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READING LIST

The Permanent Revolution, by Hirsch & Catchim

With by Skye Jethani. - Reimagining the way you relate to God.

Cracking Your Church's Culture Code, by Samuel Chand

The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader's Day, by John C. Maxwell

The Forgotten Ways Handbook, by Alan Hirsch

The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Brafman & Becksrom

Untamed, by Alan Hirsch

Church 3.0, by Neil Cole

The Shaping of Things to Come, by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost

Yearly Archives: 2010

REASON #5 – “I Just Don’t Buy It” (the god of Unbelief)


It’s really not politically correct (especially in church culture) to say it this way, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think it. It goes something like this: “If being a Christian means I have to ___________ (fill in the blank with whatever lifestyle change you are facing) then you can have it – It’s not for me”. It’s what happens every time there is a collision of our world with the real Jesus. For anyone who has been trying to follow Jesus for any amount of years, this no doubt has happened many, many times. If we are still following, it is because He eventually opened our eyes to see that the pain of changing our life-style (again) was well worth it – if not solely for the benefit of knowing Him.


It is encouraging to see that Jesus dealt with unbelief among His twelve. In Matthew 17:17 He mentions the unbelief that left a boy in spiritual bondage. In John 20:27 He meets Thomas’ unbelief with the experience of touching His risen body, but at the same time calls those who believed because of what they already knew of Him, “blessed”.


Unbelief can be the bigger problem behind the other four reasons – and maybe we don’t find out how deep the rabbit hole goes until we address the parts closer to the surface. It was this very issue that shut down an entire culture according to Romans 11. Verse 8 even describes it as a “spirit” that blinds peoples’ spiritual eyes. Matthew 7:21-23 gives account of Jesus warning to us about practicing Christian-looking things without really knowing Jesus. I think this comes down to believing it is worth it – being one of His “sheep” (John 10). We don’t just answer this once, but our hearts are revealed in the end. It is written in

2 Tim 2:11,12:


For if

we died with Him, we will also live with Him;

If we endure , we will also reign with Him.


Finally, I have to give my personal take on all of this-Follower-ship with Jesus stuff. It will be 35 years for me on New Years Eve. With all that I have been through, I am more like Thomas than the other disciples – because I have seen and touched the reality of Jesus’ work in my own life and the lives of others. I have no excuse – but I had to start somewhere, and for those who have not seen and yet still believe, remember He calls you “blessed”. Hang in there!


Grace & Peace

Bob


REASON #4 – “They Can’t ALL be Wrong!” (the god of This World)

There is no question that as we look over the vast sea of those who identify themselves as Christians, a lifestyle of discipleship, by any reasonable definition, is not the norm and is simply not assumed by this group(may I refer to it as… “Christendom”?) to be, in any way, essential.


But what did Jesus say about those who wanted eternal life?

v The rich guy in Matt. 19:16: “How do I get eternal life?” Jesus, “sell it and follow me”;

v Jesus to His audience in Matt. 19:29: “Leave your family to follow me – you get eternal life.”

v John wrote, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life” John 3:36

v Jesus again in John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;

v And finally, as Jesus spoke of Himself to God in prayer in John 17, He says, “…to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life: that they may know You,…”.

There is no way that we can see anyone but followers of Jesus getting eternal life. Even though we think of the word “believe” as a theology issue, it actually has the same root word “obey” in the Greek. That is why the two words seem to be used interchangeably in John 3:36. When I first found this out I have to admit, it pretty well scared the crap out of me. I knew I wasn’t obeying at that point in my life. Other things still had more authority in my life than Jesus. I could talk you into a corner on theology, but I couldn’t walk to the next corner and stay close to Jesus.

According to Jesus, eternal life is for followers…those that “obey”. In our vocabulary, discipleship is “follower-ship” – a lifestyle of living under the authority of Jesus. This is not rule-following, it’s the living Spirit of God/Spirit of Jesus that first taught our hearts who He was, so we could agree about who He is. As it says in Romans 8:14…“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Follower-ship defines the ones who receive eternal life.


