Monday, July 04, 2011

Sleepy Baby Mikala



Just got this photo of Baby Mikala from her safe families host this morning.

This is who we're working so hard for.

Thanks for your prayers!
-kg

Sunday, July 03, 2011

BAPTISM DAY FOR JULIE!






What a wonderful day yesterday as we baptized our dear sister in Christ, Julie.

Let's do this again really soon!

-kg

Monday, May 09, 2011

Invisible: Organic Church

A group of local organic church members recently got together to make a list of things that are "wrong" with Organic Church. More specifically, to identify weaknesses in the simple church and to think of ways we can address these challenges.

The first one I wanted to talk about from our list was that "Organic churches are often invisible to the community."

In our discussion we reflected on the fact that house churches don't have large signs out front, and don't market themselves the way traditional churches do. Because of this, it's often likely that a house church could exist for years right down the street from another house church and not even be aware of each other. Not to mention the fact that people in the community are also not aware that the house church meeting is taking place in their neighborhood.

So, what are the solutions to address this concern? I'd like to start out by isolating a few specific items first and addressing them individually.

*House Churches aren't as good at marketing themselves as traditional churches are.
Why is this? One of the main reasons is that house churches are not, by nature, attractional model gatherings. That is, the point of a house church is not to attract or to gather as many people as possible each and every week. In fact, in our house church family, our goal is to gather with as small a group as possible every week. If our group were to suddenly have 20 new people start attending our gatherings every Sunday, we'd have to split our group into two or even three other smaller groups in order to continue to maintain the quality of our fellowship together.

Simply put, in the house church, bigger is not better. Now, that doesn't mean that we don't value evangelism. Our group just baptized 3 people last weekend, but this was after several months, even years, of relationship and discipleship over time.

Here's the difference. In traditional churches I've served at in the past, our goal as a staff was to find new ways to attract a certain segment of people - young marrieds with children. We strategized ways to attract them. We flat out marketed our church to them with booths at local fairs and logo branded water bottles passed out at shopping malls and worship concerts in the park, etc. If we were successful we'd have 10 or 20 new people show up that Sunday morning and they'd eventually decide to join our church and tithe: SUCCESS!

Now, with the house church it's almost completely upside-down from that. In our house church we prefer to meet regularly with other disciples of Jesus; people who are seriously trying to follow Jesus in their everyday life and who want to connect with others who simply want to learn how to put the teachings of Jesus into practice daily. We're not perfect. Far from it. If anything we know how weak we are and we know that, without the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of our church family, we'd never make it alone. If we kept on adding new people all the time we'd dilute our ability to share deeply with one another - because there are some things that you'll share with a group of five or six that you would never share in a group of 25 or 30 people. Also, if we were to grow too large too quickly, we would struggle to build relationships with one another and the quality of our community would suffer.

So, what do we do? Well, first of all we don't attempt to artificially increase the number of people who fellowship with us. At the same time, we do not attempt to eliminate people or turn anyone away who wants to join us. In essence, we do our best to let Jesus build His Church. And you know what? He does!

When our family first planted our house church we did not recruit anyone to come with us. Only one other family, and one single woman from our previous traditional church came with us (and only because they wanted to, not because we convinced them to). Everyone else who has ever come to our house church has found us, we have not found them.

Secondly, I want to address the issue of being invisible to the community we're planted in. To me, this is a more serious problem. We've always felt that our calling was not only to plant a house church in our home, but that God was planting a church in this specific neighborhood. In other words, we were here in this house because God had a plan (and He still does) to love the people on our street through us.

So, from the beginning (about five years ago now) we started reaching out to the kids in our neighborhood. At first that involved leading Kids Church in our home on Sunday mornings. Mainly because Wendy and I had been children's pastors at our previous church (and we loved teaching kids together), and also because by inviting the kids in our neighborhood to come on a Sunday morning we would figure out which families already went to church somewhere and which one's didn't. Most of them, we figured out, didn't attend anywhere on Sunday mornings.

Later, we hosted pancake breakfasts for everyone in our cul-de-sac on the Fourth of July and we intentionally went out of our way to meet our actual neighbors, invite them over for dinner, take out their trashcans for them, and serve them in whatever ways we could. In essence, we determined that we would become missionaries to our neighbors.

Over time, (and this is an ongoing story), we got to pray for families in real trouble. We got to encourage them. We got to share Jesus with their kids. We got to see their kids fall in love with Jesus. We got to share groceries with families in financial need. We got to tutor their kids in math and spelling. We got to babysit when they were in a bind.

Suffice it to say, our neighbors know that there's a church on their street, and they know that we love them and that Jesus loves them. We're still hoping to make a deeper impact for them and to bring the Kingdom of God into their lives in a more powerful way, but we also know that God wants this even more than we do and He will lead us as we continue to submit ourselves to Him.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

BAPTISM DAY!



















What a sweet day! We gathered at a friend's home to baptize 3 dear people - Rick, and Lolita (Rita) and her son, Moises.

