Now that we have established that our focus is on making disciples instead of “starting church”. We can now focus on obeying Jesus’ and His commands as we walk with Him and also with others.
Naturally, this will lead us to loving our neighbours, and those whom we interact with daily at work or around us. And eventually, this can lead to a community being formed for Christ, and many more communities being formed for Christ.
Let’s look at the daily routine of a typical someone W, whose routine might look like yours. In the morning, W heads to work, and might take the train to work, and W might meet the neighbor next door leaving at the same time. At the train station W might meet neighbours whom he sees at the same platform daily catching the same train. And by the time W arrives at his work place, there will be some folks whom he sees day in, day out in the workplace. Then as W steps into the office building, he might meet the security guard, or the janitor. W might meet the other occupants in the same office building who might not be his colleagues. And W will finally see the bunch of colleagues whom he works with regularly and might have lunch together with them. From morning till the time W gets home, those are W’s “neighbours”. And that is W’s natural organic community!
So, it is impossible to say that one does not have community. Even if you do not work at an office, and are working from home or a housewife, you will see the immediate neighbors from time to time and chat with them when you take out the trash or when you go for a stroll to the nearby park. You will go to your grocer or supermarket in the neighbourhood and you might meet the vendors, cashiers, the regular staff at the supermarket and perhaps other neighbours from the estate or suburb as often as you go there. You might meet the regular mailman who delivers your mail. You might go to the bakery nearby and you will meet with the regulars at the bakery too. The possibilities of meeting and connecting with others are endless!
Now, that is YOUR COMMUNITY.
The question you should be asking yourself is how do I bring Christ to my community? Not how do I “start a church”. If you go down the trajectory of the latter, it will lead you to think of the things you do unnaturally like starting a band, getting a microphone and sound system, possibly renting a space when you already have one and live in one! All the latter costs you $. Often enough, big $ that go down the drain and do not bear the kind of fruit that Christ is looking for.
Jesus gave us the 2nd greatest commandment:
Love Your Neighbour as yourself!
That is our starting point! (without stating the obvious of loving God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength -1st and greatest commandment)
In fact, just a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown, I had moved into a new rental and I was able to get to know my neighbours who were pre-believers. They had never heard about God or Christ and have never read the bible. And during the COVID19 lockdown, I intentionally made connections and even started an English Conversation Time with them online. They are students in a foreign land and that was an initial starter I thought I would do to get to know them and to also help them with their conversation English. By the 2nd time, we were able to get her to read and discover 1st miracle Jesus performed as recorded in the gospel of John.
I used a tool called “7 signs of John” and with these questions to help her to realise and discover for herself who Jesus is.
This tool is particularly helpful to pre-believers who are interested in the Bible and interested in knowing who Jesus is. Through facilitating the reading of 7 Signs, and asking these questions, it is designed to help them discover Jesus as God.
They are also framed in such a way to encourage SIMPLE OBEDIENCE and also SIMPLE SHARING by a new/pre-believer to others in his/her community.
In this way this tool seeks to:
1) be personally applicable (and does not end up as a bible study that focuses on just giving information/head knowledge)
2) be simply sharable by a seeker to his/her community.
After going through the 1st sign of how Jesus turned water into wine in 20 min, she was so awed by Jesus. She said "wow He's magical, he's amazing, He's incredible and.. !"She was really at a loss of words to describe Him. It really warms my heart to hear someone so excited to read about Jesus and so excited about Him. She said "now I can ask Jesus for help me in my problems and trouble too".
By the last question, she was all ready to share it with her housemate.
Who says COVID19 can stop us from being the real church and reaching out and making disciples for His kingdom?
Remember, these are tools to help bring about community but not the essence of community in itself. It is important to note that tools are only used to help us get something done. They are not the end in itself.
For example, we use a hammer to knock a nail onto a wall, but that is so that we could hang up a picture, in order to decorate the room. We could also use a screw driver to do that but it will be less effective obviously, but achieve the same end result.
