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

Triangle. Square. Arrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eugene Peterson suggests that sabbath is the most important as well as most ignored function of the church today, for from this restful, trustworthy connection life comes.

The following is a summary from my notes of Eugene Peterson’s conversation with Gabe Lyons in Manhattan in February, 2012. One of the topics of conversation was SABBATH. Peterson had much wisdom to share on the matter.

:: a definition of “sabbath”

>> shut up and show up.

:: don’t try to be like God
It does not start with understanding sabbath but with looking at and understanding God from the beginning…when we don’t keep the sabbath, we are trying to be like gods.

:: when we started keeping a sabbath as a family
We didn’t start out doing sabbath in Maryland. However, I wasn’t working out of obedience but out of fear. Then, we would get away for a month as a family somewhere and just be together.

By the time I started working out of obedience rather than fear, we structured our sabbath for every Monday. I made lunch since Jan did the rest of the week. She prayed since I tended to the rest of the week. The kids would be in school. Jan would read a Psalm and we would be quiet and walk. Then we would come back and just debrief. Kids would come home from school and take part, too. First thing we noticed was the kids loved it because no one had to do work that day. We would do nothing we HAD to do.

I wrote our congregation a letter every year “why your pastor keeps a sabbath” in order to invite them to help us keep it. You can’t keep the sabbath alone. People took it seriously. And after 10 years or so, many of them began to keep one, too. And we helped each other. The most important thing we did was asking our congregation to help us keep it.

:: not just a cessation of work
Sabbath is not a cessation of work, but rather a contemplation of work. Non-sabbath keeping is a desecration of work, not honoring the real gift that our work is. When we do this, the work of man has inflated importance, rather than the work of God being honored most.

:: rest
Living in a rhythm of sabbath allows for restful living rather than guilty, busy, driven living.

:: evangelism may not be the primary work of the church…
I think evangelism may not be the primary work of the church, but rather sabbath-keeping. Because it puts us in the rhythm of stopping to listen to God and then responding and doing what he says. We try to do so much without being in this sabbath rhythm. Without it, how can we evangelize?

:: Jesus highlighted the importance of living in a listening rhythm with Him:

“I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” Jesus gave them this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
(John 10:1-10 HCSB)

THE BOTTOM LINE:
Sabbath is a practical, merciful, intentional command. May we take it seriously. May it become a rhythm of our lives. May it be a priority.

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…

One more word on “scripturing” and an introduction to “eating.” Read more…

In case you are jumping in new, each week this month, I am blogging two or three times a week on a letter from the SENT acronym – Scripturing. Eating. Neighboring. Together. Last week, I posted three posts on “scripturing.” This week, we sit down to the table for some “eating.”

One final word on “scripturing.”

Scripture memorization – does it play a part? I would say yes absolutely. In order to see the teachings of Jesus, the living Word, come alive in our daily rhythms and relational conversations, we must store up the Scriptures in our minds and hearts. How else would they come out in the flow of what we are doing and who we are becoming? How you memorize matters not. A system for remembering or simply immersing yourself in the by reading more slowly and intentionally such that they are remembered, either will work. But memorization is helpful for scripturing.

Now, on to EATING.

Let’s begin today with two questions.

1. Did Jesus value eating as part of His mission and purpose?
2. Why is eating so effective at connecting hearts and lives?

First, Jesus certainly did value eating as part of His mission and purpose. Every criticism has some element of validity to it. While I am not suggesting that Jesus was a drunkard and a glutton, it is clear that He valued fellowship over a meal or else why would the Pharisees have said such extreme criticism about Him in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34. In fact, the Luke reference begins with the following:

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”
(Luke 7:34 HCSB)

Jesus came eating and drinking. Why? Because food fills more than stomachs. It creates an environment in which minds can be stretched and hearts connected and lives filled up with love.

Tim Chester wrote an entire book about it. And it’s worth the read. CLICK HERE to read more from Tim.

Secondly, why does eating so effectively connect hearts and lives? Simply stated, because our hearts tend to go into preparing and sharing food. We want it to be good. We want others to enjoy it. We want those hungry to be filled. We converse while we share it. We typically encourage the invitation to do it again together. This seems so ordinary. So everyday. No wonder the religious leaders criticized it.

It took their sacred work out of sacred space. It brought learning the Kingdom of God from Synagogue to supper table.

Alan Hirsch told us one time that his mentor while he was learning in Austrailia challenged him to commit to eating his way with others into the Kingdom of God. Alan and his wife Deb have practiced this with much fruit ever since.

With whom are you sharing a meal? To whom are you taking a meal? How many people both intimately acquainted with as well as not very acquainted eith the ways of Jesus have you invited to your supper table lately?

