Pivotal People

Unraveling the Art of Missionary Spirituality: From Micro Churches to Acts of Kindness with Jeremy and Monica Chambers

January 22, 2024 Stephanie Nelson Season 2 Episode 67
Pivotal People
Unraveling the Art of Missionary Spirituality: From Micro Churches to Acts of Kindness with Jeremy and Monica Chambers
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Imagine this: You're part of a small church, fostering a deep sense of belonging and connection. Sounds exciting, right? Now, what if you were given practical insights on how to achieve this, straight from the authors of "The Art of Missionary Spirituality"? Join us as we invite Jeremy and Monica Chambers to share their unique perspective on micro church planting and the practices that foster a vibrant spirituality. Drawing wisdom from their experiences in over 40 different countries, they'll unravel the success factors of small churches, focusing on simplicity and adaptability.

But, that's not all. Ever wondered how to find time for God in your buzzing life? Or the power of unseen acts of kindness? We get personal and share our own experiences to help you do just that. We also explore how secret acts of kindness, done without expecting recognition, can lead to true humility. So, you're not just hearing from Jeremy and Monica but us too. This episode is a candid discussion about spirituality, humility, and connection, a must-listen for anyone interested in fostering a sense of community and a deeper relationship with God. Join us to discover how to resonate God's affirmation instead of human approval. It's all here - the journey to a deeper spiritual connection.

Order "The Art of Missional Spirituality" Here and download your FREE chapter:
https://www.jemochambers.com/the-art-of-missional-spirituality
Find Monica on Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/mograpalocha/

JEREMY AND MONICA CHAMBERS have participated in launching movements that make disciples and networks of microchurches in over thirty-five countries with a special heart for Denver, CO, Richmond, VA, and Costa Rica (Monica's home country). They currently work with Forge America, The Pando Collective, and The Arise Network. They love rock climbing, chess, mixed martial arts, hardcore metal, dubstep, and indoor plants. Prayer is of utmost importance in their lives. Jeremy has master’s degrees in both Intercultural Studies and Christian Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. 

Order Stephanie's new book Imagine More: Do What You Love, Discover Your Potential

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Speaker 1:

Well, I'd like to welcome Jeremy and Monica Chambers to the Pivotal People podcast. I'm really looking forward to this conversation because they have written a book about one of my favorite topics and they have really done a deep dive. The title of the book is the Art of Missionary Spirituality and it really talks about I'll give you the quick description 31 practices designed to cultivate a vibrant and authentic spirituality that doesn't draw you away from your neighbors but propels you into the lives of others and the needs of your city. Wow, wouldn't that be great if Christians were nice to have in the room, right? Wouldn't it be great if people said what is it about that couple that's just so nice? What is that is so appealing? I would just love to learn what their why is. And I think that I'm excited because I've only seen I've read the table of contents, the 31 topics, but I've downloaded their free chapter. We'll tell you where to get that and it's great. So, I said, I put it into practice today and I can't wait to read the other 30 chapters. So welcome, jeremy and Monica. I would love it if you could start out by just telling us a little about yourselves, where you are, what your background was, and then we can really dive into the book.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so we are currently in Denver, Colorado well, Littleton really and we've been here for almost two years. Before being here, we were in Richmond, Virginia, doing like micro church planting and different ministry there, and I'm originally from Costa Rica and Jeremy's originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Speaker 1:

Fun. Okay, costa Rica is our next topic, but anyway, I'm fascinated with Costa Rica. Everyone's going there, everyone loves it. All right, we'll get back to that. And so you talk about micro church planting. Could you describe that a little bit?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so I grew up in a family it did a lot of global missions work and we did church planting in over 40 different countries, and so I got to be exposed to a variety of cultures and to see churches from India to Africa to Latin America, europe, and I really noticed that often they're very small house churches. Most of the churches around the world are really tiny, in tribal areas and rural areas, up in the mountains and the hills. And so we said, well, can we take some of these principles that are so simple and apply it in American, north American context?

Speaker 2:

And a more urban context.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and so we did some experimenting in Richmond Virginia and started some and we called them micro churches because they don't have to meet in a home, they can meet really anywhere. They're very nimble, very adaptable and we watched these. I mean, we planted some that only lasted a little while and others flourished and multiplied and multiplied into other states and even into other countries. So it's been an exciting journey for us to experiment with micro church planting.