It is clear that a tool is designed with a specific function and purpose in mind. It would be totally wrong if we use a hammer to knock the nail into the wall and not do anything else thereafter leaving the ugly nail sticking out of the wall!
I think you get the picture!
When we use these tools, we need to ask ourselves, what end do we hope to accomplish?
In the case of my neighbours, I was intentional in getting her contact when I first met her at the lobby of the building. I was intentional in chatting with her. I was intentional in building relationship with her. I was intentional in inviting her over for a meal. I was intentional in starting a weekly online conversation with her. We started talking about the topic of “fear”, and I was intentional in introducing Christ through that topic and shared on how I coped with fear. As I continued being intentional, she was very open and receptive and also started sharing with her friend on the things I have shared with her during our English conversations weekly. She invited another friend to join us online! Subsequently after the 3rd English conversation, I intentionally suggested using the bible as text for our English conversations and I used the above 7 signs in John as a tool to introduce Jesus Christ to them.
John 20:30-31 (NKJV) "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name."
This tool is a great starter for pre-believers or even some types of “church-goers” or “Christmas/Easter Christians”. They might end up having a better picture and understanding of who Jesus really is; that he is not just a cute little Baby in swaddling cloths. It baffles even a pastor, or someone who thinks they know Jesus already. It can demolish lots of preconceived or wrong notions about the Jesus-they-think-they-know.
Intentionality is very important in everything we do. Call it “purpose” if you prefer a more spiritual term. We are not people with an ulterior motive but people with an intentional purpose. We must intentionally disciple, intentionally evangelise. There must be intentionality in everything we do, so that "whatever we do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col3:17).
Many times, Paul said this in his letter: "for this reason" and "for this purpose". Jesus Himself always had a purpose. Everyone He met, everywhere He went.
In criminal law, generally, for someone to be guilty of committing a crime, intention or mens rea( Latin for “intention”) has to be proven to show criminal liability even if action (actus rea) can be proven.
If it is so powerful in the negative, how much more the power of positive intention to do good in the name of Jesus. It is the very evidence or proof of our lives being lived out purposefully for Christ.
We cannot live life without purpose, and as followers of Christ we must live our lives INTENTIONALLY for HIM and him alone. For this purpose He came to seek us and save us from being LOST and give us His purpose. Not our purpose, but His purpose. Not our desires, but His desire. Not our will, but His will be done. We don't live for ourselves, but for Him.
As we know God’s will, we must intentionally walk in God’s will. That is OBEDIENCE. I encourage you to do His will: to love Him and love your neighbour as yourself.
As you do that, you will fulfil God’s will everyday of your life in every place He places you. Will you take the first step to OBEY Christ in His simple commands to love Him and love your neighbour? Will you be quick to OBEY His mission, to start looking for a “person of peace” and start making 1 disciple for Jesus?
In fact, you can start obeying God right now, after reading this email.
Have fun obeying His commands, and doing His will.
It is Impossible to Start a Church! -Part 2
-Making and multiplying disciples (Part 1)
In the last blogpost, I startled everyone by saying, “It is impossible to start a church!”.
Let me explain further.
We do not have to focus on gathering everybody into the same building or same community. We do not have to invite a disciple of Christ TO CHURCH. That is a misconception and creates problems in our theology and the outworking of it.
We can be and make Christ's disciples anywhere and everywhere and where God places us.
Disciples of Christ do not need events, programs or buildings to function. They are disciples everywhere, in every place where they live, work and play.
The truth is that we have made much ado about something we should not be making much ado about! It is Jesus’s job to build His church, not ours.
So then what do we DO? But that is not the right question to ask. I get that a lot in the people we meet and trainings we conduct. If we ask the wrong questions, we will seek the wrong answers.
The better question is HOW DO WE MAKE DISCIPLES? We hope to bring you on a journey to making disciples. And as we do that, Christ is building His church, His Body, whom we are.
If we focus on making disciples who make disciples, we will be focussed on releasing & empowering disciples to make other disciples. And the disciples that are made by the one you discipled, might not know you or you might not know them. And that is all fine.