For Jesus, eating was part of a SENT life.

Will it be for us who follow Him?

I am thankful for our church family, @WestpointChurch. How are you grateful for the church family with whom you are on mission?

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I am so thankful for Westpoint Church, the church family with iwhom Jen and the kids and I are blessed to do life together.

For the Gospel that has captured our hearts together and compelled us on mission together. For the many ways they encourage Jen and the kids. For the faithful friendships and loads of fun we have together. For the many truths we are learning and being affirmed in and even being challenged by as we navigate Kingdom alive in daily rhythms. For the many ways we are being sharpened by the folks with whom we do life from whose lives we learn so much as they walk with Jesus and love us like He has loved them. For the simplicity of the ways we are being the church that is welcoming of all who want to be the church more than just go to church.

I could write so much more, but I want to mention specifically how thankful we are for a pastoral team and a vision team and a volunteer group alongside whom we are so blessed to equip and serve. I know many of them would express the same sentiment.

Our journey has been such a beautiful, challenging, worthwhile one these nine years. And we are excited to see what 2013 holds for Westpoint Church!!!

How are you thankful for the church family with whom you get to do life and with whom you live on mission?

Hope the day is both refreshing and relaxing as you celebrate gratefulness to God with family and friends.

“The Art of Neighboring” – a post by Tim @Challies, re-posted with permission

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The Art of Neighboring
by Tim Challies
(re-posted with permission)

Take a look at the graphic above. Imagine that the middle box in the chart is your house and the boxes that surround it are the eight houses closest to your own. I doubt your neighborhood is arranged like a tic-tac-toe board, so you may need to use your imagination just a little bit.

Here’s what I want you to do.

First, write the names of the people who live in the house represented by each of the boxes. If you can give both first and last names, that’s great. If you’ve only got first names, that’s okay too.
Second, write down some information or facts about each of the people in that house. I don’t mean facts that you could observe by standing on the road and looking at their house (“Drives a red car”) but facts that you’ve gathered from speaking to them (“Works for a bank,” “Grew up across town.”).
Third, write down any in-depth information you know about each of the people. This could include details like their career plans or religious beliefs—the kind of information that comes from real conversation.
How did you do? Or how do you think you would do if you actually went through with this exercise? The degree to which you simply do not know your neighbors is the degree to which you will benefit from reading The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon. They premise their book upon this simple question: When Jesus told us love our neighbors, what if he meant our actual neighbors, the people who live closest to us? They explain that Christians have long been making “neighbor” into a safe metaphor that allows us to believe we are carrying out the Lord’s command when we visit soup kitchens and do acts of kindness to complete strangers.

The problem, as they explain it, is that “when we aim for everything, we hit nothing. So when we insist we’re neighbors with everybody, often we end up being neighbors with nobody.” Ouch. Much like the Pharisees, we ask “Who is my neighbor?” in the hope of finding a loophole, not in the hope of loving those who live nearby. “Jesus assumed that his audience would be able to love those nearest to them, their literal neighbors, the people most like them, who shared the same heritage and geography. In telling the parable, Jesus was stretching their concept of neighbor to include even people from a group they didn’t like.” As we read the parable today we tend to go straight to the stranger on the side of the road and no longer include the person in the house next door.

This book is full of biblical counsel and simple wisdom about how to be a good neighbor. Perhaps the most freeing concept is that there is inherent value in being a good neighbor, even if your neighbor never becomes a Christian. The authors helpfully distinguish between ultimate motives and ulterior motives. The ultimate motive in engaging your neighbors is to share the gospel with them and to see them turn to the Lord, but we must never do this through ulterior motives. Too many Christians use engaging their neighbors as a thinly-veiled guise to try to “win them,” and give up when the neighbors do not respond positively. Pathak and Runyon say, “The ‘agenda’ we need to drop is the well-meaning tendency to be friends with people for the sole purpose of converting them to our faith. Many so desperately want to move people forward spiritually that they push them according to their timetable, not according to how God is working in them. It’s tempting to offer friendship with strings attached.”

They clarify: “Sharing the story of Jesus and his impact on our lives is the right motive, but it canot be an ulterior motive in developing relationships. We don’t love our neighbors to convert them; we love our neighbors because we are converted.” Christians have long been taught that we should do good things solely to have a spiritual conversation that can move people toward conversion; but Jesus never called us to use a bait-and-switch approach where we are friends only so we can share the gospel. “We are called to love our neighbors unconditionally, without expecting anything in return.”

The Art of Neighboring clearly comes from a little bit outside the theological “tribe” that I identify with, and that brings both benefits and drawbacks. The book is not without its weaknesses. I would have liked to see the authors wrestle a bit more with issues related to sharing the gospel and creative ways of doing that. I would have liked to see them focus more on the role of the local church in the life of the Christian. But those weaknesses are more than compensated for with their call to be good neighbors and the challenge they offer.

