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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Two quotes and two exercises that might help you lose the “wait” toward oneness in your marriage…

Hard to believe March 1st is tomorrow. That means the Sunday morning equipping focus for the Westpoint Church family moves on from the letter “E” to the letter “N” of the SENT emphasis – “NEIGHBORING.” This next teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” We will walk through four Scriptures in the Gospel of John as we consider the implications of God coming near to us. Looking forward to a special Easter season!!!

And here is the final Spouse Beach Diet weigh in! Even still, I hope you and your spouse will continue to give energy and effort to the diet and exercise of marriage together. To wrap up the month, consider the following two quotes and two questions together. Take some time on an upcoming date night or late night coffee at home to thoroughly discuss them. It may be just the workout you need to continue to lose the “wait” toward oneness and to go with God together on the intimate, beautiful intended mission of your marriage.

First quote…

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

QUESTION _ if the Gospel is not just something you trusted one day for conversion but everyday for abundant life in Christ, AND if the Gospel is something that is embodied more than just intellectually received, then how might you and your spouse need to center the Gospel more in your marriage? How is it absent from your relationship (in ways that you treat each other)? How would it be displayed to one another if Gospel was more central to your relationship?

Next quote…

“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

QUESTION _ How are love and truth playing a part in your relationship? How might one or the other be missing? HUSBANDS – is your wife certain that, like Christ, the one thing she will always be able to count on is your love and your presence? WIVES – is your husband encouraged and affirmed in the ways that you communicate your needs, or is he discouraged and torn down? How can love and truth draw you closer toward each other? And how, if applied, might it transform the way you communicate with each other?

Hope this is a meaningful and fruitful exercise, even if it is hard, even if it hurts. Please remember that difficult does NOT equal bad. Often, in fact, it equals becoming. In the context of marriage, often it equals becoming one.

Much love.

-jason

What is the mission of your marriage?

Time for our Spouse Beach Diet weigh in again this week. Have the daily suggestions been helpful? Hope so!

This coming Sunday, the series concludes with the question – “Are you eating your way together into the Kingdom of God (aka what is the mission if your marriage)?

Marriage is not just for our own good. Rather, God uses marriage both to teach us of His goodness and grace as well as to teach others of His goodness and grace as they see it embodied in our marital relationships. Gospel believed and lived and given. There is definitely a mission to marriage. Are you engaged in it together?

Alan Hirsch’s mentor told him once that he was convinced of the following:

Followers of Jesus should eat their way into the Kingdom of God

.

I am convinced he was right, if couples will use the daily rhythms of meals to invite others along with them as they learn the ways of Jesus. And the mission of your marriage could be as simple as supper and hospitality. The conversations that Jesus had over meals and the oneness His hearers experienced with God are apparent. Imagine the conversations around your table becoming just like His, and imagine the oneness you would experience as a married couple watching others discover oneness with the God who came near to love them.

May you find the mission of your marriage and go with Jesus together to live sent.

One more extra resource to share this month _ “10 ways to joyfully keep your marriage vows.”

And, just like we shared in the last three weeks’ emails, from the minds and hearts of your pastoral team, here are “28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage” (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out.

Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.”

Click here to check out what the husbands are encouraged to consider. Click here to check out what the wives are encouraged to consider.

Much love!
-jason
_____
PS _ The Northland DADDY-DAUGHTER DANCE is March 1st. If you are planning on going, reply and let me know. We will try to grab a meal together beforehand like last year. Click here to register.

PPS _ next month’s Sunday morning equipping focuses on the letter “N” of the SENT emphasis – “neighboring” – with a teaching series entitled “God became neighbor.” Looking forward to a special Easter season!!!

Picking back up on “eating” as a SENT rhythm with Jesus, consider this…

Earlier this month, I began to expound on the SENT acronym that we use among our church family with regards to daily rhythms on mission with Jesus. You can look back and see the “S” posts as well as an intro post on “E” for eating. Today, following a Christmas hiatus, I pick back up with this blog series in hopes that we will all be encouraged to live a SENT life.

Jesus spoke of Himself as the bread of life in John 6. It was a hard word to hear, and many of His disciples abandoned Him after this teaching. Lord – help us not to be among those who abandon You, but who take Your teaching to heart, or better said to stomach.

Read that narrative in John 6 by clicking here. It is in The Message. Please read through the end of the chapter. Then come back for a few thoughts and questions…

Go ahead now. Read that Scripture. It is much better than anything I write :)

Did you read it? Ok.

Notice that Jesus spoke of Himself as bread. Bread nourishes. In fact, in its purest form, unlike white bread like we eat here in America, it is wholistic in its nourishment and nutrients. That nourishment gives life. So does Jesus.

Are you being nourished on Him?

Before you dismiss this as elementary thinking you are aware of this simple teaching, let me ask it another way – are you expecting anything else besides Jesus to offer what you need for life? And yet another way – have you confessed that you cannot find life anywhere else, of your own efforts or your own participation in anything else? Yet another way – are you living free to eat of Him dependent on His generous love for all nourishment or are you still living weary with obligations that you wrongly believe God expects of you in order to have a good life?

When we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we are filling ourselves on the life-Giver.

Maybe this is why Jesus valued eating with others so much. Maybe He knew that the environment of nourishment is the most opportune and most vulnerable place for supernatural Kingdom nourishment to enter the natural flows of conversation. Maybe He knew that in filling our stomachs together we could most practically discover the essential ingredients for abundant life.

This is a hard teaching isn’t it? It doesn’t seem like enough to just want to eat with and serve with folks while you discover how near God has come to be with us, to dine with us.

Is it enough? Is He enough?

May we value breaking bread together like Jesus did.

Next time – let’s consider what Acts might really be implying when it describes the early church as “breaking bread” together regularly…

Did Jesus do Scripturing? And how might that affect our bible study habits? Read more…

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This week, we jumped into a blog series expounding on the WestpointChurch.org acronym for SENT as we try to equip folks to live a SENT life.

The “S” stands for “Scripturing.”

The last two days we have looked at some stories and practices. Today, it is the last post this week on the letter S. Let’s think further about how Jesus involved Scripture in His life and how that might need to transform the very ways we study the Bible.

First, I would suggest that Jesus both taught the Bible in public to large crowds AND spoke about God’s truths in the flow of conversation with friends. Jesus had asked a few folks to come follow Him. Simply inviting them along, He began to eat with and serve with and learn with them. The pursuit of “on earth as it is in heaven” ensued.

Those close followers saw miraculous events, and therefore kept inviting others along. And those who witnessed it further passed the word along. Before long, large crowds gathered to see Him, to touch Him, to listen to Him. But in these moments, which were fewer than the intimate times, “scripturing” was not being done by those present. Rather, they were being challenged to consider truths they had never thought before. They were being taught Scriptures.

