Saturday, August 29, 2009


August 29, 2009

The concertmaster strolls across the front of the stage, stops in front of his chair, turns toward the audience and acknowledges them with a bow. A smattering of polite applause rises from the midst of Symphony Hall. Their lack of enthusiasm is understandable. After all, this guy is just one of the musicians. The real maestro has yet to appear and the concert has not even begun.
Turning to his fellow musicians assembled on stage the concertmaster nods in the direction of the principle oboist. The oboist reaches down to the floor beside her chair and strikes a tuning bar. A note resonates; the pitch is precisely A-440. The oboist then plays the note on her instrument matching the exact pitch of the tuning bar. The concertmaster, in turn, lifts his violin to his chin and tunes it to the pitch he is hearing from the oboist. Once he is satisfied that his tuning is perfectly matched with the oboe, he nods to the rest of the musicians who begin tuning their own instruments.
Suddenly, Symphony Hall comes alive with the sounds of pure chaos. String players are adjusting their tuning pegs. Woodwind players are lengthening or shortening the joints on their flutes, clarinets, and bassoons in order to match the standard pitch. The brass players are adjusting their tuning slides in order to make certain they are precisely tuned to the rest of the orchestra. Even the percussion section is busy checking the intonation of the tympani and harp. Of course, the only way to be sure your instrument is in tune is to play it, and that is what every musician does. For several minutes the audience cringes as they endure the total dissonance of a hundred different musicians doing their own thing, making their own kind of music, attempting to squeeze in one last practice session of that difficult passage coming up in the first piece.
To the novice concert attendee it may seem like total anarchy. Couldn’t all this have been done ahead of time, backstage, out of earshot of symphony patrons who have coughed up a pretty penny to hear quality music performed by professionals? Unfortunately, fine instruments, when exposed to varying environments and strenuous playing, will constantly go out of tune and be in almost continuous need of adjustment. Without the final pre-concert tuning regimen, a performance by a professional symphony orchestra could resemble a high school band concert.
Speaking of a high school band concert, I remember attending one not too long ago in our hometown. At the end of the performance I was asked by a member of the audience what I thought about how well the students had played.
“I have good news and bad news for you,” I replied. “The bad news is a third of the band was comprised of percussion instruments which drowned out most of the rest of the band. The good news is a third of the band was comprised of percussion instruments which drowned out most of the rest of the band.” After a hearty laugh I went on to explain that the instruments were terribly out of tune and it adversely affected what might otherwise have been a nice concert.
Being in tune with all the other musicians is critical in a symphony concert. And the only way to ensure that everyone’s intonation is synchronized is to have everyone tune to a standard pitch. Otherwise, the chaos heard during the pre-concert tuning will likely continue throughout the performance. Uniformity of intonation also requires the highly sensitive ears of dedicated musicians who have been trained to recognize when an instrument is in tune, and when it is not.
Last Sunday evening during our home gathering someone brought up the subject of the necessity of regularly recalibrating our spiritual lives. My wife, Babs, talked about her experience working in a county laboratory where one individual was charged with the duty of periodically recalibrating all the lab test equipment. Without carefully adjusting the equipment to exact standards the results of various medical tests, including HIV and STD detection, would be in doubt. Others talked about how various engineers had to recalibrate their instruments and airplanes had to periodically have their instruments fine-tuned. That’s when I called upon my experience as a professional musician and shared about how a symphony orchestra “recalibrates” its instruments just prior to a concert.
It’s easy to draw the analogy of the necessity for Christians to regularly recalibrate their lives to the standard of Jesus Christ. Our daily devotions, our weekly gatherings, our prayer groups, participating in the Lord’s Supper, and even our casual conversations with one another all provide opportunities for us to fine-tune our spiritual lives. To ignore the need for frequent recalibrating in our personal lives is to ignore Scripture and our own faulty intonation. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1John 1:8-9. But it was my daughter, Trisha, who elevated the conversation to a higher plane and carried the analogy one step further.
“It’s not just our own lives that need to be periodically recalibrated,” she offered. “The church as a whole needs to be recalibrated, and isn’t that sort of what the “simple church movement” is all about?”
“Wow, Trisha!” I replied admittedly somewhat surprised that something so profound had emanated from my daughter. “That comment was right on. I think the Holy Spirit has just spoken to us tonight.”
“Does that mean we’re going to read about this in one of your upcoming newsletters?” asked someone else precipitating a round of laughter from everyone.
