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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: 2015

It was one of those mornings when I had gone for a drive before going into the office, just to think through my day and have some down time before starting work. As I was turning onto County 8 where it winds over a scenic ridge under a canopy of trees, considering the next steps our church group should take in redefining what it means to walk with Jesus, my thoughts were interrupted by a question:

“Bob, what would you do if some guy showed up at your door one day and told you, ‘I am here to fix your wife’”?

Seriously, my first reaction was at a gut level, and did not involve much time or thought.  The nice version would go something like: “You are really out of bounds here. You need to leave, and don’t come back.” You know, even if it was her brother, or her father, or a close friend, I would react the same way.  What was this guy thinking?

But then the next question that came to me was, “So who do you think the Church is to Me?”

Now everything connected – this brought to mind all the times I had been that guy at the door.

Fixing or serving – So what is the difference? The Bible talks a lot about serving when it describes our part in God’s “call” – not so much about fixing. (The word “serve” shows up 207 times, 33 in the New Testament – “fix” only 5 times, twice in the New Testament referencing where to “fix” our hope.) An article by Rachel Naomi Remen, “In the Service of Life” also has some amazing insight on this. It describes serving as something that happens between equals – while a fixer by definition treats the other as more “broken”. It is so easy to look at the needs of another and consider him or her less “useful” because of a present need. But I can recall so many times when I tried to be a “fixer” and ended up being the one who probably benefitted more. Serving carries with it an implication: “I am generally just as needy as you are, but right now I can offer you something. Later I may need what you have to give, but that just means we are better off together than alone.”

I have now come to understand that serving means I offer whatever seems to benefit or empower others – without needing to be certain of an outcome. It means that I share what I have, not out of pressure or guilt, but because I can give it. Then I leave it – content that whatever benefit comes will be its own reward. There is a great freedom in this. I am only just starting to work this lesson out, but I am already finding that it is strengthening friendships and creating more space for the contributions of others in my own life.

Back in the Fall of 2014, I had become a bit disillusioned with the attempts that my friends and I had been making to stay engaged and share our faith with the community around us. We are a part of a house church network that includes groups in Isanti, Cambridge and St. Paul. For the last six years we have been exploring what it really means to build our lives around being a follower Jesus Christ. We notice the importance of having “rhythms” of:

  • Listening for the voice of God in prayer; (worship)
  • Reconciling family relationships; (kinship)
  • Friendships that help us follow Christ; (discipleship)
  • Living in community with other “followers”; (fellowship) and,
  • Sharing how God has changed our lives. (apostleship)

Now, I realize that the word “apostleship” carries a lot of baggage for most of us, but as we studied more about that word we discovered that its real meaning referred simply to being a “messenger” – that it was used to describe someone who is “sent” out with a message. So even when it was used to refer to the twelve original disciples of Jesus, it referred only to the fact that they had personally “witnessed” the life and ministry of Jesus from the time of His baptism through to the point of His crucifixion and resurrection. The first paragraph of the book of Luke describes these guys in an interesting way: They are called “servants of the message”, or literally “under-oarsmen” of the message about Jesus.

This got us thinking about the “message” that everyone who has been changed by Him carries around inside. Even though we did not see His earthly life, we have seen enough of Him to convince us of who He is. We know that we are not the same because of Him. Would it be too much to say that we too are “under-oarsmen” of that “message”? – That we too are rowing along, creating movement by sharing what has happened to us?

We have mostly thought of “evangelism” in terms of a program, with an “evangelist” speaking from a stage and convincing people about a certain theology. But that’s not what we saw Luke describing – We discovered instead that the “message” is our own changed life, which proves that we carry something in us that is real and living. It has the power to change us – not just give us a ticket to heaven, but to bring “heaven” to earth – into our lives and the lives of others. It has turned everyone who has encountered the love of God into a piece of the “message”.

Finally, in sharing our own stories, we noticed that this was how most of us experienced the love of God in the first place – through someone else who was not too different than we are, and realize it or not, we had also become a part of “the Message”.

March 2015

Over the past six years Mission-link has been on a journey in the “school” of Jesus Christ, with the purpose of distilling and purifying our understanding of His vision for the His Body, the Church.

