Saturday, September 27, 2008


*NOTE: As I am overcome with projects at work, dealing with a broken vehicle, and attempting to prepare for a sermon this tomorrow, this week's [Subversive Underground] will feature a blast from the past. Hope this blesses you.

By Keith Giles

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had….There was no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”- Acts 4:32-35

As I read about the early church in the book of Acts I am amazed at their simple devotion to one another, to the poor, and especially to Jesus.

Reading about how “there was no needy person found among them” I am humbled and inspired. As I see their eagerness to share, not just to give an offering, but to take what is their own and give it away to others who are truly in need, I long to know this kind of “koinonia” or “Agape Community”.

How did they do it?

As someone who has been involved in ministry and on staff at various kinds of churches over the last sixteen years, I know first-hand the frustration of reading the book of Acts and then trying every possible program and gimmick available to duplicate this kind of simple Christian life within the congregation I’m helping to pastor.

Anyone who’s ever tried to lead a group of believers, or to pastor a church knows the pain of this same frustration. We attend seminars taught by high-powered business executives turned church consultant gurus. We buy their books, their tapes, and we try every possible way to produce the fruit we see in the book of Acts within our own church body.

What happens is, we get larger churches, we get happier churches, we get culturally-relevant churches, we get hip and cool and slick, but the one thing we don’t get is more like the people we read about in the book of Acts.

Why is that?

Here’s my oversimplified explanation. Let’s pretend that what the early Christians in Acts were great at was making waffles. They made the best waffles known to man. Their waffles were legendary. We read about those amazing waffles and we determine to make waffles like they did. So, we go to the successful culinary experts in our modern world and we ask them for advice. They tell us to buy the biggest Barbecue Grill we can find, the one with dual propane tanks and the built-in meat thermometer. They tell us to get the complete serving dish set, all the chrome cooking utensils and even a chefs hat and matching apron. We buy it all and we even put a cross on it to make it holy. Next we start trying to grill up some waffles, and of course, those waffles are lousy. No one wants our waffles and we can’t understand why.

Why won’t we accept the fact that, unless we start trying to make waffles the way the early church did, we’ll never ever be any good at making waffles?

Very simply put, I feel very strongly that if we don’t do what they did, we’ll never get what they got.

That’s why we’re starting “the mission”, so that we can begin to learn from The Holy Spirit how to actually love, and share, and give, and live out our faith the same way the early church did for over 300 years.

Even the big business executives agree-“The systems you currently have are perfectly designed to give you the results you are now getting” (Peter Senge).

If we want different results than what we’re getting, it means we’re going to have to completely change the system we’re using.

I’ll be mixing up the batter in the kitchen, please don’t forget to bring the syrup.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”- Acts 2:44-47

[orginally sent to the subscribers of the underground newsletter on Jan 24th, 2006]



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lead, Follow and Get Out Of The Way

[Subversive Underground]

Lead, Follow and Get Out Of The Way
by Keith Giles

I've been challenged and inspired this week in regards to leadership.

Last week I shared a little about our house church and how we were entering a critical phase of our development where we need to find a way to grow and plant a new house church or we will die.

After I wrote that article, our house church had a meeting to further explore this issue and as a result we determined that what has been holding us back all this time: It is me.

As painful as it was for me to hear these words, the reality is that everyone needed to realize this truth, especially me, in order for our church to take the necessary steps forward.

How am I holding us back? By holding on to leadership too tightly and not giving away more of the responsibility to others.

In last week's [Subversive Underground] I shared about how our house church isn't all about me because I don't preach or lead a Bible Study and everyone shares in our teaching, including elementary-age children, and no one is attending because they read my books or my blog.

While all of this is true, what I failed to see was that even though people don't come to our house church because of me, our house church continues and survives because of me, and that was a gigantic blind spot.

When we asked our house church members if they would continue meeting this way should my family move away, nearly everyone said that they would not. This was painful to hear, I have to admit. My ego was bruised and I felt like a failure for not seeing this sooner, but at least now we have devised a plan for overcoming this problem of leadership.

Here's the plan: For the next two months I will be taking a vacation from The Mission. Instead of directing our meetings, facilitating our gathering, leading communion time, etc. I will be sitting in the back of the room as an observant guest while the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ step forward and utilize their gifts for the common good.

So, I feel like God is teaching me a lot about true Leadership and what He expects from those who tend to His flock. What I've learned has humbled me and inspired me to become a leader who gives himself, and his leadership, away to others so that they can grow into the people God has made them to be.

Jesus had a lot to say about leadership. To his Apostles-in-training he said, "The Gentiles lord it over their people. Not so with you. The greatest among you will be the servant of all" (See Mark 10) and when He washed their feet He told them to wash one another's feet. He commanded them to love one another and to be known for their great love.