REASON #3 – “I Can’t afford it!” (the god of Money)

We are doing chapter 5 of Luke this month in our house church, and it opens with an account of Jesus invading Peter’s workplace that most Bibles cross reference to passages in Mark and Matthew. The Harmony of the Gospels (Thomas & Gundry), however, sets this passage apart as unique to Luke’s Gospel, and after looking closely at the details given it is not hard to see that they are correct. The difference that makes is this: Peter, John and their brothers had been called by Jesus once before, (Peter is calling Him master in this passage) so that the scene is one where the brothers had followed Jesus, and then gone back to business as usual. They had not trusted Jesus with their livelihood.

Jesus handles this by bringing a crowd to the shores of Gennesaret where their boats were landed after an all-nighter on the lake with no fish to show for it. How annoying for Peter to be interrupted by Jesus asking to take Him out so he could use His boat as a pulpit…then after he has him out there He tells him to put his nets down again (the carpenter telling the fisherman where to put his nets!) . When Peter did this of course they overflowed with fish and had to get all four involved in loading the fish into the boats and hauling them to shore.

So much for Peter thinking he couldn’t “afford” to follow Jesus as a disciple, but what about me? As I write this I can only tell you what I have seen: after being an ‘unbeliever’ for most of my life when it came to Jesus being in the middle of my work (except of course when serving in a church), early in 2010 I began asking God for “daily bread” every morning as a way of recognizing Him as my source of income – regardless of where it looked like it was coming from. I am a small business owner, and I consider it to be Jesus showing up in my work that since January of this year all of my budget needs have been met – every month.

I don’t think I am being overly pessimistic when I say that most who call themselves Christians do not bring Jesus into the middle of their work and finances. Money is a powerful and jealous god, and does not like competition. It claims to be the source of our comfort, our esteem and our power in life. To set aside and guard time for discipleship – even just once a week…well, try it and see what happens. See if financial “considerations” don’t pop up and demand that time back.

It happened to the rich young man, and to the one who wanted to “bury his father” first (most likely a euphemism for settling the inheritance). It is my prayer that Jesus will show up at more of our workplaces and ask for a tour, then show the power of His provision…because there really is no “plan B” for the commission to make, and be, disciples.

Reasons 4 and 5 are coming this week!

* * *


REASON #2 – “It’s really out of my comfort zone” (The god of Comfort)
If there is one thing we are learning about trying to walk with Jesus’ it’s that it involves no right to be comfortable. Living with a band of people who spend time with each other at least twice per week (more than many spend with spouses or kids) means getting really close – close enough to not only see each other’s weak spots but have them really get annoying.

Jesus warned would be disciples about this in many ways: Luke 9:58 (“foxes have holes…), John 15:20 (“…if they persecute Me they will persecute you”), and Matthew 10:34 (“I have not come to bring peace but a sword”, speaking of conflict in the family) Jesus’ relationships with the twelve, and especially Peter, James and John, superseded his biological family – and there is no doubt from the account we have that those apprenticing relationships were hot spots for both discomfort and growth.

These kinds of relationships in life make it hard to feel that you are ever alone…but they also temp us to use a skill that many of us put to work all too often: AVOIDANCE. Through my friends in the Journey, I have been faced with this in a big way over the past year – and can tell you it was UN-COMFORTABLE! But you know, it has also been a year of the greatest personal growth I can remember having in that amount of time.

So…is discipleship comfortable??? Definitely NOT, but is there spiritual/personal growth? I would personally guarantee it.

  • Three more reasons coming in the the next three days…so keep checking back – and feel free to comment!
* * *

Shalom. I have been challenged lately with communicating this whole thing of discipleship. So many can say “Yes” and sound excited about “following Jesus”, but when it comes to arranging our life around that, well, that’s just a whole different concept.


