The Reshaping of Church Life

The Beauty of a Greek Orthodox Church

HOUSTON, TX (ANS) — In 1995 in Seoul, South Korea, at a Global Consultation on World Evangelization, I heard Dr. Thom Wolf, renowned global missiologist say, “The 21st Century Church may look a lot like the 1st Century Church.”  Well, it does appear that it is happening during this global pandemic.  Many local congregations are finding different, creative and innovative ways of doing church and ministry.  While some are stagnant and discouraged, others are thriving, growing and increasing in their impact for the Kingdom.

Lessons from the Early Church

The Church, the Body of Christ, in the New Testament is seen in three forms.  One is the universal Church, all believers.  Another is the regional or citywide Church, i.e. the Church in Ephesus, Corinth or Galatia.  Then there are local churches, congregations or gatherings of believers.  Of course, the local church can take on many forms of expressions.  Small, simple and reproducible groups of Jesus followers is the primary way the Good News spread throughout the entire populated world in the First Century.

A First Century Church may have looked a lot like this

Power of Rethinking and Rediscovering

Many today think of church in terms of buildings, institutions or organizations.  However, in our rapidly changing world there are new challenges and opportunities, and many changes in the church world.  It may not be so much about reshaping church, as it is reshaping the ways we think about church.  Part of what is happening is rethinking and rediscovering the ways the Early Church functioned.

Significance of the Orality Movement

In our Orality journey within Living Water International, we have encouraged following up the training by forming reproducing disciple making cell groups.  A lot can be communicated by using just five stories from the Gospels.  With the appropriate pre- and post-story dialogue and discussion, we can give a community, village, or tribal group a simple narrative theology of the most important things they need to know.  That is to become followers of Jesus, and to become reproducing disciple-makers.

Food, Fellowship and Worship can take place in the Mall

Power of Questions

A better understanding of the disciple making methods and strategies of the Early Church can make a big difference in the ways we think about church life in our modern Western context.  Discussing and processing the biblical meaning of the following questions can help clarify and reshape our thinking about church:

  • What is the church?
  • How many people does it take to make a church?
  • Why do churches exist?
  • What is the gospel?
  • Who can be a disciple?
  • How are we to make disciples?
  • What are the best ways of communicating the gospel?
  • Is there a difference in discipleship and disciple making?
  • What can we learn from the Oral Cultures of the Global South?

These are questions that I have had with pastors and ministry/mission leaders over the years.  I find that they can provoke and provide some amazing and productive conversations. Sometimes asking the right questions is better than trying to give people the right answers.  For example, over the years I have asked the question about what is meant by the term discipleship.  It is a term that has been around for less than 200 years.  Many people I’ve asked that question relate it to a class, a program or curriculum.  However, what we learn from the life, teachings and Spirit of Jesus is very different.  He is, of course, our best model for disciple making.

Disciple Making Strategies can take on many forms of expression

The Model Disciple Maker

The Great Commission, which is primarily about communicating the gospel and making disciples, should be a major focus of every true follower of Jesus. Ultimately, it is the reproducing life of the indwelling Christ that makes us fruitful disciples and disciple makers.  He is the one that enables us to bear fruit that lasts for eternity.

The Pandemic, Hindrance or Opportunity?

There is the temptation to think that the current global pandemic can hinder the work of the church and disciple making.  Many, in fact, are discouraged these days because of the limitations about meeting and corporate worship opportunities.  However, others are thriving and flourishing because they are flexible, adaptable and open to change.

Creative and Innovative Solutions

On a personal level, many are discouraged and depressed because we cannot do what we have always done.  Difficult times can provide opportunities that bring out the best in individuals and organizations.  When we look to the Lord, inquire and trust Him, He will make a way.  In fact, we may be amazed and surprised at the creative and innovative ways the Lord will give.  He specializes in turning curses into blessings, disadvantages into advantages, and negatives into positives.

The Marketplace has Always been one of the most Strategic places for Witness and Ministry

Global Prayer Movement

In recent days I have had a good number of phone conversations that have turned out to be opportunities to bless, encourage and disciple others.  There are now numerous online prayer gatherings, often hundreds or thousands participating from around the world.  Apparently, the global prayer movement is growing like never before in all of history.  From what I am hearing from discerning and informed intercessors and leaders is that this could be the beginning of the next and greatest spiritual awakening of all times.

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