Jesus established a pattern of leadership in three simple steps: First Jesus modeled the way to serve, then he let the disciples serve while he observed, and then he sent them out on their own. In other words, first Jesus lead them, then he followed them, then he got out of their way. This is what I am only now learning to do.

I am learning to lead by laying down my life for my friends, and encouraging them to spread their wings and fly. My hope is that they will experience what it means to "Be the Church" even more.

Tomorrow I will be leading a session on house church for a local conference. Part of what we will discuss is leadership within organic church settings. I can't wait to share what God has taught me so far.


Saturday, Oct. 4th at Triangle Square
10am to 11:30am - F R E E
Visit OCHOUSECHURCH.COM for more info and to RSVP

Just this week I read a great post over at my friend Lionel's Blog about real Leadership. Here's the part that blessed me:

"If you desire to be in leadership to express your gift, share your vision, have a following, or because you think you are best fit for the job, or because you think you are the better teacher or even if you feel called (which I have issues with) you are in leadership for the wrong reason. However, if you love the people of God and those you plan on leading (remember apart from relationship this is impossible) then I believe your "vision" is in line with Christs."

He goes on to say:

"Our Pastor Calvin once asked us, "How many times does Jesus directly tell the disciples that he loves, them?" Or, in other words, how many times does Jesus have to reaffirm His love for the disciples? The answer is He doesn't. Jesus spends very little time talking about love and all of His time loving. The Disciples have very little trouble understanding this, but we do. If leadership is critical to the local gathering, and if love makes up all of the commandments, (then) these two must intersect or we have a problem."

You can read more of Lionel's article

Earlier this month another one of my favorite bloggers and friends, Brant Hansen, shared an inspiring list of contrasts between "Servant Leaders" and "Leader-Man" type leaders who take the CEO approach with their congregation.

Here's a brief look at Brant's list:

Servant Leader: Has something to say
LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something

LeaderMan: Wants you to know he's a Leader
Servant Leader: You're not sure he knows he's a leader

LeaderMan: Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path

LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you

LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader: Just gets together with you

LeaderMan: Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader: Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it

LeaderMan: Invests time in you, if you are "key people"
Servant Leader: Wastes time with you

LeaderMan: Gives you things to do
Servant Leader: Gives you freedom

You can read the whole thing

[End Transmission]

Saturday, September 13, 2008


[Subversive Underground]

by Keith Giles

It was just about three years ago that a few friends gathered in our den to pray with us about our crazy idea to start a house church. Of those twelve people who came on that first night only two of them are still with us today. Our house church has since been populated by various people seeking a more intimate, first-century form of Church who have found us online or by word of mouth.

Today our group is about 27 people, much too large for an optimum house church according to all the books I've read on the subject.

Wolfgang Simson, in his book, "Houses That Change The World", outlines the 5 stages of organic growth that every house church goes through. He indentifies them as:

1) Conception: the spiritual seed of a new church is conceived. The persons are now pregnant with an invisible church.

2) Pre-natal: during this planning time the church of the future is being discussed and everything is made ready for its birth.

3) Delivery: the time of actually planting the church when it begins to function as an organic entity.

4) Viable growth phase: the church grows and matures by addition and finally reaches the time when the organic growth reaches its maximum point.

5) Multiplication: when the church multiplies itself, or if it fails to do so during the appropriate time-span, usually enters a spiritual menopause and starts to die.

Our house church, The Mission, is currently somewhere between phase 4 and phase 5. We are at a maximum point in our organic growth phase. We need to begin praying about when and how to plant another house church out of this one, or we will enter the spiritual menopause phase and die.

My dilemna right now is that I don't know if we're approaching this exit or if we've already passed it a few miles back. What do I do? How do I know? Where do we go from here?

Over the last few months I have been praying about this very thing. I have discussed it privately with several of our brothers and sisters who have been with us the longest. I have sought counsel from people like Frank Viola and I've gone back to read through my house church books to find wisdom and gain insight into what we should do next.

Honestly, I still have no idea what to do.

Earlier this week I woke up around 4am and went into our den to pray about this. As I poured my heart out to God He reminded me of a few basic things.

First, He reminded me that this house church is His Church, not mine. This is not the Keith Giles church. I am very happy to say this, actually. No one who comes to our house church comes here because of my preaching (since I do not preach) or because of my great teaching (because I rarely bring a specific lesson to the group) or because of my books (most of them have not read my books) or because of my blog (most of them don't even know the URL). They're all here because they are hungry for community, for a Spirit-lead Church, and for more of Jesus. Several times over the last 3 years our house church has gathered without me and I know that those are probably some of the best times they've ever had as a church family.