In The Journey, we talk about it in terms of “rhythms” – daily, weekly, monthly and even seasonal…in that order. If being a Jesus follower doesn’t translate into a life-style, then it’s all just another theology. I think there are many reasons we don’t make this shift from theology to lifestyle, but here are what might be the TOP 5 reasons we decide we don’t need to quite take it that far. Here is the first one:

REASON #1 – “I’m not really THAT available”(the god of Control).
Jesus dealt with this on a couple of levels. One guy was faced with selling all he had in order to follow Jesus. When he realized he was not ready to make that big a change (Luke 18:23), he got real “sad”. We would have no doubt looked for a way to make it easier…wouldn’t we??? Another guy ask to wait until he buried his father (Matthew 8:21), and Jesus told him to let the dead bury there own dead! Availability has always been a big reason not to be a disciple.

There have been many in The Journey who heartily agree with the ideas we share about following Jesus, but for one reason or another can’t do the “rhythm” or lifestyle piece that we see tied to it. It is a battle for control: We ask simply, “what do I understand Jesus wants for my life?”, and then decide if we will follow that. If we say “No” with our lifestyle, at that point no amount of rationalizing can free our conscience – we just have to avoid thinking about it. Maybe this is why Jesus called “blessed” the people listed in Matthew 5… the “poor in spirit”, the ones with the least to lose. They simply place less value on having ultimate control of their lives. I need to learn to be one of these people.



As I was diving into Alan and Debra Hirsch’s new book, “Untamed”, something very disturbing occurred to me about the way we view Jesus: I am seeing that our evangelical presentation of Jesus attracts people who don’t want to grow. Let me explain.


It has to do with the attitude of those “outside” the Church. Those who are invited in are told not to be influenced by “the world”…because after all, now we are “right”. We stop listening to those who are “wrong”, because we see them as in “darkness” (wrong). What is more disturbing is that our identity becomes so tied to the hope that we are “right”, that we even quit listening to others in the Church who don’t agree with us about things. In the name of not being “influenced”, we cut ourselves off to the reflections of ourselves through those around us whom God would try to use for our growth.

This very dynamic precludes the one thing that the REAL Jesus told us to do: Discipleship. Discipleship, by any definition, requires close proximity to people who will not agree with us about everything – and will challenge us by reflecting our blind spots. No wonder Jesus said that the “children of darkness are often wiser than the children of light”. I think He meant by that comment that we had better listen to those who don’t agree with us…they have something valuable to say to us. If we cannot learn from our brother who we can see, how can we possibly learn from God who we cannot see? (see 1John 4:20)

So, I don’t think a true image of Jesus will flatter us when our doctrine is “right”. The image of Jesus in the Gospels didn’t repel the sinners of world and attract the religious. Quite the opposite. He exposed the blind spots of the “righteous” while He drew the unholy to Him. He was irresistible to those who thought nothing of themselves, while those who thought of themselves as righteous only wanted to kill Him.

What is our image of Jesus?

Today I was reading in 1Samuel 13 about how the Philistines had eradicated blacksmiths from the people of God to make sure no one could make weapons. It paints this picture of Saul, the first Israelite King, and his son Jonathan leading this army with no weapons. The king and his son were armed, but the people had been completely disarmed by the enemy’s strategy while they were in captivity.

I was hit with the realization that our spiritual enemy has done this to the Church. Where are those with the knowledge of spiritual warfare – those who know what 2 Cor 10:4 is talking about – who walk as Jesus did in setting captives free? Hasn’t there been a great shortage of “blacksmiths” among the people of God so that while we still see people respond to the gospel, they are not equipped to walk in victory and freedom? I think we need to quickly restore the ranks of the “blacksmiths” among people of faith – We have been far too vulnerable for too long.


OVER the last 15 months our learning curve has been through the roof – and now the novelty is wearing off and we are seeing how we need to make adjustments for sustaining the Journey.