Okay, so our house church knows me all too well and now you know the source of the inspiration for this devotional thought. Please bear with me as I try to elaborate on my daughter’s comment. Over the last few days I’ve been chewing on this subject, trying to digest what I believe the Spirit was saying to us through Trisha. Does the Church really need to be recalibrated? The answer to that question is a resounding yes! And why is that, you ask? I’m afraid the Church as a whole, particularly here in western culture, has grown terribly out of tune.
All too often we have shown ourselves to be more concerned with making our budget than making disciples; more concerned with building temples than building bridges into the community of the unsaved; more concerned with spending the Lord’s precious resources on ourselves than on meeting the needs of those outside the walls of the church; more concerned with increasing membership than increasing intimacy with the Lord and with each other. The bad news is the percussion of our daily lives and the frenetic drumbeat of our seemingly endless programs is drowning out the music of Jesus Christ. The equally bad news is those who need to hear His music the most, the lost and hurting souls living in the community around us, are often more aware of our dissonance than we are.
Before you decide to burn me at the stake for heresy please notice I said the Church as a whole is out of tune. I am well aware that many individual congregations are diligently trying to maintain their intonation in keeping with the standard of Jesus Christ. However, tragically, almost from the very beginning of the Church, the body of Christ has been in near constant need of recalibrating. The epistles in the New Testament are attempts by the Apostle Paul and others to recalibrate a Church that had gone out of tune. The reforms of Luther, Calvin, John and Charles Wesley, John and Alexander Campbell, and many others over the last several centuries were more attempts at recalibrating the Church. In this country the “Back to the Bible Movement” and the Charismatic Movement were more attempts at bringing the Church back in tune with the Holy Spirit. The first and second “Great Awakenings” were spontaneous, Spirit-led, recalibration movements.
I believe the “simple church movement” is another in a long line of recalibration attempts by the Holy Spirit to bring us back in tune with the standard of Christ. We are attempting to simplify our way of doing church so that practically anybody could do it. We meet in small intimate fellowships in homes, restaurants, conference rooms, lunch rooms, or parks rather than gather in large groups in elaborate church buildings. We are implementing a shared leadership style based upon our gifting rather than relying on seminary-trained, professional clergy. We try to maintain our missional dynamism in following the Lord into the harvest field rather than insist on attracting nonbelievers to our own static, same-time-same-place-same-content gatherings. We have discovered that simple structures facilitate reproducibility which, in turn, stimulates the growth of the kingdom. But mostly we just advocate a return to following hard after Jesus and listening to the direction of His Spirit.
If you listen carefully you can hear the tuning bar ringing clearly throughout the New Testament. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – 1Corinthians 3:11. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…” – Ephesians 1:22. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” – Matthew 17:5. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” – Matthew 28:18. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27.
You might call the Holy Spirit the “principle oboist” of the Church. One of His main functions is to periodically strike the tuning bar and call us to recalibrate to the perfection of Christ. But are we listening carefully for the right pitch or are we too busy playing our own instruments to hear? In the Church, as in a symphony orchestra, two things are required in order to obtain perfect intonation: 1) the presence of an accurate standard, and 2) the highly sensitive ears of dedicated Christ-followers who have trained themselves to distinguish the correct pitch.
I have no doubt but that the Holy Spirit is calling the Church to recalibrate. For some of you, that may involve remaining in the institutional church and working toward individual and corporate re-tuning. Others, like us, once in tune with the Spirit, may be directed outside the walls of the church to impact our communities with the music of Jesus. I’m not trying to tell you how to tune your instrument but rather nodding in the direction of our “principle oboist” and encouraging you to listen. I’m not trying to tell you which string on your instrument is sadly out of tune but rather attempting to help you improve your hearing. And unlike a concertmaster I have no desire to evoke even the slightest smattering of applause. My aim is to help the symphony orchestra of Christ to recalibrate and, beginning with my own instrument, to re-tune itself to the standard of perfection found only in our Maestro.
Don’t be surprised if the recalibration process gets a little messy. When the Spirit calls us to re-tune, our theaters of ministry may come alive with the sounds of pure chaos. Just remember the tuning regimen is essential in order for the upcoming concert to be critically acclaimed. For one day soon, when He is satisfied that His musicians are in tune with Him and with each other, our Conductor will mount the podium and issue the downbeat on the “greatest awakening” the world has ever known. Even now He is waiting in the wings. Even now the Spirit is striking the tuning bar. Are we listening?

