Tuesday, November 20, 2007
As we've spent time thinking about what it means to "Give Thanks" at The Mission, several of you have shared with us that The Mission is like your family. Many of you on Thursday and on Sunday expressed a thankful heart that God has brought you to The Mission and that you've started to connect with others in the group, just like a family. Wendy and I feel the same! In fact, this is a very large part of what we're hoping to inspire at The Mission. We're commanded by Jesus to "love one another" and to hear that many of you are experiencing this is very encouraging to us.
Because of this, I’ve been thinking about how we can inspire greater community within our house church. Wendy and I have talked a lot in the last few days about how we can get to know others more and develop a deeper sense of family with everyone at The Mission.
The truth is, we're together a lot. Just glance at the list of ministries and gatherings this week alone and you can see that we've opened up a lot of our schedule to The Mission. Getting together to serve or to share or to celebrate together is very important…but what more can we do to inspire deeper connections within our group?
I don't think the solution is to schedule more group events. We could spend every single evening and weekend together and still not open up to one another or share our lives with each other.
What we need is more quality time together.
As Wendy and I have been talking about this and thinking about it, here are some things we believe we can do to encourage greater community within our house church.
2) Outside activities
3)Open your home
4) Smaller groups
Testimonies are a great ways to learn more about the people in our group. How did you come to Christ? What are the most significant spiritual events in your life over the last few years? What lead you to choose house church? What are you currently wrestling with God about right now? What is the spiritual journey you're on today? Hearing where others have come from, understanding where they are now and sharing their hopes for the future are great ways to build emotional connections with those in our group. Who wants to go first?
Outside activities like Heather's recent art show, or our infamous camping trip, or Megan's play, or the guy’s poker night, etc. all help us to get together outside the usual environment of The Mission and spend time together doing things other than the typical church liturgy. So, to take advantage of these times outside the group we need to invite one another to join us for fun times with our family or weekend trips, etc. We can all learn more about one another by simply being more inclusive and inviting of one another.
Open Your Home
I’d like to ask if you’d pray about the possibility of opening your home to others in the Mission. Invite someone from house church to dinner at your house. Ask another person or family from The Mission to meet you for lunch on Saturday or Sunday after church. If you've got kids, set up a play date with other Mission House Church kids. Rent a funny movie and invite someone from the Mission to watch it with you. The more time we spend together outside of an "official" Mission gathering the better. The more the rest of you open your home and become more inviting and inclusive, the more relationships with others in the house church will strengthen.
Smaller groups are more conducive to intimacy. When we have fifteen or twenty people in the living room it's hard to have an intimate conversation or confess a need or share the deepest ache of your heart. To have a smaller group gathering on Thursday or Sunday would require splitting out our existing groups into just two, maybe three, families. I'm not sure if we're ready for this emotionally or not, but perhaps if we desire greater intimacy enough we will soon decide to take this step to get smaller. That leads me to...
Finally, I'd like to ask that everyone pray for God's blessing. That's what I've been doing lately. Pray and ask God to help you to love others more. Ask Him to soften your heart and open your home in order to make you more "others focused" and willing to share. I have been praying lately that God would help us love one another and knit us together as a real family of God. I want The Mission to be a place where everyone is blessed and accepted and loved and nurtured and encouraged. Isn't that what Church should be all about? Isn't that what it means to be part of the Family of God?
What excites me is that we’re limited only by our own willingness to participate in this process. If we want this kind of community and intimacy it is totally within our grasp. If we want to be a Church that loves one another and cares for one another there’s nothing stopping us...but us.
The only question for us is, "Do we really want this?" and if we do, then we need to take the steps to become these sorts of people and this sort of Church. Going back again to the vision God gave me for The Mission at the beginning of this year, the concept of "Concentric Circles of Love" starts with learning how to love those nearest to us first of all. It's not easy. Far from it.
We need to pray for God to teach us how to love those within our own family, and then also how to love those in our Church Family too. I pray that we can take the risk and that we will start really being intentional about showing one another we love them, and that we really want to live out our calling to be known by our love.
"And they will know that you are my disciples if you love one another"–Jesus (from John 13:35)
Never forget - "You are loved" and that truth sets us free to love each other in the same amazing way.
Friday, November 02, 2007
It's chock-full of wisdom and practical application. Go. See. Learn.
Monday, October 29, 2007
We got to pray with several people and all were very touched and blessed, (as were we), to share the day together.
The kids enjoyed the bounce house, the popsicles, and the music. The adults enjoyed the free groceries and received prayer.
On Sunday afternoon, at 3pm, several of us from The Mission went to visit some of our friends in the Summer Villas senior home. It was so wonderful to make new friends (like Tony) and to see our old friends (like Hazel, Beulah, Mary Swain, Mary-Anne, and George).
