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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

Super Tuesday has just gone by, and with all the buzz about elections, I can’t help but think about how “faith” impacts our politics. After all, these are the two things you are not supposed to talk about at parties. They turn conversations into heavy discussions, and make at least some people sorry they came. These two topics share something in common: They confront and expose our beliefs about life, why we are here, and how we should treat one another. So there is a lot of religion in politics…

This has been true from the start. By today’s standards, there is something very religious about the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

What kind of religion supports this view of people: “all… created equal”? Most religions spend volumes distinguishing the value on of one person from another based on his or her gender, race, history, abilities, piety, or performance – how well they “serve” God. I know of only one faith that could possibly support the statement that all are equal and “endowed… with certain unalienable rights”: That is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Only He has proved the value of all people (whether they believe in Him or not) by offering His life for theirs.

“For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16), not just one race – not just righteous people – not just the strong or the weak. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he appeals to them, “Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.”  He is telling them to consider the impact of their actions on others – Why? Because Christ has settled one thing: Each and every person is worth it.

I am really burdened with the direction this is taking today. Do we treat each other more like we are “worth it”, or less? Are we more or less willing to go through conflict and stay in relationships? Are we more or less willing to be inconvenienced by others…by a child?

Our Nation began with a religious statement. It wasn’t followed perfectly at first, and it still isn’t. But this starting point has guided many critical decisions along the way. It appeals for the honor of the exploited; it champions the efforts of each individual’s “pursuit of happiness”; and it has provided a foundation for the strength of a Nation like nothing else in history. That being said, is the change we seek this election season more hanging on which individual ends up in the White House, or which person ends up “presiding” in our hearts? For us, may it be the One who stubbornly insists that every one of us is “worth it”.

As a little child I remember being in a church building and my mother telling me, “God lives here”. My next question might have been obvious: “Is that God?” as I pointing to a man standing in the balcony. No, that was not God, and my Mom bravely tried to explain how God is here, but He’s invisible…

Later on, I noticed that God didn’t seem so invisible in the Bible stories I heard. Everyone knew He was there and doing things like talking to Adam and Eve, parting seas, sending plagues, and talking from a burning bush – not to mention creating the world.

He seemed very busy back then, but what’s going on with God lately – what is He doing now?  Is He on vacation? Then I read a story about Jesus in His home town of Nazareth. They all knew His family, and they were offended by the idea that He was “special”. So they didn’t see many miracles. They didn’t see God show up for them. So maybe the question isn’t “What is God doing?” but rather, “What are we seeing?”

Jesus had a message – still has a message. Matthew the tax collector wrote it down, and we labeled it “Matthew 4:17”. Most Bibles read: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. I am not sure who knows what that means, but the words that were translated that way are: “metanoeo”, which literally means to “go beyond your mind”; and, “basileia toon ourannon”, the “rule of Heaven”, which is a euphemism for God, whom Jesus says is “at hand”.  So I think it is fair to say that the message Jesus began to give was this:

“Get over yourselves; God is in the room”

This changes things for me. I notice that every time the disciples of Jesus ended up preaching it was right after God “showed up” – someone was healed, or freed from an evil spirit. Jesus told the Pharisees, “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you!” (Luke 11:20)

So the problem in Nazareth was not that they didn’t have God with them. The problem was that they could not admit it. The way God was showing up was too “familiar”, and so they missed it. This message of Jesus is not so much about theology or forgiveness of sins, but about the fact that God is in the room, and the only reason we don’t notice is because we are not over ourselves.

Maybe that is what we are missing as we secretly wish God would come visit us and rescue our lives. Are the ways He is coming to us just too familiar? What would happen if we could just step aside and let God be known – right where we are? What kinds of things would we see God do? Who wants to find out?…

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

 

Since 2009 we have been on an intentional journey to learn what Jesus desires His Church to be. In the process we have faced a need for change in leadership, language, and lifestyle. Leadership, because we had to embrace the walk of service to the Bride instead of entertaining Her; Language, becuase words carry meaning from history, so that new direction needs new dialogue; and Lifestyle because in the end our message is spoken by what we do – each of us, every moment of every day. We noticed that lifestyle is mostly guided by deeper beliefs, not conscious choice – So in our walk as disciples we have dug deeper in our closest relationships to let the Holy Spirit work on our hearts.

When we got to the challenge of staying engaged with our community outside of our Fellowship, we found that the connections God creates day to day are truly divine appointments, and that living “missionally” has nothing to do with programs. We are being read by others constantly. We are seeing right now the result of what dozens of others were reading in the life of a young man named Nick who let others know about his love for Jesus. When his life reached the finish line before anyone expected, his friends were affected. They were drawn to, and for some, drawn back to, following the Wild Messiah. How do we allow Jesus to be preached by our lives so that when we speak, and work, and “serve”, and hang out at home, the voice of God is sensed again saying, “This is My Son…”? (Matt. 3:17, Luke 3:22, 9:35)  I remember in all of this that it was God who did Pentecost; it was God who gave Steven the grace to forgive people as they were stoning him. These were the points at which the true God was revealed in unplanned events (at least by people). We are all along for the ride. It’s how we ride that proves the presence of Jesus.