As with many movements, one of our biggest challenges is keeping it simple. One of the ways we need to simplify is in how people ramp into the Journey. We have been working on the “irreducible minimum” description of our daily/weekly/monthly rhythm, as well as our general vision.
First, the other night we came up with:
“Imagine… if God could live in you?…”
It’s a question that could have all kinds of responses, and it describes what is the theme of our ten core values.
Another way we are simplifying is to take the “L” word (leadership) out of the on-ramp into the Journey. We have found so far that, aside from the positive challenge for people recognize their influence, it has had two unintended and unproductive results:
1. Some are intimidated by the reference to leadership and shy away when they shouldn’t;
2. Others jump right in and hold to the “leadership” references as a title and license to have power over others.
We think people need to grow into the understanding of leadership, so we now have “Follow-in” as the step people take into the Missional Core of the Journey.
Finally, we have found we need to be clear about what we agree on for our weekly and monthly rhythms – That being part of the missional core is to embrace weekly discipling triads, fellowship in homes, monthly Equipping Days and Missional Gatherings. These are all a part of our lifestyle in following Jesus together. Some find they are not ready to express their faith through such frequent connections, and are not ready to be more than attenders. We welcome people at every stage of wrestling with this, and allow God to continue His work of drawing people into following Jesus in a daily way.
Soon our written materials will all be updated with these new details – Comments are welcome!!

Monday night we had a meeting of the “missional core” of The Journey – those who have been through what we have called “Lead-in”, and have taken on the rhythm of weekly discipleship triads and monthly training in addition to the weekly house church meetings. For the first time that I can remember in the last year, everyone spoke their mind, and many adjustments were made and affirmed to chart the course of next steps in the journey we are on. It was very exciting to me.

One of the changes we made in order to remove an obstacle for others was to take the “l-word” (leadership) out of the step that takes a person into the missional core. It has mostly created misunderstanding since most have a very definite image of what that word means and what a “leader” looks like. We are breaking that mould, but not all in one day. We find organic leadership has to be learned by doing, and the doing part needs to be free of hinderances. The change was part of “contextualizing” the path of following Jesus. So we are calling it “Follow-in” now, in keeping with the first of the three priorities of walking in the manner Jesus walked: Followership.

He followed the Father – John 5:19. Jesus only did what He saw His Father do. Only that!
He followed God’s prophet – Matthew 3:13-17. He followed John the baptizer in baptism, despite John’s protest.

“Follow-in” speaks of following the manner of our Messiah: coming under authority as the way to walk IN authority – God’s. When our lives lack authority from God, we fall to the pattern of living from the influences outside ourselves; the pressures of life, rather than the leading of the Spirit of God within us. To follow Jesus in coming under authority is to begin living from the influence of the Spirit of God within us, who presses against the spirit of the world outside us.

We cannot lead until we learn to follow. That is Jesus’ way – and there is no real debate about the power of Jesus’ leadership in the history of this world. His way is rock-solid!

I have never really been “apprenticed”, at least not like I have imagined it would happen…

The closest thing I can think of was when I worked for a professional law firm for four years while I was in school, and a couple of the partners were at different points taking me “under their wing” by giving me projects. But I have always pictured apprenticeship as shadowing someone day by day while they go through each step of their work. You wouldn’t just learn the job, you’d learn the person’s “ways”: how they talk, walk, eat, relate to others – you are shaped by their life.

When Jesus told His disciples “Follow Me”, I understand this was an invitation into apprenticeship. After all was said and done, and Jesus was raised up to His position with the Father, others seemed to be able to tell by observation that the disciples had “been with Jesus”, (Acts 4:13) and I thnk that people should be able to see the mark of Jesus on our lives today if we are being apprenticed by Him now; Why doesn’t this happen? I see maybe the biggest threat to being really apprenticed by Jesus is the addicitive culture we live in.

Addictive behavior can be understood as something or someone who has ultimate deciding power in our lives…whether we are acknowledging it or not. So what is addiction if it is not having something in the “God space” of our lives, controling our ultimate priorities from behind the curtain that covers our “heart” – what is our true “treasure” of life. Jesus showed His zeal for the temple of God during His whole life as we know it:

  • First words spoken about being in the temple;
  • Did much teaching in and around the temple courts;
  • Anger only shown when temple was being violated;
  • Referred to His body as a temple;
  • When all was finished He ripped the temple curtain in two.

