Dwelling in the Word Together

February 22, 2011

How often does the word “dwell” show up on your personal calendar?  If you are like me, it is exactly never.  But consider the word for a moment.  Dwell. It can mean to “think deeply” about something, it can mean “originating in” a certain space, it can mean “to inhabit or find your home” somewhere, and it can mean “a place to come back to often.”  It is a rich and potent word to “dwell” on.

So how does someone dwell in a text?  How does an entire community dwell in the Word? Here’s an idea:

Whenever you meet, as an family of faith, house church, leadership team, training group, work team; spend the first 20-30 minutes dwelling within a particular scripture.  I recommend starting with the text Luke 10:1-12; it is a text of mission, of being sent out with the most basic of instructions, dependent upon our receivers’ hospitality, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is near!

As you listen to the text being read, consider how the text impacts you personally, at a family level, at a congregational level, and how it impacts our world.  Let God speak in the silence, as well as in the written words.

As we as a house church network consider our decisions and actions in congregations and church bodies, in creating partnerships, in venturing out in mission… let the text of Scripture speak to your community, sometimes moving us forward, sometimes making us think differently about what is happening to us and how we should respond.

You can have this habit, too.

  1. Choose a passage – perhaps a lectionary text for this coming week, perhaps a passage already meaningful to your group, and read it aloud.
  2. Read the passage 2-3 times, preferably read by different readers each time, and optionally changing translations.
  3. Between each reading, sit silently for 3 minutes, letting certain words, phrases and images to surface in the minds of the participants.
  4. Sit together with the passage, in silence, or in conversation, sharing with one another where your imagination was caught or where a memory was triggered. Let the passage draw you together as a group.
  5. Bring the passage up throughout the day, or when you’re trying to make a decision. See what it says to you then.
  6. Close with a prayer of thankfulness to God for what was revealed.

Bring up the passage again during the next meeting, in the same manner.

Live in the passage for several months. It will bring more and more to you as you revisit it!

Some other Scriptures to get you started in Dwelling in the Word (also known as “Lectio Divina“)

God “dwells in light” (Ti1 6:16; Jo1 1:7), in heaven (Psa 123:1), in his church (Psa 9:11; Jo1 4:12)


Perfectly Designed

February 13, 2011

“Our system is perfectly designed for the results we are receiving.”

This was the repeated phrase at a lunch I recently attended where author Alan Hirsch was presenting.  The room was full of Chicago-area church leaders, and the room quickly fell silent as Hirsch began critiquing the current state of affairs in the Western Church.  While he had some apt critique, he wasn’t all sour – he was just as ready to point to fresh perspectives and examples of the church engaging and subverting the culture in America.

He made it clear that only the American Church, unlike the church in Europe or Australia, stood a real chance at re-interpreting the Gospel for the West in a way that could thrive in the post-Christendom era in which we now live.

But his strongest words were the line  he dropped half a dozen times throughout his talk: “Our system is perfectly designed for the results we are receiving.”

Think on that for a moment – how much weight can you bench press?  Only as much as your body’s system allows – and the way things are in your body are perfectly arranged for you to lift exactly what you’re capable of lifting.  Want to up your max weight?  Change your system! Try adding more protein to your diet, and less sugar.  Head to the gym 2 extra times a week.  Read about lifting techniques.  If you want to change the results, change the system.  Its amazing how we constrain our imaginations when it comes to the systems in our lives.

“Oh, that’s the way things have always been, and always will be…”  Give me a break.  You’re talking “equilibrium,” and to biologists, equilibrium is another way of saying, “you’re stone dead.”  Change = life!

The Church in the West today is spending 3 times as much on facilities as it was 10 years ago. 3 TIMES AS MUCH AS A DECADE AGO!  And numbers are in decline.  Leaders are getting harder to come by, as congregations are expecting more and more from their church leaders.  Sure, there are more and more mega-churches dotting the American landscape, but for every mega-church that breaks 1000 attendees, how many congregations had to shut their doors?

It has been said of the American Church, “The front of the parade is becoming more and more impressive, and no one is noticing that the line is getting shorter and shorter.”

The question is – can the church…your church…change its system? It is interesting how quickly we have come to expect the inevitability of the mega-church as the ONLY form of ecclesiological success.  Like the industrialized food system in America, the mega-church has only emerged in the last generation or so; and yet we see it as the only box God can work in.  I for one simply refuse to go along with that.  What ways can we keep the Gospel close to our chest, and yet experiment wildly with the form?  Let’s change the system – let’s take ourselves a little less seriously, and let imagination become our modus operandi!

Don’t do it out of fear that “God’s Church is depending on you,”  Do it because prophetic imagination is central to the story of God.  Do it because the Gospel is ALWAYS changing its clothesthe “word” is always “becoming flesh” and “moving into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14)

We’re perfectly designed to get the results we’re seeing across America today.  If we want more of the same – keep doing the same thing you’ve always done.  Otherwise, get out there and break the mold!

Greenhouse: Chicago City Think Tank

May 1, 2010

Its been two months since the Greenhouse Conference and since our last city-wide Greenhouse Think Tank!  (What is a GTT? Its a monthly, open-source dialogue on missional and organic approaches to the Christian life, that’s what!)
The Greenhouse Think Tank will be meeting at West Loop Church (1015 W Polk) this Saturday, May 22nd at 2pm

Come if you’re interested in practicing or learning more about organic church planting, postmodern evangelism, and chatting about the things you’ve been reading about but rarely find others asking the same questions!  Folks from all sorts of churches and networks from around the area are invited.

