Some news regarding the Dukes family and the Westpoint Church family.

Jen and I shared some life-changing news this last Sunday morning at the end of our gathering.

We tried as best we know how to communicate that we sense a leading from the Holy Spirit to be sent by this awesome church family which we helped initiate and with whom we have walked these last nine and a half years in order to equip and lead a local church family elsewhere. It was with a profound ache in our hearts but with a peace we don’t understand that we shared this news, and we are grateful for the loving, affirming encouragement we have received.

When we started Westpoint, we started with the full intent of growing old with Westpoint. We were not looking to leave. We were not pedaling resumes. We have over the last year sensed an unsettling in our hearts that we could not explain. But we are very surprised to even be writing this, much like you might be surprised reading it.

Long story short is that someone recommended us to be considered for lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Booneville, MS. It happens to be the church family of which my brother and his wife are a part, which is not in and of itself significant except to say that is how they knew who we are. We know that we will be stretched to lead a beautiful people in a culture like which we have never led before. We pray that we will be able to equip and love and send a people eager to make disciples, live on mission, and equip future leaders to go and be the church from the most churched state in the country, Mississippi.

We have a peace in our hearts. We have sought the wisdom of a multitude of counselors. We have been affirmed in personal prayer and study of scripture. We look back and see some spiritual guideposts via a few relational experiences and God-sighting circumstances over the past year for both Jen and me. We have had so many people with the church family there who have prayed for a pastor to lead them to live sent locally and around the world. We have had the fervent prayers and full support of our elders. We simply feel like God is saying that He wants us there.

We don’t understand. But we have a peace that we don’t have to. It is hard to even proclaim excitement. But we have a sobriety that in past experiences has always indicated God’s presence in the midst of something.

We are sobered by the notion of moving our family there to learn the ways of Jesus in a whole new context as well as to think and live like a missionary among a people who are so familiar with the stories of the Bible they often find themselves, without intending to be, complacent and self-sufficient. And we sense the Spirit whispering as we lean in close that we have encouraged the church here in Central Florida to live sent, and now He wants us to encourage His church in Mississippi to do the same.

I will also continue to write. I will still continue to support and serve church starters and missionaries in Montreal, Quebec in partnership with NAMB. And I will begin exploring relationship with Mississippi Baptist church starting leaders as well as exploring partnership with the Launch Network for new churches.

The bottom line. We hurt at the thought of leaving. And the culture of Westpoint isn’t one in which there would be hurt for leaving SOMETHING, but rather SOMEONE. We hurt to leave the beautiful, caring people with whom we have been being the church together and living sent daily. Who have cheered with us over the births of our children. Who have stood beside us during the accident of my parents and the death of my mom. Who have supported us as we have tried to equip leaders both here and around the world. Who have endured so many long-winded teaching times on Sunday mornings. Who have prayed with us for the continued growth of our marriage. Who have welled up with joy with us at the continued growth of our family. And who have simply been our friends. Loving. Gracious. Forgiving. Beside us.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We have a little time left together before we would move. It looks as though our last Sunday with Westpoint would be July 7th. We would then load up and move the following week. We hope to soak up this time with you between now and then.

As far as Westpoint goes, may she be even more committed to loving as we have been loved and living on mission unified by togetherness around sentness. Westpoint is led by a strong, Spirit-led pastoral team and vision team who are equipping others to think and live like a missionary here. A transition team is being pulled together to lead Westpoint during this transition on into the future of whatever God has for His local church here. They will begin exploring options and be regularly communicating with the Westpoint family.

In case you might be wondering – what about Jason’s dad? Doesn’t he live here, too? Well, he is moving to Booneville, as well. And as you might expect, he is grateful for how God would bless him during this season of his life to be in a town that contains both sets of grand kids. Twelve in all (at least for now). Both sets of parents are grateful, too.

Regarding Jen’s family, Jen and I will miss the blessing of living so close to them here in town. We will miss them very much, but they have been and continue to be so supportive and very affirming of this calling to equip in a more traditional setting.

Please pray with us as we transition. Thanks to all who have been praying and encouraging us through this decision.

-Jason and Jen

Get the free ebook – “Say No to Discipleship?!?”

So grateful for the Exponential leadership team and the ebooks they have so generously offered over the last year. So grateful they would include one that I have written entitled Say No to Discipleship?!?

You can get your free copy by clicking here and choosing one of three sharing options.

It is worth connecting with the Exponential email blast that goes out. Such great equipping tools they share week to week. Hopefully the new ebook will be worth leaving them an email or posting on Facebook or tweeting out. :)

Much love.
-jason

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Check out SENTkids.com (aka MissionalParenting.com)!!!

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May I invite you to check out SENTkids.com. It is a brand new resource we launched two weeks ago to help equip moms and dads to grow kids with grace and send kids with gospel. The hope is that parents will send their children off to college as disciple makers rather than just moralists.

Surf the site. We kicked it off unpacking the four suggestions from the “suggestions” page over the first four weeks (two more to go). We will not only be sharing thoughts and stories and resources, but from time time you can enjoy guest bloggers offering their perspectives. Expect posts every Monday and Wednesday and Friday. Also, be looking for three to five ebooks free as encouraging and equipping resources to parents.

Comment with suggestions or any feedback.

Hopeful this will be a meaningful resource to help families live sent together and to equip moms and dads as they cultivate into the hearts of their children the gospel of the God who came near.

Much love.
-Jason

A hymn I wrote this weekend. “i Need You.” I so need Jesus. So grateful He graciously came near and stays near.

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i need You.