This is a book I learned from, a book that was of immediate benefit to me, and, I think, exactly the book I needed to read. We live in a closely-packed neighborhood where we know and are known (at last count at least four of our neighbors have a key to our house!) but I needed to be freed to simply love my neighbors, to be a good neighbor to them, without feeling guilt for not always offering gospel sneak-attacks where I work it into every conversation. There is value in being a good neighbor and as we neighbor well, we trust that very natural gospel opportunities will arise.

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)

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

Grateful for one of our local TV stations, @theGoodLife45, for an interview about “beyond MY church.” Watch it here…

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed for a Central FL TV show called “The Good Life” hosted by Barbara Beck and Ken Mikesell. They asked some questions about my second book, beyond MY church. Yo can grab that book this month on Amazon Kindle for only $2.99. You can watch the interview on Vimeo, if you care to do so, and maybe see if you think it is worth grabbing :)

Grateful.

Let me know any feedback as we continue to sharpen this message about Jesus’ intent for His church based upon His prayer in John 17.

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth. I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 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. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. 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)

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

shift 5 of 5 suggested shifts if the church hopes to actually make disciples as Jesus intended _ from “live FOR God” to “live WITH God”

Well, here’s suggested shift # 5. This week, I have been re-posting a summer 2011 blog series from LiveSent.com. Here is the final post of the series. I hope they have encouraged and challenged you. Click here for shift # 1, here for shift # 2, here for shift # 3, here for shift # 4, and read below for # 5.

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Suggested Shift # 5 _ from “live FOR God” to “live WITH God”

If I live focused only to be better personally, then who is the focus of my life?

I am.

However, if we live to share with others about the goodness of God, who is the focus of our life?

He is. And others are.

The former approach is what I would suggest is living to be “good FOR God.” The latter approach is what I would suggest is living to “go WITH God.” I want to suggest that Jesus intended the latter for His followers – that we not live FOR Him but WITH Him.

Two reasons why I want to suggest this.

(1) because Jesus said so.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
[John 20:21, HCSB]

He is sending us to follow Him. To go WITH Him. Not just to do stuff for Him. He said in Matthew 28:18-20 that He would be WITH us always.

(2) because Jesus avoided the compliment “good,” which might be an indication that I should, too.

18  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
[Mark 10:18, NASB]

Get honest with yourself. Do you study the Scriptures for nourishment for daily mission or for information for self-development. The rich young ruler in this passage seemed clearly to be looking for another reason to consider Himself good, to feel personally fulfilled with his accomplishments. Jesus did not live to that end, and He rebuked the rich young ruler with His very to-the-point response.

Jesus did not end the day hoping to feel good about Himself or His efforts. He did not practice religion for personal goodness. He lived to glorify His Father in heaven, period. Attention to His own works He considered a distraction from the work of His Father.

54 “If I glorify Myself,” Jesus answered, “My glory is nothing.”
[John 8:54, HCSB]

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works.
[John 14:10, HCSB]

I personally need to beg HIm to keep making that same heart and desire present in me, that I would want to make His goodness known and His goodness only.

Please understand what I am suggesting here. It is absolutely true that each of us needs to grow. It is absolutely accurate that we each will always need to be shaped into what Jesus intended. However, the purpose of our further holiness is not so as to be holy, but rather so as to show others a holy, loving, gracious, near God. A focus on personal goodness is a focus off of mission, for my pursuits are not to be centered in personal gain but rather in the interests of others.

3  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
[Philippians 2:3-4, NASB]

So, what you do with that “salt and light” verse about our good works (Matthew 5:13-16)?

In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
[Matthew 5:16, HCSB]

You obey it. That’s what you do. It’s not about my personal goodness on display. It’s about my Father’s goodness on display in me. That’s the only thing it can mean if it has anything to do with His glory on display.

May we go preserve His presence and bring out the flavors of His presence right in the midst of this very how-could-God-even-be-present world by sharing His life given to us and His goodness proven together through us.

May we quit trying to just be good FOR God and actually daily go WITH God on mission to share this Gospel about a God who desires to be WITH us with a world who so often struggles to believe that the God who came near could possibly still be near today.

After all, when Jesus spoke His “final Word” to us – Jesus – the New Testament uses a synonym – Emmanuel. Do you know what that word means? GOD WITH US. 

That was the declaration from God when He moved into the neighborhood – He has always wanted us to live WITH Him (John 1:12-14).