Scripturing takes what has been taught beyond listening to the Master teacher to living with the Master teacher.

Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness. Why we don’t know. Maybe a neighboring fisherman borrowed his nets and returned them tangled for the umpteenth time. Who knows. But as they walked, as they simply were together, Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness.

Jesus stopped everyone. He called out for the Scroll Donkey. Andrew put out flares. Judas logged their waste of time and money in the treasury books. John rolled out the Isaiah scroll. They all sat down, studied the scroll, asked what it meant to them, and then went on about their day.

Right? Wrong.

They walked. Jesus encouraged. Peter considered. Jesus offered insight. Peter asked a follow up question. Jesus clarified. Peter sighed realizing he had been too harsh with his fellow fisherman. Jesus probably forgave him. Peter saw how this infinite insight translated into the daily.

Scripturing.

Second, do our Bible study habits include these friendships and interactions and gracious conversations of discovery? Or are we parsing Greek but never translating it into life?

If God intended that we only know a belief, that might be fine if you never translated it into daily rhythms. But God did not intend that we only know a belief. He is more than something to be studied. His ways are more than alternative, religious concepts.

God intended that we do more than have a belief. He intended that we believe. He intended that we do more than study Scripture. He intended that we live scripturing.

Jesus, we cannot even know Your thoughts and ways without Your Spirit’s indwelling and empowering and enlightening. So, please help us to walk with You and not just study about You. Please lead our conversations. We will listen in and hope to live out.

May we live SENT, scripturing daily.

Next week, the letter E – “eating.”

To tide you over, here is another of our families Sesame Street favorites:

So, how do I practice “scripturing?” Here are four suggestions…

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Yesterday, I introduced the idea of “scripturing.” A few stories and an encouragement for you to consider it as you live sent daily. Today, I want to ask a very practical question:

How do I practice “scripturing?”

Here are four suggestions.

1 _ personally immerse yourself in the Scriptures.
This is not just a Bible reading program. It is not just some checklist for a daily quiet time. It is imagining yourself back in the story. It is praying for wisdom to discern the author’s intent. It is becoming a learner of the Word of God, but not so that you can be learned. Rather, it is so that you can be a learner, an apprentice who then practices what you are learning.

Rather, it is sit-down time with Jesus, opening the story of Him, and asking Him to help you read it with your mind and heart and mouth and hands and feet.

I read an article one time of a guy who used so much body lotion that had nickel in it, that his skin permanently turned blue. Well, immerse in the Scriptures with Jesus so often and thoroughly and longingly that it starts exuding from you.

2 _ invite a few others along with you in the immersion.
Learn personally. Learn together. Discuss its application. Look for the transformation. Remember that His ways alive in us are not seen with a mirror but rather within community.

3 _ ask “why” and “being” questions more than “how” and “doing” questions.
Don’t forget that one side of the coin of the “good news” is that you and I are desperate for God active initiation in our lives. We tend to want how-to formulas and action steps rather than surrender and submission to the Spirit.

“Why” questions help us wrestle with the heart and mind of God. Discovery therefore results in being closer to Him, walking more intimately and reflectively with Him, our daily rhythms being shaped by His rhythm of grace. “How” questions focus us more on our own heart and mind. Discovery therefore results in attempts to do good for God that don’t always draw us nearer to Him but rather make us less and less dependent upon Him and more and more striving to improve our behavior. The former rests in the Gospel. The latter skips around it.

Growing in wisdom includes the Spirit renewing our minds and transforming our defaults toward having the mind of Christ. The “why” questions help us imagine the Scriptures alive in daily rhythms, transferring them from a small group Bible study into everyday relationships.

4 _ finally, listen with your heart and mind for the way the Spirit leads you in your conversations.
He is with you. Are you with Him? Aware of Him? Listening for Him? Submitting to His lead?

There are so many conversations within our relationships that happen everyday in which the Spirit wants to whisper His truth, wants to weave the heavenly into the very fabric of the daily. It is how “on earth as it is in heaven” occurs. It is the embodiment of the eternal. It is love shining bright amidst the selfish.

It is what God intended.

May we practice Scripturing.

Tomorrow, last post this week on the letter S, let’s think further about how Jesus involved Scripture in His life and how that might need to transform the very ways we study the Bible…

Oh yeah – speaking of the letter S, I told you this blog series was brought you by Sesame Street. Here is one of our families favorite Sesame Street short clips:

What is “scripturing” and what does it have to do with living sent? Read more here…

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This month, in order to help our church family prepare for our 2013 emphasis on SENT, I will be blogging about the four letters of the SENT acronym. One letter per week. Obviously flavoring it a bit with some Christmas cheer.

This week the letter S is for “Scripturing.” That last sentence was brought to you by Sesame Street. Look each week for one of the Dukes kids’ favorite Sesame Street short videos included below the post just as a lagniappe. This should be fun :-)

What is “Scripturing?”

The grill was hot. It wasn’t a special occasion, because they grill a lot. But one neighbor, who happens to be a follower of Jesus, had invited another neighbor, who happened not to be a follower of Jesus, into a normal rhythm of their family life. Conversation happened. A statement about marriage difficulty. A confession about personal selfishness being the cause. The Jesus-follower encourages with a simple yet profound statement – “I’m so sorry to hear that man. Marriage is tough for sure. Let me encourage you that I find in the ebb and flow of our marriage that it works well when we don’t go to bed angry and when we both fight for oneness rather than fighting to be the one who won.” SCRIPTURING.

This time, it wasn’t the child’s fault. He had actually gotten it right. But the mom, stressed from her husband leaving for work yet again with unresolved conflict between them and fatigued from carrying the load at home because her husband works too many hours, snapped at her son with a critical tongue that hurt more than a swipe of a spoon. His eyes said enough. Her heart ached with remorse. “I am so very sorry, sweetheart. Please forgive me. I snapped at you and know it hurt. I confess to you and to the Lord that was wrong and exasperating to you. Please forgive me.” SCRIPTURING.

The phone call had come. Tragedy. Unexpected. Tears. A text message followed. “I heard. I want to pay for your flight.” An email. “We will pick up your mail.” Yet another call. “We are so sorry. Will the kids and she stay here? We will make sure they have a meal and the lawn is mowed. You go. Be there. We got it.” SCRIPTURING.

All she had ever known was a family with no father. And the guy who shared her mother’s bed from time to time had a normal expression – condemnation. So her roommate in college reading about a Father who loves enough to come near and give His life – unthinkable. No words were said necessarily, except those that came in late-night talks over microwave popcorn. No verses quoted, except those that were unnoticed with no biblical address mentioned that came in normal flow of conversation. No bible study imposed, except the one she had studied in observing the living Word that was her life. But one night, between sobs, a secret revealed. She had hidden an unexpected pregnancy, confessing to having ended it with fearful heartache just the day before. Her roommate’s eyes filled with tears. No Bible was pulled out, but her warm embrace and eyes quoted the verse to her – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And that was where she realized, finally, that she wanted to be. In Christ. The Father who came near. She believed she was loved for the first time. Restoration had already been completed. Discipling had been ongoing and would now continue. Healing began. SCRIPTURING.

