What Happens When We Give God Space II

As I talked about in my previous post on giving God space to speak to us, when we take time to pause, we will draw close to God and he will draw near to us, James 4:7.

While we give God space to speak and show us what is happening in the spiritual realm, we can be made aware of the spiritual battle coming as we start the church. While our team member, Chris, and I prayed the other week and saw visions of what God wanted to do in this community, I also saw the spiritual realm. I observed the spirits in the area noticing us. Let me explain a little bit.

Thai people say they are Buddhist, but they mixed a lot of animistic practices with their Buddhist worldview. Every street corner and property has a spirit house to give a space for the displaced spirit to dwell. The Thai people burn incense and offer food and drinks to appease the spirits. They walk around in constant fear not wanting to upset any of the spirits around them.

In my spirit, I saw the spirits as if they picked up their gaze quickly to see what was going on with us as we prayed in a coffee shop near our house. They were not afraid, but more unsettled by who we were and what we represented. They didn’t go on the offensive yet, but they took notice and began to prepare.

The spiritual world is alive and well with many spirits opposed to the kingdom of God and his light. They will fight at all costs to prevent God from accomplishing his work in a community. However, we know who wins the battle. We don’t have to be afraid, I John 4:4, because we have Jesus living in us. But we do need to be cautious and not take lightly what we see happening in the spiritual world. My wife reminded me to pray more frequently for protection and victory in the spiritual realm as we push against the status quo in Bangkok’s spiritual climate. As much as we want to see God’s kingdom established in Bangkok, the spirits around here will fight against us.

What Happens When We Give God Space

Recently we started a time of prayer and observation as we work toward starting a church in Bangkok. We moved to a new community in Bangkok, near several universities (namely Kasetsart University and Central Lat Praew) in order to connect with young people in the city. As we work to connect with students and draw them to know God through friendship , we also want to know what God is doing in this community.

I am now going once a week and walking the neighborhood, making observations and praying to see what God is saying as we begin to plant the church. We want to pray that God moves in the city and opens doors of relationship and ministry in our new community. We also want to see this part of the city they way God sees it. We want to get a sense of what God is saying to us as we minister here.

There is something dynamic about moving in the neighborhood and pausing to hear God’s voice that allows us to be encouraged by God and to realize a bit of the spiritual climate of our location. I was walking with one of our team members, Chris, as we prayed last week when we both were struck by the magnitude of what God is doing and saying in our community. At one point, when we paused to pray and be open to God’s speaking, I felt a vision while Chris was reminded of some of the people he had seen that day and previous times in this neighborhood. He was struck by the spiritual darkness in this community and how unreached the people are by God’s light and love.

In my vision, I saw a tree being planted that grew tall and stretched outward. The tree began to bear fruit, big round juicy fruit that was healthy and delicious like much of the beautiful Thai fruits we love to eat. The tree spoke of something firm and long lasting while the fruit spoke of reproducing ourselves through discipleship into many people around us.

As I told Chris my vision, he resonated with that and said he saw a light shining around the tree. He saw God shining a light out to the darkness in this community from that tree as he established a church here. Chris went on to say that people would be drawn to the light, and we would preach a message they had never heard. That last part caught him as in the west, we are used to preaching a Jesus that is familiar to people. In Thailand, Jesus is unfamiliar to the Thai people.

At another point, we stopped to pray at the corner before our condominium complex. This time Chris had a vision. He saw a gate stretching across the soi (small side street) going into condo. The gate set our home apart from the world around us in a way that brought comfort and safety to those that came to worship and pray with us as we begin the church in our house.

When we pause to wait on the Lord, we will be uplifted by him. Even if we do not hear his voice, we will know his presence or our soul and spirit will be quieted from the concerns of the world. Yet it is in the times and spaces where we are quiet and wait on the Lord that he can most dynamically touch us. When we pray and pause to listen, we can hear a word, see a vision or be moved by his spirit.

As we embark on a mission to start a new church that touches this community with God’s love, we want to get into a groove with what God is doing. We need to hear his voice clearly, so we follow him above following our own good ideas or replicating another person’s vision from God.

Ralph Moore Conference: Multiplying Leadership Day 1

Today, I am reevaluating my perspective on resources. Ralph Moore gave me good reasons to think differently about what I have from God in order to start a church. He is here for a three-day conference on multiplying leaders. The Hope Chapel movement has now started 700 churches in 7 continents and 70 nations. Ralph began talking about how big things often start from small beginnings. We need to think in the right way about what God has given us in the beginning.

He talked about the building he inherited to start a church in Hermosa Beach, CA that seated 60 people comfortably. They filled that space up with two services with weekly attendance of 200 people. He said, if people came on time, they got to pick their seat, but if you came a little late, you might be sitting on the floor in the aisles. Keep in mind, this is the 1970’s and the Jesus movement with hippies coming in droves. If you came even later, you found yourself sitting outside by the windows listening in.

His point is that we might see a building that seats 60 people and start praying that God might give us a bigger space. We might look at our circumstances or resources and ask for something different if we are really going to make an impact. But God is our provider. If God is providing for us, and we ask for more, we are saying that God doesn’t know what our problems are. We need to trust God with what he has given us and start thinking differently with what we have.

We should take our resources and think if they are not working the way we want them to, what should change with them. How can we think creatively with what we have?

As we begin our church plant, we are looking to have small group meetings at coffee shops and little restaurants. For Thai people, they will think we are all on an equal playing field. No one is more special with their host home, but each one comes to the meeting on equal footing. We are looking to start several meetings in different locations with different leaders in order to be in public places where we will run into friends of friends and draw them to what God is doing.

When I talked with Ralph about this during a break, he told me how they have A philosophy to not allow their mini-churches, or small groups, to meet on the church campus. He said they have 119 different mini-churches, but if you allow them to meet on the church campus, you will limit the number of groups to the maximum number that the church can facilitate. And if you are out at Starbucks or McDonald’s, you can run into friends of each other.

Our goal is to be creative with the resources, because we want the Thai people to see what we do as reproducible. If we can show them they can do what we are doing without money, they won’t feel overwhelmed. They need to see things as basic as possible, so they can see it as doable. We are not trying to wow anyone with what we do, but crate a space for relationship and for God to meet us where we are.