If we will, then we will be that much closer to actually making disciples.

shift 4 of 5 suggested shifts if the church hopes to make disciples as Jesus intended _ “one is plural”

This week, I am re-posting five suggested shifts for the church to make is she hopes to actually make disciples as Jesus intended. These are from a summer of 2011 blog series at LiveSent.com. Today is shift 4 of 5. You can read shift 1 here, shift 2 here, and shift 3 here.

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Suggested Shift 4 of 5 _ from “one is singular” to one is plural”

When you read the word “you” in the Scriptures of the New Testament, do you think understand it as speaking to “me” or speaking to “we?” Because I want to suggest, and I think a lot of really smart people, much smarter than me, who have studied biblical Greek and who love Jesus, would agree with me here – in the New Testament Scriptures the word “you” (as translated in English) the large majority of the time is properly understood in terms of “we” not “me.”

It’s one of those nuances in the English language that trips us up. Most all languages on earth have distinguishing words for “you” that indicate clearly between 2nd person singular and 2nd person plural. English does not. This is to our detriment.

In the English translations, we tend to read “you” with “me” more in mind. I want to suggest to you two reasons why this is significant. 

(1) because to Jesus, ONE is plural.

In John 17, Jesus prayed that His followers would be one with the Father and one with each other the way that He was one with the Father. He defined “oneness” here in terms of “we” not “me.” Now, you know this. And yet the tendency in American church culture is to turn bible reading and prayer and fasting and church attendance and serving into me-first rituals that develop myself to be better rather than others-first initiatives that are catalytic for community development and loving relationships that mirror “on earth as it is in heaven.”

For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, almost every “you” is plural, except for the instance of Jesus teaching on personal prayer. But otherwise, He is describing in Matthew 5 to 7 the ways of the Kingdom lived out in together form rather than in personal form. 

If I take this to heart, then I must change the way I read “you” in the New Testament. At least, I must ask the question, “Is this speaking about ‘me’ or ‘we’ here?”

(2) because I would suggest that spiritual maturity, at least as I understand Jesus’ teachings, cannot be measured with a mirror but rather only within community.

Fruit in my life that blossoms is intended to be fruit given, not fruit consumed by me. Thus, the focus of my maturity cannot be to feel personally fulfilled at the end of each day when I look in the mirror and measure my day’s performance. Maturity is not measured personally as much as it is evidenced lovingly. Within relationships. Within community. Learning shared, not learning hoarded. Life given, not life hoarded.

If I take this to heart, then my reason for following Jesus and for being a part of a local church expression may need to change. It’s confusing. And transformational. And disturbs my selfish religious practices pushing me toward actually making disciples.

One is plural in the Kingdom of Heaven. And “you” is “we.” At least that’s what I am suggesting here.

Type at you tomorrow with the fifth and final suggested shift…

shift 3 of 5 suggested shifts to be made if the church hopes to make disciples as Jesus intended…

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This week, I am re-posting five shifts from a 2011 blog series on LiveSent.com. You can click here to read shift 1, click here to read shift 2, or read below for suggested shift 3. Hope it encourages us all to be the church as Jesus intended.

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Suggested Shift 3 of 5 _ feed me to feed others

I don’t think I am exaggerating here. I would suggest that the common approach to what the American church has called “discipleship” tends to be a very self-absorbed, personal development track for which the primary motivation is to “feed me.” This is not biblical. At least that is what I am suggesting in SUGGESTED SHIFT # 3 (IN ORDER FOR US TO ACTUALLY BE MAKING DISCIPLES as Jesus intended).

Now in this we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Whether individual or family, married or single, child or adult, have kids or don’t have kids, young or old. Do you look for a “church that meets my/our needs,” or do you look for a people with whom you can both learn and live the ways of the Kingdom as well as together share them with those who may not even be following the King yet, loving to both neighbors and nations.

Is your motivation when it comes to “church” more about “feed me” or more about “feed others?” Get honest with yourself here, because the answer to this question is found in why you are even a part of the local church expression of which you are a part.

Say you are single. You looked around for a church family with a happening singles ministry. They gathered. They had events. People were becoming not-single thru this ministry. It looked good to you. And you really liked the band and the speaker. A perfect fit. You may have even invited some friends to join you. But what I have described above is not you as the church engaged with God on His mission daily making disciples. It is you as a consumer choosing a church that feeds you and meets your needs.

Say you are a mom and dad. You looked around for a church family with a happening student ministry. They gathered. They had events. Students behaved and dressed and spoke well. Even though they ate peanut butter from someone else’s armpit during some skit on the first night you attended, you were cool with it, because they gave away great prizes to the kids. A perfect fit, right? But what I have described above to you is not you leading your family to be the church together engaged with God on His mission daily making disciples. It is you as a consumer choosing a church that feeds you and meets your needs. I would go so far to even suggest this – if we as leaders don’t actually live out the intended mission of God in front of and alongside those middle and high school students, a whole lot of them will not stick with the hollow consumerism that attracted them to be a part of a local church expression once they get into college and are met with many other attractive options.