Bill, a child of God still recalibrating

Saturday, August 15, 2009


August 15, 2009

I just kept thinking how improbable the events of that day truly were and how blessed Babs and I were to be invited to share in them. Earlier we had witnessed our dear friend, the cook at Carrow’s Restaurant where the “Church at Table #2” is located, getting married in a small, civil ceremony in a nearby city. Now the extended family was gathered in his backyard in the East Bay community of San Pablo for a festive barbecue and celebration. Babs and I were the only non-family members present. Yet even though the party was held in honor of the new bride and groom, we were treated as their special guests. Making the occasion even more incredible was the fact that three of the family members spoke little to no English. Neither Babs nor I spoke Spanish. Consequently, conversations were continually being translated back and forth. Despite the awkwardness of our communications, the love seemed to flow freely in both directions.
Since that gathering last Monday afternoon I have taken the opportunity to reflect upon all that led up to this remarkable scene where Babs and I were virtually being adopted into a family from another culture. For two years we had been following the Lord into this bountiful harvest field, cultivating a growing friendship with this family and sharing Jesus with them. At times we had wondered if our efforts would ever bear fruit. Now we were celebrating not only a wedding for which we had been lobbying since we first met them, but also the salvation of four members of their family. Our love for each other had conquered the cultural divide between us.
Over the course of our strengthening relationship we have freely blessed them with some badly needed furniture, assisted them in the renewal of their immigration status, and shared our knowledge of God’s Word with them during church gatherings in their home. We have prayed with them, counseled with them, shared each other’s cooking, stumbled over learning songs from two very different backgrounds, and marveled as God knit together the hearts of our two dissimilar families. Have we been experiencing some freak anomaly of the nature of human relations or have we stumbled upon some principle of kingdom expansion? My vote is for the latter for which I also place into evidence exhibit number two.
For the last two years Babs and I have been meeting regularly for simple church with a Singaporean couple in San Ramon, the community just to the north of our hometown of Dublin. Their daughter is one of my piano students and our growing relationship led to them inquiring as to how we do church in the home. “Could we do church in our home?” they asked after hearing my brief explanation of the benefits of house church and, of course, we gladly accepted their invitation. To begin with they invited only their churched friends to our fellowships. But as most of these strong Christian families fell away from participation they began to reach out to their substantial circle of friends who were nominal believers or non-Christians. Now they have a good mix of veteran believers and seekers who meet together every Friday evening.
This San Ramon group is predominantly Asian, so how did Babs and I manage to bridge another cultural divide? Once again, over the course of two years, we have been patiently growing a love relationship with them. Many of these now dear friends I met because the original couple recommended me as a music teacher for their children. We have discovered that blessing someone’s kids provides a wide open door into the hearts of the parents. It seemed only natural to invite them to the Friday evening church gathering.
Babs and I have spent many months discipling the host couple who are rapidly growing into seasoned spiritual leaders. Already this year we have baptized five individuals from this gathering. Now this group is growing in numbers to such an extent we feel the need to split into two gatherings. What has led to the success of this simple church? Babs and I have opened up our hearts and allowed the love of God to flow freely, unhindered, at flood stage between us. In this case love meant spending time, lots of it. But we are seeing a spectacular harvest as a result. Let’s move on to exhibit number three.
Earlier this year I received a call from a friend ours with whom we ministered some fifteen to twenty years ago in the North Bay. He asked if we could come to their home and help them start a simple church with some of their neighbors. The main sticking point was one of logistics. They live in the community of Olivehurst, some forty miles north of Sacramento and a two hour drive from our home. Yet, prompted by the Holy Spirit, we have been making the journey at least once a month to connect with these families who are intent on drawing closer to the Lord and reaching out to their neighborhood. This gathering is mostly African American, yet the color of our skin has been forgotten in the midst of our passion for God. Once again, the love of Christ freely flowing through us, even to the extent of driving over two hundred miles to meet together, has crumbled the walls dividing our cultures. But wait; there’s even more.