We have a sign up in our house that says, “Live well ~ Laugh Often ~ Love much”. I think I like it because it describes what I think of when I read Jesus’ words, “I have come that you may life, and have it to the full.” If He came to give us this, then living this way is good way to “preach” His presence. Then all that is left to do is tell others where it come from.

I recently was directed to an article by Rachel Naomi Remen that had some powerful insights on “helping” and “serving”.  While it might redefine some common terms we use, I wonder if this isn’t often what we really mean when we use these terms – See what you think…

“In recent years the question “How can I help?” has become meaningful to many people. But perhaps there is a deeper question we might consider. Perhaps the real question is not “How can I help?” But “How can I serve?”

Serving is different from helping. Helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. When you help you use your own strength to help those of lesser strength. If I’m attentive to what is going on inside of me when I’m helping, I find that I’m always helping someone who is not as strong as I am, who is needier than I am. People feel this inequality. When we help we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity and wholeness. When I help I am very aware of my own strength. But we don’t serve with our strength, we serve with ourselves. We draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve, our wounds serve, even our darkness can serve. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals.

Helping incurs debt. When you help someone they owe you one. But serving, like healing is mutual. There is no debt. I am as served as the person that I am serving. When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction.  When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.

Serving is also different from fixing. When I fix a person I perceive them as broken, and their brokeness requires me to act. When I serve I see and trust that wholeness. It is what I am responding to and collaborating with.

There is distance between ourselves and whatever or whomever we are fixing. Fixing is a form of judgment. All judgment creates distance, a disconnection, an experience of difference. In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. This is Mother Teresa’s basic message. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.

If helping is an experience of strength, fixing is an experience of mastery and expertise. Service, on the other hand, is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe. A fixer has the illusion of being casual. A server knows that he or she is being used and has a willingness to be used in the service of something greater, something essentially unknown. Fixing and helping are very personal; they are very particular, concrete and specific. We fix and help many different things in our lifetimes, but when we serve we are always serving the same thing. Everyone who has ever served through the history of time serves the same thing. We are servers of the wholeness and mystery in life.

The bottom line, of course, is that we can fix without serving. And we can help without serving. And we can serve without fixing or helping. I think I would go so far as to say that fixing and helping may often be the work of
the ego and service is the work of the soul. They may look similar if you’re watching from the outside, but the inner experience is different. The outcome is often different too.

Our service serves us as well as others. That which uses us strengthens us. Over time, fixing and helping are draining, depleting. Over time we burn out. Service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will sustain us.

Service rests on the basic premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery, which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. Fundamentally, helping, fixing, and service are ways of seeing life. When you help you see life as weak, when you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. From the perspective of service, we are all connected. All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.

Lastly, fixing and helping is the basis of curing, but not of healing. In 40 years of chronic illness I have been helped by many people and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.”

God’s has a basic pattern for creating:     Typically from a  centrifuge…”

galaxy (2)

     

     

   

   

   

   

 

As we have become students of the formation of the Church body in God’s Kingdom, we have noticed how the work of the Spirit begins with a manifestation of God’s power, then spreads through that which was created by that manifestation – all that comes out of it being shaped and empowered by the ground zero event.

 The Five Rhythms are expressions of this process – The manifesting of God’s power creates a community of all who witnessed it, who then form more close-knit groups, each of whom support the individuals whose lives were transformed in meaning, purpose, and destination. The order created accomplishes its work, down to each individual “body” which lives in the gravitational pull of the system created by the one, “ground-zero event”.

 This event is thereafter repeated in each “spin-off system” – an echo of the original creative power of God. These are what we refer to as Revivals, or Awakenings. They occur at a wide variety of magnitudes – from individuals, to communities, to global.

It was in reading a new book I picked up called “Influencer” that my understanding of discipleship was actually reborn. I have referred to discipleship often, and tugged on what it is, and what it looks like for the past 35 years  In reading this book, I stumbled onto what I think is the heart and soul of discipleship as defined by the life of Jesus. First, I should review what I have thought it to be in the past – making clear that, at its core, I DON’T believe it is any of these things:

  • it is not about meeting
  • it is not friendship, as we know it
  • it is not a class where we get information
  • it is not mentoring someone according to a specific agenda

What I do see, after being challenged to go back and look at the Testimony we have of Jesus, the great disciple-maker, is that everything He did had one purpose: The success of His disciples – and not narrowly defined, but based upon what THEY needed to be successful. It was the same heart that told Peter to “throw your net on the other side..”, as also warned him about being “sifted” by Satan, and encouraged him to “strengthen the brothers”, not if you are restored, but when. In the end, His going to the cross was not His agenda, but necessary for OUR success with God. He asked that it not have to be, but accepted it as the ONLY solution.

We live in a culture that promotes investing in and shaping others lives only if it meets our goals, or what we have in mind for people. It is ultimately centered around our limited understanding of what people need. But not until we are willing to take responsibility for the success of others, as defined by them, are we truly discipling as Jesus did.  I beleive that this is an essential part of the irresistable love of Christ that has the power to change our world. Who could say “No” to someone truly committed to his or her personal succes? May we abandon our control-based, self-centered notions of discipleship, and embrace the way of Jesus in committing to the success of just a few other people in our lives.