House2House Questionaire

19 12 2013
I just received a monthly news-letter from house2house.com written by my friend Paul Byrley. He talks about church “movements” including those who are in the simple, organic, house church movement if either we become like the others who are only good for a start but has a “bad or not so satisfying” ending. He quoted an analogy by an author named Mike Breen saying that “so many movements in the Western church have failed in the past century. They are a car without an engine, it won’t go anywhere.” The same is true with simple churches: if we simply do what we have been doing, even multiply it by hundreds of times; the programs, the meetings, the leadership, the systems in our simple churches, it won’t go anywhere.

I had my share of “honey, I shrunk the church” for 8 years. I have seen the complications of multiplying the system into smaller churches rather than multiply disciples. I had to face myself of questions of which I do not have the answer. I felt so ashamed of myself in the sight of God and friends. I know how to evangelize and do crusades, start churches and to preach, start a band and do concerts at mall, do discipleship ‘classes’ and sunday schools BUT I do not know HOW to make disciples that makes disciples. I decided, with my wife, to kill ourselves: literally stop doing what we are currently doing and wait on God to give us the work and teach us how to do it. A person who wants to obey the King’s command to make disciples has to stop doing what He is currently doing or else he can’t do what the King have ask him to do. So we die so that He might live.

“What are you doing to be the Church?”

“How do you make disciples?”

“How are you caring for the least of these?”

After reading the article and the above questions was challenge by its readers I want to share a bit of our stories. Although many stories of how we live Jesus-Life-Together as a family in our sites and Felicity has written a new one, allow me to write something.

It is important to “treat” each other’s members as part of your extended family. If someone is at fault or there’s a need of correction and rebuking I always ask myself, “What if he is my own brother/sister how should I talk to him/her?” I normally ended up not talking to the person unless I know exactly what to say, when to say, where to say and how to say it. At times, I wish I had a duct tape on my mouth. “He who manage well of his own children can manage the household of God.” This is what Paul says to his “son in the faith” Timothy. Being the church is being family to each other. Now, that’s a lot of relationships in there. We are a body and so the hand could not say to  the foot, “I have no need of you until next Sunday.” Because the way we look at church as a family, we do not have Christian “neighbors” then. We don’t “support” a brother, we “help” him of his need. We serve one another in the community through our gifting and talent that Father has given to each one of us. We start living next door to each other. We started sharing each others possessions. We do not buy from each other and we do not sell to each other. We give and receive, we “accept” one another. Following the apostolic pattern in Acts 2:42-46 and the life of the Thessalonian Saints, yes, we have had our struggles and challenges. Only different than how most Institutional Churches and house churches look like.

We have orphans and widows among us and around us. We helped the widows on their need and fathered and mothered the orphans. We don’t start “orphanages mentality ministries” such as Children’s Feeding Centers or Orphanages or Elderly Homes. We invite them to our families and become families. We encourage families to adopt a parentless child like one of my sisters adopted one orphan who has two children (orphans too right?) and start helping her of her needs. Thus, widows have families to be with and orphans have father-mother figure. I normally say that a child in the orphanage is an orphan but an orphan in the family is a child.

Because it’s a family-based relationships and not just meeting-based relationships, we don’t do meetings we just meet a lot as any normal healthy families do. We don’t “attend” a family, we are family. We live the Life of Jesus Together in the community in a daily basis (Hebrews 3:13) thus meetings is only a by-product of our lives being knit-together. As one of my fathers in the Lord Mike Peters would say, “A family that you “attend” is not a family, it is an orphanage. People in the orphanage may do-things-together, eat together or play together yet it is still an orphanage, not a family.”

This is what we are doing to be the church with each other. How about to be the church to our neighbor? A story might be a good idea at this point:

“Albert, why not read your Bible in the morning with a widow that we just handed a wheelchair?” I encourages him to not waste his time reading his Bible alone every morning and instead do “one more mile” by reading it “aloud” to a widow who cannot read anymore. I don’t know if I was led or not but one night I kept on thinking what can we do to serve the community around us. I woke up in the morning and start roaming around, get in to small foot paths and right inside to small houses. Found several old lonely people, one is even look like she’s inside a cage for years. Then I went to one of the Japanese surplus shop and get a rusty, flat tire broken wheelchair for $50. Tied it with my bike and went home and fix it and took it to one of the old-widow woman in the community. That’s when Albert starts seeing her every morning, brining her food from our common garden, help cook food, fetch water, clean her house and eat together and read the Word of God. And in four days of loving and caring he baptizes her on her toilet room. Some verses I am not good to remember, but somewhere in the Bible it says that “you young man should take good care of your widows”?

Not for long, the friends we make have become disciples. We know how to make people curious about the Kingdom of God. We just live kingdom life amongst them and then they start asking good questions. Our way of life demands a question: What are you guys? Why are you doing this? Why did you do that? Why you do things differently? Why you see things differently? What is this all about? What is your religion? Any kinds of questions we led them into the kingdom of God by answering back, “Do you really want to know? Are you really seeking the truth? Do you want to know the truth?” And mostly their answer is yes and then we continue, “If so, then I cannot tell you yet what and why. I am gonna have to make you a disciple first.”

