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Category Archives: Discipleship

The Ultimate Guide for Making Excuses to God

My Wife = #BeastMode
Yesterday, I posted the following on Facebook: “She runs 2 miles, does squats, lunges, and bleachers, goes to the grocery store, does all the laundry, sweeps and mops the floors, and home schools the children. I run 2 miles and crawl into bed from exhaustion.”

trackMy lovely wife is the “she” in the statement above. She’s a beast, no doubt. Me, on the other hand: when it comes to working out, I make excuses. She does not. That’s probably why she’s down 80 pounds. And I’m not.

On a bad day, I find good excuses not to run. On a good day, I find bad excuses not to do anything else after running.

This week, while reflecting on Exodus 3 through Exodus 4:17, I’ve discovered Moses making excuses: five of them, in fact. Okay, one is more of a plea, but I’m counting it as an excuse.

excusesMoses Excuses
1) Who am I? (speaking about himself)

2) Who are You? (speaking about God)

3) What if the Israelites do not believe me?

4) I am not a good enough speaker

5) Won’t you just send someone else? Please?

Talk about the ultimate guide for making excuses to God! What a list! It’s no wonder the “Lord’s anger burned against Moses” in the very next verse. Take a hint, Bud!

Turning Excuses into Action
However, throughout the entire story, God remains faithful to his original words of encouragement: “I will be with you.” Moses plays a major role, but truly, God, is the main character and hero of the story.

overcomeAre you making excuses in your relationship with God? Whatever they are, I’m willing to bet He’s heard them all (in this story alone!). All the while, He must be longing for your acceptance of the truth He’s known all along: You. Can. Do. It.

Whatever “it” is, God is listening. God is working. God is sending. And my hunch is, he’s sending you. Whether you asked for “it” or not, embrace His sending. The power, energy, and opportunity come from Him.

Please send someone else? Nope. God’s got faith in you. In fact, he stretched his arms wide open just to reveal how much.

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Bible, Discipleship

 

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Wondering About Discipleship

WONDER
Do you ever wonder? Really wonder? Not just an average daydream or flitter of the imagination, but wonder. A deep and deepening wonder.  A mind, spirit, and soul churning wonder. The kind of wonder that keeps you up at night, or unexpectedly awakens you at 3am. The kind of wonder that catches you off-guard and holds your brain hostage. A wonder not so easily pacified, placated, or pushed aside. A wonder for which there are seemingly no easy answers; but instead, only increasingly difficult questions. A wonder void of solutions and saturated with dilemmas. A nagging. Wonder.

Do you ever wonder? Really wonder? About the deeper aspects of life. About beauty, meaning, and relationships? About food, art, and what your grandchildren will call you? About changing the batteries in your smoke alarms, how to end violence, and the giver of your eulogy? About paper, plastic, or your own reusable grocery bags? About Jesus, life, and faith? About the Bible, sin, and hope? About where you’re going (or not going) to church, or about where your church is going? About the end of the world, the economy, or whether or not the sermon will go over the allotted time limit? About your job, your kids or the job you don’t yet have or the kids you haven’t met yet? About where you’re eating after church, or whether or not you should sit through Sunday School, too?

Do you ever wonder? Really wonder? More specifically, have you ever asked yourself or people you care about the following question: “Is this all there is?”

Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’ve asked silently in your mind. Maybe your head hurts and you are tired of reading already. Regardless, “Is this all there is? Could there be more to this life out there somewhere?”

Let me explain: with a story.

CHRISTMAS BASKETS, A STOP SIGN, AND DISCIPLESHIP
As the sermon continued, I walked into the foyer looking for a water fountain. Unexpectedly, I made eye contact with a friend I had not seen in a while. Sheepishly, he “quick-smiled” me while “mall-walking” after his 3-year old daughter who was skipping through the wide-open meadows of the foyer. After watching him catch her from behind and simultaneously catch his breath, I wandered over and we exchanged pleasantries. He remarked about how he was glad to run into me. Through various life experiences over the past few months, he had come face-to-face with several difficult questions; and for whatever reason, felt like he should ask me about them. Until now, he had put it off, but seeing me flooded his mind with them again.

So, we noticed an open classroom and took the conversation inside. He continued by telling me a story.

“At Christmastime, last year, my wife and I volunteered to help with our church’s turkey basket giveaways. Each year, we pitch in canned hams, green beans, corn, rolls, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies filling up 5-10 Christmas baskets, and we give them away to struggling families in our town. Excited for the opportunity to participate in something meaningful, we agreed to deliver 3 of the baskets to pre-determined families.

During our first two stops, we shared wonderful exchanges with each family. Smiles, hugs, and ‘thank yous’ were plenty, and we received way more in terms of being uplifted and encouraged then we were able to offer. While still swapping and retelling stories of our first two encounters, we drove off in search of the third house. As we approached the curb out front of what we thought was the third house, we realized a discrepancy with the address. As a result, we drove up and down the street checking each house number to ensure we had not made a mistake like copying down the address incorrectly or incompletely. At a loss, we called the coordinator of the Christmas baskets to explain our dilemma. She verified the address, and we responded by telling her that the house did not exist. A mistake was made somewhere along the way, and we were not sure what to do next. Eventually, she suggested that we give the basket to someone we knew that was in need and would be blessed by such a gift. Great idea! Relieved, I thanked her for the wonderful suggestion, hung up, and quickly explained the action plan to my wife. In an accomplished tone, she responded, ‘Fantastic! Why didn’t we think of that?’ With renewed inspiration, we sped away.

As we approached the first stop sign, I asked, ‘Honey, to whom should we take the basket?’

‘What?’ she retorted, ‘I hoped you already had somebody picked out. I’m not really sure.’

