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an army of ORDINARY PEOPLEStories of Real-Life Men and Women Simply Being the Church
By FELICITY DALE
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2010 Felicity Dale
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGOD USES ORDINARY PEOPLE TO DO THE EXTRAORDINARY The Produce Manager Who Planted Churches
For they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. - ACTS 4:13
These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. - ACTS 17:6, NKJV
* In any land, when laborers, mechanics, clerks, or truck drivers _ teach the Bible, lead in prayer, tell what God has done for them, or exhort the brethren, the Christian religion looks and sounds natural to ordinary men. Whatever unpaid laymen, earning their living as others do, subject to the same hazards and bound by the same work schedules, lack in correctness of Bible teaching or beauty of prayers, they more than make up for by their intimate contact with their own people. - DONALD MCGAVRAN, Understanding Church Growth
If you had met Hank in the large grocery store where he worked, you would have found a soft- spoken, unassuming man. In fact, the produce manager was so introverted, his friends jokingly said that it was a real achievement if they could get him to string three words together.
Years before, Hank had played in the worship band at a legacy church, but eventually drifted away. When a friend learned that Hank wasn't attending church, he invited Hank to visit his church that met in a home. To Hank's surprise, an old friend was leading the group-Hank and Doug had been in the worship band together. Now Doug pastored a legacy church and also led the home-based group.
"A couple of us guys get together at Starbucks every week," Doug told Hank. "We read some chapters out of the Bible during the week. Then on Fridays we get together to hold each other accountable for what is going on in our lives and to pray for our friends. We call it a life transformation group. Would you like to join us?"
As Hank devoured Scripture, prayed for non- Christian friends, and confessed his struggles to his accountability partners each week, things started happening.
The first change was unexpected and devastating. Hank's wife of more than twenty years left and then divorced him. Drawing on God's strength, Hank threw himself even more vigorously into what the Lord was doing in his life, and his spiritual life accelerated like wildfire.
"I'm not sure what's going on," Hank admitted to Doug one day. "For no reason that I can figure out, other employees at work keep asking me to pray for them. They never used to do that. There are other Christians around who are much more vocal about their faith than I am, but I'm the one people confide in. What do you think is going on?"
"Do you remember what we learned in our Experiencing God Bible study?" Doug asked. "We need to see what God is doing and join Him in it. I think God is doing this. I wonder what He has in mind. Do you think some of your friends from work would be willing to get together with you to study the Bible?"
Hank wasn't a trained pastor. He had never gone to college, let alone seminary. After graduating from high school, he had joined the military. Hank knew he still had so much to learn about God. Could he really start a church?
When Hank asked the coworkers for whom he had been praying if they wanted to meet with him in his home, only one of them said yes. But when Hank mentioned the idea to several of his family members, they wanted to come and bring some of their friends. So Hank started his first church, with a majority of people who did not know Jesus. One by one, they gave their hearts to the Lord and then began experiencing remarkable transformations in their lives.
Two months after the church began, Hank was carrying a large, heavy pallet at work. Not seeing a hose that was lying on the ground, he tripped and fell, shattering his ankle. For the next three months, he was confined to his bed. Hank used the time to pray and read his Bible as well as other Christian books. The church continued to meet, with members gathering around Hank in his small apartment.
One day Hank's mother came by to check on him. During the visit she asked, "Would you start a church in my house too?" She lived about twenty miles away. Hank's second church was a real family affair-many of his fifteen siblings and their children joined. A month later, some of Hank's grown children who had never been involved in church asked if he would do something similar for them.
But God wasn't done yet. Three months later, a woman telephoned Hank. "I met your son the other day, and he was telling me about how you run churches in people's homes," she said. "I would love to have something like that in my home. Would you be willing to show me how?" A fourth church was born, grew rapidly, and spawned two other groups. In less than a year Hank, the guy people teased because he never said anything, had birthed six churches!
Witnessing God's Healing
Hank and two other Christians were at the hospital one day to visit José a friend who was in a coma from a drug overdose-a botched suicide attempt. (The twenty-one-year-old had been heavily involved in gangs and drugs most of his life.) When they arrived at the ICU, a group of doctors was gathered around José's bed, preparing permission forms to harvest his organs. José was brain-dead; the doctors had just pulled the plug on his life-support machines. The grieving relatives were waiting in the hallway.
"Why don't we pray for José anyway?" one of Hank's friends suggested. The small group of believers gathered around the bed, laid their hands on José and prayed, "Lord, when You walked this earth, You healed the sick and raised the dead! Will You come and show Your power again in this situation?" Then Hank and his friends left to get something to eat.
When they returned to the ICU, there was a lot of activity and an air of suppressed excitement. One of José's relatives came up to Hank and his friends with tears streaming down his cheeks.
"You will not believe what just happened! Shortly after you left, José opened his eyes. The doctors couldn't believe it. All their tests indicated he was dead. Look at him now!"
Hank couldn't believe what he saw. José was sitting up in bed eating a Popsicle.
On another occasion, Hank prayed for a girl with a serious brain tumor and she was healed. Hank had grown into a man of faith who knew beyond any shadow of doubt that God heals the sick and raises the dead.
But there is something else you need to know about Hank. A few years ago, Hank was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a debilitating condition characterized by progressive loss of muscle control. For some time, Hank had been having difficulty performing simple physical tasks. He never fully recovered from his broken ankle and had an increasingly tough time walking. Yet most of the churches Hank started were planted during the years when his physical condition was steadily deteriorating.
Eventually he needed a wheelchair, was unable to drive, and required personal assistance for several hours each day. During this time, Hank developed other leaders who were able to take responsibility for the churches. Members of the network helped to take care of him, and the churches frequently met in his apartment around his wheelchair. Hank remained unfailingly cheerful and excited about what the Lord was doing in his life and the lives of people God had touched through him.
Although Hank died in December 2007, his story lives on.
Ordinary People; Extraordinary Results
All over the world, God is using ordinary believers like Hank-or you and me-to plant churches. In countries such as China and India, among others, hundreds of thousands of people become Christians every year because of the multiplication of these simpler forms of church.
It is no longer exclusively up to the trained professional who has been to Bible college or seminary to advance the Kingdom. Housewives and factory workers, businesspeople and doctors are leaving their comfortable pews and heading into their worlds to make disciples. Many non-Christians who would never darken the door of a church building have no problem meeting in small groups called simple, organic, or house churches.
Just imagine what would happen if ordinary men and women by the thousands were equipped to replicate that growth in home after home.
About one-third of Christians in the United States are not attending an organized church, but they have not given up on their Lord. Imagine what could happen if this group caught hold of the simple church vision and discipled not-yet-believers in their own homes within their circle of friends.
There are many people within legacy churches who have a passion to reach out to those who do not know Jesus. Imagine what could happen if they were trained and released to start these simpler forms of church.
God will use anyone who is willing to advance His Kingdom. The question is, are we ready to let God use us?
When I look at Hank's life, I know I have no excuse!
Excerpted from an army of ORDINARY PEOPLE by FELICITY DALE Copyright © 2010 by Felicity Dale. Excerpted by permission.
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