Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: a few insights from an attorney friend living sent in the marketplace.

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Continuing today sharing some insights from a friend, this time about how he is cultivating daily in the marketplace. Rod is an attorney and a good friend of mine. I am very grateful not only for his friendship but also for how he encourages and challenges me to live to help others know that they are loved by the God who came near.

Below, my questions are in bold. Rod’s responses in italics. Hope they encourage you and others you know who are cultivating the near love of Jesus daily at work.
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:: why do you think it is important to cultivate the near love of Jesus daily in the marketplace?

Because He asked us to do so. Jesus wants us to love our neighbors, like the good Samaritan. In other words, love those that are on our paths. For those of us on the path daily in the market place, we need to cultivate love where we are.

:: what are two examples of how you have done this?

Being that I am a lawyer, I will give a general response to this specific question. At our firm we try to regularly engage in bible study together, to pray for each other and to allow our respective lights to shine. I think it is important for every Christian leader in the marketplace to try to encourage an environment that results in people feeling comfortable to share their Christian values, and at the same time, foster a loving environment that for those that are not Christian, they too would feel loved and encouraged. (How about that for a lawyer answer!)

:: what are three encouragements you would give to someone wanting to live sent in the marketplace, understanding the challenges that come with it.

1. Remember that you play to an audience of one. You should be less concerned with what those around you may think about you and strongly consider what He thinks about you.

2. Keep an eternal view. I think Solomon or one of those old testament guys said this life is all smoke. What we do in this life matters, but only in as much as it effects our eternity.

3. You never know what impact you could have on someone on your path, what you say and do can change someone’s life.

Thanks Rod. Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Family: @GHGuthrie shares 4 suggestions for cultivating the near love of Jesus into your family…

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing some guest insights from folks whom I have asked to share four suggestions for cultivating daily into family, into neighbors, into the marketplace, unto the nations, and for the sake of unity, respectively. Today the suggestions come from husband, father, professor, Bible scholar, avid reader, and all-around great dude – Dr. George Guthrie. Make sure and check out Read the Bible for Life as well as Reading God’s Story, both works that He either authored or compiled and invaluable resources as we all continue to learn and live the ways of Jesus in the daily rhythms of life.

He was my professor and mentor in college, is my friend, and will be a blessing to you I am sure as he has always been to me. I asked him for four suggestions for cultivating the near love of Jesus into family, based upon what he and his wife lived and did with each other and their kids. Thanks Dr. Guthrie for doing that.

Here is what he shared:

1. Cultivating space for our relationships with the Father. The good news is that God wants to know us face-to-face and has paid a price to make that possible.  Among other dynamics, the new covenant involves us all knowing God.  So, we have made time with God priority for us, and we have taught our children to have such time as a normal rhythm of life.

2. Cultivating our family relationships with gospel conversation around the table. As family members we also need face-to-face time with each other, and meals tend to be a great time to communicate. For our family, we have seldom done conversation about the Bible as a program; such conversation has tended to happen naturally as an outgrowth of our individual times in the Word. Our children have consistently asked sincere (and sometimes very difficult) questions about the Bible. The conversation is in the air we breathe as a family.

3. Cultivating our hearts and minds with good media. When the children were small, they were only allowed to listen to “Jesus music” (e.g. Michael Card’s “Sleep Sound in Jesus” CD) or the Bible (either in dramatized form or just being read) as they fell asleep at night; they did watch or listen to other types of materials at other times. We really worked at only allowing age-appropriate movies as they were growing up. We placed strict limits on video games. On the other hand, we have made reading central to our home (rather than a TV).  We and our children have been exposed to lots of great theology and stimulating stories that have developed our thinking about God, the world, and ourselves.

4. Cultivating space and resources for ministry to others. Ministry in and through the church has just been a normal, consistent part of our lives. We have involved our children in giving from their earliest days. We constantly have people in our home, either to live with us for a time, or to feed and minister to them for an evening (we currently have 15-20 students over for a meal every-other week). We are not naturally great at cultivating relationships with our neighbors and still are learning how to do that more effectively, but we have tried to develop an “others focused” mentality for our family.

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Thoughts? Questions? If you do have questions for Dr. Guthrie, comment here and I will ask him to interact with you when his time allows.

Hopefully these suggestions have encouraged you as you cultivate daily into family.

