Visionary Maverick Urges Us to Obey Jesus Above Human Customs
Our beloved mentor and role-model Dr. George Patterson has gone to be with Jesus. He changed the direction of my life and the lives of many of my fellow workers in YWAM Frontier Missions. George believed in me. He came alongside me and launched me into a new level of effectiveness in advancing the Kingdom. I will write these stories soon. Right now, I want to share the words of a fellow YWAMer and close friend who was also mentored by George Patterson:
Rejecting The Status Quo
One of my mentors and dear friend, Dr. George Patterson, died this week at 89. What a world-changer. A visionary maverick, professor, speaker, and author. He upset many people and organizations by rejecting the status quo. He urged us all to focus on simple obedience to the teachings and commands of Jesus. Obey Jesus out of our love for Him. To do this far over and above all human traditions.
This especially included raising up ordinary people. Equipping them to start very simple, participatory house churches. Churches that center around hearing or acting out Bible stories. Committing to apply what is learn into our lives throughout the week. Encouraging each other during the week. Sharing how it went over food the following week. Real application in personal lives and in the community. Everyone participating, learning, applying, and sharing how it’s going. Helping one another grow.
Anywhere, Anytime, With Anyone
These simple churches can reproduce anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
Whenever I needed help with a project, George was there in person or on the phone to help. I directed a four-month Frontier Missions-Focused DTS in Brooklyn, New York. George came out and helped.
When I first met George, I was working at a university. I lived in a former crack (cocaine) house. Next door was an extremely active crack house in a tough neighborhood. I thought that the outreach projects I was working on were pretty “out of the box”. But George showed me that I needed to think in radically different ways.
He said I should start an very simple, participatory house church. Do it in the crack house next door. “And don’t you ever lead it! Make sure they lead it. In super-simple ways. Use stories of Jesus and ask simple questions. Get everyone involved. Get them to apply what they learn directly to everyone’s daily lives and struggles. Whole-life recovery. Everyone participating, over food. And you coaching them behind the scenes!”
I said, “George, they’re my good friends but they are drug addicts and dealers. People end up getting killed in this neighborhood and there’s a good chance they might have something to do with it.”
“Great! I’ll bet a lot of people stop by there who would benefit from new life in Jesus!” George says.
“Okay, Let’s Try It”
I agreed, “Yeah, you’re right, okay, let’s try it”.
That led to a wild and eye-opening paradigm shift with powerful impact on us all. On one occasion a guy who was shooting heroin in another room heard us acting out a Bible story in the kitchen. He came in and was so amazed at what he saw, he wanted to start a group in his home. He was the first to get into a residential drug recovery program where he eventually got on staff.
In 2003 I was asked to help with humanitarian aid projects in a major conflict zone in Asia. For about a year there, I combined relief & development work with disciple-making among unreached peoples. In challenging parts of the world, I have found it helpful to Prayer Walk through the community. I pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will done in the community. I also pray for the Lord to cross my path with people of peace. People He has been preparing, even if they are not currently “peaceful”. This was true when Jesus met the demon-possessed man in Gerasene (Luke 8:26-37). The Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4, was not “filled with peace” either.
I build relationships with these persons of peace. I help them learn to become obedient disciples of Jesus. Gradually, I introduce them to the elements that form a simple church.
I tried introducing these basic elements of simple house gatherings in some of the conflict areas where I was working. One element at a time. We adapted them for the local culture. But we essentially used the same New Testament principles I learned from George.
Potential To Reproduce Exponentially
Since then I’ve often been involved in helping introduce this model to many others. It has the potential to reproduce exponentially. Integrating it with community health and other community development projects brings transformation. I’ve seen this work in inner-city neighborhoods. I’ve seen this work in conflict zones in many countries of the world.
I often run into other people who are also using these New Testament principles. We pursue “Wholistic” Disciple Making Movements in parts of the world that have no church. George will be greatly missed by us. His legacy will continue.