We do not need to create a pyramidal structure with us at the starting point or at the top. Jesus is the starting point and He is the Head of His body. I also don’t think we should be spending most of our time managing people in a system we call "church". Let Jesus be the One who builds His church, and let us be busy about making disciples of Jesus.
So how do we make disciples?
It is interesting that Jesus made disciples for the last 3 and a half years of his life before He died on the cross. He, however did not give us 3 pointers to do it. So what we should do is follow Him and be His disciple and follow the life of Jesus, His ways and His works. In the same way Jesus discipled the 12 apostles, we are supposed to disciple others.
The way Jesus and the Holy Spirit and/or a disciple of Christ disciples you according to His ways, His word and His works, that’s how you do it unto others.
We MAKE DISCIPLES, followers of JESUS CHRIST. To explain further, we make disciples who will follow and obey Jesus as their Lord & Master at any cost. Disciples who know Jesus (not know about Jesus) and walk with Him and are radically obedient to Him.
Well, to relate to “church planters”, my husband and I have in our own right "planted quite several churches" in Singapore and also in Australia. I would prefer to say we have built communities expressing God’s kingdom values, ways, and works. In the same way the disciples formed communities as they broke bread together, shared what they had in common (in Acts 2:42) we can form these communities.
Mind you, Acts 2 is not a formula or methodology but it was an expression of what came about organically and naturally because they were disciples following Jesus and His teachings.
If you use Acts 2:42 as the starting point, this can and from experience have seen that it can end up awry. I have personally heard stories from “pastors” who tried to follow this method, bought a piece of property, thinking it is a better way of “doing church”, tried to bring the church members together to live as a community in the same house, and have ended up with a hot mess of hurt and disillusioned believers.
Let's stop asking the question of how we can "do church".
Rather we should be asking how then can we form and multiply communities for Christ?
In my next short article and blog, I will address this.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to start a church!
It is impossible, because Jesus never called us to start one. That’s because He is building the ONE and only Church for HIMSELF – THE Church - the body of Christ, His disciples from different tribes and tongues globally.
Did it occur to us that Jesus never wanted us to start or build churches, and even more so to start a church building project? If he wanted us to get into building projects, He would have specifically given us the imperative and commissioned us to do so. Yet not even once, did He command His disciples to do that.
In fact, He does not want us to start HIS church. Jesus said, “I will” do it.
Matt 16:18 (NKJV)
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Jesus does it so well, that when He builds His church, the powers of hell cannot withstand it.
How did we even get so far from the original intent and will of God and the commands of Jesus Christ?
Well, He definitely did not ask us to start and multiply churches. Neither did He even ask us to start cell groups or organisations to manage God’s people.
We can and should build community through living out His commands, to love Him and to love others, and express ourselves as His church. But never anywhere in the words of Jesus was there anything close to building a physical “house” for God, or a “house of God”.
He only gave His disciples ONE main thing to DO, the mission to MAKE DISCIPLES. Disciples of Jesus Christ, obviously. And disciples amongst all the people groups on the earth. And we have failed miserably.
Even the apostles who sought to obey Christ, preached what the prophet Isaiah said, that God “does not dwell in temples made with man’s hands” (Acts 7:48, Is 66:49). And none of them registered a church organization, or had any brand name (ABC church) or encouraged starting a faction/denomination (XYZ denomination church) with a group of people that they tried to “collect”. But today we do these things and call this “church”.
Organised church as we know today, and religious activities and programs, does not necessarily a disciple make. But it is true that disciples of Christ definitely make the church.
When you have disciples you will be His church. Church is never about what we do on a Sunday in a service, or even in a cell group (although that might have greater semblance to being His church), but it is who we are everyday, everywhere. Church is Jesus’ disciples fulfilling God’s kingdom plan and purposes on the earth.
So what should our focus be on if church is not what we should be focussed on?
That’s a better question to ask and answer. In short, it’s to make disciples of Christ.