So, we sat there at a 4-way stop. In the dark. In the cold. The engine hum and heat blasting from the floor vents were the only sounds we could here. We thought and thought and thought and thought.

In reality, we probably sat there for 2-3 minutes, but it felt like 2-3 hours. Finally, in desperation, with tears welling up in my eyes, face-to-face with the obvious, I admitted it. Out loud.

‘We don’t know any local person or family in need of this Christmas basket. In fact, we don’t know any needy person or family at all. Period.’

In a swift attempt to completely squeeze the pain out of the car, my wife responded, ‘Why don’t we go home, leave the basket out on the counter, and think some more about whom we could give the basket? Surely, we’ll come up with someone.’

‘Surely,’ I responded with dejection. Feeling close to the size of an ant, I shifted the car into drive and turned for home. By the way, the Christmas basket still sits where we left it that night…on the counter by the door to the laundry room. We even put the rolls and pumpkin pies in the freezer for safe keeping. There’s just one problem: it’s June.

How is this possible, Chris? My wife and I have gone to church most of our lives. We show up on time, give our money, and have even taught Sunday school classes a time or two. I’m just left wondering, ‘Is this all there is? Could there be more to this life out there somewhere? And is our lack of knowing anyone in need of a Christmas basket evidence that we are missing out?’

Not only that, but I’m left looking at myself in the mirror here. Who am I? Wasn’t Jesus a poor, homeless person? I am claiming to be one of his followers and I don’t know any poor, homeless people!

I’m really beginning to wonder over this one, Chris. I’m asking myself hard questions, and not having any fun in the process. I mean, I go to church. I know a little about the Bible. I love Jesus. But…do I know him or just know some about him? Do I just know what he is like, or am I becoming more and more like him? Am I truly…could I be described like…you know…a disciple? Am I really a disciple of Jesus?”

MAKE DISCIPLES
On September 12, 2011, Mike Breen, Director of 3DM (www.weare3dm.com), published an article on his blog entitled, “Why the Missional Movement Will Fail.” In the article, Breen proposed discipleship as the engine of the church that powers the car of mission. Paragraphs 3 and 4 read, “So, what is the engine of the church? Discipleship. I’ve said it many times: If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples. If you’re good at making disciples, you’ll get more leaders than you’ll know what to do with. If you make disciples like Jesus made them, you’ll see people come to faith who didn’t know Him. If you disciple people well, you will always get the mission thing. Always.” (author’s emphasis)

CRISIS
This is not specifically about missional church. It is very much so about discipleship, and in agreement with Breen (and others), I am suggesting that the church finds herself in the midst of a painful discipleship crisis. As Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch state in their book, ReJesus, “…what is the church if not a community of disciples, of people devoted to following Jesus?” Is that not the crux of our crisis? Can we truthfully describe ourselves this way? If we are to live out our identity as the church, we must be a community of disciples growing daily in devotion, likeness, and followership of Jesus. Of course we stumble, fall, and find ourselves off track. However, I am attempting to struggle with discipleship at a much deeper level. Is this the overall, all-of-self, all-of-us posture of our hearts? We sing in the Chris Tomlin song, “Jesus, You are all to us,” but do we really breath, eat, drink, and sleep the possibilities and probabilities of growing in devotion to Jesus?

WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
We cannot avoid this discipleship call for as Bonhoeffer reminds us, “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” Christianity must include the living Christ. We know discipleship to be difficult, necessary, and impossible without God. And there is hope.

Just like my friend from the story shared above, many people have been hit with the unpleasant reality of their own relationship with the Lord, and they are searching for answers. That’s encouraging, because it seems that the Spirit might be stirring a hunger within them…within us. In regards to discipleship, most of my friends are asking the following two questions: 1) “What does discipleship look like, and 2) Where should we begin?”

***How would you answer one or both of those questions?***

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Discipleship

 

Dark Night Before the Dawn

Lost. Wondering. Embarrassed. Hurt. Spent. Right or wrong, that’s how I felt.

“Did you really lead us into this to leave us dirty, immobile, and pining for water?”

Many many moons ago, I was a youth pastor. Yes…I was an envelope pusher with spiky hair: loud, (too) energetic, impulsive, and, of course, technologically savvy. Every summer, our group took a trip up the side of a Colorado mountain. No toilets. No smartphones. No washing machines. No Taco Bell. And teenagers. 2 days in a church van + 1 week climbing a mountain + 2 more days in a church van = an amazing experience.

One summer, my boy, B. Sheets (or B. Shizzle…or Sheetz…or Btween the Sheets…or well, you get the idea), joined us for the trip…a trip that ended with him hiking an airplane door off the mountain. That’s right, B. Sheetzy picked up the door of an airplane off the side of a mountain and took it home as a souvenir. Apparently, an airplane had crashed into the top of this mountain years ago, and some of the wreckage set up camp. Brandon (as he was referred to by completely uncool people) left a tip, picked up the door, threw up the deuce, and walked off the mountain. Even to this day, I have no doubt he has the door hanging up somewhere…probably with a spotlight, neon sign, or gigantic arrow pointing at it.

I know how that plane felt. All the wonderment, creation, preparation, energy, time, and sweat that went into crafting such an amazing invention. Someone receiving control of its instruments, harnessing its power and beauty to achieve lift off the ground and into the sky. Soaring. Soaring. Soaring…until it all crashed into a million pieces on the side of a mountain somewhere in Colorado, so that church groups could gawk at the destruction, wonder about how the plane got there, and laugh at the novelty of a 20-something hiking off with a door as a momento.

That’s how I felt. Left for dead far from the world reserved only for analyzation by passersby. A forgotten, once-was who, at one time, had a good thing, but in the end, crashed and burned.