Several months ago, in obedience to what we were hearing from God, Babs and I opened up our home to a mixed race family from Philadelphia. They needed a place to stay for three months until they learned how permanent the father’s new job would be. Compounding the difficulties of joining two diverse families under one roof was the fact that this family had seven members, including a two-week old baby girl. Their passion for simple church had led them to seek out a host family who was already engaged in organic church planting hoping to learn from them.
During the course of our stay together something totally unexpected occurred, something that could only be wrought by the working of Divine hands. Instead of a growing frustration over having too many people sharing life together under the same small roof, we experienced a growing love for each other until our two families became one. In the process God forged an apostolic partnership between us that has already greatly blessed our ministry. In a most unusual turn of events God miraculously answered one of my most heartfelt prayers, not just for workers for the harvest, but for apostolic partners who would be able to assist us in reaching the overwhelming size of the harvest field in this area. Once again the breakthrough occurred because we were willing to sacrificially love people, in this case complete strangers, in order to see the kingdom of God advance.
So what are the principles for kingdom expansion we have learned over the past two years as we have seen our ministry take off? The Lord of the harvest continues to confirm to us the truth that the lost are rarely going to wander into our church gatherings. We need to discover ways to get out into the harvest field. We met the cook at Carrow’s because we were already meeting there for a men’s Bible study and were reaching out to the restaurant staff offering to pray for them. Rather than invite the cook to our Sunday evening gathering in our own home, we opted to take him up on his invitation to do church in his house. Our San Ramon gathering came as a result of getting out into the community through teaching private music lessons. Once again, instead of inviting them to our home we went their direction and planted a church in their place. For the church at Olivehurst we had no alternative but to follow the Lord deep into the harvest field and trust him for the results. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out…” – Luke 10:2-3.
In each case the Lord led us to an individual who invited us into their life and opened up their home to do simple church. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house…” – Luke 10:5-7. But how do we encourage “people of peace” to open up their hearts and homes to us? Scripture tells us to first bless them. If they are a “person of peace” our blessing them will link us together. And how do we bless them? We do so by allowing the overwhelming, all-pervasive, self-sacrificing, culture-bridging love of God to melt down the barriers between us. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35.
The strategy is to build community with those God brings to us, who appear to be “persons of peace.” That very community, based upon sacrificial love, will bridge any cultural chasm and melt the hardest of hearts. It is a community reflective of our triune God, who exists in community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is a community which, wonder of wonders, through the grace of our heavenly Father and the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, we have been invited to join. It is a community which we now open up to share with others. And it is a community for which Christ prayed the night before He was crucified. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:20-21.
What kind of community are we talking about? It is a community of the cross where sacrificial love flows from Christ into His body compelling us to pass it on to others. It is a community where individuals surrender their own needs and desires in order to advance the cause of Christ. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” – 2Corinthians 5:14-15. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23.
What kind of community are we talking about? It is a community of sacrifice, one in which members daily pick up their cross and follow Jesus into the harvest field. It is a community in which we sacrifice our time, our finances, our homes, our hearts, and yes, even our lives. It is a crucified community, led by our crucified Lord and obediently followed by His children who are crucified with Him for the sake of the harvest. And when the crucified community is extended beyond the walls of our churches and home gatherings, it becomes a community whose gravitational pull is nearly irresistible.

