when dissolving does not mean disaster.

“when dissolving does not mean disaster”
by Jason C Dukes

For those church starters out there whose church starts don’t always turn out like the GRAND vision they had dreamed, remembering our purpose to be fruitful and multiply, no matter how noticed or unnoticed it is, is important. We pray this might be encouraging.

My wife and I say farewell to Westpoint Church, a local church family we helped start a little over 10 years ago that has been living sent on the westside of Orlando, FL and around the world. This is not a story of dissolution and disaster, of farewell and failure. Rather, it is a story of actual multiplication.

Here is a history of Westpoint Church. Having helped start 10 new churches in 10 years, having helped birth a church starting network called ReproducingChurches.com with countless new church starts, having helped create a disciple-making environment in the marketplace among business leaders and community residents called HouseBlendCafe.com, as well as having sent hundreds of people to live sent to make disciples in their everyday relationships in Central Florida and around the world, Westpoint Church actually gave themselves away. Eventually, a multiplier dies, leaving those whom have been multiplied to keep multiplying. As Erwin McManus wrote in Unstoppable Force, death is part of the life of any fruitful church, just as death is part of the life of any fruitful grandmother or grandfather.

In a culture where church planting successes are touted as large and loud, here is a story of when dissolving does not mean disaster because strategic and subtle equipping resulted in transformed lives who continue to make disciples in West Orange County and beyond. All glory to God.

May you be encouraged, whatever your church starting story is, to keep equipping for disciple-making in everyday relationships and to keep equipping for living sent in everyday rhythms. Even when giving yourself away means an eventual dissolve.

Here is the link to a 4-minute video in which Jen and I share about a truly prophetic challenge that one mentor gave us just two months into helping to start Westpoint Church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the church.

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

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

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

-jason

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

What did you think of Blue Like Jazz the book? Will you go see @BlueLikeJazzmov (the movie)? My quick thoughts…

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Some people loved it. Some people told me they absolutely hated it. One even told me he didn’t even understand why anyone on earth would like it. Donald Miller’s very popular book, Blue Like Jazz, hits the big screen today across the country. I wonder what people will think.

I wonder what those who might be labeled “evangelical republican” will think of it. I wonder what those who might be labeled “evangelical democrat” will think of it. I wonder why we have so many labels, especially ones that define people on presumptuous religious notions and volatile political stances. We need fewer labels and more love.

Maybe the movie will address that issue.

I will say this. I liked the book. It was fresh. Well-written. A great story of a guy whose staunch religious upbringing was transformed into a growing relationship with the God who came near. I plan on seeing the movie.

Will you? I’d like to know if you are willing to share.

What did you think of the book? Will you see the movie?

If you got to see a preview of the movie, please give your thoughts of review.

Here is what Donald himself shared from his early conversations with director Steve Taylor when they were contemplating the transfer of biographical novel into screenplay:

“Let me put this another way,” Steve said. “While you’ve written a good book, thoughts don’t translate onto the screen very well. The audience can’t get inside your head like they can in a book. They will be restless. They won’t engage. Trying to be true to the book is like asking people to read your mind. A story has to move in real life and real time. It’s all about action.”

“You think they might be bored if we just show my life the way it is,” I clarified. I guess I was asking for reassurance that my life was okay.

“I think they’d stab each other in the necks with drinking straws,” Steve said.

(Excerpt from: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller)

That’s funny. I bet it had to be weird to be told your life was interesting enough to be a book but wasn’t interesting enough to be a movie. We shall see.

CLICK HERE to visit the movie’s website. And check out the trailer below. Looks kinda interesting :)