Are you scripturing?

May His Word come alive in our daily rhythms as we do more than study it. May we live with the Word such that He is studied in the flow of our lives.

May we learn more together. Because I believe Jesus’ life embodied this form of disciple making much, much more than the contemporary patterns known as discipleship.

Thoughts???

More tmrw…

I asked my 11 yr old to summarize a recent convo we had on living WITH Jesus rather than FOR Jesus. Here’s what he wrote…

The Three Roads
by Caleb C Dukes

We are going to find out which road is better for our lives. Living for me, living for God, or living with God. In Matthew 7, verses 13-14, Jesus says that entering through the wide gate with a road that is wide leads to viscous problems. But the narrow gate, which is tough to get through, leads to life even though it is tough. We are going to find out which road is better. The road that is living for us, the road that is living for God, or the road that is living WITH God.

If we were to live for ourselves, that would be the road to self indulgence. We would be asking ourselves, “What’s good for me?” If we went on that road we would be going our way and be thinking of ourselves. It would lead to loneliness even though we thought that it would be a good road, and look strait and smooth, it would lead to sadness. Would you like to choose that road for your life?

If we were to live for God, that would be the road of self-righteousness. We would be asking ourselves, “How can I be good?” If we chose this road, we would be going man’s way and be trying to be better than others. It would lead to being lost and not being able to find our way back home. The road would lead to disappointment. We would think that the road is strait but it ends up curving away. Would you like to choose this one?

If we were to live WITH God, that would be the road of righteousness. We would be asking, “How good is God?” If we went on this road we would be going His way. It would lead to life. The road would lead to abundance. It would be hard at first but it ends up leading to love. Would you like to choose THIS one?

The bottom line is to live WITH God. Because the road would lead to his righteousness, it would lead to abundant life, full of expectancy, full of life, and love. You don’t need to live for yourself or for God. This is the road you need – to live WITH God.

___________________________
So grateful for Caleb. And how He is learning and living with Jesus. Praying for His continued endurance and growing love.

He smiled real big when I asked him if I could use this as the foreword to my next book, which just happens to be on this very topic – that God intended to be WITH us more than He expected us to just live FOR Him.

I smiled, too. That would be pretty cool. :-)

Even though God communicated His Gospel over the course of 1000s of yrs, how would u summarize it in 140 chars or less?

Starting next Monday, I am gonna do a five day series on “the Gospel in everyday rhythms.” I would really value your thoughts over the course of this blog series, simply because how we believe the Gospel, live the Gospel together, and share the Gospel in everyday life is central to all we are as followers of Jesus.

I wanted to prime the pump by asking this question:

even though God communicated His Good News to us over thousands of years, how would you summarize it in 140 characters or less?

Can I kick it off with a very blunt statement?

God summed up this Gospel with one word – EMMANUEL.

How would you summarize it?

Parents. Have u had the “sex talk?” But when’s time for the “porn talk?” Here’s some help from @XXXChurch…

Parents. Maybe you have had the difficult “sex talk” with your kids. But when is the time for the “porn talk?” It is tough to discern.

Did you know the average age a child first looks at pornography is 11. Yep. Eleven. Wow.

As you and I pray for wisdom, here are some helpful tips from XXXChurch. And check out their PARENTS page for more tools, more info, more help.

Principle 1: You and Your Spouse Need to Talk First
Principle 2: It Is Going to Be Difficult
Principle 3:Write Things Down in Advance
Principle 4: The Earlier, the Better
Principle 5: Initiate
Principle 6: Ask Questions
Principle 7: Listen
Principle 8: Use Everyday Opportunities To Talk
Principle 9: Use Real-Life Situations to Talk About Sex
Principle 10: Talk to Your Kids Specifically and Individually
Principle 11: Have a Sense of Humor Principle
Principle 12: Talk About It Again and Again
Principle 13: Know What Your Kids Are Talking About
Principle 14: Asking Questions Doesn’t Mean They’re Doing It
Principle 15: Don’t Assume Your Kid Is Perfect
Principle 16: Patience
Principle 17: Share Your Values
Principle 18: Talk About Fighting Peer Pressure
Principle 19: Talk With Them About Reasons To Wait
Principle 20: Don’t Avoid the ‘Safe Sex’ Talk
Principle 21: Be Honest
Principle 22: Accurate Information
Principle 23: If You Don’t Know the Answer, Admit It
Principle 24: Don’t Hide Your Past
Principle 25: Grace
Principle 26: Reassure Them that Not Everyone Is Doing It
Principle 27: Remind Them that It’s Their Choice and Nobody Else’s
Principle 28: Sex Is Natural, Sex Is Fun; Sex Is Best When It’s One on One

Thanks so much to Craig and the team for all the ways you are both loving people in the Porn industry as well as helping those addicted to porn.

Christian – what is the essential message we have to share? Are we really sharing it? Please consider this…

Last night I had the privilege of hanging out with a group of Central Florida Spanish pastors. Our language barrier was less impeding than I expected it to be. Our kindredness was tangible, these broken hearts of leaders longing to see “Christians” go near with Jesus, burdened to see lost and lonely know they are fully loved. And the issue came up again.

It is an issue that has come up multiple times in conversation with leaders over these last years. The issue that we know Jesus intended His church to live sent, but why?

What is the essential message that we as His followers have to share? The message that we believed. The message that we hope others believe. And why?

Is that essential message the declaratoin that people are lost and hell is imminent and you need to choose Christianity? Is it the assertion that truth must be defended and a culture must be protected and so those pagans need to change? I am afraid that much of American church culture has mistaken that essential message to be one of or at least a derivative of these.

Hell is real. The Scriptures speak of it. I believe it. But I would suggest that Jesus lived and died and lived again to declare more than the message of hell’s imminence and the call to people to get their act together and grab a ticket out of it. He intended to give more than an alternative religion. He died to give life.

Truth is real. It is not an “it,” though. Truth is a person. Jesus needs not my strong defense for the sake of cultural preservation. Rather He asks for our selfless love for the sake of cultural restoration. This will not happen through our country’s capital. It will only happen through our respective community’s hearts. Jesus lived and died and lived again to go near with His love through His church’s going near with His love.

And maybe that is the essential message we have believed that we are now compelled to share. Could it be that simple?

The message I have believed and keep believing is that I am loved by the God who came near. The God Who did not wait for me to say I was sorry. Who did not leave me in my loneliness and hopelessness and hurt and shame and lostness. Who did not love me because I was lovable, but rather while I was still wayward and selfish and sinful and condemned did not condemn me. Who ached to give life again and was willing to lose life to be raised to life again. Who became “God with us” and asked me to go with Him, to love like I had been loved, now and forever.