Bill, a child of God and member of the crucified community

Saturday, August 08, 2009


August 8, 2009

“See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” – James 5:7.
“My brother has a question,” ‘Juan’ interrupted just as I was about to pray. “He wants to know if there is anyplace in the Bible where it talks about the exact day for the end of the world. Some of his friends in Mexico have been talking about some code in the Bible that will lead to discovering the exact time.”
Suddenly the focus of our simple church gathering changed. Earlier I had given a new Spanish language Bible to Juan’s little brother, ‘Jorge’, and also one to their mom. Together with Juan’s fiancée, ‘Maria’, and her family we had been engaged in a study regarding their upcoming wedding. We had just wrapped up the hastily prepared, informal, pre-marital counseling session when the Holy Spirit took us in an entirely new direction. No surprise here; I have learned to expect this sort of mid-course correction during our gatherings, especially with our San Pablo church.
This simple church was begun in the home of the cook from the restaurant in our hometown of Dublin where we meet as the “Church at Table # 2.” For nearly two years we have been regularly making the hour’s drive to Juan’s northeast Bay Area community and enjoying a growing relationship with his wonderful family. Recently, however, it has become increasingly difficult to find a time to meet due to Juan’s work schedule. After months of thwarted attempts we finally managed to arrange a gathering in his home in order to see his mom and meet his little brother, both of whom were visiting from Mexico.
Back in January of this year the Lord made it clear to us that this family was to be a highway through whom many people would reach the Lord. In a stunning example of divine direction, Juan’s future mother-in-law had asked about a verse of Scripture which had been previously prophesied over our ministry. “Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” – Isaiah 62:10. We have taken this improbable circumstance (How could this woman randomly pick this particular verse out of the hundreds of thousands in the Bible?) to portend an important role for this family in reaching the Hispanic community. However, not since early March have we been able to gather together. During the ensuing weeks I found myself often whining at God about the delay. Was something going wrong with this family? Had we worn out our welcome? Had we not heard the Lord correctly regarding this “highway”? Was our own involvement with them one of the “stones” which needed to be removed? Now, four months later, we had graciously been invited back into their company.
During our time together we learned about the decision Juan and Maria made to get married while his family was visiting from Mexico. This announcement brought us to our study topic of the evening. During our discussion of the definition of Christian love, an attribute absolutely essential to a lasting marriage, we naturally put forth Christ as the supreme example, explaining how His sacrificial love moved Him to go to the cross on our behalf. In the midst of our group discussion on Christian marriage, without our even being fully aware of it, the Lord directed the conversation to include an informal sharing of the Gospel with all those who were listening, most specifically, to Juan’s brother, Jorge, who apparently was listening intently. The Holy Spirit then prompted him to ask the question concerning the time of Christ’s return.
“The Bible tells us that no one knows the day or the hour of His return,” I replied. “However, I believe we may be getting close. Regardless of when the end of the age is scheduled to occur, the truth is the end could come at anytime for us as individuals. My wife and I could be killed on our way home tonight. Then again, we may both live to be a hundred. Not many of us will ever know the exact time of the end of our earthly life. But I think you are asking the wrong question.”
At this point I paused briefly for Juan to interpret for Jorge who knew very little English. I also took advantage of the time to listen for the Spirit’s okay to proceed in the direction I was headed. Feeling a renewed boldness I decided to continue.
