Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What are our practices?

(Written by John White)

Jesus taught that “everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (LK. 6:40). And, this is our desire – to be like Jesus. In His life, we see certain repeating patterns or rhythms or practices. Those who are members of the LK10 Community are practitioners of those patterns. By being in community, we can share what we are learning on this common journey. Dallas Willard helps understand the importance of spiritual practices: “My central claim is that we can become like Christ by doing one thing – by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father.” The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, p. ix.

LK10 is oriented around seven practices. The first three apply to every follower of Jesus. We center our own lives on them and we train our disciples in them. The last four practices relate specifically to planting churches. As apostolic church planters, we center our ministries on them and train other church planters in them. (Note: We don’t intend to imply that these are the only practices or spiritual disciplines for either followers of Jesus or church planters. These are just the ones we feel led to focus on in this community. We encourage everyone to engage other practices as directed by Jesus.)


Practice #1 - Listening to Jesus

This means that, as individuals, we are seeking, on a daily basis, to center our lives on Him. All of the other practices, indeed, all of life flows from this. Jesus Himself modeled this way of living in His relationship with His Father. This is seen in Jn. 5:19 which is the statement that perhaps best explains Jesus’ entire life and ministry: “I do nothing on my own initiative. I only do what I see the Father doing.” The Holy Spirit enables us to enjoy this same kind of intimate conversational relationship with Jesus. . “He will guide you into all truth… He will speak only what He hears… the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” Jn. 16:12-15.

Questions: Lord, what are you saying to me today? What am I to do about it?

Key quote:Our mission is to equip you to do everything as an outcome of your daily conversations with God and to train others to do the same.” -Mark Virkler

Practice #2 - Listening to Jesus with one (or two) others

Our second foundational practice was very important in the ministry of Jesus but is often overlooked today. It involves two people of the same gender sharing what they are hearing from Jesus as close to daily as possible. We call these two people “listening partners”. This practice captures the Lord’s value for living life in pairs (See, for instance, Mt. 10:2-4 where all twelve disciples are listed in pairs. Also, LK 10:1 where the 72 are sent out two by two.) This practice also recognizes the importance of daily encouragement (Heb. 3:13).

This is not to minimize the importance of a married couple also being listening partners. There is great value for this practice in both contexts – in marriage and in a same gender friendship.

Questions: What is Jesus saying to you? How are you responding? How can I help?

Key quote:Two are better than one.” -Solomon

Practice #3 - Listening to Jesus as a spiritual family

Growing out of our first two practices is the third practice of a simple church learning to center itself on Jesus. Church naturally and spontaneously grows out of individuals and pairs of believers hearing God’s voice. In a sense, this is the only skill that a church needs to learn. Everything else (study, singing, prayer, mission, etc.) flows out of hearing the Lord’s direction together as a church. Jesus, of course, modeled this practice as he spent three years living life with a spiritual family of twelve men. “Jesus called to him those he wanted, and they came to him… He appointed twelve… that they might be with Him…” LK. 3:13-19.

Questions: What has the Lord been showing you that will help us? As we are listening to each other, what is the Lord saying to us as a family? What will we do about this and how will we help each other?

Key quote:Thus from the viewpoint of God’s eternal purpose, the church exists to be… the organic expression and physical extension of the Trinitarian Community.” -Frank Viola

(The next four practices grow out of the first three practices and mainly apply to church planters.)

Practice #4 - Praying Luke 10:2b

In LK. 10:2, Jesus made a startling statement. In front of Him were 84 (12 + 72) church planters (“sent ones”, apostles). That sounds like a lot to us, but His evaluation was that it was only a “few”. Apparently, He saw the need for many more. And, in addition to identifying that need, He gave the solution. He commanded them to engage in the practice of “beseeching the Lord of the Harvest for more workers”. In this context, workers are both people of peace and more church planters.

We engage this practice with our listening partner (as well as others) for the region we are called to as close to daily as possible. This relentless widow lady in LK. 18 is our model for this kind of tenacious praying.

Key quote:The 10:2b Prayer is the leadership solution.” -Kenny Moore

Practice #5 - Joining Jesus in birthing churches in houses of peace

The “person of peace” was central to Jesus’ strategy for planting churches. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him…” LK. 10:5-6. In fact we believe that when you find a person of peace, God has already done the “heavy lifting” and a church is ready to be birthed. This practice of birthing churches was and is Jesus’ primary strategy for the expansion of the Kingdom. Jesus is the one who births churches and he calls apostolic church planters to join Him in that process.

The marriage, and then the family, is the first and most foundational expression of church. It is the nucleus or core around which larger expressions of church form. In the New Testament, the ekklesia (church) was birthed in the context of the oikos (household).

Key quote:A well-functioning household can only exist upon the foundation of a healthy, intact family. Hence a house church could only be established if a well-functioning family existed.” -Roger Gehring

Practice #6 - A church planter nurturing those new churches and especially their leaders

This is the heart of a father/mother longing to see these spiritual families (simple churches) thriving and growing healthy. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work” Jn. 14:1-10. “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children…we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children…” 1 Thes. 2:7-12.

Often this practice of nurturing is done by a team. “(Jesus) gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers to equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” Eph. 4:11-13.

Key quote:A major aspect of house church ministry is preparing and training future spiritual fathers and mothers and then releasing them to reproduce themselves.” -Larry Kreider

Practice #7 - Actively participating in communities of practice with other church planters

Jesus encouraged His “sent ones” to return and talk about what they had experienced in ministry (LK. 9:10). No doubt this practice was continued by apostolic teams throughout Acts. Church planters today can greatly benefit from encouraging and learning from one another. Just as in the community of a house church, this kind of apostolic community requires active participation and intentionality.

We see the practice of forming communities of practice for church planters occurring on every level – regional, national and worldwide.

Key quote:The literature on communities of practice is filled with stunning examples of how workers learn complex skills in rapid time when seated next to those who have the skill. And, of how workers reach out electronically across the globe with a question to colleagues, and receive back immediate, expert advice that resolves a crisis or dilemma.” - Margaret Wheatley.