So if we see addiction as something being in the ‘Holy of Holies” that is not God, it is certain to stand in the way of following Jesus. Here are five points to check to see if there are ongoing addictions or attachments in your life:

FIVE MARKS OF ADDICTION OR “ATTACHMENT”:
Uncovering the true nature of “idolatry”-
(Adapted from Addiction & Grace” by Dr. Gerald May)

1. Tolerance: Needing More. Tolerance happens when the body and mind adjust chemically and psychologically to a new “normal”. The chemical impact of the behavior which gave the “high”, or sense of satisfaction, triggers a reaction in our body to compensate for the change. The compensation levels out the chemical “imbalance” caused by the behavior, requiring more of the chemical change produced by the behavior to achieve the same effect next time. More drinks, more hits, more sex, more shopping, more hunger pangs, more cutting.
Question: Do you find yourself needing to do it more (the addictive behavior) in order to feel “O.K.”?

2. Withdrawal: Stress and Backlash. The first reaction when failing to engage in the addictive behavior at the “using point” in the cycle, and its requirement for “more”, is stress. The body responds as though something is “wrong” – irritability, change in sleep patterns, a lack of a sense of well-being. In chemical use addictions, one can even experience convulsions and black outs. Backlash is when one begins to experience affect that are opposite to those brought on by the behavior, resulting from the now “unbalanced” presence of the body’s compensating for the chemical affects of the addictive behavior.
Question: Do you experience irritability or stress if you don’t engage in the behavior with a certain frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)?

3. Self Deception: “Stinkin’ thinkin’”. The thoughts generated in the unconscious mind to perpetuate addictive behavior are unpredictable and powerful, but not always expressed to others. Some of these thoughts are so obviously pretentious that to say them out loud would unravel their ability to influence behavior all together. This is one of the keys to helping one another in addiction recovery – to practice the regular sharing of our thoughts around our behavior and choices; “walking in the light”1John1:6-8.
Question: Have you had contradictory or confusing thoughts around the topic of the behavior, or doubts that seem to question the obvious?

4. Dividing of the Will: Competing Agendas in the Heart. This is one of the pervasive traits, not only of an addict, but of an addictive society – The inability to decide to live differently, and succeed at it. We are battling with a divided, crippled will: As Paul confesses in Romans 7:14-25, this is a common struggle. In true addiction, the ongoing war in the soul is most apparent, as the body’s demand to restore the “normal” created by the addiction battles the mind’s conviction that freedom from the addiction would be better. It’s the “two wolves fighting inside”, and the one we feed will prevail.
Question: Have you been unable to keep commitments you have made to quit or change the behavior?

5. Distortion of Attention: Unconscious Denial. This is the sometimes amazing ability to ignore or block out the addictive behavior and its consequences all together. It is this phenomenon that is confronted in an “intervention”, where several trusted people in the addict’s life tell him or her what they are seeing – not to make them care or feel more convicted, but to “turn the light on”: because they really weren’t seeing the behavior or its consequences – at all.
Question: Have you minimized comments or concerns that others have brought up about the behavior?

If you answer “yes” to these questions in relationship to a behavior, you are likely “attached” to it in a way that allows it to control your life. At the point you really want to be free, you will need to seek help.

Note: There may also be (and often is) a spiritual dynamic involved in attachment that will need to be addressed as “spiritual warfare” – the above only addresses the physical and psychological processes of the “soul” (mind, will & emotions).

One of the best tools I have found to help understand the apprenticing of Jesus is the PCI, or “personal craziness index”. I looks like this:

You just consider ten things you understand the Lord wants you to do every day, and then track them. I believe we have all been “convicted” of things God is prompting us to do, but we quickly forget and go back our usual patterns that take us away from God. This is a discipling accountability tools to be shared between disciples. When it comes to addictions and attachments, simplifong life becomes a critical factor.

May the Lord give you victory as you follow the Savior!

I have been challenged with a next step in the mission – to pull back once again and recast the vision in its simplest form. More and more I see the essential things in terms of daily rhythm: The simplest unit – a day in the life of… But what common things are basic enough to connect an entire movement?