For the first time in a long time (maybe ever), I expressed feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness to the Lord. Well…I kept them inside for a good while, but eventually let them out. Honestly, this was new terrain for me. Given my upbringing and ecclesiological environments, questioning God was…well, out of the question. I guess no one ever said that to me point blank. However, risking God’s responsive wrath didn’t seem like a good idea.

It’s quite unfortunate, because I was missing out on a depth and complexity to my relationship with the Lord by not laying this out on the table. Ironically, I, often, do the same thing with my wife, and it never seems to get us anywhere. I pretend everything is fine when I’m actually pissed at something. Thankfully, she graciously yet sternly sees through my bull crap and cuts to the chase without cutting me down to size. She’s prophetic like that. She’s God-like like that.

During this season of life, I even wrote God a rap. Lol! Is that allowed? I forgot I penned it, but discovered it while reorganizing my @Evernote yesterday. It’s probably one of the longest raps/poems I’ve ever written, but I ain’t dropped no background beatz for it yet. What? You did realize a half Cuban, half-Iowan 30-pound overweight 34-year old father of 4 could write raps. You bettah reck-ugg-nize!!! (Check this out for footage from a recent concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GEGS1tDFGU)

Anyway, here’s the rap from my time in the wilderness…(one of) my dark nights of the soul:

RISE UP IN ME
Eventually, another song will rise up in me
But for now, I’m ’bout to hit you with this poetry
It’s flow, you see, from a guy around the block
So take stock…give a listen to what I got

Pulling skeletons out the closet
Thirsty for water but nothing’s coming out the faucet
I’m parched. I’m dry. Forgotten Supa Fly
Lost in the never-ending search: Spotify

It’s like a fairy tale without the campfire
It’s like the NBA when the Magic Man retired
It’s like First Class without a frequent flyer
It’s like the little kid without Jerry Maguire

Why try? I got nothing real to say
Spitting sophisticated ignorance everyday
Trying to move well enough along the way
It’s closing time, and I can’t stay

‘Cause Lord knows that I’m clawing and fighting
Holding on to every piece they trying to siphon
Pulled in every way. No time to reply
Alone with my reflections. Wondering why

Why the pain? Why the hurt? Why the sorrow?
Dealing with today by stealing from tomorrow
And no moral to the story just yet
Nothing but sweat, fret, and full of regret

If I was honest I’d tell you that I shed a tear
That I just put down 3 bottles of Holiday Cheer
A tough year…switched into another career
This is real not veneer

But here’s the deal: things looking kinda shaky
Underneath, my feet, kinda quaky
Wondering where do I go next
With all these insufficient funds and cancelled checks?

How’d this list of bills get so long
I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong
Bought her a dress, some filet mignon
And a ficus tree that don’t belong
But that’s not the real reason that I wrote this song
Just another attempt at staying strong

I’m really figuring out what’s next
To keep from going under from all this stress
Lord knows a “no” is what became of the “yes”
So how do I continue to give it my best?

Just what am I suppose to do?
All my pieces broke, and I’m searching for the super glue
All my ways are futile, I think I might be through
The only way out: faithfulness to You

Are You the reason that I find myself here
At this fork in the road not knowing which way to steer?
Looking up ahead through the haze unclear
Am I going straight or taking a veer?

Again,
what am I to do?
‘Cause in the end I really wanna honor You
I really want You to see
Truthfully, I want You happy with me

And this is nothing on my own to earn
I’m afraid that I’ve lost my turn
For me, a 3rd degree burn
I really have so much to learn

So, is a solution really out there?
So, does anybody else care?
Are they content to stop and stare?
Are you overwhelmed by the glare?
Yeah, I’m feeling this wasn’t fair
Yeah, I might be outta here

‘Cause to me, from day one, this wasn’t the same
‘Cause to me, from day one, this wasn’t a game
‘Cause to me from day one, through all the strain
‘Cause to me from day one, we live what we claim

Are we left with a facade?
A shard…redeemable but in the end flawed
I clawed too long to give up now
I just wonder how: I guess it starts with a bow

Or maybe that’s just how it ends
One chapter closes and another begins
The party’s over and so are the friends
I’m just afraid of starting over again

I might be a hostage of the unknown
Setting out without being shown
Trusting and hoping in what we can’t see
One day another song will rise in me

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Missing in Missional #6: 4 Ways to Live the Gospel for the Sake of Others

Thank you for checking out this article in the “Missing in Missional” guest blog post series. Below, I have listed links to all current “Missing in Missional” posts. Thanks again to Fred Liggin, Matt Maestas, Kathy Escobar, Gibby Espinoza, Chris Lenshyn, Michelle Funderburg, and (next week’s contributor) Charles Kiser for challenging us into Christ-formed action.

MiM Introduction: Chris Chappotin

MiM Part 1: Fred Liggin

MiM Part 2: Matt Maestas

MiM Part 3: Kathy Escobar

MiM Part 4: Gibby Espinoza

MiM Part 5: Chris Lenshyn

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Michelle Funderburg graciously accepted my invitation to write for the “Missing in Missional” series. Daily, she takes care of elderly friends and has a knack for proactively asking: “What good will you do today?

In this post, she offers 4 ways to live missionally allowing the Gospel to saturate and flow from our lives for the sake of others. Catch up with Michelle on Twitter and at “What’s Justice Got To Do With It?” She’s a great conversationalist!

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How often has a missionary came to speak at your church while on sabbatical from their foreign mission field? When this happens in most churches the guest missionary is looked at and treated as a “super Christian” someone who lives a life holier and more pleasing to God than the average person is capable of. It is as though some people are called to greatness, the rest of us need to accept that we are just plain old ordinary Christians. We are merely called to be “good” people.