-jason

Cultivating Daily for Unity: yesterday, I posted a post that included thoughts on the important of unity to Jesus. See more of what I’m thinking here…

Yesterday, I posted a post that included a lot of language about unity around mission and how important this is to Jesus. So important that He prayed for it specifically in the Garden of Gethsemene:

18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 21 May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. 23 I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:18-23, HCSB)

Well, I genuinely am not one to try to pimp a book I have written, but I thought it important to share with you that in case you want to read more of my thoughts about unity around mission and why this matters in the work of God among us, you can do so. I wrote beyond MY church, because I felt led to share a message that had big-time wrecked me and the local church expression I am grateful to pastor.

CLICK HERE to go to the book’s website. CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from one of the chapters. CLICK HERE to download chapter one for free.

Hopefully this will share more insight on why I am so burdened to see Southern Baptists along with all followers of Jesus come together around the mission of God so that the work of God will come alive among us.

Or like my friend @JonTyson says, to see “on earth as it is in heaven.”

May we follow Jesus, listen to Him, and cultivate whatever He leads us to cultivate so that “on earth as it is in heaven” may come in our cities.

Hopeful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily unto the Nations: a comment about the #SBC name-change thing, a group whom I believe definitely cares about the nations…

This past year, a team was formed to research alternatives and make recommendations for a new name for the Southern Baptist Convention (the SBC). The announcement from this team’s findings were released Monday night. The recommendation was NOT to change the legal name of the the SBC, but rather to offer an alternative name for churches and leaders to use along with the legal name. That alternative name recommended is “Great Commission Baptists.”

Now, some of you may not have even known that my background is Southern Baptist. I grew up in the home of a very gracious, authentic, loving, wise Southern Baptist pastor. He has served with the New Orleans Baptist Seminary since the mid-70s. His humble and authentic following of Jesus alongside his faithful commitment to serve and train Baptist leaders is probably a very significant reason why I still associate in Southern Baptist networks and even pastor a local church expression that participates with our local Baptist association.

And if you know anything about the SBC, you know that historically we have emphasized three things: the Bible, the Great Commission, and the autonomy of the local church. We assert that the Bible is the living, inspired Word of God to be held sacred and taken seriously as God’s story of His everlasting love displayed for us through Jesus and a cross. We assert that the Great Commission is a call on every follower of Jesus to make disciples among neighbors and nations, baptizing and teaching in the ways of Jesus. We assert that the local church is autonomous, held accountable because of relational association with other local church expressions. In its purity, the SBC is not really a denomination. It is simply a very intentionally focused and cooperative group of local churches unified around the mission of God to love as Jesus has loved us. At least ideally.

The two main reasons, at least as I saw them, that the SBC was even looking to change our name were very understandable:

  1. the founding of the “Convention” was in the context of affinity around slavery, something the “South” historically is remembered for.
  2. 21st century partnerships and ministries throughout North America and around the world that are not in the Southern USA have had difficulty communicating with locals in their contexts why they are connected with the SBC, and it has even been a hindrance at times (according to what I have heard over the years).

These are good reasons. Might I add another that is important to me.

We also need a name change because our current name does not speak to our purpose.

Our current name does speak to our geography. It does speak to our baptist affinity. And it does speak to our convening. But it does not speak to our purpose.

Our current name also says several things without stating them directly. Our current name reminds us of our founding past, for which we officially apologized in a recent summer convention. Our current name declares our distinctiveness, often unfortunately exclusiveness, because we are more apt to work only with Baptists and give Baptist stats for the needs we perceive rather than cultivating for “on earth as it is in heaven” in the cities where we live. Our current name implies our convening and cooperation, but most leaders if you asked them would assert that we cooperate less in unity than promotion would indicate.

Thus, the team was formed to research options and make recommendations. And they did.

Here’s the concern I have with what was recommended. It was not bold, clear, and intentional, in my opinion.

First, it was not bold because the reason given for offering the alternative name while keeping the legal name was that it was a safe approach to a very risky proposal. I cringed when I read that. Safe? Not risky? This is not the stuff of movement and mission and transformation. Furthermore, I am concerned that disunity and territorialism could potentially increase from some local churches calling themselves GCB and others SBC. This is detrimental to the cooperation that we promotionally declare as a value. The indecision of this alternative name is especially unfortunate during a year when Fred Luter, a black pastor from New Orleans and someone I respect greatly, will likely be elected President of the SBC. This will be the first time a black pastor has walked in this leadership role. This is a bold move that declares hearts of reconciliation and cooperation and a new day in the life of the SBC. The media will have something of cooperation and reconciliation to report. Hopefully, the potential disunity and bickering that follows over a nickname will not diminish this historic event.