Stay tuned for our next short blog post on making and multiplying disciples of Christ.
What has Coronavirus to do with Church (Original post at https://www.karengan.blog/mull-stones/coronavirus-and-the-church)
(Original post at https://www.karengan.blog/mull-stones/coronavirus-and-the-church)
A tiny virus is sending shockwaves throughout the entire world. At the time of my writing, the worldometer of reported and detected coronavirus cases has gone past 620,000 in a matter of months from day 0. And the USA has topped the charts, overtaking China as the place with the most number of Coronavirus cases. Furthermore, these numbers do not include those that have gone undetected or are asymptomatic.
In Singapore, stay-home is encouraged and social distancing measures like not sitting on marked out chairs in hawker centres, failing which you can get slapped with a hefty fine of $10,000 and/or jail term of 6 months. Social distancing is pretty hard for a densely populated nation of approx. 6 million in 278.6 mi² (721.5 sq. km), with a population density in Singapore of 8358 per sq. Km (21,646 people per sq. mi).
Over in neighbouring Malaysia the lockdown is such that only the heads of households are allowed out to buy necessities. And the shutting of borders between Singapore and Malaysia has displaced 300,000 Malaysians who work in Singapore. This triggered another round of panic buying.
While governments are scurrying around in an attempt to flatten the virus’ curve, the consequence is that it has flattened almost everything non-essential to life. In Australia, measures are even more drastic, such as the closure of gyms, restaurants, eateries, spas, nail salons, churches and anything non-essential to life. Only supermarkets are opened and there are no dine-ins at restaurants at all, only take-outs and deliveries are allowed. (As of 30 Mar 2020: In Australia, only 2 persons are allowed in a public gathering.)
Even private birthday celebrations, weddings and funerals, are limited to a maximum of 10 persons (this number might be updated again depending on the situation!). Church events, mass gatherings and services are now suspended or cancelled in most countries.
I hope in the midst of this craziness and seemingly dark time, you have seen more light or perhaps the COVID19 situation; of country lockdowns, border closures, social distancing measures, panic buying, quarantines, stay-home notices, public events cancelled, church services becoming epidemic spreading clusters (thought about the message this sends to non-believers?), church services closed, jobs lost, over-taxed healthcare systems, inevitable bankruptcies, the race to produce test kits and vaccines, closure of cinemas, shops, tuition centres, businesses, schools closed and going online etc, has awakened you to reality and shed more light on your life and purpose for God’s kingdom.
The reality of what has been happening in the church is this. We have been asleep. And we have been lulled into a deep sleep. God is awakening those who have been in this slumber.
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” (Eph 5:14, Isa 26:19)
However in the midst of all the bad news, there is good coming out of it all.
I understand that there is sickness and death happening with countries like Italy and China suffering the most casualties. There is lots of emotional fear and widespread confusion and panic everywhere, but I also really see a lot of good coming out of it. The good that has come out of this coronavirus pandemic is: It puts humanity all on the same page. No one whether kings or presidents, young or old, rich or poor is shielded from this virus.
I also see it as a great equaliser in some areas of disparity. In one particular area, for eg. no more tuition and enrichment centres in Singapore can go on. And this means those who cannot afford to have tuition will be placed on the same page as those who can. (But then as I am writing, the tuition centers are responding with e-learning and online classes to keep their customer base (i.e. the parents) happy.
Churches Fighting Fires
The churches are scrambling to get their act together and react to this outbreak by hosting their services online and even continuing to ask for tithes and offerings through online payment, for believers to stay home to watch the service or rather their performance called “church”, and to sustain their operations, staff salaries and for some, huge mortgages for the building they use a few hours in a week which is now empty and shut. While most "churches" are fighting fires, where is the real church, His body?
How Can the Church, the Body of Christ Respond to This Virus
1) "When you are outside, put on protective gear to prevent infection"
We all know that in many Asian cultures, they wear masks when they are out in the streets. And in hospitals they even put on a protective suit, surgical masks, and face shield when coming into contact with infected patients.