Speaker 1:

Sounds like Paul. They didn't save all the letters that went to the churches that didn't last that long. Right, you can't, they're not all gonna hit, but it reminds me, as you talk about that, of the first century churches. Yeah, right, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and we really have used, you know, x2 and it's a really good book by Alan Hirsch called the Forgotten Ways and it's kind of going back to seeing like how did the early church operate, what created the movement of God in that time and what are like principles that we actually can apply in many ways here, especially in more post-Christian sort of environments where, like, people maybe have had some experience with Christianity and just have been like I'm done with that. I don't think that's relevant to me. Going back to some of those ways that we see the early church operating actually has been seen to really engage with a lot of those types of people who maybe the church operating in a certain way nowadays or in the last, even 100 or so years, it's actually intriguing to them and they want to interact with the faith, with Jesus, with other people who are believers, just asking questions and everything. And it's been a really cool experience for us to see how it's promoted deeper discipleship and it's also allowed for people who have a lot of questions to be able to belong with others and ask those questions. even before they believe, or even if they don't ever really, in that time frame, come to believe, they still are being exposed to a community that is centered on Jesus, that is loving towards one another.

Speaker 1:

So you answered my question. I was going to ask you what is kind of the? What have you observed to be the success factors with small churches? I have been involved in large churches and it just makes me think of the difference. I think we went to a large church for many years before we joined a small group and then a small group was just six couples and that's where our real connection and fellowship and sense of belonging happened. It was the small groups. In fact, our pastor says we want to see circles. Those are small groups, not just rows. You just can't rows in the church an hour a week. It's difficult to feel like you're really part of a body. You know you're part of a community.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. Well, we've had the I would say, the blessing of having been able to participate in all types of churches. So sometimes you'll find in one segment right, People who are like all about micro church and they're like it's the only way and that's just the primary way that we've been planting in the past 10 years. But we've both been involved in an array. I mean, we've been part of some mega churches, multi-site house churches, mission communities, all different types, and so really, you know it's been interesting, you asked, you know what makes it work? I think that's always the question that church planters are asking, and even small group leaders, even families, what makes the family work right? And so I think there's something to be said about just being committed to a path of humility, path of growing closer to Jesus, whether it's a mega church or a micro church. It's that focus on Jesus and really saying I'm really saying how am I a student of Jesus? I think that's what makes the difference.

Speaker 1:

And I think that is what gets to your book. Your book is 31 Practices that can. As I looked at the table of contents I don't have it in front of me now, but we're talking about things like how do we connect with God, how do we really get to know who Jesus is, how do we have this relationship, because then everything else comes from that. How can we put love and action unless we really feel that we have a love relationship with God? Then we're just being nice. Isn't there a difference between being nice and putting love and action? Let's talk about some of the spiritual practices. Why don't you go through a few that you think are key out of the 31, and then let's really do a deep dive. I just so loved the chapter I read, solitude and silence. My husband would say, oh, you got to work on that one. Okay, don't be all. So some of the spiritual practices that you wrote about.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and just to say, like with the book, how we set it up was like you're practicing one practice per day and so it's about a month long. If you wanted to do it that quickly, there's also an option to do it one per week and you do it throughout the whole year. But the goal really is to help people. A lot of us just get stuck in ruts in our relationship with God and we do certain practices all the time and then we maybe feel a little bit like, ah, is there more? And so we wanted these practices to be almost like little tasters that each person and we change, we progress and, as any relationship, we find that certain things are helpful at a certain time and other things might not be in vice versa. And so with this, a person gets to experience different practices. Some they might really resonate with, others they might not, and that's okay. It's actually a discovery process that for now, maybe you realize oh, there's these two practices that are really life-giving, I'm really connecting with God in this way, and so I'm going to press into these, and then maybe in a few months or a few years, you find yourself experimenting with some other practices and finding other ones to be extra helpful. So we kind of wanted this to be an experience that a person could have of a lot of different things.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and we originally it started out it was the outline for this came about in 2020, early in the pandemic. After the lockdown. I was in a slump and I felt apathetic towards the Lord and I was really kind of just in my prayer time. I was like Lord, what's going on? Why Normally I care about you, but I felt like my heart was just hardened. And so I happened to see something online where someone did a 31-day challenge or something silly and I thought, well, why don't I do a 31-day challenge of seeking the Lord differently each day and see if that helps to revive my heart a bit? And it really did. And so we put in different practices. Some of them are very prayer focused there's intercessory prayer, soaking prayer, centering prayer. Others are very scripture focused, so there's like an ecclesiasties day. There's also like we have like a little creative alternative approach to Bible memorization, which I think is actually very freeing for people, because usually that can feel laborious. And then others of the practices are very focused on reaching out to other people in our lives. So we talk about spiritual friendship. We talk about acts of kindness, even secret acts of kindness. There's a chapter it's called Secrecy and the idea is do something special for someone that you don't need to take credit for. And so the goal is that we're just exploring dimensions of our walk with the Lord.

