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