I reject this idea. I think that we are all called to live missionally whether or not as a carreer missionary. The bible tells us, as a Christian community, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all the people. It doesn’t say that some of us should do this. Not everyone has a desire to move to rural Africa developing a written language to translate the Bible, and not everyone is supposed to do this. If we all moved to Africa there would be no Christians to reach the rest of the world. Without giving up our jobs, “normal lives,” and every day plans we can all live missionally. Living missionally requires small changes in our lives.

If we all carry a small amount of non-perishable, ready to eat food in our cars or bags it will give us something to share with panhandlers with whom we come into contact. It’s a small change in lifestyle but gives us the opportunity to share an aspect of Christ with those in need, Christ as the sustainer of life.

By age 21 most of us have already accumulated more stuff than we could possibly need. One solution to this over-accumulation is to make the commitment to replace old with new. Each time we buy ourselves something new we donate something we’ve already got. Same rule applys for Christmas and birthday presents. Living life in this way will keep us focused on being content with what we have, treating our things as blessings from God. It also keeps things in circulation for those in need, also means that you will sometimes be giving nice items away, not just the old worn out stuff that we should have thrown in the trash. The Bible does tell us that those with 2 tunics should share with those who have none. When we keep more than we need we are depriving those in need.

The next time you go grocery shopping look for all the 2 for 1 sales. Get the sale but keep only the 1 for yourself/your family. The free item should be donated to a food bank, in this way you will be following the same principle as the old for new in a way more applicable to food. Or, use the access food to invite a struggling co-worker and his family over for dinner. People in our every day lives won’t feel as much like a “charity case” if we invite them over, do things with them as they will if we show up with a bag of groceries for them to take home. Remember that God wouldn’t desire that we treat anyone with a lack of respect so in your attempt to help someone you should bear in mind that it should be done with the utmost respect for the other person as an individual.

I’m sure we can all think of many more ways to live missionally in our everyday lives. The comments section would be a great place for everyone to share their ideas so we can learn from each other.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Missing in Missional #5: Intergenerational Missional Practice

Thank you for checking out this article in the “Missing in Missional” guest blog post series. Below, I have listed links to all current “Missing in Missional” posts. Thanks again to Fred Liggin, Matt Maestas, Kathy Escobar, Gibby Espinoza, Chris Lenshyn, Michelle Funderburg, and (next week’s contributor) Charles Kiser for challenging us into Christ-formed action.

MiM Introduction: Chris Chappotin

MiM Part 1: Fred Liggin

MiM Part 2: Matt Maestas

MiM Part 3: Kathy Escobar

MiM Part 4: Gibby Espinoza

MiM Part 5: Chris Lenshyn

Part 6: Michelle Funderburg

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I apologize for the brief hiatus, but we are back with Part #5 of the Missing in Missional Guest Post Blog Series.

Today’s invitation and challenge comes from Chris Lenshyn, Associate Pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia. With his wife and son, Chris is “attempting missional anabaptist living…entrenched within the endless and very multicultural sub-urban/urban sprawl of the Fraser Valley.”

You would do well to check him out at “Anabaptistly” and @ChrisLenshyn. He is a needed, passionate, and encouraging voice for the Kingdom.

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“Intergenerational Missional Practice”

His daughter was just baptized and we had moved into the sharing portion of our Sunday morning service. He slowly stood up and started sharing about how thankful he was for our church community. It wasn’t a thankfulness for the ‘programs’ or the other churchy things. It was an ‘in your face’ genuine thankfulness for the relational investment that many people from many different age groups at many different times have given to his daughter over the course of her 18 years of life.

It was a relational investment from a community that had a very important intergenerational flair. He was thankful for the important and formative voice of experience begotten by an ‘earthed discipleship.’

Missional communities and practice need to be intergenerational.

It is easy to jump on board with the word ‘missional.’ It has hit the mainstream of popular Christian lingo. We put it in our vision statements, book titles, and even blogs in the hopes to get on board with the momentum. To be missional could even suggest that you are a cool, hip (hipster?) Christian.

In my contexts anyway and others that I have heard of, missional language and the pursuit of missional culture in churches has trended towards leaving empty nesters and seniors in the dust often pitting the ‘old ways’ of church up and against this ‘new’ kind of ‘missional church’ that ‘gets it.’

While discussions about how church is to ‘be’ are vital to participating in what God is doing in a particular time and place, a theological ostraciz’ation’ of the voice of Christian maturity is a fundamental mistake.

Missional communities across North America are screaming for good, solid, mature Christian leadership. It’s not in an insane super Christian leader kind of way, but a cry for the mere presence of maturity, participating in community and doing life together in the name of Jesus. Imagine how beautiful an earthed, incarnational (ministry of presence), intergenerational, community of missional practitioners would be.

Just as the presence of many generations in the life of the man’s daughter greatly facilitated her spiritual maturity, so too do our missional communities need that presence. The ‘earthed’ voice of Christian discipleship, fertilized over many many years will bring much value to missional culture.

The movement to practicality is important as we engage and discern what God is doing in our particular times and places. The voice of all generations’ is fundamental to understanding how to jump on board with God’s activity. Here are a few examples of what that could look like. They are fairly general in the hope that these examples would be a spring board for creatively pursuing something similar in your context.