Speaker 1:

That's great, and so the chapter that everyone is going to in the show notes. I'll have the link to their website. Tell us the website right now so people can download this free chapter. Yeah, it's.

Speaker 2:

Gmochamberscom, so J E M O chamberscom.

Speaker 1:

And the chapter is called Solitude and Silence and I downloaded it. So these chapters are super practical, pragmatic, I would say, easy to read. Good headings. It starts out with the purpose. So the purpose of chapter three, solitude and Silence, is to bring stillness and quiet into our day in order to experience a deeper intimacy with God and awareness of his presence. And good quote. I'm not going to read the whole thing from another theologian about the value of the devotional and spending quiet time with God. And so what hit me was, I have to tell you my favorite time of day is first thing in the morning. I get my cup of coffee and I have a little chair and I have my Bible and journal and I have a stack of devotionals and I'm retired now so I have plenty of time for this. So between one and two hours I meander, I call it meandering through the Bible and I call that a quiet time. And I realized in reading your chapter it's not necessarily quiet. I'm either reading or I'm writing or I'm praying. Quiet is just sitting with God, be still and know that I am God. And you talk about the idea of just saying 10 minutes, 15 minutes, I'm just going to be quiet. You start it out by reading a Psalm and just be quiet. And it would be great if God spoke to you. But don't expect that, who knows. He said in this chapter well, we're also productivity focused. If I'm going to be quiet, god, why won't I be quiet? Could you please let me know your will for my life? Okay, let me know what I should be doing today. I need a burning bush. No, just perfectly quiet. And you said would you just be willing to waste 10 minutes on God? What if nothing came of it? But just been quiet? And when you said, are you willing to waste 10 minutes on God, that actually took the pressure off of me to have some sort of big spiritual awakening. Can I just be quiet without a big spiritual awakening? And this is a practice and an exercise. Well, I thought, okay, I'm doing a podcast with them, I should do my homework. All right, I underlined a bunch of great things. I'm like, okay, this is really wonderful. And so I sat down and I did this. And you know, at first your mind kind of wanders. Oh, I got a book of haircut. Oh, wait a minute, I have to refill my prescriptions. Stop it, okay, then pretty soon. Okay, wait, you can just be quiet. You can tell I have a hard time with this. And then, do you know what? My mind kind of went blank. I thought, okay, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Blank mind, blank mind. And then I don't know if this is spiritual awakening. I'm not great at memorizing scripture, but I read it over and over, and over, and over again and I do like to copy it over in my journal. I might write some on an index card. But it's not about memorization, it's reminders. I keep reminding myself. So I am sitting there having this quiet time and many of my favorite verses started running through my mind and I wasn't. I can't say that I could memorize, say them out loud, but pieces would come together and it made me feel closer to God and I wasn't trying. It's kind of like that's what bubbled up. I'm going to do this every day because it was wonderful, it was really wonderful, and so I would tell everyone just download this chapter and try this exercise. Yeah, I think I've talked for longer than 15 minutes about my 15 minutes of silence. It's neat because it's so practical. You also have a section in the book, in the chapter for notes. You know how to just write down your thoughts. I would write that down. I would say, to my surprise, some of my favorite Bible verses started running through my head and then you also have at the end you have key resources. You had Bible verses that you kind of used and I okay. So I opened up the Bible, I wrote those down and you had a couple of verses. Jesus did this. Jesus, luke 5.16,. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places where he prayed Mark 1.35,. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place where he prayed. And spoiler alert, I'm going to tell you this. So Monica said well, when I try to get away and just have quiet and be with God, it tends to be in nature. You know Jeremy's like no, I really have to, really no distractions. He goes to the library or a parking lot. Jeremy, I'm not sure about the parking lot, but the library. I'm like you know, I love the library, I love nature. Everyone can have a different way of doing this. There is no subway, so I got that from just one chapter out of 31. So you talked about the idea of showing kindness to others without taking credit. Can you elaborate on that, because I haven't read the chapter yet.