As normal in our making disciples conversations one would ask more, “Why?”

“Because spiritually dead people could not understand spiritual things. So, I’m going to make you a disciple first and then later I will explain to you what kind of stuff I am made of and what country I belong.” This is how we bring people into a decision to become Jesus disciples. We don’t give our pearls to pigs and let them trample it. People who ask questions about the way you live are normally ready to enter into the Kingdom of God. Because the kingdom will not be given to people who do not even know how to ask the right question. You have become the “witness” of it, an “ambassador” of your country, the “Kingdom of God.” This is how we start making disciples and within 3-6 minutes “making,” the person is already willing to be baptized immediately without delay.

We don’t negotiate with dead people. We bury them as quick as we can. When Jesus said “go and make disciples AND baptize them” means that it is your prerogative to make baptism happen, not the other guy. But if he himself offered to be baptized during the “making” like the Eunuch with Stephen who shares the Messiah then you’re an expert if making disciples!

“How are you caring with the least of these brethren?”

Here is the architecture of the New Testament Church: 1) They have orphans and widows 2) They have spiritual parents who look after their “children in the Lord” as a family, the one’s that they’ve made into disciples 3) They have kingdom projects that in turn support the 1 & 2 and number four, their “last priority” is they support the poor that is “outside” of them, why? because there is no poor “inside” of them. “No on is poor among them because they own everything.” (Wolfgang Simson)

When it comes to loving one another as disciples of Jesus, we ask a question: How much can we lay down our lives to one another? We’re not that expert yet about it but we have had some wonderful times together obeying Jesus commands to take care the members of our family.





SHARE-SAVE-SPEND

11 12 2013

Keeping records with what we spent the money for specially to help typhoon victims in my province is not my gift. So I gave that job out to one of the disciples here named Arlen, she’s Albert’s sister then who lived among us. One night, I told her what I want her to do: “Could you staple each receipt to the voucher?” “Could you make a daily record of spending?” Could you get all receipts of petrol from so and so…” And all she answered is: “Done” “Yes” “It’s finished Uncle.”

“Wow, I am amazed how good you are then!” I praised her.

“And here they are,” showing me all the paper works, “It’s time for you to sign each of them!”

Quite took some minutes for me to signed them all. And at the end, I spot on the “To:” and it says, SHARE.

“Ah, why is it the “share” part is here?” I ask her. “It should just be those that we spent after the typhoon.”

“You forgot Uncle, You’ve used up some of our shares to help typhoon victims.” She answered back.

I was dumbfounded.

We don’t normally kept receipts of ‘what’ we spend, however we do keep records of ‘how’ we spent the money for. My wife Lisa keeps the record of bills payment, a sack of rice, etc. We kept the receipts for awhile then throw it away. This is how my ‘family’ does some stuff here. “My” family of 8 kids plus those who comes in and goes out from time to time, we are a family, there is nothing more intimate than that like a mother to her daughter, and a father to his son. Paul admonishes Timothy his “son in the Lord” to “treat those who are older men as fathers, and older woman as mothers, younger men and brothers and younger women as sisters.” And he continue saying, “that he who manage well of his children can manage the household of God” (1Tim.1:1; 5:1; 3:4). Have you ever “seeing” someone as a brother? That’s easy to spot. But have you ever “treated” someone as a brother? or sister? Like how you treated your “own physical brother.” That boils down to how we manage our own individual families hey. Many who doesn’t really like “church as family” because their family is in a mess. The same way as many who cannot see God as their “Father” because their father messes them up. So much family damaged and destroyed that even that last message of the Old Testament prophet Malachi speaks of a broken family and if that generation shall not heed the prophets warning it shall bring a “curse” to it. Read the “last” chapter and the “last” verse and the “last” word of the OT and you’ll see (Mal.4:5). No wonder then that in New Testament times, Jesus is saving “households.” He is quite interested in our families thus fulfilling King David’s prophecy: “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him.” Psalm 22:27

We live Kingdom-values such as equality, “sharing everything in common” except our wives, undies, and money. So, we’re starting Acts 2:42-47 in my city and two others around my country are starting also with the work of making disciples ‘from scratch.’ As voluntarily as we can we transfer next door to each other, thus the commands and benefits of the 58 one-anothering in the New Testament will be tasted to all authentic disciples of Jesus. And I am telling you, it has quite a different challenges, BUT loving it anyhow. I am sure that those who “came and see” how we live can tell you stories after stories. One such example is when we receive a gift of used clothing and toys from other saints we started “dividing” them among other kids. And when we open another box of it, guess what? More toys and my kids started “owning” it: “Oh you can have that, (getting rid of their first toys for others) and I can have these!” Then, I took back all their toys, put it back to the box and said, “These toys,” pointing my fingers to each of them, “is not yours. No one owns these toys.” Then I paused and have to see their faces getting sad and I continued, “Because all these toys are all yours!” Every one is happy. And suddenly it dawned in my mind how the early church did the same: “No one is poor among them because they own everything.” It’s quite interesting really when you want to obey before “trying to figured it all out” and obey? And so it began, Albert and I shares clothing, shoes and “whatever” – that’s basically means what we can agree with. And the kids also tried to share what it would be like to be sisters and brothers in real family setting. I got more stories to tell as we don’t think of great “theories,” we do more stories.