The other thing God reminded me of was that this house church has grown over the last 3 years (almost too well actually) simply because I have done my best to keep my hands off the wheel and allow God to lead His Church and to allow His Holy Spirit to grow His Church as He promised He would.

Sitting in my den this week, at 4am, in the dark, God reminded me of one other thing. He reminded me of the prayer I offered up almost 4 years ago in this same room on that very first evening when our house church was just an idea germinating in the womb of our hearts and minds. I remembered praying that God would do something so amazing in this place that no man would dare take any credit for it.

To this day I look at what God has done to grow this church--His Church--and I am astounded. I see people learning to love others, I see people stepping outside their comfort zones to serve and to share and to give and to forgive, and I am amazed at the way God speaks to us and heals us and changes us and draws us together as a family.

This is God's Church, not mine. He has brought us this far, not me. He will take us through our next phase of organic growth, as long as I can keep my hands folded in prayer, and off of the steering wheel.

Can I ask you a favor? Would you please, pray with me today that I can do this one, simple thing?

I need your prayers and our house church needs a pastor who will continue to allow God to have His way as we navigate these next critical steps in our growth and development.



"House Church 101" - Oct 4th, 2008 at Triangle Square in Costa Mesa, CA. This is a free class to explore the basics of house church and to provide resources for those who want to plant their own house church in Orange County.



Friday, September 05, 2008


[Subversive Underground] Presents

Hard Questions by Keith Giles

As I continue to study God's Word on the subject of the Church, I find myself confronted often by the genius of God's design for His Body and His plan for His Church. I can't deny that God had a specific plan for His Bride and He clearly communicated this to His Apostles and they clearly communicated and modeled this from the very beginning. We can see, in the book of Acts and in the Epistles, the way they loved and lived and worshipped. There really is no mystery as to what God had in mind when He breathed on His Apostles and sent them out.

"They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." - Jesus, from Matthew 23:5-12

The Doctrine of the Priesthood of Every Believer begins here, with Jesus. It's also evident when Jesus stoops to wash the disciples' feet, taking on the role of a servant. He humbled himself before them, served them as a slave would serve his master, and then said, "'Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them."You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.." (John 13:12-17)

This instruction by Jesus was intended to teach them the principle of humility and brotherhood among them as equals. It's not just for those who are in leadership, it is for anyone who has made a decision to be a follower of Christ.

Paul gives us an amazing picture of God's Church in 1 Corinthians 12 as a relational, interconnected organism empowered by the Holy Spirit and gifted to administer healing and encouragement and everything the Body would need as it lives out its mission. The only head of this Body is Christ Jesus.

The problem is that our traditional structures inhibit this design and render it useless. In the traditional church we have set up one designated person through whom all the gifts are expected to flow. If we have a need for counseling we call our pastor. If we need spiritual advice or teaching we look to our pastor. If we need prayer or encouragement or anything else we call our pastor. We do not expect that these things might come from the rest of those alongside us in the Body, which is what God intended.

This week I discovered a book written in 1956 by a theologian by the name of W.C. Ketcherside called "The Royal Priesthood". It has challenged me and rocked me in unexpected ways. One of the strongest quotes refers to God's DNA for His Church as found in the New Testament and concludes, "Any system which operates to forbid or render impossible the functioning of every priest according to ability is subversive of God's whole system...We are not left to test and experiment with other forms and ideas. God has established a system which is the climax of all his creative genius. The inferior priesthood of the past pointed toward this sublime age of universal priesthood. We are not to go back to the literal and limited ministry of the previous dispensation, but we are to implement and utilize the spiritual and comprehensive priesthood made possible by the one who first became both sacrifice and priest. God's plan will work for us, if we will work his plan for him."

*Read the entire book HERE

To be honest, this quote is stronger than anything I would ever feel comfortable saying out loud. But as I contemplate the quote I can't find a way to refute it.

Ketcherside goes even further to say, "When God had a limited priesthood, (in the Old Testament), Korah, Dathan, and Abiram sought to make it inclusive of the whole congregation, and perished for their evil attempt. Of what punishment shall he be thought worthy who now seeks to install a limited priesthood for the universal one which God has revealed?"

God's plan for His Church was radical. He would remove the Temple, and tear the veil separating Himself and the common people. He would fill each disciple of the Messiah with His Holy Spirit and empower them to live transformed lives of extravagant love, communicating the Gospel of the Kingdom with anyone in their path.

In God's new design the people are the new temple of God. The people are the new priesthood. The people are the carriers of the Kingdom message to the World at large.

The Doctrine of the Priesthood of Every Believer originates in the New Testament and was a foundational element in the development of the Protestant Church when Martin Luther argued against the medieval belief that Christians were to be divided into two classes: "spiritual" and "temporal" (or non-spiritual). Luther put forward the idea that all baptized Christians are priests and spiritual in the eyes of God.