We’re finishing up The Forgotten Ways Handbook by Alan Hirsch, and we’ll need your help in picking the next resource!

Fill out this short form: http://ht.ly/1FM1P

Or you can join this group: http://undergroundfamily.ning.com/group/readingcohort

Feel free to forward this on to friends!

Luncheon with Neil Cole Feb 18th

January 11, 2010

Luncheon Discussion with Neil Cole, author of Organic Church

To Register for this Pre-Conference Lunch Event, click on the image above, or click here.


Where: Community Christian Church, 1635 Emerson Ln., Naperville, IL 60540.

When: Thursday, February 18th, Noon-2pm (Sign in Registration at 11:30am)

Cost: $10 (Lunch included – bring cash or check to the event)

Greenhouse Coming Feb 19-21st!

January 11, 2010

Chicago Organic Church Planters Greenhouse

-A Supportive Environment for Planting and Growing Organic Churches-

Click the Image Above for More Info and to Register!

Teaching by Neil Cole and Ed Waken

Greenhouse Dates: February 19-21st

Early Bird Rate ends January 29, 2010!

Questions?  Email or call:

Mark Willis at 312.970.9357 or godgrown[at]gmail[dot]com

CHICAGO Greenhouse Conference Details

October 6, 2009

Welcome to the Organic Church Chicago website!

We hope you’ll join us for the GREENHOUSE CONFERENCE, coming to CHICAGO February 19-21!  REGISTER NOW!

PLUS! Join Neil Cole for the special, Chicago Pre-Greenhouse Luncheon! REGISTER (this registration is separate from the conference, but has sold out).

or, email your questions here.

CHICAGO Greenhouse details:

Time: February 19 (6pm) to February 21 (5pm)
Location: Moody Bible Institute, Sweeting Center (Chestnut Ave and N Wells St.) (Moody Parking Passes available)
Street: 820 N La Salle Dr
City/Town: Chicago, IL
Website or Map: Greenhouse Happenings
Phone: 312.970.9357
Event Type: workshop, teaching
Organized By: multiple organic church networks in Chicagoland (aka Organic Church Chicago or OCCHICAGO.)

Greenhouse is hosted by several organic church networks in Chicago, and is offered by CMA Resources.

What is a Greenhouse Conference?

How much does the conference cost?*

What if I need a place to stay? // Parking is located across from the Sweeting Center at Locust and N Wells.  (Speak with a security staff in the Sweeting Center for a free Parking Pass.)

What is the schedule of the conference?

Greenhouse Conference CHICAGO on Facebook!

Twitter! #occhicago (o=organic, c=church, chicago=chicago. Aren’t we funny?) 🙂

*Discounts available by registering for the conference with a House Church / Organic / Simple Church network in the Chicagoland area (a group rate will be applied).  Or by registering BEFORE Jan 29th (Early Bird Rate).  Click here to opt into a group already forming.


SPECIAL for Chicago Greenhouse:

A PRE-CONFERENCE event Thursday lunch, Feb 18th with Neil Cole.  The Pre-Conference requires an RSVP but has sold out.  Get all the details here.


Jesus always used natural metaphors to explain the essence and growth of the Kingdom of God. The Organic Church Planters’ Greenhouse is designed to bring back the organic nature of God’s kingdom and rediscover what a healthy living church ought to be like.

The Greenhouse is a relational context for leaders from a city or region to gather together in a supportive environment and learn more about church and church planting from one another and the Scriptures. It intends to provide a safe place for leaders and churches to learn, grow, flourish and reproduce.

The Greenhouse has two stories. There are two regional weekend intensive trainings that are experienced a year apart so that the learning is current with the demands of ministry in a “just-in-time” fashion. These trainings are followed by regular monthly gatherings. Greenhouse sites are springing up around the U.S. and world.


Here is what others are saying about the GREENHOUSE…

I knew my best spiritual growth experiences had occurred in the 1970’s among friends who gathered around the Word in homes weekly and held each other accountable in the way we lived out our commitment to God. That seemed like more authentic “church” than anything I had experienced in a traditional setting. At the Greenhouse I saw examples of how disciples are “doing church” in their homes, and I learned how House Churches are congruent with what we read in the New Testament. I’ve been leading a House Church for eight weeks now, and see the possibility of another one sprouting up very soon.

Sharon Sparks, Pomona, California

“Grounded in Scripture. Passionate about the lost. Intensely practical.” That’s how I would describe the Greenhouse. I’ve been to two and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in planting house churches.

John White, House Church Coach, Denver, CO

The Organic Church Planter’s Greenhouse is the best material I’m aware of on the biblical principles and practices of planting and multiplying a network of Simple Churches. God is using this material, in many cultures around the world, to save the lost, disciple His people, and add then to His Church. Bravo to the team at CMA Resources, for hearing God’s voice and making it available to this new generation of saints who want to multiply His church and advance His Kingdom.

Dr. Rich Hagler,Simple Church Planter and Coach, Portland, OR