I Have Seen the Unicorn

Sitting talking to my friend Brian about Simple Church/House Church theory and why a mega-church like Northland is getting involved in helping start Simple Churches. Suddenly Brian says to me, “A good Simple Church is like the unicorn. I have heard that there is such a thing and it sounds cool, but I have never seen one. Have you?” “Yes Brian” I replied, “I have seen the Unicorn and it is a beautiful site”. His face lit up in anticipation of hearing about this mythical church creature.

My most recent sighting of the Unicorn came a few months ago in Orange County California. Don’t let the fact that this was in LA throw you off. There are actually some really great things happening in the Christian community there. On this particular Sunday morning I was in the home of my friends Ken and Ali Eastburn. It was time for the church to gather at their house. What I experienced was first century Christianity in a 21st century living room.

At the Eastburns, like most simple churches, the gathered church means there is a meal that includes communion. Since it was Sunday morning that meant breakfast. I got to cook which was fine with me since I love to cook. Pretty soon people began arriving until we had more 14 adults, including a woman visiting from China, and 7 or 8 kids. At one point Ali was greeting folks at the door when she saw her neighbor across the street working in her yard. Ali has been trying to build a relationship with this woman for months and took the opportunity to go speak with her.

Breakfast was ready so Ken prayed to give thanks to God and people began to dig in, finding places to sit around the family room and at the breakfast bar. As the meal was winding down Ken picked up a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. He reminded us of what Jesus did for us on the cross. God was thanked. The Bread was broken. The cup was given. We had a meal and communion just like the church of the New Testament. Someone pulled out a guitar and along with the kids we sang and prayed and honored the Lord.

After we finished singing and praying, the kids went and did a little Bible study with some handouts that they colored then went outside and played. Ken led the adults in a study of God’s Word. Maybe I should say that Ken got us started. He raised a question about something he had read recently and before I knew it we were off. People were digging into their Bibles, flipping pages back and forth, talking about things God was teaching them, verses they read that week that made an impact, asking questions about things they did not understand. There was no “answer man”. I fought the temptation for be that guy because no one want to be “that guy”. It was thrilling to see people seek God’s truth and share what God was doing. It seemed very much like what Paul had in mind when he wrote Colossians chapter 3 verses 14-16.

14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The whole time this was going on, Ali was still across the street talking to the neighbor and Ming, the woman visiting from China had joined her. As it turned out this neighbor was going through a major crisis in life and Ali was encouraging her and letting her know how much Jesus loved her. They prayed with her right there in the front yard. We knew what was going on and prayed for them and the ministry taking place outside. eventually Ali and Ming returned and shared with us what God was doing across the street.

We spent some more time in prayer and getting to know Ming and what the Lord was doing in among the brothers and sisters in China. After a total of about two hours from the start of the gathering, people began to take their leave and head home. I found myself inspired by the simplicity of this whole thing and the way that God made Himself known. It was also incredible to see everyone involved and engaged. It was much like the experience I had early in my Christian life when I was part of a fellowship of about 60 to 80 people who met as a group on Sunday nights but in several House Churches during the week. It was much like what I picture the first century church was like when they met from house to house.

Yes Brian. The unicorn is real and it is a beautiful creature in God’s garden.

Would You Give Up Your Wedding Ring for Jesus?

Imagine being convinced that God wants you to make a difference in the lives of other people by giving up your wedding ring. My friend Ali Eastburn was faced with just that situation. Ali learned about the desperate need for clean water in western Africa. People were dying every day because of unclean water when a well could be drilled and save lives. She also learned that the cost of her diamond ring could possibly drill a well and save an entire village. Then she was confronted with the fact that many so called “blood diamonds” come from that region. Blood diamonds get their name because so many people die in the mining and trafficking of illegal diamonds. It only seemed right that her diamond should be redeemed to drill a well and save a village.

As she thought more about it, Ali was inspired to begin a ministry called “With This Ring”. The concept is brilliant in its simplicity. She sold her ring and partnered with a ministry that drills wells for villages in need. She then began talking to others about her idea and people began to give her their wedding rings to turn into cash for wells. I saw Ali speak to a group of people a few months ago and after she was done, women started walking up to her with tears in their eyes. They took of their rings and asked her to use them to save the lives of people in Africa.

A few weeks ago she returned from her second trip to Ghana in less than a year. She was there to insure that the next few wells were drilled but more importantly to tell people about Jesus. She got more than she bargained for. Hygiene is almost non-existent in the area were she was. She said it was the most unhealthy environment she has ever encountered. People suffer from serious cases of Guinea Worms which infect open sores, the local shaman practices “bleeding” of people as a way to “cure” them. She was faced with at least one case of leprosy and a young girl with a broken foot who the shaman kept bleeding in order to heal. Ali ended up providing basic medical care to clean the girls open wounds made by the shaman and within a few days was overwhelmed with parents bringing their children to her. As a result of her being there she was able to make a connection with a medical college that is now adding that village as a required place for students to do volunteer work.

In little over a year With This Ring has raised 100,000 dollars and drilled numerous wells and started several churches in northern Ghana. The goal is 160,000 and 30 wells. The ministry of church planting, medical care, hygiene training and loving people in Jesus name is making an impact. It is saving lives and bringing people to Him.

Oh and if you were wondering, Ali replaced the diamond ring she gave to drill a well, with a plain band bought at Target for less than $20. It works just as well and actually means more to her than the original diamond did.

One thing I love about what Ali has done is that a ministry like this is truly provocative. People will want to know why you sold your ring. They will want to know what motivated such a sacrifice of something that has not only monetary but also emotional value. It is that kind of provocative behavior that opens the door for conversations about Jesus. I think it is the kind of thing that makes Him smile. I wonder, what provocative thing is God whispering in your ear that will make a difference for Him.

Please check out Ali’s web site and see if God doesn’t touch your heart to get involved.