*See Wikipedia entry on the Doctrine HERE:

"That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 says, "You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom," and Revelation 5:10, "Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings." - Martin Luther, from "To The Christian Nobility of the German Nation" (1520).

Two months later Luther would write in his "Babylonian Captivity of the Church":

"How then if they are forced to admit that we are all equally priests, as many of us as are baptized, and by this way we truly are; while to them is committed only the Ministry and consented to by us? If they recognize this they would know that they have no right to exercise power over us (in what has not been committed to them) except insofar as we may have granted it to them, for thus it says in 1 Peter 2, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a priestly kingdom." In this way we are all priests, as many of us as are Christians. There are indeed priests whom we call ministers. They are chosen from among us, and who do everything in our name. That is a priesthood which is nothing else than the Ministry. Thus 1 Corinthians 4:1: "No one should regard us as anything else than ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God."

Most Protestant Churches affirm this Doctrine of the Priesthood of Every Believer in some way. However, in practice the story is quite different.

In much the same way that Southern Baptists affirm the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit on paper and yet forbid the practice of public healing ministry, or speaking in tongues, or raising your hands over your head during worship, the traditional Protestant Church pays lip service to the Priesthood of Every Believer but in practice forbids the full exercise of this doctrine in their midst.

Essentially, Traditional Churches are uncomfortable with the Doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer because at face value it threatens their structure and their clergy/laity division. It especially threatens pastors who support their families based on the salary they receive from their Church. Even the Wikipedia entry above affirms this point when it says: "This doctrine stands in opposition to the concept of a spiritual aristocracy or hierarchy within Christianity."

So far I have done my best to avoid this controversy. In my articles and in my public speaking I've gone out of my way to be gracious to the Traditional Church and to point out that God loves His entire Bride, not just those in the House Church. I really do believe that, by the way. God has shown me time and again that the Gospel is preached and the Kingdom is advanced through the Traditional Church. I cannot deny that, and I have no personal grudge against my brothers and sisters in the Traditional Church.

In fact, God has also made sure to place me in several ongoing relationships with traditional churches and pastors. For example, every other week I meet at 6am to pray with the pastor of a large, local Lutheran church. He's my friend and my brother in Christ and I have been very blessed to pray with him and I am honored to know him.

For the last year I have also been invited to preach once every quarter at a local traditional church. This is a church I love dearly. I love their pastor and I love those people very, very much. I am honored to know them and to cheer them on as they follow Christ and advance the Kingdom and live out the Gospel in their daily lives. Many of them are personal heroes of mine, in fact. They are a church full of remarkable men and women who live incredible lives of service and devotion to God and to the Kingdom of God.

So, when I say that there is a tension between the house church and the traditional church, I am speaking very personally. I am sharing with you that I am the one who is feeling pulled in two directions at once. This tension is painful to me, and it threatens to harm my friendships with people I love very, very much. This is not easy for me to talk about. Not at all.

So, honestly, what am I to do with this? How do I respond? What do you think the implications are for us as believers if we willfully ignore God's clear intention for His Bride to operate as a family of equals with every member a priest, and every priest a member?

On one side we could say that we need to repent and to make every effort to reform the Church from within. Others might suggest that we should simply "Be the Church" as God intended and let God sort out everyone else in His own time and in His own way.

If we look at Martin Luther we see a man who publicly opposed and confronted the established Church of his day in order to bring a reformation whereby each Believer could have a Bible and study God's Word without the permission of a priest. He also condemned the selling of indulgences (forgiveness of sins) by the clergy. Without Luther's actions we'd never have known the religious freedoms brought about by the Protestant Reformation.

Should we follow his example in this case? Should we raise our voices and publicly debate and defy the established Church of our day as well?

What about St. Francis of Assisi? He felt a strong compulsion to embrace the plight of the poor and gave away everything he owned in order to follow Christ in radical poverty and service to others. His reaction to the extravagant, excessive wealth of the Catholic Church in his day was to simply embody the change he longed to inspire in others. Rather than write letters to the Pope condemning the excesses of the Church, or standing on the street corners shouting sermons against the Catholic leaders, he simply and quietly lived out his convictions and inspired a movement.

Granted, Francis didn't change the excesses of the Organized Church in his day, or in ours, but he did model another way of following Christ that involved embracing the poor and touching the least in our community. To this day people are discovering his story and following his radical example of Christian compassion.

Perhaps our best course of action in this situation would be to live out the convictions we have in full view of those we love, whether they agree with us or not?

Do we need a public reformation or a quiet revolution? Or maybe just a softer reconciliation within God’s Family where Brothers and Sisters in Christ embrace one another in love?

What do you think?

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