Maybe the essential message we are to believe is that God loves us. Maybe the essential message He has intended that we share is simply that – we are loved by the God who made us, whom we spurned, but Who came near anyway.

Jesus, in fact, taught this to Nicodemus in John 3. God so loved the world, and those who “unbelieve” this are condemned by their own unbelief (John 3:16-18).

The two questions I have been asking friends, and for that matter that I keep asking myself as a reminder, are:

“What do you think God thinks of you?”

“Do you believe that God loves you?”

Lord, forgive us, please. Have mercy on us, please! Those of us here in America who call ourselves Your church have far too often called people to moralism rather than to You, the Messiah.

He does not want us just to live FOR Him. He desires that we live WITH Him. And He came near to restore us and invite us into that relationship.

Abundant life does not come when we live perfect and give our best. Abundant life comes and keeps coming when we live loved and give love as it has been given to us.

Sin was not worth dying for because it was the symptom of rules broken. It was worth dying for because it was the symptom of relationship broken. It is the evidence of death. It is the result of life not present, of love not trusted.

We believe we are loved and are fully secure in Him and that love compels us to love as we have been loved. That is good news worth sharing!!!

You are loved!!! You are loved fully!!! You are loved securely!!! You are loved graciously, even in your feelings of not being worth loving.

Jesus thinks you are worth dying for!!!

And why do we share this message?

Because not trusting that we are fully loved by the God who made us, believing that He is hiding something worth knowing from us, choosing to pursue what we can know rather than pursue knowing Him, that is the root of our problems. The cause of all evil. The source of our loneliness and isolation. The brokenness of humanity.

May we share His message. Surrendered. Grateful. Selflessly.

People we encounter every day do not believe they are loved and are lost, even trapped, in that brokenness. May that break our hearts like it broke God’s heart. May we remember our own brokenness that we did not fix ourselves. May we go near like He came near to us.

May the world believe in the One who was sent.

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God-that you believe in the One He has sent.”
(John 6:29 HCSB)

Question for you. Would dig your comment on the blog. Five sentences or less – What does it mean to “make disciples?”

Question for all the readers today. I would really dig your comment on the blog or Facebook.

Five sentences or less:

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS?”

I am obviously referring here to Jesus’ final words / command to His followers in Matthew 28.

Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!!!

What did we learn / notice from the Chick-Fil-A brew-ha-ha? Your thoughts?

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Well, last Wednesday and Friday for Chick-Fil-A came and went. I was blown away by so many of you responding to the post I posted last week regarding all the attention and conflict.

Some of you inquired how my visit to my favorite carrot-raisin-salad restaurant went last Friday. It was completely uneventful. I visited both the Chick-Fil-A’s near our home, and there was nothing abnormal except for the shorter line in the drive-thru.

So what did we learn from / notice about this whole brew-ha-ha? I would like to hear your thoughts. Here are three of mine.

…that most people who “appreciated” Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday cared less about same-sex marriage and more about speaking out against government officials trying to manipulate private sector businesses. People spoke vehemently on the matter.

…that GLAAD doesn’t have the influence that Mike Huckabee has. I am actually not a big fan of Mike Huckabee, but let’s just say that Dan Cathy better send him a Christmas card with a million dollar gift card in it. Better yet, I like the suggestions of some commenters on CNN.com that Chick-Fil-A should give of the proceeds toward world hunger organizations they believe in.

…that there are a lot of folks who are part of the American church that are hurting for guidance and wisdom and insight on how to relate with and care about the gay and lesbian community. Lord, give us wisdom and teach us how to love both You and people.

So, what are your thoughts? Please share.

Much love.
-jason

How do you know if a “church” is “spiritually mature?” Here are a few thoughts & suggestions on the matter…

Last month on New Hope Digital, I suggested 3 questions to challenge us to rethink our understanding of spiritual maturity. You can read the post by clicking here. I promised that this month I would offer a few suggestions about how a spiritually maturing local church might gather, live, and love together.

Let me start with a disclaimer.

The church matters. It clearly mattered to Jesus. Nothing in this article suggests otherwise. What I am suggesting, however, is that we may need to rethink how we understand spiritual maturity in the context of the local church.

First, I would suggest that Jesus did not intend for His church to speak of people’s maturity in terms of being “in church” but rather in terms of being “in Christ.”

I have heard too often people declare maturity over someone with such descriptions as “look how much she is in church” and “he is back in church.” But did Jesus intend that people be connected with His bride or with the Groom?

The real issue stems from our typical understanding of church. Church is not a place or event. Church is not a list of religious practices. Church is the restored-by-love, now-compelled-to-love people of Jesus. Those people together are His bride. He is our Groom. We live by His love, in His love, and for the sake of giving His love.

In John 13:35, Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another. Loving one another and loving our neighbors puts on display the near love of Emmanuel. God uses those daily, interactive, learning relationships to help the lost and lonely see how loved they are by Jesus. In relating with the church (the bride), they often then are moved to relate with Jesus (the Groom).

That is the burning question, then. Am I only relating with the church through its activities, or am I—in Christ—relating with the church and loving as the church in all my daily activities?

People are not spiritually mature because they are back in church. They are exhibiting evidence of spiritual maturity when they are daily living as the church.

Next, I would suggest that Jesus does not intend His church to cater to spiritually mature consumers but rather cultivate spiritually mature caregivers.

People argue with me on this one and accuse me of thinking in extremes. But read me through here. The common argument I get is that it is more than OK for the church to have programs and events that encourage and serve their own families. I agree.

The problem is that we reap what we sow. If we sow for people to be given into through events and programs, then we reap people with an appetite for that. If we sow for people to be givers first, then we reap people who give into each other as we together give ourselves away. That’s the issue. It is OK to have programs and events for church families. But is it OK if the emphasis and purpose of those events and programs are not to equip and encourage the church to live sent? Otherwise, people will constantly expect to be given into by the pastors and the programs.

The “given into” mentality results in a self-absorbed strategy that strives to keep people coming back. This certainly must be questioned when Jesus said on more than one occasion that He has sent His church as He was sent. Furthermore, that self-absorbed strategy results in attempts to make church events and programs more and more attractive to those in the church.

However, we cannot make the bride prettier than the Cross already did; and our catering to consumers is not what Jesus intended. The sick mattered too much to Jesus to focus all of our attention on the healthy (Matthew 9:9–12). Instead, may we equip compassionate caregivers who daily are living to make disciples.

Finally, I would suggest that Jesus never intended that we measure our spiritual maturity with a mirror, but rather by how we relate in community.

