“I’ve got something to ask you.”
Night after night, we stand in the lobby at the conclusion of the show to hear people’s stories, pray, and answer questions about As Family We Go. Still, whenever someone leads off the conversation with that statement, it can go sideways pretty quickly. Bracing for an awkward turn, I was surprised—and humbled—by this woman’s query.
“You get to travel all over the country, to all these places… and I don’t want anything else from you… I just want to know one thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“What is it that Jesus is up to?” she asked.
I think this may be my favorite thing that someone has asked us. This woman was joyfully desperate to hear what Jesus is uniquely doing through His Church in faith communities across the country. Thankfully, the answer has been so apparent I did not need to hesitate to respond.
Week two of the As Family We Go tour was filled with story after story with stirring dreamers who collectively have shown us that Jesus is indeed doing a “new thing.”
On Tuesday, I had the immense opportunity to grab some fish tacos and chat with Keith Giles, author of This is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended, and leads a house church movement in Orange County called “The Mission.” Keith described his journey of moving from a place of status within the Christian industry and hierarchal pastoral leadership to he and his wife’s call to plant a house church, which gives 100% of their offerings to those in poverty within their community. Keith explained how he arrived at the conclusion that success within ministry is not booming attendance, accolades, or the flashy stories we tend to celebrate; rather, “success is simply our faithfulness to the leading of the Spirit.”
When asked about the specific thing that God was up to in Orange County, Keith did not hesitate to answer. “Oh, definitely a surge in ‘simple church,’ ‘organic church,’ or ‘house church,’ whatever you want to call it. I could give you a list of twenty-five house churches that are right here.”
If there was any doubt in what Keith was describing, God quickly—and loudly—concurred with Keith’s conclusion at the show that night in Santa Ana. In the lobby after the show, as people showed up to chat and pray, the theme of my fish taco lunch with Keith continued. A group of three friends raced into the lobby to tell me that during the show, God pricked their hearts to start a church that would gather weekly on the beach. Minutes later, another man came up to enthusiastically affirm the message of As Family We Go, and describe a house church-planting movement of students that he helps lead. He said he lost track of counting how many faith communities had been launched across the country somewhere in the hundreds.
A couple days later I chatted with Zsanae and Kevin Miller, a married couple who adopted their son from Haiti who is deaf. Through that process, they discovered that children in Haiti are culturally viewed as a curse and as such are maligned. These children aren’t taught sign language, do not know that they have a name, and often are forced into slavery. Zsanae began to cry as she described meeting one boy on the beach who was not able to even worship in church because of his situation. Compelled to respond, the Miller’s joined a friend in forming Hearing Hearts, which provides housing, education, vocational training, and teaches the children about Jesus’ love for them. Kevin and Zsanae went onto describe their dream of forming a church on the beach so the little boy would always know he belonged and was welcomed by God.
In Roseville, a group of us grabbed coffee with Jesse who planted Zao Church over a year ago. Zao is comprised of a group of house churches that places a strong emphasis on everyone’s voice being honored at their worship gatherings. These churches within the Zao network range from a house gathering centered around a meal, to a group that gathers at the local tattoo shop. While we were talking, Jude quizzically asked Jesse, “So what is the vision that God has given you with this?” Inhaling to collect his thoughts, Jesse passionately replied “I don’t much care for growing any one of these gatherings into one big church. I’m not even sure that’s what God wants. My dream is that there would be a house church movement across California. It’s our goal to see one thousand of these simple churches planted in our state.”
We concluded our California portion of the tour with a fun night worshipping in the beautiful town of Redding. People lined up in the lobby to ask questions about As Family We Go, share stories, and pray. Near the back of the line, a man waited patiently—yet, with a look of immense urgency. When he finally reached the front of the line, he introduced himself as Emmanuel. “Something happened in there,” he said as tears welled up within his eyes. “God spoke to me,” he continued. “He gave me a vision that I am supposed to be a church planter.” Before I could affirm and celebrate his call, he offered clarification. “But not normally what we think of as church. Jesus is telling me he wants to do a movement with churches in houses—houses that are wells of healing, wholeness, and restoration. Would you pray with me so that could happen?”
I smiled, and said “It already is happening Emmanuel. But let’s pray for more of it!”