequence, who made the world uncomfortable, who were willing to follow Jesus wherever He went? What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God?
I’m ready for a Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, that captures my heart, and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and … well … dangerous. Yes, I want to be ‘dangerous’ to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered ‘dangerous’ by our predictable and monotonous culture.”

Michael Yaconelli
Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith
NavPress, 1998, 2003
pgs 24-25

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Show-and-Tell Evangelism

John Wimber/Kevin Springer wrote in Power Evangelism,

"Primitive peoples often need to see the superior power of the gospel demonstrated for them to believe"
(Power Evangelism, Hodder an Stoughton, 1992, pg 54).

I think modern 'peoples' with the Western mindset often need the same. We need to be open to what I call "Show-and-Tell Evangelism" - evangelism that demonstrates the gospel's validity through acts of love, compassion, and power.

For many, love and compassion are cool and obvious. But power? How? Through God! If we allow Him to, He can and will shower the lives of the unbelievers we encounter with His marvelous loving presence and power, alerting them to the reality of His superiority over disease, depression, and demons. We have to remember that its ALL HIM. We can do nothing in and of ourselves. If we focus on Him and learn to hear and see his leading, perhaps He will touch folks in a way they've never encountered before. Maybe many times He won't. Maybe love and compassion are all that's needed.

But may God forgive us for forgetting His power. May He awaken us and this new emerging generation to the unfathomable vastness of His power to bring real change into lives devastated by the god of this world.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Need of Our Time

“The greatest need of our time is for the church to become what it has seldom been: the body of Christ with it’s face to the world, loving others regardless of religion or culture, pouring itself out in a life of service, offering hope to a frightened world, and presenting itself as a real alternative to the cultural arrangement….
I want neither a blood-‘n’-guts religion that would make Clint Eastwood, not Jesus, our hero; nor a speculative religion that would imprison the gospel in the halls of academia; nor a noisy, feel-good religion that is a naked appeal to emotion. I long for passion, intelligence, and compassion in a church without ostentation, gently beckoning to the world to come and enjoy the peace and unity we possess because of the Spirit in our midst….
At the dawning of the twenty-first century, what separates the committed from the uncommitted is the depth and quality of our love for Jesus Christ. The superficial among us build bigger barns in the euphoria of a prosperity gospel; the trendy follow the latest fad and try to hum their way to heaven; the defeated are haunted by ghosts from the past.
But the victorious minority, unintimidated by the cultural patterns of the lockstepping majority, live and celebrate as though Jesus were near – near in time, near in space – the witness of our motives, our speech, and our behavior. And indeed he is.”

Brennan Manning
The Signature of Jesus
Multnomah Publishers, 1996
pgs. 9-11

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Story Evangelism

“….Know that your best relationships with the Scriptures are in the future.
Sadly, for some Christians the story has stopped. God has done all that God is going to do, and God’s voice in embalmed in a book. This turns the work of evangelists into being the salesmen of a tradition, not Christ-introducers and life-connectors to an on-going, never-ending story.
For some, the stories are frozen awaiting a future Parousia. The problem with freeze-dried stories is the same with anything that has the living water drained out of it: They taste dreadful, feel like brickbats, and crumble when you hold them too tightly.
For some the story has run out of steam and needs revision and reinvention – as if God didn’t get it right the first time. This turns reading the Bible into minesweeping the Scriptures for hidden detonations. For some not only is there nothing new under the sun. There is no Sun.
For some the story is an addendum to their own story, like some guilt outing to Disney World that’s crammed into a calendar so that everyone can say, ‘We did it.’ It is only when our story gets grafted onto God’s story, the story that came as a gift and grace, that our own story comes to life.
For others the stories of God are not entries in their family diary, but laws for living passed by some divine legislation. This is the biggest reason why Jesus’s storytelling was deemed sheer madness, dissed as mere children’s stories. Where was the Law of Moses? Where were the words of the prophets and ancestors? Where was even God in these parables of His?
Evangelism is the practice of out-narrating the world by telling a much better story, a story that can win the hearts and minds of the world’s peoples, a story of love, harmony, and peace. People are being seduced by the wrong stories, partly because we don’t how to tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth.
Evangelism is not convincing other people to accept the propositions you believe. Evangelism is inviting other people to begin a relationship with Jesus – to go on a journey with him and make his story their story. If the basic issue of evangelism is how we help people meet Jesus, then evangelism is not doctrinal transactions but spiritual interactions.”

Leonard Sweet
Out of the Question…Into the Mystery
Waterbrook Press, 2004
pgs 85-86

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jesus' Prayer Life

“Jesus prayed primarily because he loved his Father. Praise, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, and petition emanated from his profound consciousness of being bonded to the transcendent God in filial intimacy. His personal experience of Yahweh Sabaoth as a loving Father shaped not only his self-understanding but, like a knife slashing through wallpaper, brought a dramatic breaththrough into undreamed-of intimacy with God in prayer. Childlike candor, boundless trust, easy familiarity, deep reverence, joyful dependence, unflagging obedience, unmistakable tenderness, and an innate sense of belonging characterized Jesus’ prayer.”