We could look at common resources:

  • Shaping of Things to Come (Frost & Hirsch)
  • Forgotten Ways Handbook (Hirsch & Altclass)
  • 21 Most Powerful Minutes (Maxwell)
  • Boundaries (Coud & Townsend)
  • Messy Spirituality (Yaconelli)
  • Starfish & the Spider (Brafman & Beckstrom)

Or common tools we use:

  • Leadership in the Journey booklet
  • Lead-in manual
  • PCI (Personal Craziness Index)
  • Spiritual Gifts Inventory
  • Strengthsfinder
  • APEST

But I think the best thing I have seen so far are the five arms of the “starfish” (my comparison) from the second book on the list:

Jesus is Lord – The central confession of the true Spirit of God in our world, tying together all who belong to Him. This is the core DNA for the whole “fish” coming from the “head”, who lives in every cell of the Body.

  1. Apprenticing – The one thing Jesus gave for His disciples to do – with all the peoples of the world…He would build His Church, we do the disciple-making;
  2. Outward Thrust – The opposite of “in-grown”, we share a culture of engagement with the community, connecting at every opportunity to recontextualize the gospel;
  3. Empowering Environment – Called “apostolic genius” by Hirsch, it is a leadership culture that lifts the lids of everyone involved, giving away power and maximizing strengths;
  4. Decentralized Leadership – Called “Organic Systems”, where leadership culture is allowed to adapt to the individuals and the community they operate in, while still true to the DNA of the movement;
  5. Garden Relationships – Relationships in this movement are forged in the pain of growth, with those who stay recognizing that there is no growth without pain – we value grace all the more because we know the “way out is through”.

My next question is whether this is all simple enough to guide a movement. Please feel free to make comments!

Shalom

I recently heard an amazing thing about starfish that helps picture the true leadership of Jesus in His Church. It came from a book titled “The Spider and the Star Fish”, by Brafman and Beckstrom. The book refers to “leaderless ogranizations”, but in truth it does not imply lack of a leader, rather, an organic or catalytic leadership culture that draws on the ownership and strengths of all members and maximizes both the body and the individual at the same time.

The DNA for this is uniquely present in the Church of Jesus Christ, which is really organized not by external definition but by the supernatural presence of its one “head” in every member.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” Colossians 1:27

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1John 4:4

While the Bible records that Jesus is the “head”, it also locates Him in every believer, so that like a starfish, which has the ability to replicate itself from every part of its body, every believer has the ability to spark expansion of the Kingdom of God where they live and work. This understanding leaves no room for many of the traditions that have crippled the Church for so many centuries:

  1. Professionalized ministryEvery member has full ownership and capacity for moving the Kingdom forward;
  2. Dualism – There is no way to divide our lives between religious and secular, church and private life, percentages for God and percentages for us;
  3. Leaders and Followers – Everyone follows God and the Lordship of Christ, as well as those that serve with greater responsibility, but everyone also leads, having the Head guy residing in them and empowering them by grace and the gifts of His Spirit.

There is no way to put this aside. It is solidly established in the gospel itself. Let this saok in for a season…I see that it will transform faith as we know it.

We are being challenged lately by the attention we are giving to the life of Jesus Christ – as His followers. I was told recently by a pastor friend that he didn’t think we could be followers of Jesus…I am not sure what was meant by that because it seems like the last directions Jesus gave to His guys: Go make disciples of all people…teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19,20) Anyway, one common thread in our experience on The Journey is that of pain. Now, in a culture that really does worship comfort, it is hard not to go down the road of thinking that if we were really being “good”, or doing what God wanted, we would be “blessed” and not be experiencing such discomfort.

It is what we are seeing about the impact of Jesus coming to the world, his community, and to the personal lives of others that is reshaping our thinking on this. Think about it: His birth (which we just got done remembering in “Christ-mas”) triggered the slaughter of every child under two years of age in the Bethlehem region; His dedication prompted a prophet to report to His mother that a “sword will pierce even your own soul”. His invitation to follow Him was given with a “take up your cross and follow me”. In the face of our taste for the comforts of this world, getting involved with Jesus is always a disturbing proposition. Yet people have still been doing just that for the last 2000 years, despite the cost.

Here is our study outline – Sort of a “warning label” for following
Jesus, the Wild Messiah. For all who are tagging along, it’s OK if you occasionally feel like you are dying, because it’s the only way His life can really move in.
Grace & Peace