You didn’t need, but were compelled.
To share communion, love, and worth.
The Word existing beyond the now
Breathed life in dust, brought heaven to earth.

I think I need more than You gave.
Delight in more. Discontent. Ongoing strife.
The Word made flesh one time You came
Resurrection needed. My untombed life.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Need forgotten. Accolades.
Pride swells. Favor won.
You were already proud of me
Not my own merit. But Your Son.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

Help me remember. Keep believing.
My independence no longer chase.
So unaware how much I need You.
More gratefulness for Your grace.

I need You. Lord I need You. Every breath I need You.
You’ve blessed me now my Savior. You came to me.

We need You. Lord we need You. Every breath we need You.
You’ve blessed us now our Savior. You came to us.

“Triangle. Square. Arrow.” Three shapes metaphorically shaping our lives. A poem I wrote this last weekend.

Triangle. Square. Arrow.

Father and Son and Spirit in unity and love together.
Love can’t be held in a box.
Love is compelled to give love.

Time. Space. Earth.
Garden. Man. Woman. God.
Love sends beloved to enjoys what’s been made.

Man. Woman. Choice.
Serpent. Tree of life. Tree of more. Woman decides.
Love mercifully sends away selfishness to die.

Covenant. Geography. People.
Multiply. Bless. Tree of more again. Divide.
Love graciously sends then restores.

Legalism. Licentiousness. Emmanuel.
Rome. Jews. Authority. Disturbance.
Love selflessly buries selfishness then rises.

Live for self. Live for God. Live WITH GOD.
Believing. Confessing. Depending. Restored.
Love, as Sent One, now sends beloved.

Listen. Learn. Love.
One Christ. One mission. One church. One another.
Love given together to neighbors and nations.

Groom. Bride. Wedding.
No more evil. No more tears. No more death. Hope no more.
Love welcomes beloved as intended, fully restored.

why SENT life? why TOGETHER? And a link for some resources for those who are or know those who are depressed or struggling in silence with mental illness…

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Can I give you three reasons why walking in SENT life with a few others is so crucial to both our own salvation as well as others experiencing Christ’s saving grace?

One _ because without intimate relationships, can we really learn the Gospel? I am not sure it is possible. In order to actually learn the good news of Jesus coming near to us as well as the security that Gospel bears upon my self-perception as well as the compelling love that Gospel moves me to give freely into my everyday friendships, I need community. I need the exposure of my weaknesses that an environment of intimacy provides. I need the edification of my becoming who Jesus is making me to be that the encouragement and sharpening of others offers. I need the tastes of conflict and grace and forgiveness and restoration and growth. This interaction provides me the space to believe I am fully loved as I walk with an otherwise selfish group of people who are uniting around a forever, selfless Love.

Two _ because without life together, how could I know when someone’s life is falling apart? Isn’t it irrational to think that some professional clergy can discern when a congregant is depressed just because he or she shows up for gathering on a Sunday morning? Isn’t it ridiculous to assume that one “church member” could know how to meet the need of another “church member” without walking in deep friendship together. Very few people cry out for help. Rather, they isolate themselves either to come out again when they hopefully feel better, which may never come, or to die a slow, lonely death. An emphasis upon community and a reorientation of our otherwise busy, suburban lives toward SENT life together is necessary in order to discern when each other is hurting. It is necessary in order to reach out and touch and care and simply be there to help. Jesus modeled this both with those seemingly healthy as well as those showing signs of dysfunction. Both the lost and the found. He lived like family with those who weren’t His literal family. He loved even the least of these.

Three _ because without each other, how can we live sent? This has often been a criticism of the live sent message we have emphasized – when are we gonna care for one another? The answer is found in the new command of Jesus from John 13:34-35. There, Jesus makes it clear that others will know we are His disciples (insinuating they would thus witness a glimpse or taste a small portion of “on earth as it is in heaven”) when we have love one for another. In other words, we love each other as we are going in daily life loving others. We care as we are caring. These small groups of people living SENT life together become family pictures in the here and now of what God’s family will be like in the not yet. A glimpse of Kingdom found in little pockets of Kingdom all across the community.

Jen and I are not doing this to the fullness with which we would like. We are learning, too. But we are becoming more and more convicted that SENT life with a few is essential for us to learn and live Jesus, for our marriage to embody the gracious, Gospel love, for our kids to see the reality of resurrection life, and for our neighbors to experience “on earth as it is in heaven.”

It also frames the purpose of our Sunday gathering. We gather to equip for the sending together. Nothing more. And it frames the motive of our together generosity. We give time and money and muscle because we want to share what we have found to be worth giving up everything else for. The pearl of the Kingdom, here and now.

May we not expect this to come as easy as a sign up sheet. May we look for and initiative SENT life with a few from the Westpoint family and then together with a few of our everyday neighbors.

This is the church.

The intention of Jesus for His people. The mission to which He is calling His church to exist for, not the mission that He is asking His church to add on top of everything else that we do.

May we think and live like missionaries in Lake and Orange Counties, family-like pockets of “on earth as it is in heaven” who happen to value and appreciate gathering together to be encouraged and equipped at an elementary school on Sunday mornings, gracious environments of friendship who generously give themselves away into one another as well as into neighbors and nations.

Love y’all. Praying to learn how to live this as well as equip for it better.

-jason

A BIG PS FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT BE HURTING _ the exponential network posted a blog post with resources and links for those depressed or struggling with mental illness who are ready to ask for help. In light of Pastor Rick Warren’s son taking his own life this last Friday, we pray for those hurting right here among us. Hope these resources help – http://blog.exponential.org/2013/04/mental-illness-resources-for-the-church/#more-5696