John recorded that Jesus commanded His followers to love one another as He loved them (John 12:34–35). John then, in his three letters, expounded on that command.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
(1 John 2:7–11 HCSB)

This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother.
(1 John 3:10 HCSB)

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.
(1 John 4:7–11 HCSB)

The person who “has been born of God and knows God” loves. Our maturing in Christ is evidenced by our love. Our love cannot be on display when in front of a mirror, sizing up whether we were good enough that day or whether our efforts were “holy” enough. Our love is only put on display when walking with and in a community of people.

For far too long, the American church has measured spiritual maturity by personal goodness on display rather than God’s goodness on display. Jesus avoided a compliment about His own personal goodness (Luke 18:18–19). So should we. God’s goodness, however, is displayed when an otherwise selfish group of people unify to daily grow together becoming, by His Spirit, a transformed, selfless people.

We must be very cautious to consider the church-attender and Bible-toter and fish-on-the-car-displayer with all good appearances as spiritually mature. May we remember how loved we are, live secure in His love, and let His goodness be on display as we love generously daily.

Don’t forget. We will never be spiritually mature this side of heaven, but we can certainly be spiritually maturing. And that journey of becoming will be characterized by grace, belief, confession, trust, learning, and love. A group of people becoming in those ways and giving themselves away together—now that would be a spiritually maturing church.

As followers of Jesus, should we show up at Chick-Fil-A today or Friday? A few thoughts… #chickfila

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Earlier this month, Dan Cathy made some comments on marriage and family in a Baptist Press interview that were quite possibly taken out of context by those who affirm same-sex marriage. Moreover, the Baptist Press probably mis-titled the interview in order to get more readership by stirring up controversy. Whether the article was titled poorly is a matter of interpretation I guess. Whether Cathy’s comments were intended to be a shot across the bow toward those in the gay and lesbian community can only be cleared up by Cathy himself. Nonetheless, what those who follow Jesus should now do about it is what I would suggest we need to seriously consider.

May I suggest three specific actions for all of us, both those who have adamantly spoken out from the gay and lesbian community as well as those who consider themselves religious conservatives, but especially all of us who profess to follow Jesus.

First, may we be gracious rather than gregarious. Webster defines “gregarious” as “tending to associate with others of one’s kind” in the sense of only socializing with the people of one’s own tribe or colony. Jesus was not gregarious. In fact, He took significant criticism for not being gregarious (read Matthew chapters 8 through 11). Unfortunately, human tendency is to be gregarious. Both of the opposing sides of the same-sex issue tend to associate only with their kind, and the result is typically a declarative imperative rather than a conversational viewpoint. Protests rather than relationships occur. A culture of grace is rarely displayed.

Next, may we look for opportunities to love others rather than lash out. Jesus said to love your enemies (Matthew 5). Now, I am not suggesting that the opposing sides of this issue are actual enemies. However, they are perceived as such and often act as such. For this reason, I am suggesting that those who say they follow Jesus, who say they love Him, should obey His commands (John 14:15). Jesus taught and modeled love for others. “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). Paul asserted that we are to put the interests of others above our own as Jesus did, not even holding tightly to what was His right or what He deserved in order to be a servant of all of us (Philippians 2:3-11).

The only people whom Jesus lashed out against were those whom He called hypocrites (Matthew 6). It was a word derived from the actor’s guild in Tiberius near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus referred to the religious leaders as actors who were putting on a religious show but were not actually relating with the God of their religion. In some cases they were exploiting God-worship for personal gain (John 2), and in other cases they were proudly displaying how pious they assumed themselves to be (Luke 18). In either case, they were not loving others as much as they loved themselves. May we not be hypocrites.

Finally, may we have ongoing presence rather than only making presentations. It seems that both sides of this issue have become well-versed in declaring their own stories, making their own presentations, even staging their own protests. Mike Huckabee declared on his TV show that today (Wednesday, August 1st) should be “Appreciate Chick-Fil-A Day.” This was in response to the uproar from the gay and lesbian community regarding Cathy’s comments. In essence, Huckabee called all those who stand against same-sex marriage to go out today to support the chicken chain, one that our family happens to frequent. At the same time, the gay and lesbian organization GLAAD has called for national protests today along with a “same-sex kiss day” to be held this Friday, August 3rd, at all Chick-Fil-A restaurants across the nation.

Presentations rather than presence.

Presence would actually mean relationships. I wonder how many of those who will go to Chick-Fil-A today to support the restaurant have a homosexual friend whom they have ever respectfully conversed with about their sexual preferences. I wonder how many who will represent GLAAD with public displays of same-sex affection have ever had public displays of friendship with a conservative evangelical.

To love someone, presence is required. Relating WITH someone is what is imperative. The presentation someone wants to make of which someone is trying to convince another cannot be held in higher value than that other person with an opposing view.

I would suggest that one of the most underestimated aspects of loving someone is simply valuing their story, actually wanting to hear what they have to say. We want to tell our stories rather than listen to someone else’s. We want to value our viewpoint rather than actually try to see from someone else’s. Jesus modeled the opposite for us when He partied with Matthew (Matthew 9), when He went to the house of Zaccheaus (Luke 19), and when He conversed with the woman at the well (John 4). His hope was to show them they were loved and let them respond to that love. It was not just to try to show them they were wrong. You can declare to someone they are wrong with a presentation, but you can only show someone you love them with presence.

THE BOTTOM LINE
I am going to go to Chick-Fil-A on Friday. That is, I am going to go there unless I am in the hospital meeting our newest little one who is due Saturday. If you follow Jesus, I would suggest that you go that day, also. Not to try to counter-protest, but rather to converse with the protestors. Possibly create a friendship. Offer a bottle of water. Maybe even have a meal together, even if it is at another restaurant near that Chick-Fil-A.

You can read CNN.com’s article that prompted my writing this post by clicking here.

Is it “family OR mission,” “family AND mission,” or “family ON mission?” Challenging thoughts from @Mike_Breen

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God definitely seems to be using Mike Breen‘s experiences in Europe to encourage and influence our future experiences as the church here in America. Below is an excerpt from a post Mike wrote earlier this year regarding the above title. It is worth the read, and I would dig your comments for sure.

Praying we will grow in wisdom as individuals and families living on mission together focused on what really matters to Jesus.

How our kids translate and interpret what it even means to follow Jesus depends on it.

Much love.
-jason
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Sacrificing Mission on the Altar of Family?
by Mike Breen

Here’s the problem. For far too long, many of us felt we were pushed into having to make this false dichotomy: Is it family OR mission?

Rightly recognizing we shouldn’t sacrifice our families, we started to put some healthy boundaries in place, but also some unhealthy ones. So we started to compartmentalize. But I believe it’s part of the progression. So for many of us, this is now the question of our time: Is it family AND mission?

But when we learn to integrate our life and live well as a people participating in the mission of God each and every day and as we listen to the mission God is calling our family to, this is the next progression: Is it family ON mission?