“The ‘when’ question is not nearly as important as the ‘who’ question,” I declared. “Who will be ready when He comes? This is the question each of us must ask.” Then, looking straight at Jorge, I asked, “Are you ready?”
“N-n-no,” he responded in English following the interpretation. Nervously he glanced first at his brother, then toward his mother; then he fixed his gaze back on me.
“Would you like to be ready?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied again in English, without hesitation.
The firmness in his voice told me this young man was sincere. After explaining what he needed to do we shared a prayer of repentance and Jorge surrendered his life to the Lord.
While I was driving home that evening the Spirit began to download into my mind what had just transpired that day and what had been occurring over the past several months. God was busy working! In fact He had been working all along. While I was wondering if God had been delaying any action toward the construction of the “highway,” He had been busy setting up the events of that evening. Since we first met we had been suggesting to Juan and Maria that they needed to get married. We talked about this extensively the previous time we met together last spring. The seed we had planted in their minds was finally sprouting. Their unwed relationship was one of the “stones” which needed to be removed in order for the “highway” to be opened. Once that particular stone was removed traffic was already beginning to flow. I believe Jorge is just the beginning of the traffic jam which is to follow.
For some reason, when we don’t see any outward evidence of God working on our requests, we mistakenly conclude He is denying our petitions, or delaying them due to some problem on our part which needs to be corrected or a lesson which needs to be learned. While personal problems and spiritual lessons may very well be included in the mix, it is incorrect to assume God is inactive. He is continuously at work in and around us to bring about His will in our lives and our ministries. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” – John 5:17.
In an awesome display of His impeccable timing, God arranged for Juan’s little brother, an individual upon whom He had obviously been working for some time, to be at the gathering in San Pablo (The first and only time he has been in this country) at precisely the time when we would be discussing Juan’s upcoming wedding, a ceremony I didn’t even know was in the offing until earlier that evening, a ceremony the timing of which was prompted by the very fact that Jorge and his mother would be visiting. But wait, there’s more!
The morning of the day of our church gathering in San Pablo, before I even knew we would be meeting, I sat in my office having my daily quiet time. My reading in God’s Word included these verses. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” – James 5:7-8. These verses leaped off the page at me and I paid particular attention to them, meditating upon them and asking Jesus what they meant for me and my ministry. Before the day was through Jesus had answered my question.
Last spring we planted a seed. Even though we were unable to do anything about it other than fervently pray, God had been faithfully watering the seed as well as irrigating another seed thousands of miles away in a neighboring country. Now, barely a month from the beginning of autumn, additional rain had led to the harvest of a valuable crop. The message is one of patience. Allow God the time He desires to miraculously grow His crop, to bring it to maturity. It’s all about His harvest, not those charged with tending His fields. “…This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain…” – Mark 4:26-28.
The job of a church planter is to plant seeds and pray for rain. Often there is little more we have opportunity to do. Sometimes God, in His infinite wisdom, prevents us from doing anything else to the seeds while we wait for the time of harvest, learning patience, allowing God to pour out both the autumn and spring rains, assuring that all the glory for the crop is directed toward the Rainmaker.
“You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it.” – Isaiah 45:8.