  • Care-giving. A simple and very practical way in which to not only serve the needs of an aging population, but to build relationship. As social money for senior care-giving (in Canada anyway) is on the decline, the need for churches and missional communities to provide care-giving is becoming more and more imperative.
  • Story telling. Get a multitude of age groups together and share stories of discipleship. Stories of discipleship from a different era are tremendously important. I’ll never forget hearing from a 70 year old woman about what it was like living during World War 2 where loss of loved ones was all too common. A world completely foreign to many.
  • Serving together. There are these ladies in our church who have been making blankets for years. These blankets make it out to various places in our world giving warmth and tangible hope to many. Our youth group made blankets with them. It was a blessing to see generations’ together serving. Missional at its best and It’s been around for 30 years.
  • Share meals together. A classic way in which relate. It was a blessing for me to sit with a woman 86 years of age, who with her husband, invited 6 of us 20-30 ‘somethings’ and our kids over to her place. While our kids were screaming in the background we were talking about drug usage and the benefits of safe drug use zones.

It all speaks to building relationships. It all speaks to the importance of an earthed discipleship. It all speaks to a mixing of lived experience staring you right in the face as you converse about matters of faith, life, death and everything in between. It’s a reminder that as we seek to participate with God deep in the trenches of our contexts that paying attention to our relationships in our community cannot be overlooked. May we remember that God is at work in the many people of many different ages each offering a particular type of earthed faith experience. Missional theology and practice needs to be framed and practiced, in each our particular times and places, within the context of an intergenerational community.

Questions for further discussion;

Can you navigate between generational differences (think modern vs postmodern, liberal vs conservative etc…) to find value in the voice of experience for missional conversation and discernment?

Is your context quick to indentify the missional theology as the new ‘thing’ that ‘get’s it’ while labelling others as missing the point? Why or why not?

Where do you see the benefits of a mature earthed discipleship for the missional theological conversation in your context? What are the negatives?

This post reflects the need for intergenerational missional communities. How can we significantly value the voice and experience of children?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Pardon the Interruption

I guess we’re working backwards, but it’s really messing us up nonetheless. We’re still uncertain as to what the Lord is stirring us into; however, you are welcomed into the journey.

We started with 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker; and now, Heidi and I have jumped into her previous book, Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith (The Kindle Edition is only $1.99 on Amazon).

Below, I’ve typed out a section you need to read.

“May intentional servanthood be the basis of all mission, all benevolence, all evangelism, all sacrifice. I dream of a church that is once again called great, even by our skeptics, because our works of mercy cannot be denied. I want no part in a movement that is deemed great because we’ve adopted some exceptional qualities admired by the top.

I don’t want to be known for a great band.

I don’t want to be admired for a great campus.

I don’t want to be recognized for a great marketing campaign.

I don’t want to be praised for great programming.

I don’t want to be applauded for great theology and scholarship.

I want the church to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies. I’d like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts. I desire the greatness that comes from not just seeking mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors. I hope to be part of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, who injects supernatural wind and fire into His mission. My version of great will come when others are scratching their heads and saying, ‘Wow, you live a really different life?’ –Jen Hatmaker

Still learning,

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Missing in Missional #4

Thank you for checking out this article in the “Missing in Missional” guest blog post series. Below, I have listed links to all current “Missing in Missional” posts. Thanks again to Fred Liggin, Matt Maestas, Kathy Escobar, Gibby Espinoza, Chris Lenshyn, Michelle Funderburg, and (next week’s contributor) Charles Kiser for challenging us into Christ-formed action.

MiM Introduction: Chris Chappotin

MiM Part 1: Fred Liggin

MiM Part 2: Matt Maestas

MiM Part 3: Kathy Escobar

MiM Part 4: Gibby Espinoza

MiM Part 5: Chris Lenshyn

Part 6: Michelle Funderburg

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An unexpected text message from a number I didn’t recognize asking where we were meeting the upcoming Sunday: that’s how I formally met Gibby Espinoza. I’d heard of him prior, but we hadn’t connected.

I’d heard of his hunger and thirst for the Lord. I’d heard of his (ongoing) transformational journey into missional living. I’d watched his challenging video concerning the “least of these.”

Since that text, we’ve shared many prayerful conversations at Fuzzy’s or Rosa’s. The Spirit is at work…even in our Christendom-thick, Bible-belt bedroom suburban city, and The Gibster is definitely sensitive to the direction(s) of the Wind.

While living in Burleson with his wife and three boys (Congratulations @AceLovesTurtles!), Gibby’s working on the missional-incarnational life through working for the City of Fort Worth, growing in love and concern for his neighborhood, and discipling David, Morgan, and anyone else who comes along inquiring about Jesus.

As with Fred, Matt, and Kathy, if you are not following Gibby on Twitter, you should be: @missiogibby. He also blogs occasionally at Gibby.Wordpress.Com and MissioProject.Wordpress.Com.

Thanks, Gibby, for being an enthusiastic cheerleader for the “Missing in Missional” series, and for walking with me through valleys and over mountains.

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What’s missing in missional?

Recently I searched about 15 different church websites that indicated they were a “missional church.” What I found interesting was that 5 of 10 truly were missional in their context. The 10 that remained spoke of their missions program and of “sending” missionaries to other countries for 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months or a year. Now, at least they are “sending” people into the “mission field,” as all described the places sent. The problem with these 10 is their perspective was one of the usual missions programs, or of a church planting program that in essence was a duplication of their own church, but in another country. There were many church planting and church growth strategies, but very little dialogue about Jesus or the gospel. I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t see the missional movement as a church planting movement. I see the movement as one of being sent into a place in the world (close or far away) to immerse ourselves into a culture and plant the gospel. As Alan Hirsch says, “Plant the gospel and let the church grow around that.”

So, what do I think is missing in missional?

What’s missing is the need for leaders or pastors to not see the missional movement as a church planting movement. Rather it’s the movement of the Spirit of the Lord among a broken and deceived humanity that needs the seed of the gospel planted among them, which in-turn should lead us to making disciples that follow Jesus. Then at some point, they will identify with the mission of God by becoming a vital part of the church as it continues to plant the gospel in culture and advance the kingdom of God. One of the best current examples of this is my friends, Miguel and Claudia Labrador, living among the people in the Cloud Forest of Mindo, Ecuador.