[SIDE NOTE: I am not suggesting that a happening singles ministry or a hip student ministry are bad things. God uses them to transform people in Christ a lot. I am focusing here on motivation and purpose.]

Wait a second!!! You scream out as you exclaim, “I HAVE NEEDS, TOO!!!” or “MY FAMILY HAS NEEDS TO!!!!” I know. I do, too. Two questions, though. One, are you basing your “church choice” on a need or a want? And two, are you truly fulfilled in getting or giving?

Our family has needs, too. I just don’t want my kids growing up having their attention spans grabbed for a season with an attractive ministry. I want them having their hearts gripped for life by a Savior who loved them first and now compels them to live with a beyond-me purpose – the only kind of life, in fact, that can even keep their attention and truly fulfill.

We must not forget what Jesus and Paul both taught about our needs being met and our life being full.

Consider this:

38 “If you don’t go all the way with Me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve Me. 39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Me, you’ll find both yourself and Me.
[Matthew 10:38-39, the Message]

And this:

11 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that My joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. 12 This is My command: Love one another the way I loved you. 13 This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
[John 15:11-13, the Message]

And this:

12 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 15 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. 16 Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! 17 Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
[Colossians 3:12-17, the Message]

It sounds counter-intuitive, but our personal needs are only truly met when we live loved and give love. Our needs are only fulfilled when we trust that we have been loved first by a God who was willing to demonstrate that love through sacrifice, and we then live daily to give His love away into the lives of others. And not just through a service project. But through deep relationships in which “on earth as it is in heaven” is beginning to blossom, among both the “lost” and the “found,” via shared life together in the daily rhythms of our lives.

Relationships that do not just provide refuge and a false sense of security, though. Relationships that purposefully and intentionally push us toward disciple-making and mission engagement and selfless living because that is the mission around which those relationships have united and for which they ultimately exist.

We must move from “feed me” to “feed others.” And probably more appropriately, from “feed me” to “share what has been given to me with others” so that we can experience the love and life as Jesus intended. He loved us first and asks us to love as He has loved us.

Suggested shift # 4 tomorrow…

shift 2 of 5 suggested shifts if the church is actually going to make disciples as Jesus intended…

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This week, I am re-posting five blog posts from last year on LiveSent.com regarding five suggested shifts needed if the church hopes to make disciples as Jesus intended.

Click here if you want to read suggested shift # 1. Here’s suggested shift # 2:

Followers of Jesus must shift from thinking of themselves as having to be LEARNED to make disciples toward having to be a LEARNER to make disciples.

You may not have even thought about it before. But I actually hear it a good bit from people when we stress that each and everyone of us as followers of Jesus should be “making disciples” as we are going among both neighbors and nations. I hear this very significant excuse:

“…but I can’t do that because i don’t know enough to teach it.”

I assert that it is a significant excuse because it is very heartfelt. But I would suggest that the problem is that it is, although heartfelt, a demonstration of a misunderstanding of the word “disciple.”

The word “disciple” does NOT mean “I know a whole lot so much in fact that I can teach you all the ways of King Jesus so you should come sit in a classroom and listen to me teach and also grow to know enough one day to go and teach in front of a classroom.”

I am by no means discounting the importance of teaching in discipling. It is one of two key words in Matthew 28:18-20 – “to teach all that I have commanded you.” But we need to quit thinking about how to teach His ways like we have in the 20th century church under florescent lights to people in uncomfortable chairs, and instead we must look back to Jesus and how He taught the ways of the Kingdom under the light of the sun and the moon to a people with whom He walked in relationship daily.

The word “disciple” also does NOT mean “I don’t have to learn anymore because I have earned my Jesus PhD and have my not-gonna-go-to-hell tenure and actually don’t have to work hard anymore at teaching His ways to others.”

The roots of the word “disciple” actually imply a meaning more like this one –

I am a learner and will always be a learner, more like an apprentice, who learns from a Master and then does what I’ve seen Him do everyday.

We don’t learn enough to now have earned our “disciple degree.” We never quit being a learner who lives what is being learned. That is a disciple.

Not knowing enough, then, is not a valid excuse, if we understand the word “disciple.” At least that is my suggestion here. We actually would have to give an excuse as to why we don’t live as learners who walk with our Master everyday and then try to live out together with others what we are learning so as to see the Kingdom actually show up right here and right now.