Please pray for Hazel who fell and hit her head on the sink in her bathroom. Although she was up and walking around yesterday, her face looks horrible due to the bruises she suffered and the swelling on her brow. She asked us to pray for her to be healed soon, and we will.
I'm so blessed to have a house church full of people who see the Kingdom, see the poor, and have a desire to serve others and share the love of Jesus with people in need.
I am living the dream.
Monday, September 24, 2007
*More photos online here:
Friday, September 14, 2007
Our original Thursday night group is still going strong, and we've added a Sunday morning group too. The funny thing is, most of those who attend Thursday nights do not attend on Sunday, and vice-versa.
This means we need to host an All-Church Picnic in the Park for everyone who attends "The Mission" to actually meet one another.
Details on this soon.
We also know, in the back of our minds, that both groups are growing larger. This means that our inevitable division into smaller incarnations, hosted in various locations, is inevitable.
So far I've been waiting and praying for God to make this a very natural event in our Church development. As leaders emerge and as God moves people within our house church to step out and host, or pastor their own house church, we'll simply agree with what God is already doing and follow His lead.
What an exciting future awaits us as we prepare for the next season of our house church development.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
This Saturday we returned to the California Studio Inn to bless and serve the families and kids who live in this motel in Santa Ana. We shared ice cream, cold water, played in the bounce house and sang songs and did a puppet show.
Even better, we got to meet new people, pray for the sick, and bless the families who were there.
God continues to open doors for this ministry, as small and as humble as it may be, time after time. I'm learning so much about God's heart and about ministry at the micro-level.
Next month we return for more fun and another chance to share the love of Jesus in tangible ways with these children and their parents.
I can't wait!
This last Thursday night at The Mission we all sat down around a single transparent shower curtain and created one single work of art on community and the concept of "Christ In Us" It was SO awesome!! (Thanks Heather for the great idea, inspiration, and the art supplies)
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Tonight we prayed over them and sent them on their way as they enter the great unknown and follow God's leading to serve as a family in this faraway mission field.
You can follow their adventures at:
Watch their blog for photo updates and news from the streets of Ecuador!
You're in our daily prayers.
The Mission House Church Family
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Wendy and I start our second annual "Kid's Club" in our house this Saturday morning. For the next four weeks we will host the neighborhood kids and lead them in an hour-long journey to discover who Jesus is and what it means to love and follow Him.
Several at The Mission have expressed an interest in visiting a local Senior Home to share the love of Jesus with those who live there. Wendy and I used to do this before at a different senior home in Tustin, but we've missed doing this with our kids. It will be a wonderful blessing to return to this sort of ministry to the lonely and the forgotten here in our city.
The ladies of The Mission had their first night out this week at Chapman Coffee House in Orange. It was (I hear) a great time to talk and hang out and just have fun together. The men are meeting on alternate weeks for coffee too.
We're planning a Mission Camping Trip for August 18th down in Escondido which should be a blast.
I know God has been leading this church, and teaching us about humility and service to others and forgiveness and trust in Him, all these recent weeks. He is speaking to us and He is forming us into the people He wants us to be, here in this place, for such a time as this.
My goal is just to make sure I don't get in His way.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
On July 4th we hosted a community "Breakfast on the Lawn" at our house in order to better know our neighbors. We had a great turn-out and everyone thanked us for the chance to meet each other.
We've already planned our next community event: An Ice Cream Social! Date TBA.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
ALL WE NEED IS LOVE
I've never been a big Beatles fan, but I think they were on to something when they suggested that "All We Need Is Love". According to Jesus, this is our main calling, to love one another. We are to be a people who are known for our extravagant love. We are commanded to go so far as to love even our enemies.
As you may imagine, love is not an easy thing to do. I've discovered that love is only easy until you start trying to put it into practice and then you suddenly realize that it costs more than you're willing to pay, it asks more than you're willing to give, and it hurts more than you thought possible.
In 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, the Apostle Paul reveals to us that love is actually the greatest of all spiritual gifts. Without it, we are empty and our efforts are useless. Love, the sort of love we are called as followers of Jesus to share with others, is a supernatural force that we must be filled up with by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Human love is conditional. It is based on the principal of mutual exchange. I will love you if you will love me. But the love of God, the love that Jesus commands us to share, is unconditional love. It is sacrificial love. It is love that is given regardless of attitude or position or what can be gained.
This is the sort of love that is kicking my butt right now.
At the beginning of this year I shared with our House Church a vision for us to walk through "Concentric Circles of Love" where we would begin with our own families, and then radiate outward to our church family, and then our neighbors, our co-workers, and then to the community around us.