Brennan Manning
A Glimpse of Jesus
Harper, 2003
pg 84

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Word We Study

"The Word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experience with the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the gospel of grace. We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited."

Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel
Multnomah Publishers, 2005
pgs. 44-45

God's Pursuit of Us

"As crazy as it sounds, it’s as natural for God to pursue us as it is for us not to pursue him. I love the passage in the Great Shepherd’s psalm that says, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm@23:6). Here, David recognizes that God’s love will be with him, whether he’s walking the easy street of green pastures or slogging through the valley of darkness. The Hebrew word translated here as “follow” is translated most every other place in the Old Testament as “pursue”. The word is a military term, as in Joshua pursuing his enemies and annihilating them. God’s pursuit of us is relentless, passionate, and purposed. Hey, listen, God is not going to give up on you. Goodness and Mercy-Love, like sheepdogs, are nipping at your heels every time you begin to move away from God’s presence and protection. He has given you free will, so you can choose whether to love him back. But regardless of the choices you have made, God is still pursuing you….It’s in God’s nature to love you, to want you near."

Eric Sandras, PhD
Plastic Jesus: Exposing the Hollowness of Comfortable Christianity
Navpress, 2006
pgs. 41-42

Creating Spiritually Mature Disciples

"Today the evangelical church has a tendency to limit grace to a single transaction – Christ’s priceless payment for our sins with His blood so that we may be saved. As a group, we spend much of our energy cooperating with this first work of grace, focusing on evangelism, missions, and getting initial conversions. Beyond that, we spend tremendous energy to educate believers in their knowledge of the Bible. Once they are “saved”, we want people to be acquainted with God’s Word, indeed an important part in spiritual growth.But when it comes to encountering God Himself, we are, frankly, a bit vague. And when it comes to such aspects of spirituality as holiness, intimacy with God, and godly character, we can leave new believers very confused….We sometimes tell new believers that they received all the “potential” to grow in spiritual character, or Christlikeness, at conversion. But do we tell them how to turn that potential loose in their lives?Underneath it all, we seem to assume that spiritual growth will automatically result from knowing more about the Scriptures. But in fact, we encounter attitudes and resistance to God within ourselves, along with difficult, discouraging, or tempting circumstances outside ourselves, which seem to say there is no real power in the Christian life….…many admit they are missing a sense of spiritual reality – in terms of heart engagement, intimacy, and warmth – in their relationship with God….”Where is the presence and working of God in my life and in my church? Where is the personal satisfaction that ought to accompany knowing the God of the universe?”….Many of us know our Bibles, and our theology is sound. But when we’re honest, joy, peace, and power seem to be missing. We hunger for a sense of God’s presence and long for a connectedness with Him that will make us come alive at the core of our being….it is entirely possible for a Christian to lose touch with God, while believing correct doctrine….For many of us, the problem stems from the fact that we have forfeited God in the busyness of life’s activities – even church work….Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be honest among ourselves: We freely speak about God, but so often the reality of God’s transforming presence and power is absent. As conservative Christians, we have done a superior job defending doctrine and evangelizing the unsaved. Have we done as good a job of building spiritually mature disciples?"

Dr. Bruce Demarest
Satisfy Your Soul
Navpress, 1999
pgs. 22, 23, 48, 49

Finding Joy in God

"Since the day that Jesus first appeared on the scene, we have developed vast theological systems, organized world-wide churches, filled libraries with brilliant Christological scholarship, engaged in earthshaking controversies, and embarked on crusades, reforms, and renewals. Yet there are still precious few of us with sufficient folly to make the mad exchange of everything for Christ; only a remnant with the confidence to risk everything on the gospel of grace; only a minority who stagger about with the delirious joy of the man who found the buried treasure."

Brennan Manning
The Ragamuffin Gospel
Multnomah Publishers, 2005 printing
pgs. 201-202

Theological Education vs. God's Presence

"What else is the goal of theological education then to bring us closer to the Lord our God so that we may be more faithful to the great commandment to love him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37)? Seminaries and divinity schools must lead theology students into an ever-growing communion with God, with each other, and with their fellow human beings. Theological education is meant to form our whole person toward an increasing conformity with the mind of Christ so that our way of praying and our way of believing will be one.But is this what takes place? Often it seems that we who study or teach theology find ourselves entangled in such a complex network of discussions, debates, and arguments about God and “God-issues” that a simple conversation with God or a simple presence to God has become practically impossible. Our heightened verbal ability, which enables us to make many distinctions, has sometimes become a poor substitute to a single-minded commitment to the Word who is life. If there is a crisis in theological education, it is first and foremost a crisis of the word. This is not to say that critical intellectual work and the subtle distinctions it requires have no place in theological training. But when our words are no longer a reflection of the divine Word in and through whom the world has been created and redeemed, they lose their grounding and become as seductive and misleading as the words used to sell Geritol."

Henri Nouwen
The Way of the Heart
Ballantine Books, 2003
pgs. 39-40

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Official Website

Presence Powered Living's official website is
This site is for blogging about the site, the book, and related issues.