Next, even though the words “Great Commission” are in the alternative name, it concerns me that this new suggested name will not be a clear description of our purpose. Why? Because there are so many different labels and definitions given to the Matthew 28:18-20 verses commonly titled “the Great Commission.” Some say the Great Commission is evangelism. Some say it is missions. Others assert that it is discipleship. Might I suggest that all of these alone are wrong. It is very clearly a call to MAKE DISCIPLES, as this is the only subject (an understood imperative “you”) and verb (make) and direct object (disciples) in the three verses. Three modifiers go along with this directive. “As you are going” is commonly translated into English as “Go.” “Teaching” is commonly translated into English as “teach.” And “baptizing” is commonly translated into English as “baptize.”

The implication is that we are to go and live out the ways of Jesus together among the lost. Jesus will go with us there. We are to with Him and together with one another (John 13:34-35) love people so that they might see the near love of God in and through us and thus desire to become a learner of His ways along with us. We are to MAKE new followers then learn His ways as they also make disciples among the lost of our culture. Our togetherness in love and unity around mission brings growth in our own loves as we love the lost and lonely. This is not evangelism alone. It is not missions alone. And it is certainly this intellectual, self-development mechanism that we have labeled “discipleship.” It is simply making disciples.

Making disciples among the lost would indicate a more Christ-centered approach to what is normally called “discipleship.” Indicative in this understanding of the Great Commission are three crucial elements of mission: (1) that Jesus spent the bulk of His time living out the rhythms of the Kingdom among the lost, (2) that discipling happened for Jesus in 100-plus week relationships, not just 10-week studies, and (3) that the church must move beyond being LEARNED in a classroom to being LEARNERS in the daily.

Could this be the Great Commission. Until we as the SBC become clearer about this, we will not be a unified around mission kind of people. Fortunately, however, God does this really cool thing called sanctification and makes use of our love for Him and for others in gracious, miraculous ways anyway :)

Finally, this alternative name is not intentional, in my opinion. When I talk with young leaders, there is a more and more common sentiment and more and more impassioned desire for what Jesus prayed in John 17 – maturity of oneness around the mission Jesus gave to us. Unity. I was really hoping that this new name suggestion would not only call us to a unified purpose, as it did with the words “Great Commission” (but again that needs to be clarified), but that it would also rally us as Great Commission Churches rather than Great Commission Baptists.

Prioritizing unity would be evidenced by ministry strategies that included a vision for “on earth as it is in heaven” in a city rather than success for one local church, an effort that included all Christ-centered leaders and ministries of a city rather than Baptists only, and a result that decentralized strategy-making beyond clergy into the daily rhythms of followers of Jesus together in homes, schools, offices, and communities.

Just yesterday, I was reminded of limitations that “Baptist money” creates for our churches and organizations who are funded by Cooperative Program giving. There may be a non-Baptist leader who is loving the lost and seeing amazing transformation in a context, but because he or she is not baptist, we can partner with them in significant ways to cultivate the Gospel and see new local church expressions blossom. Why? Because we say that we have to stay distinctive as Baptists to honor the “baptist money” given. Well. we may want to reconsider, and remember that it is God’s money, not Baptist’s.

And Jesus prayed for “on earth as it is in heaven.” And it goes without saying that Baptists will not be the only ones in heaven.

So, why this long diatribe about something on which I normally avoid even making comment? Because I genuinely felt like this name change was an opportunity to rally us all together, remind us of our roots, and call us into the future to grow in unity around the mission of the God who became Emmanuel.

Isn’t that what the Bible teaches as Jesus’ intent for His church? Isn’t that what the Great Commission demands, if I take the Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31) along with the “New Command” (John 13:34-35) along with the Great Commission along with the story of “on earth as it is in heaven” (Acts) coming alive among a very disunified world (Jews and Gentiles) brought together by the transforming love of Jesus (Ephesians 2)? Wouldn’t that turn heads – otherwise self-absorbed local churches uniting together in a city to love the people of the city together in hopes of seeing new followers of Jesus?

Bible. Great Commission. Associational, unified autonomous local churches.

Sounds pretty baptist to me. More importantly, sounds like what Jesus might want.

