Today I interview my very dear friend Felicity Dale about her new book release, An Army of Ordinary People. Felicity brings a great deal of experience and insight to the table. I hope you enjoy the interview. You can check out the book on Amazon and other book distributors.
Frank: An Army of Ordinary People is essentially a book of stories. Why did you choose this way to communicate?
Felicity: Stories are powerful. Jesus used them all the time to communicate truths to his followers. There’s a saying: “The longest journey a man must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart.” A person may be convinced intellectually, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into action. The distance from the heart to the head is way shorter. If you can capture a person’s heart, their belief system catches up very quickly. Stories tug at our hearts and are more likely to produce change.
The principle that each story illustrates is explored more fully at the end of each chapter.
Frank: Tell us about the process of writing the book?
Felicity: Back in 2000, two couples approached Tony and me and asked if we would consider helping them start a magazine for the house church movement. We agreed, and House2House was born. People would contact us with questions, and rather than trying to answer each person individually, I decided it would save time if I wrote down some answers. This developed into Getting Started, a manual that has been used all over the world.
From that evolved the idea of a book of stories of ordinary people whom God was using to make disciples and start churches. I decided to base it on the manual, and so looked for stories that embodied the principles in the manual. Some of the examples were obvious. Others I had to search for. I spent a long time, often several hours, interviewing each person. I transcribed each interview and then wrote the story.
So the book is really a “how-to” guide on discipleship and simple/organic churches but using stories as a means to communicate this. Most of the stories are about ordinary people, not spiritual superstars, whom God has used, often in remarkable ways. The hope is that anyone reading the book would be able to identify with one of the stories and say, “I could do that!”
Frank: Yes, I have all the previous editions of House2House. I remember when I first saw it how impressed I was with it, especially the formatting. It had a very sharp and professional look.
What is the main message the book communicates?
Felicity: I like to think it comes in the chapter on Luke 10, a story about Rosa, who was a lady we came to know in a local housing project. Her story illustrates the person of peace principle that is being used all over the world to reach out to those who do not yet know the Lord. Over the years, this story has received more comment than any other.
Frank: What other important principles come out in the book?
Felicity: I describe the story of two men who started a prayer movement—any move of God has to be bathed in prayer; I look at Sam, who most people would have written off, but who reaches out to the marginalized of society. I explore the transition process using the journey of a traditional church pastor who discovers simple church. The story of Elizabeth shows the importance of reaching out into the community rather than asking others to come to our church. Other chapters look at what you do when you come together, how to meet under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (what you describe as meeting under the headship of Jesus).
Frank: When you went back to everyone five years after originally writing their stories to update the book, what did you discover?
Felicity: To be honest, I approached people with some trepidation. Would it invalidate what I had written if everything I described in the original book had imploded? But what I found was that the vast majority of people whose stories I told were still pressing on in the simple church journey. God is continuing to use them. And where relevant, I included updates on their stories in the new version.
Frank: How typical are the stories that you have written?
Felicity: I could now take you to literally dozens of stories that illustrate each of the principles I describe in Army. Our other book, The Rabbit and the Elephant, which was actually written later than Army, has a number of these stories in it.
Frank: You originally wrote this book in 2005. I have a copy of it on my shelf in fact. In your opinion, what has happened to the house church movement in the United States since then?
Felicity: Amazing growth has occurred since then. According to research done by George Barna (who has written the foreword to the new book), there are now around 11 million people in this country involved. Other research has confirmed these figures.
Becoming more mainstream, however, is not without its problems. For example, the term, “house church” has become something of a buzzword in church circles. A number of churches are changing the name of their typical small group to house church. They think they have the real thing, but all they’ve had is a name change. The DNA of simple/organic/house church is very different from that of a small group. For example, most small groups have a pre-planned agenda, often given to them by the leadership. Within a simple/organic church, however, the whole body waits and listens for the Lord to show what He has planned for our times together.
Frank: What do you see for the future?
Felicity: Jesus is building His church, a beautiful bride. Organic/house church is part of the journey. I see other important issues developing momentum—for example, an emphasis on the Kingdom of God, another on the role of women within the Kingdom. But what a privilege to be involved in the Kingdom at such a time as this! We’re no longer sitting wistfully on the sidelines watching God move elsewhere in the world. He’s working here too!