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READ THE ENTIRE POST and the litany of comments by CLICKING HERE.

Is it a leader’s responsibility to get everyone in the same boat or equip the many boats on the river to move in the same direction? Read more…

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Unanimity is not unity.

But unfortunately lots of leaders buy the lie that they should get a grand vision and inspire great people to get on board of their personal dream and accomplish good stuff together.

Let’s all get in the same boat.

The energy is focused on a vision and on consensus. The product is typically one of three results, at least as I have seen it:

(1) People buy into the vision. They get on board. Everyone’s energy focuses on one vision. Some good stuff happens. But the effort is centralized and usually not reproducible without large amounts of resources and often leaves people inspired without the margin to even pay attention to the dream growing in their heart.

(2) People buy into the vision. They get on board. Everyone gets bogged down trying to come to consensus around that one vision. Dissension occurs. Divisiveness happens. The leader blames people for standing against a grand idea, describes it as some form of “attack” or “persecution” or “purging,” and goes with the group that sides with the leader to try it again.

(3) People buy into the vision. They get on board. Everyone focuses on one vision. Some good stuff happens. But the leader gets prideful. Things fall apart as the leader burns out or gets depressed or falls into self-destructive choices.

Maybe there is another option.

What if the leader led by serving? What if the leader believed in the respective dreams of people in their daily rhythms? What if the leader equipped people in their relationships and ideas rather than tried to rally everyone into personal relationship and the leader’s idea?

This would be the equivalent of trying to swim out to everyone in a boat on the river in an effort to encourage and equip people to sail in the same purposeful, intentional direction. There would be a need for shared leadership so that the leader doesn’t drown. One mission rather than one vision. One grand purpose rather than one great idea.

And no more “all in the same boat.”

The latter might actually produce multiplicative results that could be lived / implemented anywhere?

Every metaphor breaks down. Strengths of this suggestion? Weaknesses? Concern? Comments?

Praying we will grow as leaders who lead people rather than enlist people.

Much love.
-jason

3 questions to encourage us to rethink “spiritual maturity” as “American Christians”

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New Hope Digital asked if I would write a series of four articles on “rethinking” certain facets of our spirituality as lived out among American Church culture. The second of that series is entitled “3 Questions to Rethink Spiritual Maturity.” The premise of the article is itself a question – do we need to rethink our understanding of spiritual maturity as it is typically thought of inside American church culture?

Here are the 3 questions I pose:

1. Are we thinking of a “spiritual” person in defining terms as “a spectator of what is supernatural” or “a participator with the One who is supernatural?”

2. Are we thinking of “maturity” as a finished goal or as the journey of becoming mature?

3. Are we thinking of “spiritual maturity” as evidenced by knowledge and accomplishment or by wisdom and love?

Read the full article and leave your thoughts / comments / rebukes on the New Hope site which you can get to by CLICKING HERE.

Much love :-)
-jason

discipleship: thinking process not program

What is “discipleship” anyway? A local church family in our community branded their whole children’s ministry area as a ship called the “Disciple Ship.” Pretty cool looking and well-thought-out and hokey-corny all at the same time. 

There are a lot of church families who still set aside a night a week for what used to be called “discipleship training.” Various names describe this time. Didactic teaching defines it.

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is epidemic among church culture in the US. We have made “the Great Commission” given to us from Jesus into nothing more than a program we can package and sell and pull off in 2 hours or less on a Sunday or Wednesday. This is not “discipleship.”

So, what is it? Well, technically speaking, the word “discipleship” doesn’t even exist in the Scriptures. In fact, the very word itself implies a programmed sort of approach, a ship we get on or in so we can participate in something we know we should participate in but would feel better about our participation in it if we actually had a program that applauded our accomplishment in that area. Kind of like bipartisanship and fellowship and sportsmanship. All three are important and necessary, but all three have programmed emphases that supposedly help people do what they should simply be doing naturally because it is that important. 

You might say, “That’s semantics.” No it isn’t. Language is important, and if we want something to be more than a program, if we want something to be more about process, then we need to emphasize it in our language. Jesus did. He spoke of “discipleship” not in terms of “discipleship,” but in terms of “discipling.” All of those participle words that end in “ing” imply process. An ongoing emphasis is there when you see that suffix on a word. And it matters cause it matters enough to be doing it and to keep doing it. 

And so, we are officially renaming this chapter from this point hither unto forth – “discipling – it was always a non-linear, relational, releasing process.”

And it has always been the central purpose of followers of Jesus. As much as it may hurt some people’s feelings, missions and evangelism are not “The Great Commission.” Jesus described missions as serving anyone and everyone everyday, not just once a year. And, Jesus never divided the concepts we call “evangelism” and “discipleship.” In fact, he seemed to speak of the two as parts of the same process. He called that process “discipling.” And he said that “AS WE GO” in everyday life (not just “go” programmatically or scheduled), we should be discipling. 

So, what is it? I want to suggest this basic definition that I believe has profound implication in all of my daily living. Discipling is learning and living the ways of Jesus so that others learn and live His ways, too, so that others learn and live His ways, too, and so on. Discipling is all about proclaiming the message that God has come near, mainly by living like He actually did. As we live His ways, we show His love by how we come near as a friend to the people around us everyday, not only through some service project. That’s how other disciples are made – they catch it as we do life with them.

Thus, it is a process. However, it is not and must not be simply a linear process. It is instead a very fluid, ongoing process. 

It must not just be about “assimilation.” I suggest this, because getting everybody who visits a worship gathering on Sundays into some program to get them “plugged in” and learn “how we do church around here” has become the goal of “discipling” for many church families. Four-class membership classes can be helpful. Don’t get me wrong. That may be helpful in certain contexts. I am simply suggesting that kind of programmed emphasis has too often left us with two very unhealthy results. 

First, an assimilation emphasis (or a linear process for discipling) has too often resulted in an end of a “discipling” program rather than a beginning of an ongoing discipling process. Leaders too often give energy into this program rather than into equipping and releasing multiple followers. Those released then engage and disciple multiple friends and hopefully followers to also do the same, and so on.

Second, in that programmed emphasis, we have created linear processes that have in turn created what I will call an imaginary readiness line. When Jesus said, “Come follow Me,” He did not then say, “…and take these four classes so that you shall be ready to be a leader and lead others unto Me.” This has become an unintentional result of this programmed and linear process approach, and has thus resulted in somewhat sterile and timid followers who think more classes might be necessary or they won’t know what to say or what to do right so that people can “get right” with God. This is not healthy. 

Jesus did certainly do life with those that He called. He certainly did teach them. It could even be argued that He had a flow of what He emphasized with them. However, I would suggest it was a constant “ebb and flow” rather than a linear flow that has a beginning and an end. 

Jesus taught His followers over time. He did this in the middle of relationship with them. He did this in the middle of a process that allowed them to learn and live, to be served and to serve, to have both theory and practice. He released them to connect and engage and learn and live and lead others to Him immediately. 