May we be willing to lay down all that is SBC in order to take up all that Jesus intended. May we be committed as unified followers to this mission that to me is very clear. May we be catalysts as Baptists for the work of God in our respective contexts, not just preservationists of Baptist ways.

After all, if we are honest, we have been talking about being Great Commission Baptists since those founding days in that southern city of Augusta.

We shall see. But we shall not see if leaders like you and me spend all of our time in blog dialogue and not enough time cultivating the Gospel together with all its implications among neighbors and nations.

So I’ll stop here…

Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily in the Marketplace: Would like to hear from u – what makes living sent in the marketplace difficult?

Enough of my writing for a change :) I want to hear from you if you have the time to share a few thoughts. Here are the questions:

  • What makes living sent in the marketplace so difficult?
  • What do you notice to be some of the hindrances and fears? 
  • And can you share a story that might encourage others?

May we persevere as we cultivate daily the near love of Jesus in the marketplace, loving others as He has loved us.
-jason

Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: @RayOrtlund suggests that “Gospel. Safety. Time.” are essential for healthy, functioning church families. Being neighborly matters…

When I read the following article, I had many interesting reflections. One of them was simply how essential these three vital rhythms are for church families to actually love our neighbors. It is a post by Ray Ortlund on the GCM site, neither of which I know much about, but I do know that this article is worth the read.

Enjoy. Be challenged. Be encouraged as we cultivate daily…

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GOSPEL. SAFETY. TIME.
It’s what everyone needs.  Everyone.  Gospel + safety + time.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the present power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No finger-pointing.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.

Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  No rush.  No hurry.  But a lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  If we relax, trusting in God’s patience, we actually get going.

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s the only way anyone can ever change.

Who doesn’t need that?

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Dr. Ortlund is Lead Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. You can click here to read the article at its original site.

May we live the Gospel with one another, live loved and secure offering a safe environment for grace to abound. May we be patient as Jesus is making us all to become His church as He intended.

Grateful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily Valentine’s Week: are you unmarried but wish you were? wish Valentine’s Day would fall into the abyss of hurtful, lonely days? You are not alone…

Maybe you are unmarried or not even in a relationship that indicates you are at least a baby step closer to marriage, but you really wish you were. Then all this Valentine’s Day stuff happens, and the loneliness that you endure is highlighted with every email and e-card and cheesy Valentine you see. Facebook posts about undying love sting. Flowers smell less sweet. And even those color-dyed, sugar candies with messages like “kiss me” become annoying rather than cute.

If that’s you, you are not alone.

Believe it or not, I know some folks who are married and feel the same way. Having a mate close to you who is not close at all can be very lonely, too.

I don’t pretend to know how you feel or understand your current pain. It has been over 13 years since Jen and I tied the knot, and I am so grateful for her. But I do hurt for you. I have thought about you this week. I have hoped that you will remember that you are loved, even worth dying for, to a God who has come near.

Now, I am not throwing that out there in a cold, Christian-cliche kind of way. I promise. That’s not intended to be some cure-all salve for your heart, or some “suck-it-up cause you are supposed to be more spiritual than that” kind of message. I sincerely mean it. I pray that you actually believe that, because I have found in the different seasons of my own personal loneliness that remembering that Jesus actually does love me and thinks I am worth dying for is about all that I had to help me endure.

Enduring loneliness is so hard. Hope remains only when hope is believed. Perseverance is strengthened only when a persevering love is present. And focusing your thoughts on what i true is about the only thing that reorients the abstract reality of profound loneliness toward the Emmanuel-reality resurrected unto us in Christ.

The verses that I memorized and quotes over and over and prayed over and over in my own personal loneliness were Philippians 4:4-9. I wanted to share them with you here hoping they will offer encouragement to you.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

May our minds dwell on what is true and real and beautiful, not on the lies and abstractions and ugliness and fears that we tend to imagine for our future when we are walking in the darkness of loneliness.

It will not be any easier, but it will likely lead you down a destructive path unless you let your mind dwell on His imagined future for you rather than on your imagined future.

I hope your future will include a beautiful, difficult, worthwhile marriage. But even if it doesn’t, I pray that you and I both will never, ever, ever forget that to Jesus we are worth dying for.

That’s the Valentine’s Card otherwise known as the cross.

You are loved. I know, I know. You are lonely. But you are not alone. Again, this is just a reminder. A compassionate one.

I pray that somehow in some specific way that this weekend will include a significant reminder of that truth and a near embrace from the God who put on skin to come near.

Much love.
-jason