In the Kingdom of God is about relationship and trust. If you don’t trust the person, forget it. Saying that means, if Albert is in another island should I ask questions like: Should I give him money? And when I do, should I need a report on it? How about some photos? How about some receipts? That would be ludicrous to think! Albert is living with me for years, we live Jesus-Life-Together as family, we live Acts 2:42-47. I know him, he knows me. He’s my brother and I don’t send him money to “support” him, I help him because he’s my brother. How much can I lay down my life to Albert? If he has a kidney problem then I will give him my other one!

We SHARE, that’s the whole meaning of our English-shallow word “fellowship.” It’s koinonia! It is living the life of Jesus together as family.

Back to my introduction story, I signed even the voucher that has “Share” in it. What’s the word anyway? Well, here’s a story, again.

We kept all our coins and bits of some paper money, we make rules and encourage them to obey without understanding. Then we reward obedience like washing dishes and clothing, cleaning toilets and beds, cooking rice or chicken and reading books and bibles. We taught them, older brothers and sisters serve their generation. This is what it’s all about. We just don’t teach them “about” God but we also taught them “how” to live. This is what most 21st missionary is missing out in my country, they come and live in a nice village free of karaoke sounds in the evening and chocks in the morning and minister to the slum people in the next barangays. Live out kingdom life “for awhile” praying for sick for two hours and then goes back home taking showers for four hours (That’s exaggeration, I know). You know what, the Divine has clothed with human dirt and lived in our neighborhood (Jn.1:14 paraphrase). If we really loved the people that we are ministering then we have to live among them. Sometimes I joked around visiting missionaries that the early church book says that “from house to house” they stayed, not “hotel to hotel.”

Our mission is to change lives by making disciples. I often challenge myself and others when we see crooked lives in the life of a person or disciple: “Do I/you really know how to change a person’s lives?” This is my opinion, if this question gives you a good sleep then you’re not fit even to live because you don’t know how to serve your next generation. What a waste of your life.

The moment when my children received their rewards, they then directly divided it into three piggy bottles: SHARE-SAVE-SPEND. Then weekly they gather their “share” and send it to the widows we help. Thirteen, yes 13, (and probably it’s growing now as we just made more disciples currently) widows we helped around us and other islands. Sometimes, they take the money with them and visit them, buy food, help clean house and sometimes make disciples to neighbors. It happened many times. Arlen keeps the record of every penny they share like my 3 and a half son Mico gives his first share of 100 peso and 15 cents. That 5 cents with a hole in the center is quite funny to look! A minimum of $30 to 50 a week we collected, sometimes more. Children are from 3 to 21 years old are mostly who give, some older disciples contributes. It’s quite an encouragement though when my wife and I just decided to keep the receipts and calculate it. In two months time we distributed 30, 510 ($726) of cash help to needy saints and poor people around.

We hardly give without letting them do something that he or she needed to learn first. We give them “assignments” (widows are exception). But then, if you live next door to us and we do-things-together like gardening, welding, sewing, cooking, typing and translating books, cleaning “whatever” how can you not learn to live life? I normally tell single men-disciples, “This is how you get married and have a good wife: Learn how to live.”

So, we taught them how to “share.” And then we taught them how to “save.” They invest in our hammock business, one of our kingdom projects. We use this hammocks to make disciples. We took them with us to the island and find “house of peace” to stay in. If we couldn’t find one then we sleep in a hammock under the tree. And if we need some money to make disciples, we sell the hammock! The kids uses their “save” money to invest in this kingdom projects we have. They gave 400 peso ($10) to Albert as he owns the business now, for the materials and he sews it for them and sells it and the profits will be given back to the child thus he can start dividing it again into his piggy bottles. We taught them how to “spend.” That doesn’t mean that they have the money to spend that they can just buy anything they want. Yes, we allow them of course to get the ice cream they want, or dance in the machine and drop 5 peso. Spending for that is fine, but spending for their own shoes and clothing is great. If they needed more we share to the lack!

As soon as they learn the habit we go on building another habit. Each reads their kiddie Bibles. We reward them 2 peso for each page they read. The older ones we don’t. And honestly, they don’t want to be rewarded anymore. But I will still give them reward and in turn uses that to reward their younger generations. As my friend Peter Stieckie would say in his last words to me before we departed each others ways the other day: We help father each other, mother each other, brother each other, sister each other.

“Guess what,” I replied, “these words were not and will never be some “theological” terms that we can use to a family but they come from the Father’s heart down to our own hearts and to our next generation and the next to come.”