Another thing that’s missing is the need for us to stop seeking the magic formula for being and doing missional stuff. I recently went to a one-day conference titled “Moving Beyond Missional” where Hugh Halter and Brandon Hatmaker brought the wood and smacked us upside our missional heads. It’s definitely time to move beyond missional because we understand we are a sent people. We must embrace incarnational living. This is not an easy life, but it is a simplified life where Jesus lives through us to do unto others as He would have us do to him.

Finally, I close with this. In one of her latest tweets Jen Hatmaker says, “With all the trends & strategies, don’t forget we still have the ancient ways: here is the bread & cup, the Word, simple prayers.” May we move beyond trends and strategies for planting and growing churches. May we move into our neighborhoods and live with gospel intent. May it spill over and ooze into our greater community, jobs and the world.

May we not miss the mark of missional, which leads to becoming incarnational.

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*Is there truly a distinction between planting the gospel and planting churches? If so, describe it.

*For those of you who are not professional ministers, how is the incarnational life taking shape in your context?

*Gibby talks about “a simplified life where Jesus lives through us to do unto others as He would have us do to him.” What does that look like?

Still learning,

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Missing in Missional #3: We Need More Stories About…

Thank you for checking out this article in the “Missing in Missional” guest blog post series. Below, I have listed links to all current “Missing in Missional” posts. Thanks again to Fred Liggin, Matt Maestas, Kathy Escobar, Gibby Espinoza, Chris Lenshyn, Michelle Funderburg, and (next week’s contributor) Charles Kiser for challenging us into Christ-formed action.

MiM Introduction: Chris Chappotin

MiM Part 1: Fred Liggin

MiM Part 2: Matt Maestas

MiM Part 3: Kathy Escobar

MiM Part 4: Gibby Espinoza

MiM Part 5: Chris Lenshyn

Part 6: Michelle Funderburg

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Campfires, water coolers, front porches, status updates, paperbacks, and Season 3: Episode 5. We all love a good story. Sometimes, we create; and sometimes, we escape. Sometimes though, we learn. About ourselves, about others, about humanity, and about the One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. The Story.

“Missing in Missional #3” with Kathy Escobar invites us into storytelling with the reminder that our narratives are unfolding within The Narrative.

Kathy co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic beautiful faith community in North Denver. She serves as an advocate for friends in hard places, spiritual director, teacher, and event facilitator. She’s passionate about community, the marginalized, healing, spiritual transformation, equality, justice, “church,” relationships, diversity, and learning to love and be loved.

To catch up with Kathy, check out @kathyescobar and KathyEscobar.com.

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A few months ago Chris Chappotin asked a question to a few of us on Twitter–“what’s missing from the missional conversation?” I’m not the best twitter-er in the world, but I did respond with the first thing that came to my mind: more real stories.

There is much being written about why missional living is important, the theology behind it, the reasons why we are compelled to be Christ’s hands and feet. This is awesome work and not to be dismissed because it is motivating people to get out of the pews and actually live the Bible instead of talk about the Bible.

At the same time, as someone who’s been living in the trenches for a chunk of years now, sometimes I wish I heard more real stories about what it’s really like down here. More honest stories about the cost. More raw stories about what it feels like to live in messy, incarnational relationships that are tiring, hard, and make us want to run for the hills.

I’d love to hear more stories that addressed:

The pain of incarnational living. How confusing it is when people who are already down and out and struggling to make it through the day get dealt brutal blow after brutal blow related to their health, finances, and circumstances. What it’s like to sit on the edge of our friend’s bed after being hospitalized yet again as they cry out “Kathy, why does God hate me so much?” What it feels like when our friends die, taking their own life or dying suddenly, leaving behind orphan children and we’re their only family. What the ravages of mental illness can do to beautiful children of God and how little tangible relief they get this side of heaven.

The frustration of incarnational living. How hard it is when we know the resources exist in our local community, but they are being channeled to church building campaigns and pastors’ big salaries. How we don’t even need money, we just need other brothers and sisters in Christ willing to be advocates and friends and journey alongside hurting people but they’d rather not get their hands too dirty. How some days you wonder if it really matters, all the time and energy and love being invested in change.

The cost of incarnational living. How some friends wish we could be more normal and not care so passionately about the ways of love. How much money and security we lose when we choose this path. How our families and children are affected by all this pain so up close and personal. How much it hurts when we love deeply and freely and then people just walk away from us without so much as a thank you.

These stories need to be told more freely, more honestly. I don’t think we hear enough of them. They are not a sign of our lack of faith or calling or mission. They are not something to be ashamed of or hidden. They are about real life down here in the muck and mire and beauty and glory of incarnational living. These kinds of stories would help a lot of us feel less alone, less crazy, less doubting-it-is-all-worth-it. These kinds of stories would help sustain and encourage us because they are the kind we can relate to.

But alongside these hard stories, I’d also love to hear more stories that flesh out and honor the beauty and hope of incarnational living.

Stories about what it feels like when we see God’s image restored in our friends, when heads are held higher and shame loses its power.

How glorious it is when broken marriages are reconciled and families are strengthened.

The beauty of men and women finding their voices for the first time in their lives and advocating for themselves.

The hope that comes when faith is renewed or people begin to believe that maybe God really does love them.

What it feels like when a woman leaves an abusive relationship and chooses life and freedom for her family.

When hope begins to be more present than despair.

When needs get met in community without anyone having to ask.

How having a safe space to tell our real story can heal broken hearts right before our very eyes.

How it is all worth it when we see friends shift from selfishness to serving others, too.

