About a month ago I began reading my copy of This is My Body by my friend Keith Giles. As I read the first chapter I began to realize that this is an important book not only for me personally but for the entire church and for the growing house church movement.
There has been so much emphasis on the New Testament Church model and little understanding that this was God’s ultimate design all along for the beginning of creation.
During the time that I was reading This is My Body I was also preparing for a trip to the North of Ghana, West Africa. I have been working with “simple” church planters in Ghana for the last few years. They are using the simple/house church model in villages and other areas where it is almost impossible to raise the funds for a church building. Since the population of northern Ghana is about 95% Muslim the average villager is very hesitant to convert to Christianity.
As I read This is My Body I realized how well it would fit with the training I would be doing. So, I spent the next two weeks reading and preparing for the leadership-training seminar that my team and I were to conduct.
When I arrived in Ghana I was a little perplexed to hear that our seminar had been reduced from two days to one. But, being the rainy season here it would be difficult for many leaders to travel two days.
For the first session I used the first section of the book to establish the meaning of the Temple and the Old Testament Jewish system. It then became very easy to make the leap to the reality that these were shadows of what was to come. After looking at various passages in the Bible I divided them into groups to discuss the implications that this had for the church in Ghana. We also spent some time talking about the Priesthood of all Believers. It led to a lively debate about the need or lack of need for a church building. Since almost every village here has a mosque and almost every believer a former Muslim, the goal to have a building is the norm, much like in America.
For the second session I used the New Testament Leadership section of This is My Body. I started the session by asking how many leaders we had in the room. Every hand went up. Then I asked how many followers were present. There were a few hands raised and some embarrassing giggling that followed.
The concept of a hierarchical leadership system is very powerful in Ghana. Every village has a chief and we have learned that the first thing we do when arriving is to visit the chief and ask for his permission to be there. Pastors are well respect in Ghana and are used to being at the top of the pyramid. Some of them did not accept the fact that they were not the head of the church even after establishing that Jesus is the head.
At one point as we discussed leadership submission I brought a pastor up in front of the room to stand next to me. Then I asked the group, since we are both pastors, should I submit to him or the other way around? I then told them that if he came to me for help or advice then I would be honored to ascend to the highest point in the room. I then knelt down at his feet and looked up at him. I told him that it would be my honor to help him do whatever Jesus was asking him to do. This was a very difficult thing for most of them to grasp. One man even stood up and said that it would be good if we both knelt, but not one to another. I have to give credit to my friend Thomas Wynn for this illustration that I have seen him use before.
In the end I believe that this teaching is what God wanted to bring to these leaders in Ghana. There were a couple of times when there were so many hands up in the room and people speaking over each other that it got pretty chaotic. But it was a lively conversation and incredibly fun to lead.
I highly recommend reading This is My Body. Since I was dissecting it to find the parts to emphasis for my presentation I had the opportunity of reading most of it several times. I contacted Keith before leaving for Africa to ask permission to share the material and add my own examples and illustrations. I believe that this book has the potential to be used to train church planters all over the world in the world.
Ken Eastburn is the founder and lead servant at The Well, a house church network throughout Orange County, California and at various other places across the USA. Find out more at THE WELL GLOBAL