What if we moved from being a “teacher” to being a “learner?” What if that actually is teaching – when learning happens? What if we prioritized learning the ways of Jesus with others who are also learning His ways along with those who have not found their way in Christ yet?

What if we defined who we are as the church in these terms:

a people who learn and live the ways of Jesus together, sharpening each other in His ways, introducing others to Him, and then learning together with Him how to live those ways in the rhythms of our daily lives as the Spirit changes us to be more and more like our Master

So, there is my 2nd suggested shift. For what it is worth. I don’t have to be LEARNED to make disciples. But I do have to never quit being a LEARNER who goes and learns Jesus with others. Jesus then is the Rabbi, the teacher, rather than me. That’s always gonna work out better.

Hopefully it encourages many of you to move beyond what you see as a limitation (i don’t know enough to teach) toward what is actually an opportunity – to learn and live the ways of the Kingdom within community together in the midst of a world longing for “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Type at you tomorrow…

shift 1 of 5 suggested shifts to be made if the American church hopes to actually make disciples as Jesus intended…

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This week on the blog, I will be re-posting five posts from LiveSent.com from summer 2011. These are five suggested shifts (one per day) that the American church must make in order for us to actually be making disciples as Jesus intended.

These are merely suggestions. They are not dogmatic assertions that if read and not believed will result in eternal damnation. They are not end-times prophetic announcements that will usher us into the ultimate day of “Good News” on December 20-something-or-other. They are simply this simple guy’s perspective as I am begging God for wisdom on what we must do to actually equip people to be making disciples in the daily.

AND, I really would value your feedback, since the ways of the Kingdom are learned and lived as we follow Jesus together.

SO, here goes the first one…

How do you think of “the Gospel?”
Do you think of this “good news,” this most-important message, as a presentation that Christians should make so that other people can choose to be a Christian?

While it certainly is a “good news” message that we now as “letters from Christ” (2nd Corinthians 3:3) present to a world full of “bad news,” I would suggest that it is more than just something we present.

And I would suggest that in order for us to actually be making disciples, we must make a shift in how we think of “the Gospel” if we think of it only as a presentation we make or a tract that we hand out.

First, the Gospel is not a presentation we make as much as it is a presentation that has been made to us.

4 All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.
(2nd Corinthians 4:4, the Message)

Second, this Gospel was made known to us not just through a presentation but rather through an actual presence.

14 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. 15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.” 16 We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift. 17 We got the basics from Moses, and then this exuberant giving and receiving, This endless knowing and understanding-all this came through Jesus, the Messiah. 18 No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.
(John 1:14-18, the Message)

Next, this Gospel, this “presence” of God coming near with His love to a people who had not acted very lovable, both wrecks us and restores us day after day after day as we move from death to life and are compelled to show a love that has been shown to us.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. 15 And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised. 16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know [Him in this way]. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [he is] a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2nd Corinthians 5:14-21, HCSB)

And finally, we never quit needing this Gospel and we never quit needing to tell the story of how this Gospel is wrecking and restoring us. However, we don’t just need to present it. We need to share this story while living this story with presence.

9 Say the welcoming word to God-“Jesus is my Master”-embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. 10 With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” 11 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this-heart and soul-will ever regret it.” 12 It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. 13 “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” 14 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? 15 And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!
(Romans 10:9-15, the Message)

Just like the God who came near to us right into the middle of our darkness, may we go near daily into the darkness and shine His ever-present light.

May we make more than a presentation. May we show the same love that has been shown to us with actual presence.

Thoughts?

Type at you tomorrow…

Interested in starting a new church? Check out “what every church planter should know,” a free ebook from @PortableChurch…

I believe strongly in CHURCH SENDING. One result of church sending often can be a new expression of the church.

Church starters are faced with a unique set of challenges – mobile ministry, fundraising, creating ownership amongst their volunteers, creating momentum for survival, self-propelled leadership and building something from nothing. More than any of those, they are faced with the everyday insecurity of “what if this doesn’t work” type of thoughts. These can only be countered when our security as a leader is in Whose we are in Christ alone and when our focus in on His mission onto which He has invited us.

If you are interested in cultivating for a new local church expression, this ebook from Portable Church Industries is a valuable resource. They have asked learners and practitioners just like you to share thoughts and perspectives on “what every church planter should know” full of quick reads and provocative insights.

I am grateful to be one of the learners asked to share an article. You can read it along with all the essays by getting your own *free* copy here.

Hope it is helpful. Many thanks to Portable Church Industries for providing this awesome equipping tool!!!