There is so much freaking beauty down here. I have days where my breath is taken away, where I witness miracles right before my very eyes (I have developed completely a new definition of miracles in these past few years and now I see a lot more of them!)

Where there’s no place I’d rather be.

When I believe in Jesus like I’ve never believed before.

Where I am overwhelmed with gratitude and hope.

Stories remind us we’re not alone. Stories remind us God is working despite the costs. Stories remind us that this is what following Jesus really looks like, feels like, is.

Yeah, I think the Missional conversation needs more stories like these.

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*What stories is the Lord burning within you…stories that need to be told? Click below and share.

Still learning,

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Missing in Missional #2

Thank you for checking out this article in the “Missing in Missional” guest blog post series. Below, I have listed links to all current “Missing in Missional” posts. Thanks again to Fred Liggin, Matt Maestas, Kathy Escobar, Gibby Espinoza, Chris Lenshyn, Michelle Funderburg, and (next week’s contributor) Charles Kiser for challenging us into Christ-formed action.

MiM Introduction: Chris Chappotin

MiM Part 1: Fred Liggin

MiM Part 2: Matt Maestas

MiM Part 3: Kathy Escobar

MiM Part 4: Gibby Espinoza

MiM Part 5: Chris Lenshyn

Part 6: Michelle Funderburg

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Day 2. Missing in Missional. Let’s go!

Today’s reflections were crafted by Matt Maestas. Matt’s the Church Planting Strategist for the Flint Hills Baptist Association and the Church Planting Pastor of De Soto Community Church in De Soto, Kansas. He holds undergraduate degrees in Organizational Communication and Philosophy, both from Tabor College, as well as a Masters of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He grew up in picturesque Green River, Wyoming, and enjoys driving repairing his beloved 77 Ford Ranger named Fernando, reading, and all things coffee.

Matt and I have shared several Twitter exchanges concerning “the missional,” and as with Fred, if you are not following him (@mattmaestas), you should be. You can also catch up with him at Maestas Matters.

Thank you, Matt, for your perspective on “Missing in Missional,” and this contribution to the conversation.

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A while back my twitter friend Chris Chappotin asked a great question about what is missing from the Missional Conversation. In response to that he asked if I would be willing to be one of many who responded in a blog post, briefly detailing my thoughts.

While their is certainly much room for conversation about what is missing; in my context as both a church planting pastor and a church planter strategist, there are two areas where we could stand to do a bit more thinking. The first is how the missional conversation/movement engages in a rural setting and the second is, what is the place of theological education in the missional conversation/movement. Since each of these warrants their own attention in a separate post, we will begin in reverse order.

The Place of Theological Education
I had the privilege of attending and graduating from Midwestern Seminary here in Kansas City. The professors, by and large, at Midwestern are top notch scholars, each of whom care deeply about their field of study and communicate with a passion and clarity that is second to none. I could spend the next several hundred words waxing eloquent about how each class I took, with very small exception, instilled in me not only a greater understanding of God and His Word, but also a more reverent humility. To be completely honest, of all the classes I completed there were only 1 or 2 I would consider not worth the time or effort. Yet, while my time at Midwestern did many many things for me, both as a follower of Jesus and one who serves the local and regional church in a vocational way, I can say without hesitation that it did not prepare me adequately to be a missionary into culture. Rather, the bulk of my theological education focused on preparing me to be the CEO or manager of a multi-tiered religious organization.

Mission was presented as an arm of the church, rather than its organizing principle. Disciple making was discussed in terms of program and curricula and not apprenticeship in the way of Jesus. Little time, if any, was given to how it is that this Gospel we believe and proclaim should change the communities in which we live, other than in the strictest evangelistic sense of personal conversion.

The remedy for this predicament in my opinion is two fold. First, there needs to be a re-purposing of sorts on behalf of schools of theological education. Too often our Christian culture is prone to reaction rather than pro-action, and our schools are no different. While there are some exceptions to this, namely Northern Seminary and their offerings in Missional Leadership, most of our schools are continuing to offer the same course of study they have for decades. While the doctrines of our faith and the confessions we hold should remain for the most part unchanged, the way we prepare to impact the vast lost-ness into which we are called should always be evolving in response to and anticipation of the culture milieu we encounter on a daily basis. How can we expect the people we shepherd and share life with to live as the sent ones of God if we as their leaders don’t have a framework for this ourselves?

Secondly, there needs to be a realistic expectation on behalf of those choosing to attend a seminary or Bible college of what they are getting themselves in to. Many of the men and women I sat beside in class viewed seminary as their meal ticket to an inside job with air conditioning instead of a trade school meant to provide them with skills and tools to fulfill their calling more effectively.

So in conclusion, what place does theological education have in the missional movement and conversation? My hope is a prominent one! As schools of higher learning commit to devoting more of their required courses towards preparing students to be missionaries into culture; and as more students view the time spent in study as vocational training in the best sense of the word, then another great era of mission sending could be upon us. However, if schools continue on the same path, and students with the same attitude, my fear is we will continue our trend of becoming more and more monolithic and more and more in danger of losing our voice and potential for lasting and meaningful change.

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Thank you for joining “Missing in Missional.”

*What does effective missional permeated theological education look like?

*How could seminaries embrace a marginal and missionary role within a post-Christian culture?

*Who is doing missional theological education well?

Still learning,

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Discipleship

 

Missing in Missional #1: Embracing Tension in Mission

Thank you for checking out this article in the “Missing in Missional” guest blog post series. Below, I have listed links to all current “Missing in Missional” posts. Thanks again to Fred Liggin, Matt Maestas, Kathy Escobar, Gibby Espinoza, Chris Lenshyn, Michelle Funderburg, and (next week’s contributor) Charles Kiser for challenging us into Christ-formed action.