Speaker 3:

You know, one of my theology professors years ago challenged us in class. He said do a secret act of kindness that you'll never take credit for, and then pay attention to what happens to you in doing it. So I tried it out and it's interesting. It was fun to plan, but then when I executed it I remember thinking, oh, I need to tell this person, make it more meaningful for them if they know that I did it. And then it was like, no, this is me learning that goodness can be beautiful in its own right. I can serve someone and never have to receive credit for that. It's actually okay to do a good act and just do it between me and the Lord. That has been something that, honestly, I hope to always practice, and I hope to practice it even more than I currently do. I really love how that it trains us to remember that sometimes doing a good act, we can easily get tainted with our own desire for recognition and approval, and so that's one that we put in there and we had a bunch of friends go through this and they tested out the 31 days and the feedback around. That was interesting. People really a lot of people had a similar feeling of like I wanted to get claim credit, but then they settled themselves and just say trust the Lord, do this good thing and let it be unto the Lord.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I feel like a lot of the practices we have placed in a way where there is a lot of that surrendering of outcomes to God because, I think so often we want to do stuff, that where we can see the results, and yet in a lot of ways, in our just walk of faith in general, that is often not the case. We might be doing some things that we're like why am I not seeing change, or why am I not seeing what I'm praying for, or whatever. And so a lot of these practices allow us to actually say I am faithfully going to do this because I believe that this practice is going to help me connect with you, lord, become more of the person you've intended me to be, be more like Jesus you know and love others better and everything else, whatever else comes from that is up to you, god, it's not up to me. And so, and it's interesting because with that secrecy practice, we actually, you know, you see, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says to pray and to give and to do it in secret, because our Father sees what is in secret and it is almost better to get praise from God than from people. And so, like even Jesus in this, like epic sermon that he gives of how to live life well and how to live trusting in the father, well, he actually brings up secrecy, which is just a really interesting thing to consider. And so again, it's kind of like these practices are basically saying like I'm gonna take you at your word, god, and you say that this is good for me, so I'm gonna do it and see what happens.

Speaker 1:

And when you said I mean if and that's where faith comes in right, we have to truly believe that God is real and that he is seeing this, because if God doesn't see it and if no one else knows that, it's like a tree falls in the woods. Right, did it really happen? I need some sort of affirmation. I'll take God's affirmation any day. You know, one of my favorite authors, bob Goff, talks about this very topic and he talks about, you know, giving in secret or doing things for people who can do nothing for you in return. And he said you know, in this world, when we do things publicly and we get praise, he said that's like a little golf clap and that's all you're ever gonna get. But if we do this in secret, god is gonna celebrate with us. God is celebrating. And I think, jeremy, you said it's about changing us. It's about us being changed. And you've really challenged me, because I am searching my mind, trying to think of I do nice things for people, but they always know, you know. So wait a minute, can I do something nice without people knowing? That is going to be the practice I'm gonna work on, because I'm not good at it.

Speaker 3:

I would love to hear how it goes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Well, there's something interesting to it being secret that it has to also be kind of planned, because you have to almost make sure in some ways that it won't be found out. So if there's almost an adventure to that dynamic, which is school Right, so when you talk about humility, that's true humility.

Speaker 1:

You know I'm pretty good at fake humility, but that is true humility and that's so. Now we've only covered two out of 31 chapters. People, we're gonna have to buy this book. I'm sitting here thinking who am I gonna give this to for Christmas? I can already think of a couple of people. It's only been out for a month, so you can. There's still some copies left. We can get it on Amazon, I'm assuming.

Speaker 2:

Yep.

Speaker 1:

Yep, all right, and we can find you at jemochamberscom, is that right, right? Yeah, jemochamberscom, find you on Instagram. I'll have that on the show notes. I just want to thank you so much for your time. I feel so uplifted just sitting here talking to you guys for half an hour. I mean, I feel like these guys are pastors. I feel like I am getting my own private Bible lesson, my own private God lesson. So thank you so much. I can't wait to read the whole book.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you for having us Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

It was a joy to be here with you, oh it was great talking to you.

Exploring Missionary Spirituality and Small Churches
Quiet Time and Acts of Kindness
Exploring the Power of Secret Acts