Similarly in the spirit, we make sure we have our protective spiritual gear on when we are up and about daily for His kingdom purposes. Put on prayer, put on the whole armour of God. However if you stay indoors, safe from everybody else, then you have not much to protect yourself from. The Church of Jesus Christ is not made for staying indoors, and she is not made to insulate herself from the world. Though we are not of the world, we are in this world. And we are called to be salt and light (Mt 5) in this world and overcomers in Christ as He overcame the world (John 16:33). Sadly we have mostly shut our doors to the world and are "locked-up" in the sacred-secular divide of religion way even before COVID-19 came about.
2) "Build Up your Immunity"
One way to fight any virus, is to build up your body's immunity. Your gut health is important for your immunity.
As the COVID-19 virus is sweeping across nations, the supplement industry is booming as people sweep the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets clean.
Our body in the natural and the Body of Christ, i.e. the Church, is designed by God to have strong immunity provided we have good gut health. If there are no output of toxins and wastes from the body, you are constipated and poor gut health will compromise your immune system's ability to withstand any virus.
Similarly, the body of Christ's immune system has been compromised for the longest time because of toxic nonsense and "highly processed canned food" we call "sermons, which we have been feeding ourselves with.
We have not been eating real whole foods. Nutritionists' advice that the very foods hoarded by panic buyers of instant noodles, pasta, pasta sauces and canned food, is not helpful. These things contain high sodium and it will deplete your gut from the necessary good bacteria in your gut.
We need to start eating real whole foods to stay healthy and develop strong immunity.
Start feeding yourself by reading whole letters/books of the bible and not just watch youtube sermons, which is basically processed food pre-digested by someone else. If you are His sheep and have a real relationship with God, you can hear the voice of God. Learning to reading scriptures on your own is essential. No one, after being a follower of Christ for donkey years, should still need to be bottle-fed milk (i.e. a sermon).
Sadly, this is the state of the church today and people have become addicted to drinking milk once a week on a Sunday. No wonder they don't have the strength to do great exploits for God in this world! Start reading His word on your own, and discerning God's voice in life circumstances, because doing that trains your spirit man to know God's voice for yourself and find application through hearing His voice.
3) "Get Some Exercise and Ample Rest"
We all know these 2 are important components to a healthy body.
Without exercise, even the right eating habits will cause obesity and a compromised immunity and health. Are you exercising your spiritual and natural gifts and talents in the midst of this crisis regularly? Without output and you doing what you hear from God, you are only deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).
Are you finding your rest in God in the midst of this? Or are you worried, full of fear, and anxiety?
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.". (Matt 11:28). Jesus continues in Matt 11:29-30 continues, "Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Is the Church finding real rest in God through being carriers of His burden and yoke? Are we carrying HIs purposes or trying to achieve ours only? Are you ploughing in the harvest fields of humanity yoking together with Jesus, the Lord of the harvest? Or are you in your own self-consumed bubble on a Sunday?
What and how can we as the church and body of Christ do to preach and bring God's kingdom to others in a tumultuous time such as this?
The truth is that whilst church services, church buildings and events are being shut down, the Church, which is God's people, and His kingdom can't be shut down! In fact the real church will arise and thrive in this hour. They do not need events, or buildings to function. They are disciples everywhere, in every place where they live, work and play! STOP FIGHTING FIRES and BE THE FIRE!
And the fact that church buildings and events are being shut down, goes to show that we DO NOT NEED IT to live in the first place. Have you thought about that?
I am sure if you are a believer and follower of Christ, you probably already know that church is not a building, nor a service, nor an event, nor a meeting. But wait, why then do we still do that service thing, or try to keep it going even hosting it online during this shut-down? If it can been shut down, then it is NON-ESSENTIAL to you and to your life!