MiM Introduction: Chris Chappotin

MiM Part 1: Fred Liggin

MiM Part 2: Matt Maestas

MiM Part 3: Kathy Escobar

MiM Part 4: Gibby Espinoza

MiM Part 5: Chris Lenshyn

Part 6: Michelle Funderburg

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Welcome to Day #1 of the “Missing in Missional” journey. After realizing a few common connections through DFW’s Mission Alive, Fred Liggin and I began corresponding via Twitter. When I posted the “What is missing in missional?” question, he was first to respond.

Fred is Lead Minister of Williamsburg Christian Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. He has a deep love for God, His Gospel and His Kingdom way of life. Fred is also passionate about seeing God’s people learn what it means to participate in God’s mission as everyday people in everyday places who offer tangible Kingdom-expressions of love, mercy and hope in everyday ways as they develop Gospel-centered, Kingdom-shaped lives.

If you are not following Fred on Twitter, you should be. You can also connect with him at http://www.fredsforehead.com. Thank you, Fred, for your thoughtful and personal contribution to this series of guest posts.

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Being on mission with God is an every day thing. It happens in every day places and every day ways through God’s every day discipled-people. After all, the discipled-life is arranged by mission. It sees the world through a different lens. It doesn’t see people as projects, but rather affirms their worth as God-made beings and engages them in love, for God’s sake. The discipled-life also understands that Jesus did good for others simply because He is good, so it seeks to do the same. Better yet, the discipled-life seeks to walk with and enjoy Jesus daily while remaining on mission with Him. It is in that sense that mission happens in every day places, in every day ways through every day disciples.

So what about Sundays? What happens when God’s people gather to affirm His worth, celebrate His redemptive work, exalt His name, and consider how they might stir up one another for love and good works? Ah, that is where the rub is found in the “missional conversation.” And this is where I am beginning to think the false dichotomy is perpetuated.

For some folk, a church gathering is an event, and events, due to their seemingly impersonal nature, are not “missional.” They are “attractional” because they say “come to us and we will (fill in the blank).” I find this curious. Here is why.

In my neighborhood we have developed some dear friends. Each one of these relationships all began with a chocolate chess pie or some cup cakes baked by my wife. Seriously. The single mom next door looked like she could use a good dessert for her two teenagers, so my wife baked it and I delivered it. We did this because we care and wanted to help. But we cared because God’s Spirit within us produced fruit that moved us to care. So you could say that we care because Jesus cares first. Either way this led to a friendship that led to her coming to know Jesus which led to her joining our community of faith called Williamsburg Christian Church. Our other neighbor, a family of three generations living in one house, began similarly. Except our relationship with them began with a grill out, and now centers around dinner parties, fishing trips and outings to the park–events. Some of these events have included only our families while some have included many of our friends from the church. Through these events my dear neighbors have met some of God’s every day disciples who never view themselves as disconnected from God’s mission. My neighbors weren’t the objects of the event. Being together in God’s love was the object. Our hope was that His love would stir all of us, including them. These type of events were absent of devotionals or praise songs and involved only hamburgers, hotdogs and hospitality. But what if we had another type of event where devotionals and praise songs were present? Would that be any less “missional” given that the same people were present?

I have come to see that being on mission with God is a lifestyle that often culminates into various forms of gatherings and events, all of which are due to their function, missional. So why are we so quick to pit these “missional” activities/philosophies/churches against “attractional” activities/philosophies/churches? Perhaps it is the tension present within the form and function of these events.

No doubt an event can become event-centric and lose it’s original purpose or focus. I think this happens because when planning an event you try to give it your best. And if God is at the center of the gathering or love is its purpose, then the best effort is necessary because both God and authentic love is anything but mediocre. The struggle is found in trying to keep your original purpose or focus front and center throughout the process. Therein lies the tension. Sadly, many fail at this and lose focus and therefore become more concerned with throwing a stellar event. But does that mean that the event is the problem? I think it means that the people behind the event merely got off course. Holding true to purpose and focus while organizing a meaningful event creates this tension.

So, the missional camp notices this or experiences this and naturally seeks to resolve the tension (which was probably never viewed as such) and throws “attractional” under the church bus. Yet missional churches plan events, just like our faith community in Williamsburg. Tragically, I think we have over-reacted and in an effort to be purists missiologically and ecclesiologically, we have created a false dichotomy. We have become dangerously close to playing the part of the Pharisee by creating our own fences around what it means to be a healthy church on mission. Instead of embracing and discussing the tension in the Church’s various forms and contextual nuances, we have sought to resolve it by establishing “camps” and circumventing unhealthy dialogue. Once the tension is gone we are often left with division, cynicism, apathy or ecclesiastical self-righteousness and confused disciples on mission.

Here is my simple suggestion: embrace the tension and keep the conversation going. Remember that as a disciple you are called to make God’s Kingdom tangible in every day ways while on mission with Him in every day places. What is true for the disciple is true for groups of disciples, i.e. churches. Lets just keep the tension ever before us. This will offer us the freedom to give our best in planning God-honoring heart-stirring worship gatherings, throw bangin’ parties and other events, while still engaging people on relational levels before, during and after. I think if we were to do this, we would adequately embrace the tension found between our need to both gather and scatter, in all it’s ecclesiastical forms. And who knows, we might eventually eliminate the labels of missional and attractional and just be the Church.

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Thank you for joining “Missing in Missional?”

*How are you experiencing and navigating the tensions Fred’s discussing in your ministry context?
*How is the Spirit opening opportunities to initiate and develop relationships in your ministry context?
*Where does this “gather and scatter” conversation need to go next?

Still learning,

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Discipleship

 
 
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