-jason

a note to pastors, cont. – are you actually equipping for the church to be going near together with Jesus? Thoughts here…

Last Monday, I posted a heart-felt note to pastors. I am simply burdened that we are not actually equipping the church to be the church as Jesus intended. This is an excerpt from what I wrote:

And we certainly were not intended to just get folks in the door of “a church.” Rather, we were intended to equip folks to be sent out as the church. So how might we equip for that. Here are three pathways of equipping I would suggest are crucial if we will equip the church to be the church as Jesus intended:

  1. the pathway of personally relating with Jesus.
  2. the pathway of together walking with Jesus.
  3. the pathway of together going near with Jesus.

So, last Wednesday, I posted the first of three follow-up posts focused on actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus. Then last Friday, I posted some thoughts on the second pathway. Finally, in today’s post, let’s focus on actually equipping along the pathway of together going near with Jesus.

I closed Friday’s post with this question:

>> could it be that only when that love for one another as His church is on display out in the midst of our communities and out engaging the various domains of our culture and out in the everyday rhythms that people will begin to consider the practice of Jesus’ teachings as more than just an equal religious alternative? 

How would you answer that? Here are my suggestions.

First, it makes sense that only when the church’s love for one another is on display out IN THE MIDST of our communities engaging the various domains of culture living Christ’s ways in everyday rhythms that people will even have the chance to consider that God loves them and demonstrated His near love in Jesus.

14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!
Romans 10:14-15, HCSB 

Pastors – in your strategies and assertions of what the church family you get to lead should be up to, are you calling them to cluster up disengaged and clean and safe outside of our culture, or are you giving them what they need to live sent together in the midst of our culture? I want to ask this of our church family. Let’s all as pastors do just that. And be ready for the response.

Jesus was not sent and did not die that we might be clustered Christians. 

Next, if we as followers of Jesus are not engaging the various domains or spheres of influence within our culture, then we are not living as Jesus lived. He lived out and proclaimed the ways of the Kingdom of God in all the fiefdoms of His region. He brought God’s love near both to high-brow Pharisee and cast-out leper, both to proud, educated doctor Nicodemus and the ashamed, searching-for-love woman at the well, both to tax-collector Matthew and we-hate-Rome zealots, both to governor Pilate and the thieves on the cross. Can this be said of the church families we lead? Or are we emphasizing the success of their church-going and the maturity of their spiritual ventures by activity on a centralized campus we unbiblically call “church.”

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 
John 20:21, HCSB

Finally, pastors, are you challenging followers of Jesus just to memorize and study the Bible, or to actually live it out? Because I would rebuke any pastor who is more passionate about teaching the Scriptures than seeing the church live them out. Two reasons why:

>> because Jesus actually intended that we live what we learn.

46 “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?
Luke 6:46, HCSB

>> because people who feel lost and lonely, who perceive the activity of those who call themselves followers of Jesus, will most likely be gripped by the near love of Jesus when they see the teachings and life and love of Jesus lived out in the rhythms of our lives, when they see it as more than just something to be learned, as more than just a religious alternative.

10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
John 10:10, HCSB

We can only live in this abundant life, in these Kingdom rhythms, by His power in us (the Spirit) as we personally relate with Him and via the presence of a local church family that loves one another as they go together with Jesus among neighbors and nations. When we go near together, people see the love of the God who came near in Christ on display in the reality of our world. That is what makes it real enough to them to expose their own selfish living, to highlight their own deep desire for love and family and togetherness, and to invite them into a life with Jesus.

Are you actually equipping the church to be the church as Jesus intended? How are you equipping along these pathways?  

Thoughts or comments?

Lord, please help me to actually be equipping Your church as You intended. This is not MY church. These people You have allowed me to pastor are Your church. May I live and lead as though they actually are. 
-jason

A note to pastors, cont. – actually equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus…

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So, as a follow up to Monday’s post on actually equipping the church to be who Jesus intended, let’s consider what equipping along the pathway of personally relating with Jesus might include?

First, may I suggest the need to clearly and consistently communicate a tenant of the Gospel that is central to our “growing up in Christ:”

>> that God did not intend for us to live FOR Him but rather to live WITH Him.

Please understand that I am hesitant to assert any personal understanding of God’s intent, unless I have become confident that the whole of Scripture supports my hypothesis. I am very confident in this assertion. Simple rationale strengthens the thought.

Why on earth would God put on skin and come to earth declaring His unconditional love and sacrificial friendship if all He desired from us was robotic, ritualistic obedience?

Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Abraham was called a friend of God. Why? Because he walked with God, listened for God, responded to God. He obeyed because he related with God. He did not obey so God would relate with him. After all, God invited him on a road trip, not the other way around.

We need to realize that the Scriptures indicate that Jesus died not only for our sinful disobedience – for what we did. He also, and likely more significantly, died because of who He is. What He did as the death-taker demonstrates who He is as the life-giver. He chose to give His life. Grace was calculated, intentional, resolute, bloody, a temporary burial wrap.