It is easy then to conclude that discipling is a process, a multi-tasking kind of process which has as its core value the necessity of doing life together. Since there is not a set, linear process, or at least I am suggesting as such, then what is the process like? 

I would suggest three elements. These three do not flow from A to Z. They have more of that ebb and flow. Each may be involved at any one time, while all may be involved at any one time. It’s kind of fluid like that, kind of messy like that, kind of unpredictable like that. Kind of like doing life together. 

A first element I would suggest for the discipling process is relationship. Every aspect of learning the ways of Jesus and living the ways of Jesus is both validated and authenticated inside relationship. We were made for togetherness. We are stifled when we are alone. The church is people following Jesus together, not an individual. Relationship is paramount. 

Discussing the teachings of Jesus requires relationship. In fact, I have seen so often that true transformation happens in the midst of ongoing relational dialogue. That’s evident in the discipling process for those who walked face to face with Jesus. 

Accountability for living out the teachings of Jesus requires relationship. Our culture pretends that hierarchical structures encapsulate accountability, but forced or enforced accountability is not true accountability at all. When I do something for someone because I have to rather than because I want to, or when I am motivated by obligation rather than love, that is not accountability as described in the New Testament. It is not based in reciprocal relationship. It is not based in love. It is not based in common purpose with the goal of unified restoration and growth. It is you do something for me or you are fired or don’t get paid, etc. Accountability doesn’t really exist, at least as modeled by Jesus and described in the New Testament, apart from relationship.

Multiplicative results for discipling cannot happen without relationship. Multiplication in the literal sense, of being fruitful and multiplying, can only happen within relationship. In the figurative sense, the necessity for relationship is the same. If we are to see “disciples made,” then we must engage people in genuine friendship. Multiplication cannot be programmed. It happens. It blossoms. It is a product of relationships that flourish and have purpose. When we befriend someone, our agenda must be more than just “adding” them to our church membership. Rather, we should walk with them in such a way that they taste and see the love of Jesus, that they witness His ways lived out, and such that they learn His ways and follow. This “happening” of multiplication becomes exponential when it is not constrained by programming standards. It becomes exponential when relationship allows it the freedom to blossom.

A second element I would suggest for the discipling process is discernment. Unfortunately, this element of discipling is often left out within programmed discipleship. Discerning where someone is at spiritually and where someone is going with their life is not required in programmed discipleship. You can simply plug someone into the linear process. Problem is what results is a stifled disciple, which is actually an oxymoron. Let me explain.

As followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit resides within us. Jesus spoke of the many ways having the Holy Spirit matters in the daily life of a follower as recorded in John 14 to 16. Paul follows that with some pretty insightful teaching in 1st Corinthians and Ephesians. John also elaborates on it in 1st John 5. Among the many aspects of what the Spirit does in and through us is discernment. 

As we engage people in relationship, we need not only think, “What are the five steps I must take this person through so they will now be a disciple.” Maybe a better approach would be to pray something like this:

Holy Spirit, please give me discernment into the heart and life of my new friend. Give me Your wisdom and insight so that I may know how to love them right where they are and encourage them for where You want them to go as we walk on this mutual journey with You. 

What if we prayed that? Don’t you think the Spirit would grant us discernment? Then, we would be pulled into an amazing adventure of learning the ways of Jesus and living out those ways alongside someone into whose life we are speaking encouragement and direction as the Holy Spirit leads us. If we would listen as the Spirit provides this discernment, we would be able to determine where on the journey a person is rather than pigeon-holing them or trying to tritely take them through a step by step process. 

This is important. Think about it. When is the last time you met someone at point A? Anyone besides a child born to you? If we discount where someone has already been in their lives, we will miss out on ways God has already been at work in a person’s life before we ever met them. Jesus took this seriously. With Peter, Matthew, Mary, Nicodemus, the woman at the well. We must take it seriously, too. It is important for us to realize that discipleship is not a program that begins after someone begins to follow Jesus. It is a process that even begins before “conversion.” You can’t argue with that principle either, because a cursory reading of the four Gospels make it plain. Jesus invited 12 guys into relationship and entered into a journey with them that God the Father had already been walking on with them. In other words, He had already been at work. He was there through the tragedy and victories of their life previous to their encounter with Jesus. Now, Jesus was going to complete the work that had been begun and continue it toward more and more completion – the discipling process that never ends. 

And in that relationship, Jesus discerned where everyone of them were on their journeys. It is important that we do the same. God’s Spirit can enable us and pull us into an amazing life-transforming and life-restoring process at the same time, both for the person we are walking with and ourselves included. 

Discernment also is more important than degrees and training. The Spirit can make the uneducated to become wise. Thank God for that, because it means I am eligible to be a discipler just like you are eligible. The point is, anyone can do it. Anyone can listen to God’s Spirit lead them to walk in relationship with someone and learn/teach the ways of Jesus and live those ways alongside them.  Even a caveman could do it.

Bottom line with discernment. If we take this element out of the discipling process and simply plug people into discipleship programs, then we must be okay reaping what we sow. That is, we must be okay with producing stifled disciplers who equate discipling with getting more people into the program. We will reap programmed disciples looking for the next program rather than active disciplers looking for the next relationship. We must sow in such a way that we reap followers who experience the beauty and richness of God’s Spirit revealing insight to them and allowing them to be a part of discerning where a person has been and where God is taking them. 

A third element of discipling I would suggest is release. I believe it is safe to say that for the most part, church culture has made “discipleship” about retention more than release. People are encouraged to stay in discipleship programs rather than being released to actually be discipling. This is an understanding-church issue. Church gurus keep stressing our need to grow the church, and what they mean is more people in gathering and in small groups. I would suggest that Jesus wants to grow His church out there among the harvest, not in here among those already harvested. The harvest grows out there. 

A disciple of Jesus will be seen discipling in the middle of culture, or he/she is no disciple at all. A follower will be fishing, I once heard it said, or he/she is not follower at all. And fishing is not just about “evangelism.” Again, Jesus never separated these two concepts. Discipling is fishing. Learning the ways of Jesus and living those ways so that others learn and live them so that others learn and live them and so on. And that happens out there where disciples are released to disciple. 

Discipling is more than some class once a week that we market and hope for high attendance. It is eating together. It is praying together. It is having fun together. It is doing things of interest together, and it is serving together. It is doing life together. 

That is the model of discipling that we were given by Jesus, but for simplicity sake and for management sake and for ease sake, we boiled it down into a formula and program and said, “Go through this class, and you will be disciples.” 