I still believe this is God's heart for us, but now I think I realize that, without a sincere miracle from God, none of us will ever get beyond the first circle. I know that I'm quickly realizing my capacity for love is not as deep as I first imagined.
I'm encouraged, however, that Paul's assertion regarding love is that we cannot do it on our own. We are not expected to have within us a love that is equal to God's love. But, if we will humble ourselves and seek His face, and ask God to fill us with His kind of love, He will.
God's desire for us is to be known as people who love like He loves. He has commanded us to live this way. He knows we can't accomplish this by ourselves, so He is faithful to fill us with His perfect love when we admit that we don't have it.
I'm learning now that, every day, I need to ask God for His Holy Spirit to fill me with His Love for others. It's part of the daily surrender, the daily dieing to self, the daily conversion to Christ, that all of us must seek if we are ever to be the people He is calling us to be.
You are loved!
Monday, May 07, 2007
What is House Church?
Most people who have never attended a House Church make certain assumptions about what it's all about, and many of them are incorrect. Until I started a House Church I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, but now that I've had about a year of experience under my belt I thought I'd take some time to spell out a few specifics of what makes the House Church distinctive.
To begin, let's talk about what a House Church is NOT.
It's not taking what happens in your traditional church on Sunday morning and duplicating it on a smaller scale in your living room. Some friends of mine have house churches that ARE bit like that, but as a general rule this is not what House Church is meant to be.
This means you won't see a single leader giving a lecture for 45 minutes while everyone nods their heads and looks at their watch.
It's also not a home group. Again, I know a few house churches that are like this, but by definition this is also not what House Church is supposed to be. This means that you won't experience ice breakers that take an hour for everyone to explain who their favorite Looney Toon character is and why.
So, what IS House Church?
Essentially, the House Church is modelled after the Biblical model we find in the New Testament. Specifically we see a format described by Paul the Apostle where everyone comes together and shares a common meal, partakes in communion, gathers an offering for the poor, and takes the time to hear from each person in the group who has something that edifies the rest as they each follow Jesus.
"What shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." 1 Corinthians 14:26
So, in our Mission gatherings we start with a common meal. On Thursdays everyone brings something to share for dinner, and on Sunday mornings everyone brings something for breakfast and we begin by joining hands in the kitchen together and inviting the Holy Spirit to be our guest of honor for the time we have to share.
After the meal we eventually make our way into the den and everyone pulls up a cushion on a sofa, or sits on the floor, and we enjoy a time of singing worship songs together. There are several of us who are just barely decent enough to play chords on the guitar and between us all we modestly work our way through a few songs.
After the singing we usually share communion together and move into our "Share Time". This is where we allow each person, whether an elementary-age child or a single Mom, or even a former pastor, to share something that God has done or taught them about during the week.
Essentially, if you are feeling like you'd like to start leading a house church, don't picture yourself preparing a Bible lesson each week. Instead, get ready to facilitate as others speak and teach and share. Sometimes the powerful things we are taught come from the lips of one of our nine year olds.
In fact, in my case, I've learned that the more I shut up the better things go! I've even started to limit myself to no more than two "soap-box moments" for each meeting. This means I have to choose my issues carefully and it allows me to wait, listen, and sometimes even allow others to answer questions and explain scripture verses that I've had pat-answers in my head for the last twelve years.
The amazing thing I've seen is that, when we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to come and lead our group, HE DOES! (Especially when we actually let Him lead us and do our best to get out of His way).
As we've been taught by the Holy Spirit this way over the last year, I've been in awe of the fruit displayed in people's lives. In fact, in less than a year I was starting to see true repentance, maturity, and gifting blossom in our members. The best thing is that I know it has nothing to do with me!
The House Church is not a leader-based group. It is a peer-based group with a leader who prayerfully shepherds the people one at a time and mostly outside the meeting itself.
What fascinates me most about the House Church is how the designer, Jesus, inspired a family-based model where everyone was loved and honored equally. He inspired His disciples to create a system of Church that was totally unlike the Jewish Temple system or the Pagan Worship of the day. This humble, Spirit-lead group of mostly poor and simple people guarded our creeds and doctrines for three hundred years, turned the world upside down, and demonstrated the transformational power of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
To me, the design is genius, and the fruit of it is cleary evident in the Scripture and throughout the History of the early Church.
The Church that Jesus inspired and that the Apostles promoted was one where bigger wasn't better. Everyone person counted. Everyone's gifting was equally honored, not just those who had the outward gifts.