God has not designed his Church and kingdom to be bound or to be shut down by a virus and government regulatory measures. We are a unique organism called the BODY OF CHRIST. Christ's body is not divided up. He has only 1 body although many functions. The Church of Jesus Christ is ONE living organism with Christ as ONE head, and has not been designed by God to shut! In fact, God wills that we His church, His body wherever we might be, arise with greater glory in times of greater darkness! In crisis, we thrive! And we need to be riding on this wave and this curve! Because once this curve flattens, human nature is such that we will go back to BUSINESS AS USUAL.
Isa 60:1-3 (NIV)
1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Time to Reflect, Rethink, and Undo
Well, you might be thinking, "but don't we need one another and community in church meetings?" Oh yes, we absolutely do! But in an authentic expression! What we have mostly today in the modern day society, is merely an artificial construct of "community" with management practices in an organisation or of the world being put into practice to manage people. That is not the authentic expression of a living breathing organism called Christ's church!
We have the the life of Jesus Christ and the breath of the Holy Spirit flowing through the veins and arteries of Christ's body, which makes us believers i.e His church and His body alive forevermore! And we have Jesus Christ as our Head who directs the Body of believers anywhere and everywhere worldwide. We all as His sheep, can hear the voice of our Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for us! (John 10) So what is there to stop this living organism from knowing His will and doing His will daily without the interfering human management principles of men? The Holy Spirit who is the best Teacher will guide you and lead you into ALL truth, as Jesus promised. (John14:26)
A Note to "pastors"
As things shut down, "pastors", release the members of the (not your) "church" who have been "going to church" (going to church is wrong sentence structure altogether. If church is not a place where you can go to, but IS God's people, then why do we even say "going to church" or ask people to "come to church")?
By now you should be able to trust the members (not your members, they are Christ's) to go forth with power to make more disciples. By now, most of them would not even need you to tell them what to do, cos they have an ability to hear and obey God. If they can't hear and obey God after a real encounter with Christ and after hearing sermons week after week, then what you have been doing is a miserable utter failure.
If what you are concerned about is to keep members in order to keep the tithes and offerings flowing into your organisation, or to keep members in order to prop up an institution, so that you can finance the building, or pay staff or yourself a salary, then mind you, it is high time you realised that you have been serving Mammon/money in the name of God! Who is your God?
What a great time to be reflecting, rethinking and undoing religious practices that we have become unknowingly dependent on or even addicted to other than God and His kingdom working in us and through us!
A Note to Every follower of Christ
Start making disciples wherever you are and with people God sends your way everyday.
You have what you need for your community and your neighbours i.e the ones living or working around you! That is and should be your true community. The ones whom you bump into at the lift lobbies; the ones who throw trash out at the bins, or the ones you wave at and greet when you meet them. The one who sits next to you at your office cubicle. The cleaner aunty who cleans your office. The security guard who works in your estate. Oh wait, I think it should be "the ones you should have"...because now with "stay-home" and "working from home" being encouraged, you don't see them much anymore.
Think about how you can be the Church being sent out 2 by 2 (Husband and wife is enough, any more, it gets complicated) just like Jesus did with His disciples sending them into the harvest fields. Don't find someone living far away to pair with you. Find someone whom you are living with, and if not, disciple someone into the kingdom and go with that person. It is not rocket science. There is a reason why Jesus said "where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name, I am in the midst of you". He did not say "where 2 or more", so you really don't need a big group to start something or a leader to tell you what to do to gather you to get you going.
So have a "Going" mentality even in this lockdown season, and you will find faith and joy in doing His will daily and being about His Kingdom purposes!
- How can we have wisdom while having faith, and not be foolish in trying to be fearless. How is the going forth and what can we do?
- When this pandemic ends, how and what can we be doing better to continue to bring God's kingdom here on earth? Is online church the answer to the future? What if there is another problem that arises that shuts the church services again? Are you ready?
I leave you with these questions for you to reflect, rethink and undo.
For me the answers are clear. At this time, I am busier than ever before about my Father's kingdom work. The virus pandemic is a great teacher. Learn from it and let the gospel of the Kingdom and authentic church in your community go viral, for it cannot be hindered.