Brent baptized Rick and I got to baptize Rita and her son.

What was so special about this day was that the people being baptized were the one's who shared before we got started. Rick read to us from the book of Acts, chapter 2 where Peter explains to his fellow Jews that they need to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin. Then he read a prayer of submission to Christ to all of us.

Next, Rita sang a song that the Lord had given her in her native language, but afterwards she explained that the song was about surrendering all of her life to Jesus and giving Him back every blessing He had already given her.

After the baptism we sang together a few verses of "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" and laid hands on Rick, Rita and Moises to bless them and share encouragment and words of wisdom with them.

Our brother Ade had a specific word for all three of them that the Lord gave him at 2am this morning. He shared it and then he handed each of them a card where he had written down the word for them.

It was a wonderful day! Can't wait to do this again soon.

-kg

Sunday, April 24, 2011

EASTER SUNDAY 2011







We had a wonderful (but cold and rainy) morning in the park singing resurrection songs together. Then we came back to the Giles' home and everyone took turns sharing what Easter means. Then the kids made "Resurrection Rolls" and we shared breakfast together.

It was so great having new people with us, and also to share the day with our neighbors too.

He is Risen indeed!

-kg

Friday, April 22, 2011

TEXT FOR GOOD FRIDAY STATIONS

For those who want to recreate our Good Friday stations in their own home I've posted the text for each below.

BTW- If you want to make Resurrection Rolls for Easter, my wife reminded me we don't use olive oil, we use melted butter. Big difference!

Blessings,
kg
**

GOOD FRIDAY INTERACTIVE MEDITATIVE STATIONS

Note: We also have a station for communion with a bowl or cup for the juice and matza or bread for dipping into the cup. You can set this up as a station, or you can have that in the room and share communion all together at the end as a way to dismiss and close the meeting.

[DICE]- Participants throw a set of dice against a cloth on the floor with a seamless garment laying next to the them, if possible.

Station Card:

Throw the dice against the cloth to consider the triviality of the distractions in your life. Remember the disregard the soldiers had for Jesus as He died for them.

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven with one piece from top to bottom.

“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did. “ – John 19:23-24


**

[VINEGAR]- A cup of red vinegar is in a bowl. Participants taste it using a Q-tip they dip into the cup and dispose of later.

Taste the vinegar to experience the bitterness He tasted because of His amazing love for you and pray that your heart would not be embittered by the cares of this world.

“There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.” – Matthew 27:34

**

[CROWN OF THORNS]- We have an actual crown of thorns but you can use just a rose stem with thorns on it if you need to.


Hold these thorns to remember the crown He wore for you.


“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.” – John 19:1-3
**

[DRIVING NAILS]- We have a thick chunk of wood and large nails with several hammers. The sound of the nails being driven will echo through the house throughout the evening. Very powerful.

Drive a nail into the wood to remember the price He paid to set you free.


“Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.” – John 19:16-18
**

[TEARING CLOTH]- We cut up an old white t-shirt and slightly tear it in the top, center to get it started. Otherwise it can be very hard to tear.

Tear the cloth to remember that the veil in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, and that we now have access to God’s Holy Presence in our daily lives.


"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.” – Matthew 27:50-51
**

[DIP HANDS IN RED PAINT]- Use a water based red paint. Make sure to have hand wipes nearby and a trash can to drop used wipes into. Always ask Parents to go with their children through each station and supervise

Dip your hand in the red paint to symbolize the debt that He paid for you, personally, in His own blood.



"Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing." - Luke 23:34


[We usually also post this poem I wrote next to the station for dipping the hands in red paint. Optional, of course.]


BLOOD
by Keith Giles

There was rhythm in the air that morning

a seed-planting rhythm in a land

of broken ground. It traveled

from my heel to

my fingertips and

circled in my neck until

I bowed my head in submission. The beat

continued, echoed across

the arid stretch

of the hillside and all

of the faceless people stood

swaying to the rhythm

the compelling metronome

of hammer and nail and

the crescendo mounted until the blood

the blood gushed hot and wet onto the grass

we held our breath until they lifted

the crossbar over our heads, until the sky

turned to black cloud, until he whispered

that it was finished

and the soldiers took him down.

But the rhythm never left my feet

kept time with

the beating in my heart, turned

my blood to wine.

**

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WHAT IS A NEW TESTAMENT MODEL OF CHURCH LEADERSHIP?

The church in Corinth is a fascinating example of a church with numerous moral and ethical failures, yet when Paul writes to correct them he doesn't address their Pastor and command him to fix things. In fact, he doesn't even address their Elders or Overseers to respond to this by exercising their authority over the people. Why were the pastors, or for that matter the Elders of the Church, not commanded to exercise their authority and deal with the very serious moral failures within the Church in Corinth? Perhaps because Paul understood that the Body itself was capable of coming together to correct the problem themselves. Something he hints at when he says, "Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?" – 1 Corinthians 6:3

A DIFFERENT KIND OF SUBMISSION
I would like to humbly suggest that "Authority", and "Submission" do not necessarily imply organizational structures are at work in the New Testament Church. Submission is something that all believers are urged to do, and authority is only to be submitted to if it is in line with God’s Word and not on the basis of an office or appointment.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." – Ephesians 5:21
Everyone is urged to submit to everyone else. It's a shared submission among brothers and sisters in Christ who are equals and who humbly care for one another. Only Christ is the head, or the leader, of the Church.