We have engaged this mission in many ways:

  • Held gatherings in rented space
  • Met house to house
  • Had leadership retreats and training days
  • Committed ourselves to weekly discipling groups (Triads)
  • Held open meetings in parks
  • Served in the community
  • Facilitated an Alpha Course
  • Had a booth at the County Fair
  • Hosted a showing of the anti-trafficking documentary “Nepharious”
  • Hosted spiritual warfare workshops
  • Held teaching work-shops in rented space

In 2009, we began with a vision that was detailed out in an eleven page outline. Within six months we scrapped this, based on all we realized that was not relevant about the vision… And we continued to evaluate all that we did.

At this point we are continuing to walk in those things which have proved to bear fruit with consistency – the items that are highlighted above, and more specifically, apostolic teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.

We have discovered that when we sense we have heard God’s direction, staying that course requires a “narrative” that reminds us what we have heard. For example, we have an introduction for our fellowship gatherings:

 

“This is a simple gathering of Jesus-followers for teaching, fellowship, sharing of a meal, and prayer – not necessarily in that order. We are “notorious sinners” who share one thing in common: We have been drawn to Jesus by the Spirit of God, and have agreed with Him that Jesus is our life and our only hope, and greatest treasure. We are defined by this – not by our meetings.

Our most important connections here are our discipling groups, where 2-4 of us meet to learn how to give and receive grace, how to be vulnerable, and how to tell the truth – essentially, how to be friends.

We live in the benefit of the promise that where ever at least two or three are gathered “in His Name” (under Jesus’ authority, agreeing that He is Lord) that He is personally present. We have come to meet with Him this way right now – and He is the only “Lord” and “Savior” in this room.”

We expect that this kind of navigational tool will be needed for other rhythms we engage in – and especially for those that have the appearance of events that are practiced by other churches, but for different purposes.

NEXT STEPS – PUBLIC FORUM:  TEACHING AND WITNESS

This leads us to the ministry of teaching and witness in a public forum. We are seeing together that the Spirit of God is leading us to begin a public teaching/discourse in a location that is more neutral and accessible than our private homes. We know that this will appear more like traditional church, and so we will need a statement to end each session that clearly sets out the following points:

  1. This is not discipleship, but only one of several rhythms in the life of a Jesus follower – While this is a place that many may hear the voice of God through the teaching of Scripture, it is only a starting point for what truly defines a Christ follower: Discipleship
  2. If you have heard the voice of God calling you to receive and/or follow Jesus Christ, you cannot do that solely by coming here to a teaching session – He calls us to be disciples.
  3. That there are several fellowship groups that meet in homes. These are represented by those you see standing right now, and any of them would be glad to have your company at their next gathering where you will find others who are engaged in discipleship. They are here and ready to connect.

It dates back thousands of years B.C. – the evidence that teaching has been a part of the People of God’s routine…

From Psalm 132:12:
12 “If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever,”

to Acts 2:42 “…they were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching,…”

Why is teaching such an important part of following God and being a part of his Kingdom? I think the key is this: Our lives are guided by the way we hear, and tell, our story.  The transformation of a life requires a tranformation of the meaning of our story, and teaching provides us with the new narrative. The challenge is that there are so many parts to our story – and all of them need redeeming! We need to to hear from the Spirit of God the answer to the question: “What did this mean to you, God?” so we can adopt His version of our story.

It’s the version where we find out how many times He saved our lives, and that nothing we have gone through is wasted.

It’s the version where we discover that God’s love and attention to our lives never let up – not once.

It’s the version where we finally see how He has been drawing us to Jesus our whole lives, so He could be our “Papa” forever.

This is the power of the teaching ministry – its an audible reinforcement of the voice of God in our hearts. Do we always hear the words that God is saying to us? Of course not – Sometimes we hear one thing with our ears, and the Spirit of God responds in our hearts with something like…”well, I am not so much agreeing with that – but try this version on for size.”

When teaching is speaking the current message of God, I think that is what Acts 2:42 is referring to as “apostles’ teaching”. It is like bread to our souls (Matthew 4:4). It continually redifines our story with meaning God gives to it.

We in the Journey group have begun leaning back into this ministry since January, and we are already experiencing good fruit on Saturdays from 4-6:30. Check out the events tab for more information.

Bob