This was not the stuff of Valentine’s Cards. It was and is the stuff of an enduring love. It is the stuff of “with” not “for.” This is the stuff that compels us to want to live in such a way, as Paul says, that is worthy of this “first loved us” Gospel.

May we equip the church to live loved, personally relating with the One who first loved us, secure in His goodness rather than weary trying to prove our own.

Next, as we equip the church to personally relate with Jesus, may we equip people to pray in the same way that we breathe.

To pray without ceasing, as Paul asserted we must, would imply prayer as more than just a periodic exercise. Rather, it is a constant interaction. Probably mostly listening. Often unbeknownst to us. Intentionally as intercession in those times when a deep breath is needed.

This kind of praying produces a Christ-connected kind of living. This kind of praying results in Spirit-prompted rhythms. This kind of praying is the earmark of a personally-relating-with-Jesus life.

This kind of praying indicates a personal belief that we actually can relate with Him.

Finally, as we equip the church to personally relate with Jesus, may we equip people to read the Bible as though nourishment.

Moses in Deuteronomy 32 declared that God’s words are not meaningless words; they are our life. Jesus told Satan in Matthew 4 that man cannot live on bread alone. Paul extended the metaphor of “growing up in Christ” as moving from bread milk to heartier food. Nourishment.

Has the Bible been preserved for the sake of our preservation? Has the Bible’s presence been sustained to be sustenance that energizes us toward greater awareness of His presence?

What if the Bible’s purpose is simply to tell us of God’s enduring love while it grows us in an enduring relationship with Him? Specially in this way:

>> the more I immerse myself in the Scriptures, the more recognizable God’s promptings and more noticeable God’s ways as I relate with Him daily.

Why? Because I recognize from what I have read about Him when He is about to invite me to participate with Him. Because I notice from what I have read of His story when I am getting to be in on a particular scene of His story continued today.

Reading the Bible, when thought of in this way, becomes more than a chore. And studying to learn how to better read and understand the Bible, when thought of in this way, becomes less of an academic activity and more of a real-life necessity.

Not just meaningless words, but essential to my life of personally relating with Jesus.

Thoughts / Comments???

Next up – what actually equipping for us to walk TOGETHER with Jesus might include…

Praying to be one who actually equips.
-jason

an important question for pastors – are you actually equipping the church to be who Jesus intended? Read more here…

There is a question I have been asking for some time now, both of myself and of our leadership team with @WestpointChurch. It is a simple yet significant question with profound implications on the energy expenditures of our leadership efforts. Here it is:

am i actually equipping our local church expression to be who Jesus intended together? 

In order to answer this question, I probably need to ask two others. What did Jesus intend and in what ways might I equip them for that?

May I suggest that Jesus intended that we believe that we are loved by the God who sent His one and only Son. May I suggest that Jesus intended that we respond to His loving us first by denying self and loving Him daily with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. May I suggest that Jesus intended that we love our neighbor, taking initiative to love them, just as He loves us. May I suggest that Jesus intended that we live open-handed and free, freely giving to the oppressed and poor and lonely and indulgent as we relate with them where they are, not out of guilt but from a free, loved, forgiven, grace-compelled heart. And may I suggest that Jesus intended that we learn and live His ways and then as we are going learn and live His ways out in the midst of culture among those who feel lost and lonely that they might believe that they are loved by the God who came near, too.

Am I equipping for this, or something else? 

Being a pastor, or an equipper as the New Testament seems to most often describe it, is not a role that is superior to anyone else involved in the life of a local church. It is not a management role. It is not an executive position. It is not a place of declared authority.

Rather, being an equipper is simply the serving part that someone lives as a fellow follower of Jesus in order to resource and encourage every follower of Jesus as they live sent with Jesus into the daily rhythms of life. Rather than managing, equippers release. Rather than leading from a board room, equippers relate. And rather than declaring the authority of self, equippers resource the daily ministry of others.

And we certainly were not intended to just get folks in the door of “a church.” Rather, we were intended to equip folks to be sent out as the church.

So how might we equip for that. Here are three pathways of equipping I would suggest are crucial if we will equip the church to be the church as Jesus intended:

  1. the pathway of personally relating with Jesus.
  2. the pathway of together walking with Jesus.
  3. the pathway of together going near with Jesus.

If we equip along these pathways, cultivate in these ways, I would suggest that we would be equipping the church to be who Jesus intends.

This week, I will unpack those three pathways one at a time and would really value any input and wisdom you would be wiling to share in the comments.

Grateful to be an equipper. Praying for wisdom on how to be one.
-jason