I'll admit, I am biased. But the fruit I've seen in my own life, and in the lives of the people who have been coming to our group each week, is enough to convince me that I never want to go back to church done any other way.
What I've learned is that Church is not a place you go, it's who you are. Our goal at the Mission is to "be the Church" not attend one.
I've also learned that Church is simply "God" plus "The People of God" and nothing more. The Church is not a building, it is about PEOPLE who love God and who love others.
Does this mean that traditional churches are "wrong"? Does this mean that only those in the house church really "get it"? No, it doesn't. There are just as many screwed up people in one as in the other.
However, whenever a church exploits people for its own gain, it is wrong. Whenever a church empowers people for the Glory of God, it is good. Whenever a church over-emphasizes one set of gifts over the others and devalues people, it is wrong. Whenever a church allows everyone a chance to be loved and heard and valued, it is right.
I can only speak for myself here when I say that, for me, the House Church is where I've actually experienced this level playing field. This is where I've seen disciples being made. This is where I am personally being challenged every week to get outside of my comfort zone and really live out my faith.
If you're experiencing this sort of vibrant spiritual life and you're part of a traditional church...Praise God! I know that God is at work in all forms and expressions of His Body and His Bride. The House Church has no corner on His power or presence.
For me, House Church is the best thing I've ever done with the word "Church" on it!
*To contact me about house church, or anything else, please do so at "elysiansky" (at) "Hotmail" (dot) "com" ...but remove the quotes and the parenthesis, etc....you get the idea.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Ok, this is kinda late but I've been busy, ok?
The Mission House church (some pictured here) met in El Camino Real Park in Orange on Easter Sunday morning. We sat on the grass under a large tree and sang songs together with the guitar. We shared scriptures together about the resurrection and talked about how we, The Body of Christ, represent the living, resurrected Christ by our actions. Are we still in the dark of the tomb, hiding away? Or are we out in the world, loving, touching, healing, sharing with people as Jesus did?
Are we, His Body, alive? Or in the dark of the tomb?
Afterwards we sang some more, and then after a time of prayer we dismissed and ran over to our house to share breakfast together and yummy Resurrection Rolls (If you're nice I'll email you the recipe. It's an awesome object lesson for the kids and an incredible delicious treat!)
I had to run to the California Studio Inn (the motel in Santa Ana we've been serving at for 4 years now) to preach an Easter message in support of the Saddleback service there, but our Mission Family stayed in our home (with my wife and kids too) and continued to share together and fellowship.
It was an amazing day to celebrate the life of Christ with His living Body of Believers!
*Want that recipe? Send me an email at "elysiansky" (at) "hotmail" (dot) "com"
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
But, how are we, in practical ways, living out this calling to be in the world but not of it? How are we actually carrying out Jesus' commands to love our neighbor as ourselves or to go as far as to love our enemies?
I've realized that we need to start in the center of our lives and live out our faith in concentric circles of compassion and love for others.
First, we need to spend time purposefully learning to love and to serve and to bless our own family members. We need to show them love in very real and sincere ways. Not in any programmatic fashion, mind you, but slowly, intentionally building a habit of ongoing service and demonstrated compassion to those closest to us.
Next, we need to add to this the practice of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Here in the Mission, as well as other Christians in our area. We need to actively, pursposefully, develop an ongoing habit of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
After this, we can begin to love our actual neighbors. Those people who live next door, and across the street from us. We need to learn to listen to others. To value them as human beings. It's like learning to relate to other humans as another human being, not as a Christian.
Once we've begun this process, maybe then we can work together to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the poor among us and in our community. The homeless. The elderly. The forgotten. The children with cancer in the hospitals around us.
In the past, I've centered much of my focus on starting with the poor and the broken and the forgotten. This is good, but if we do not first learn to become people who know how to love others, we're wasting our time.
It's like when Jesus says we need to become good trees so that we can bear good fruit. Sometimes we think it's the other way around, that if we bear good fruit we'll become good trees. Jesus is clear that we must first be transformed from within, by His Spirit and His Love before we can have that fruit in our lives.
He is vine, we are the branches. We need to start at our own roots and learn to love our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, our poor.
This is my vision for The Mission in 2007.
Please Lord Jesus, help us to follow You in this process of becoming more loving. Transform us into Your image by the power of Your Holy Spirit.
Friday, January 12, 2007
(FROM THE MAIN WEBSITE ARCHIVES)
It's not something I look forward to since it means saying goodbye to many of our dear family in Christ.
Still, this is one of the three phases of growth that we anticipated early on as The Mission was forming.
Phase 1 was the mid-week Thursday group.
Phase 2 was the Sunday morning gathering.
Phase 3 is when we split one of those groups into a second group.
More as the Lord leads us...