Bill, a child of God waiting for the rain

Saturday, August 01, 2009


August 1, 2009

Since this little communiqué is entitled “Living Hope Update” I thought it might be a good idea to actually give you a current update on our ministry. God continues to amaze us as He leads us in the expansion of our “simple church” ministry. Our Sunday evening gathering has grown to average between 15-20 individuals with several seeking God’s will as to when and how best to launch out on their own and start up additional simple church gatherings. This group is kind of our “flagship” church and was the original simple church we planted over 6 years ago in our home, the remnants of our traditional church plant “Living Hope Christian Fellowship” which was started back in 2000.
We have already sent out one family, Danny and Edie Mileto, who have begun several ministries of their own including a workplace chaplaincy in which Danny is currently involved. We are praying that others from our house church will soon follow the call of God into the harvest field. Since people keep coming into our fellowship and going out to serve it gets a little difficult to quantify what all God is doing. We believe this is all by God’s design as He leads us to simply disciple individuals, whom the Spirit in turn directs into whatever ministry for which they are best suited. Some of these individuals choose to continue to hang with us on Sunday evenings while others, like Danny and Edie, become so busy with their own ministries that they rarely get an opportunity to fellowship with us. We are learning that this ministry is not about numbers. God knows the greater kingdom picture. Our task is to simply obey Him in reaching out to those He brings within our sphere of influence.
The “Church at Table # 2” continues to flourish and reach out to the restaurant workers and patrons of Carrow’s, a coffee shop in our community. Every Tuesday evening we gather at the same booth, ask the Lord to allow His “living water” to flow freely through us to reach whoever might be thirsting that night, and then watch in amazement as He brings people to us needing prayer and encouragement. We usually end up praying with 8-10 individuals (one of whom doesn’t even speak English) who pull up chairs to our table, tell us their needs, absorb our counsel, and wait patiently as several in our core group take their requests before the throne of God.
In recent weeks we have been connected with several waitresses who share a common predicament; they are young, unwed mothers trying to care for their newborns while attempting to earn a living through working at the coffee shop. We are doing what we can to support them spiritually and financially. We give very generous tips and assist them in finding other help that is available. Since the restaurant staff changes from time to time we get to connect with new people nearly every week. In recent weeks we have sat spellbound as many individuals we haven’t seen for months return, pull up a chair, and begin to share their life with us again just as though no time had passed since we last met together. We pray that God continues to grant us favor in the eyes of the restaurant management so that the “Church at Table #2” can continue to thrive. While we are meeting at the coffee shop, my wife Babs gathers with several women for a fellowship, prayer and study time at another local restaurant. This group is also growing in numbers as well as spiritually. One of these women, Karen, comes all the way from Modesto and is seeking God’s will about starting a simple church gathering in her home town.
Carlos, the cook at Carrow’s Restaurant, has led us to other families (Hispanic) he knows who are in desperate need of assistance. With God’s help our small network of churches has been able to assist them with financial help as well as spiritual guidance. A couple of years ago we began meeting for church with Carlos’ family in their home in San Pablo, about an hour’s drive away from our home. We have seen three members of his family accept the Lord as their personal Savior and we are praying that more will respond to the Gospel. Because of the distance and the fact that Carlos works two different jobs and is busy nearly every evening we have found it difficult to connect with his family on a regular basis. We pray that God will open up the doors so that we can do church with them more often. We also are asking God that He would use this family as a gateway through whom we could reach many others in the Hispanic community.
Our Friday evening gathering in San Ramon, a community just north of Dublin, is also growing. We meet in the home of Kevin and Kylie Goh, a Singaporean family who have allowed us to make inroads into the Asian community. While at first this group consisted primarily of friends of theirs from a local institutional church, it now contains many non-churched families. Both Kevin and Kylie are growing in the Lord and gaining more understanding about what simple church is all about. They are eager to see this group grow and hopefully give rise to many other similar gatherings. Earlier this year we baptized 5 people during one of these gatherings.
Once a month we try to attend a simple church gathering we helped to start in Olivehurst, about 30 minutes north of Sacramento. This group is comprised of an African American family and a mixed-race family who are anxious to reach out to their community and see their neighbors come to faith in Jesus. This gathering has many children attending, all of whom love to make noise on various instruments while we sing. We always have a very spirited (not to mention loud) worship time together. We are praying that, in God’s timing, this group will expand to include more of their neighbors.
We also connect with the South Bay Luke 10 gathering which meets twice a month on the first and third Thursdays. This group is made up mostly of seasoned Christians more familiar with the simple church concept. They are interested in encouraging each other and praying for each other as well as learning together what God is doing in the Bay Area and how He might be leading us in the future. Another such group will be meeting for the first time this month in the East Bay.
In addition to all the above gatherings I also meet occasionally with other pastors from the area who are being led into the simple church movement. God seems to keep connecting me with burned out, tossed out, discouraged and depressed Christian servants who are looking for a way to serve God outside of the politically charged, highly stressed world of the institutional church. I currently meet for coffee with two such individuals on Friday mornings in Fremont, a few miles south of Dublin. I also meet with two other guys on Sunday mornings over coffee in order to pray and strategize about reaching the community of Dublin. Of course there is also this newsletter which is now sent out to nearly 200 addresses. God has blessed this little communiqué far beyond what I ever imagined. To God be the glory!
As you can tell, God has Babs and I very busy with gatherings and meetings nearly every day of the week. What does He have in store for us in the future? While we are learning to take things one day at a time, we are also sensing that God is leading us into an even more mobile ministry. With the addition of several strong leaders into our network we are being freed up for the possibility of starting more churches and spending time discipling more individuals. This is a difficult step to take yet it is necessary in order for our ministry to grow any more. If we insist on being a part of every gathering we currently have then we have already reached our maximum growth. Please pray for us as we seek God’s heart concerning when and how to leave some of these gatherings behind and launch out even further into the harvest field.
Speaking of prayer, I must give thanks to God for how so many of you have been faithfully lifting us up in prayer. I am absolutely convinced the success we have seen is a direct result of your prayer support. Thank you for partnering with us in this ministry! God is awesome! And so are you!

Bill, a child of God thrilled to be in His service