Many are of the opinion that Jesus actually taught and promoted hierarchy in the Church, something I find alarming and dangerous. But, just for a moment, let me ask, "What would we expect to see in the New Testament if Jesus DIDN'T want His Church to be run like a hierarchy? Wouldn't we expect to see Jesus condemning this practice? Perhaps he would have pointed to a hierarchical system and commanded His disciples not to follow that example?

"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verses 42-45.

Does Jesus command his disciples not to exercise authority over people? Yes, he clearly and plainly does. What, then, are today's pastors doing if they are not exercising their authority over their church members? Isn't this a fair question to ask? Am I allowed to point out the disconnect between what Jesus says and what His Church actually does, or does not, do?

Here, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus points to the Roman Government (a secular hierarchy) and commands his disciples not to imitate this system of lording it over people or exercising authority over those who follow.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus points to a religious system of hierarchy and instructs them (again) not to imitate this system of hierarchy where the "Teacher" is exalted over the student. Instead, he says, remember that you are all brothers:

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." – Matthew 23:8-12

Next, let's look at the Apostles themselves. If they heard Jesus commanding them to avoid the hierarchical system of leadership, wouldn't we see evidence that they obeyed this command? Did they take his words to heart? Let's see:

"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm." - 2 Cor.1:24

Paul the Apostle obeys Jesus and refuses to "lord it over" those who follow Christ alongside him. Instead he works with them, as a brother, not as an authority figure.

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Here, Peter identifies himself, not as an Apostle, but as a fellow elder among the brethren. He then urges these elders (plural) to serve as overseers because they are willing, not because they have been handed a title or an appointment, and especially urges them to be careful not to "lord it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" – as Jesus commanded him several years earlier.

Having said all of this, doesn't the New Testament ask that we submit to our leaders and their authority? Yes, it does. For example:

Hebrews 13: 17- "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Let me be clear, I am not arguing against leadership here. Not at all. Every church needs leadership, and this is also clearly taught in the New Testament, however I would like to ask us to consider the possibility that leadership doesn't automatically mean top-down, authoritarianism. Jesus modeled something different than this, and then he commanded his disciples to emulate his example.

So, going back to our verse above, you might read this and ask, "What is the basis for our submission to our leaders?" Does their authority rest in the office they hold, or is it found in something else? Are we to submit to these leaders only because they hold an office? Or are we to submit to them as they point us to follow Christ? Hopefully we do not blindly follow people because they are "the Pastor" or because they have a title of authority. Hopefully.

No, the only authority we are to submit to is Christ Himself. To me, this truth is self-evident when we look at the NT as a whole.

Earlier in this same chapter, the writer of Hebrews, in chapter 13 and verse 7 says, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

Here we are told to submit to our leaders as they speak the Word of God to us. Not to them as authorities in and of themselves, but as humble servants who lovingly teach us to follow Christ, and who then demonstrate this by their actual lives of faith.

Submission then is to Christ and to the Word of God. If our leaders handle and teach the Word of God wisely, and if they faithfully live lives that reflect Christ, THEN we are to submit to their authority. But only if. Their authority is not automatic and it is not based on the office they hold. Otherwise, we would be accountable to obey leaders simply because they held that office, regardless of whether or not their lives reflected Christ or their teaching of God's Word was true.

If we follow the policy of hierarchy for the sake of itself we can end up with someone holding an office within the Church and exercising authority even if they are not followers of Christ. Such a person should have no actual authority in any spiritual sense over the life of believers. What counts is character, not the office or the position. However, someone with no organizational office may, because of gifting by the Holy Spirit and sincere love for others, have actual authority to speak and teach and lead his brothers and sisters in Christ (who are his equals).

Churches that employ such a man-made organizational method can only hope to mimic the kind of leadership such as the "rulers of the gentiles" possess, something that Jesus expressly commanded us not to do - "It shall not be so among you!" - Matthew 20:25-26.

The Holy Spirit is the only source of spiritual authority and accountability in the Church through real-life relationships, not titles handed down by men.

Did the Apostles depend upon the authority of men or did they give any weight to the opinions of men? Apparently they did not. For example, Paul says, "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody." - 2 Corinthians.3:1-2

If hierarchy was so important in the early church, why don't we see them exercising it? Why do we see them operating as a Body and not as a business? Perhaps the answers are right in front of us? Are we courageous enough to answer truthfully?

As Biblical Scholar Richard Halverson has said, "When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business."

I pray we can help God's people to see that they were never intended to be run like a business, and instead to help them see that, according to the Word of God, they are simply a Family, a Body, an Organism, and a Bride.

-kg