It’s not that classes aren’t important. It’s not that gathering together in classes or for collective worship is not important. It’s not that we don’t need to have Bible study together. These are important, but these can’t be the extent of our discipling. I would suggest to you that releasing people to actually be free to engage culture and do life together with people there is both required for and will  be evidence of making disciples. However, for this to happen, church leaders must be willing to measure success not by how many they can draw and manage, but by how many they can release and relate with and coach to be discipling far beyond their influence and control. 

On the first night that our church family gathered as a core group, we shared four statement with those who gathered. One of them was this – we will not busy you with church activities, but rather we will equip and release you to be the church within your daily and weekly activities. This is a must if we hope for followers of Jesus to actually engage culture and see others being to follow Jesus.

If we stay intent on discipleship as a program, then we will continue to very effectively produce absorbers of Jesus knowledge, which will be very ineffective at making what Jesus asked us to make. 

Making more intelligent “Christians” is not the goal of this process. In fact, we have intellectualized and bulletized the message of Christ so much so that culture no longer sees it as spiritually vital, as alive. A key aspect to understand here is that truth is not a concept we learn in a classroom, but a Person we relate to who changes every portion of our lives. If we do not emphasize release as a key element of discipling, then our culture will not encounter the Person that those released are following. In fact, they might not encounter anything of Jesus at all, since His supposed followers will only be entrenched in discipleship classrooms rather than being out among the people Jesus died for.

A good closing question might be this one: what would be the evidence of this kind of discipling process working? Would it be people enrolled in another discipleship class, or people engaged in relationships within culture? Would it be people moving on toward the next step in a discipleship program, or people listening to the Spirit within them involving them in an ongoing, personal journey in which God has been on the move already? Would it be programs grown and people retained or people released and so that the church grows out where Jesus wants it to grow? 

Let’s surrender our programs and enter into this non-linear, relational, releasing process known as discipling and see what happens.

building or no building…is that the question?

It appears that my family is going to be out of our house for a bit with some needed repairs due to water damage. In fact, every wall that touches the outside will need to be gutted and replaced. Awesome stuff. We practically live in a piece of poop house. Funny thing is we really like that piece of poop. Hopefully it will be fully repaired and bootified. I mean beautified. Did I really write that? Yep. That just happened.

Seriously, the home thing is a big deal in our lives these days. Not just with our family, but with our church family, too. We have a pretty big mtg tomorrow night where what we call the COLLIDE team will continue to kick around the why and what and when of facility for WestpointChurch.org

Within our church family, we stress “being the church” as opposed to going to church. Two reasons:

1. among the 140-plus times the New Testament of the Bible refers to “church,” not one time is a place or an event. It seems as though “going to church” might not even be a Biblical concept. Going to worship gathering to worship God together with the “church” would be, and so we call our Sunday morning gathering exactly that – a gathering, along with other various gatherings and get-togethers. Not a point of semantics or being anal. Just emphasizing the church is a who, not a what.

2. the story we want to communicate to one another and to those around us is the story of how we are together being the church in our everyday lives living sent as a letter from God with the message of His love and hope and nearness. This story has an exponential impact all 168 hours per week, versus a gathering which is typically one to two hours per week. Which one tells the real story of the life and essence of the church. Church 168. Sunday gathering is meaningful and significant, but gathering is not intended for gathering’s sake, but rather for leaving. The Sent One said that just as He was sent, “so send I you” (John 20:21). 

Therefore, the “church building” question is a rather important question among our church family. We emphasize church is not a building, so what kind of facility we have or meet in or use needs to be about “church 168” not just “church Sunday.”

People just by default ask, “so, when do you plan on building?” But also because setting up in a school every Sunday can create a weariness. Of course, Sundays are not the only thing WestpointChurch.org is about. What’s really cool is that everyone agrees with the fact that if we build a building or have a “church facility,” it cannot be a just-Sunday kind of building. Nonetheless, there is a stirring and a grappling happening among our church family. While we have all resolved that having a building in and of itself is not a bad thing and will not hinder us from living sent, I just keep wondering why we are focusing so much on this question. Is focusing on this question keeping us from living sent, even though the subject of the question would probably not?

Why do people think we need a building as a church family. Here are some of the reasons that have been communicated to me:

1. having a building would give us credibility in the community

2. having a building would allow for greater awareness in the community

3. having a building would give us legitimacy as an organization

4. you’re just supposed to have one

5. if i am going to give money to this church, i want to know what my money is going for

6. it is a necessity for growth. in fact, people will not invite people to a school. but if we had a building, more people would invite people

7. it is a great thing to have for a headquarters / ministry center

I am actually not anti-building contrary to popular belief. I have even been told I am anti-growth since I am anti-building, which makes me chuckle since we have always seen life change as well as numerical growth as a church family. Not that we are doing everything right, but I am definitely not anti-growth or anti-building. I am concerned, however, about our motivation for having a building. Why we want one is actually more important to me than whether we have one or not. Just like I actually have little preference to “worship style,” I have little preference to building style. I would rather know the heart behind the worship, and I want to really understand the heart behind having a facility to maintain. If the heart of having a building is to live sent daily, then I am all for it. 

All that to say, I am praying for several things with regard to the question that is swirling among people in our church family. First, I am praying we will not just live in default. You know, the status quo mindset of “we are a church and should have a home” kind of default thinking. That is more of a civilized thing to do, not so much a Christ-like. In fact, it can be argued that the reason the Chinese church has been exploding under communism for almost 100 years is that she was not centralized when communism came. She was still raw and defined by followers rather than gatherings. In contrast, the reason the church in Russia has been stifled and defined by vacant cathedrals since communism entered is because she was already centralized, already cathedralized. Interesting.

Next, I am praying we will really come to a point where we can clearly communicate how having a building enhances living sent. And I mean into our culture and connecting with people who don’t know how much Jesus loves them. Not just for “christians” getting together. 

Finally, I am praying we can really be of one accord. Not one accord on having a building. That is not the mission around which we should be unified. But one accord with regard to the mission of living sent. The mission that the Sender gave to the sent.

Let’s play what if. What if we stayed in Whispering Oak Elementary for Sunday mornings for another 10 years and served the socks off the families and administration of that school? What if we focused on how we are the church outside of a facility we had to maintain and figured out how to collide in our context in other ways? What if we volunteered in community events instead of creating our own and decided to be the church there? Is it possible that our community could be impacted, loved, given hope, changed, encouraged in a way that it would not otherwise? I am not sure. I AM JUST ASKING OUT LOUD. I mean, the setup thing is really not as prominent of an issue as we make it. When I talk to those who oversee setup on Sundays, they understand that even if we have a multi-purpose building or a marketplace concept to meet in on Sundays, there will still be a significant element of setup.

Maybe the real question is not “building or no building?” Maybe the real question to be grappling with is “where is the church?” And is she legitimized by the love and hope and sentness of people, rather than the gathering of people in one place. 

I’m listening. I really invite discussion. I really want us to be in one accord on living sent and growing in unity with regard to what a facility means to that.