The Journey – In One Year
In the Beginning (Jan – March 2010)
There were just 3. I had moved in with Ryan/Laura in their apartment in Redding for 2 months.
We listened to the DHT and realized how much bad theology we had. With our newly-realized authority, we learned how easy it was to walk in boldness, we learned how to talk and act like sons, we learned the reality of persecution, we learned how to respond to pharisees, we realized that 9 out of 10 people had 1 leg shorter than the other and we started to do it everywhere, we learned the utmost importance of sowing good seeds because plants will reproduce after its own kind…
Every week at Bethel’s Healing rooms we saw hundreds healed, and we realized how how important it was to actually train people to walk and stay in freedom instead of creating a supernatural drive-through with temporary satisfaction. We saw hundreds healed, and we watched people without their own momentum swing back and forth with symptoms of sickness. We learned the importance of teaching people how to fight in addition to fighting for them. We learned how to dismantle all kinds of bad tradition, we learned how to persevere to see the results we were looking for, and we learned to place a value on results rather than nitpicking on particular methods.
A New City, A New Vision (March 2010)
When we “rebooted” in San Jose, the team grew to 7-8. Among us, some had given up jobs, education, and some even moved away from home to kindle what we started.
At that time, we were all about bringing the power. ”Power is the missing link… Power is what will bring the revival everyone is longing for!!!” we thought. “We’re gonna take over the whole city!”
Within the first few weeks, we realized how sheltered we had been. We realized how much “christianese” we spoke, we realized we really had no idea how to relate to the outside world. We learned how to actually be relatable to people we were ministering to, how to talk about the Kingdom without any “over-spiritualized” terms.
We learned how to be more diligent in follow-up. We learned how to live and give generously, we learned how to live out of our spirit instead of feelings and emotions.
Our influence grew as we started to minister at events, outreaches, teaching people how to bring freedom and the Kingdom as a lifestyle rather than an event. We were downtown at the clubs friday nights, we regularly visited Walmart, local malls, Santa Rosa, and we got to go to Rhode Island and Denver.
Growth of Influence (April – Sept 2010)
During the first 4-5 months, we tried to incorporate ourselves into several local churches, but most of them weren’t doing anything close to what we had in mind. Most of them were concerned with their own congregation, church growth, and rarely did we encounter a church that was actively ministering to the lost and one that valued results over our qualifications/training/methods.
Meanwhile, our group had grown, so we didn’t know anything else but to start a “house church”. I use quotes because it’s such a loose definition. So for 3-4 months, we had a weekly house church meeting that we also streamed online.
We eventually created the same church structure that we were trying to get away from. We created the same “pastor”, “man of God”, “sermon-based” structure as in most Sunday morning churches.
Change of Direction (Sept – Dec 2010)
So after doing house church, we restrategized and started having “church” at a local mall. We realized we weren’t actually making significant impact on the city — our lights were covered by our house as we were fellowshipping together — so we wanted to have our gathering in the midst of people who actually needed hope.
It was at about this time we realized how ineffective street evangelism was (in the context of discipleship). We had done street outreach stuff for the previous 7-8 months and we had yet to see even 1 person get discipled as a direct result of street outreach. When we realized this, we had to reassess the effectiveness of what we were doing. It’s the definition of insanity to expect different results if you’re doing the same thing right?
So we did the “mall church” for about 3 months. We were hoping to establish a reputation among the regulars at the mall by meeting up three times a week at the foodcourt of the mall. We led families to salvation, ministered healing and hope to anyone nearby, we gained a reputation among the janitor ladies for prayer and healing, and even gained favor among the security team which allowed us to promote what we were doing to all the businesses in the mall… but we didn’t see any lasting fruit.
We saw the same miracles, lots of encounters, but no one stuck around to get involved. Even the families that enthusiastically expressed they would come every week, never showed up.
On the bright side, we ended up creating a culture where people would actually got to know each other. Because we were in a mall setting, we had removed the sermon/worship part of our meetings, so everyone had an opportunity to invest in one another, care about, serve, and bear one another’s burdens.
Lessons Learned (Dec 2010 – March 2011)
From there, we decided to combine our previous attempts in establishing a community. We liked the fellowship that resulted from the mall church, and we liked the home environment. So, we started our house meetings again but made the central focus about loving one another by serving each other.
Turns out, the Kingdom is really about helping people get healthy in their relationship with God and their relationships with people (hey, sounds like the great commandment). It’s developing relationships with each other, loving one another by actually caring about each other.
Turns out, you really only influence people when you demonstrate that you care about them instead of having an agenda to change them. Turns out, “taking over the city” really starts with you loving your neighbor as yourself not in words, but in action (1 John 3:18), and then teaching them to do the same to those around them (Matt 28:20).
Relationship is the foundation of discipleship and this is precisely the reason why most churches don’t create many disciples. They have relegated discipleship into a program instead of a relationship, their systems aren’t conducive to relationships, they are primarily channels of information-exchange rather than relationship-exchange.
Coincidentally, the more relationships that happen, the more people are trained to actually love each other, or rather trained to express love to each other. Love cannot be expressed outside the context of relationship.
State of the Ministry (Now – TBD)
So as of now, this is how we do “church.” Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings, we meet because we are interested and care about each other, not because there’s going to be “good worship” or a “good sermon” or because we have a “good pastor.”
“Worship” is good because it has become a lifestyle, not because we’ve gathered to sing songs. The “sermon” is good because it’s been tailored personally as we speak with one another and help each other with what we’re struggling with or growing in. There is no more solitary “good pastor” because we’ve all learned to be pastored, and now pastor one another.
With these core values in place, we have created an environment for everyone to grow as leaders, for everyone to grow in relationship, and for everyone to provoke one another to good works. I think we’ve discovered what being “knit together” can look like (Col 2).
“Outreach” is more of a lifestyle rather than an event. Relationship has taken priority over short-lived influence. Longevity over the “wow” factor.
We have by no means figured everything out, but we have learned a lot through trial and error. There are a few more tweaks we are looking to make in the future, being able to reassess and change directions has been one of the most vital factors in our growth.
Here’s a bonus on discipleship:
So if you would like to get discipled via skype/phone with Ryan, you can send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be making myself available to do this as well after I return from Africa. Dennis, Sue, a few others and I will be in South Africa for 6 weeks (April 5th – May 19th). You can read more about the trip here.
Here’s an extra bonus on discipleship:
In John 9, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. The pharisees were mad and questioned this man and his parents about who healed him and how he did it:
25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” – John 9:25-27
A “disciple” is not synonymous to a “believer”. It is absolutely free to become a believer, but it will cost everything to be a disciple. The implication of a “disciple” is that they want to learn. When someone inquires, “How did you heal me? How did you know that? How do you know these things? Where did you learn how to do that? Why are you doing this for free?”, it means that they want to learn, and that is an open invitation for you to disciple that person.
One of the reasons why we are seeing lots of success in discipleship is because we are giving practical answers to people’s problems. We are giving hope to the hopeless, and that is why people want to learn. People want answers, so they come. When you have answers to the world’s problems, the world will come knocking on your door.