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…


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.


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

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…

Here are 3 questions we may not be asking as we follow Jesus. But should we be asking them?

Quick post today.

Just wanted to suggest three questions we should at least consider asking as we follow Jesus.

1. Jesus, will you decrease me to love like You?
The evidence of our abiding in Jesus is not displayed in our personal goodness, but rather in His perfect love. Do you measure your spirituality with a mirror or within community? Read 1st John and ask which matters more – an increase in righteousness or an increase in love?

2. Jesus, will you increase wisdom to think and live like You?
This is a prayer Scripture declares will always be answered affirmatively. But may we not mistake our quest for knowing more with understanding better. May we not mistake our desire to have great understanding with our need to translate “not yet” into “right now.” And may we not mistake our yearning to explain heaven with His intention to announce “the Kingdom has come” through us. Wisdom has more to do with daily rhythms than devout righteousness.

3. Jesus, to whom are you sending me?
This is a prayer that if we are serious in praying will likely require REORIENTATION. We may have to exchange our going to church for going and being the church. We may have to surrender our scheduled church activities in order to follow Jesus in all of our activities. We may have to reboot our friendships to start up friendships with the lost rather than church-folks only. But He is sending His church.

Are you living sent?


Cultivating Daily into Neighbors: loving your neighbor even in a not-so-neighborly context.


The Leadership Journal recently featured an interview with John Dickson, author of Humilitas, historian, and co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity. CPX works to engage Australia’s mainstream media and general public with thoughtful content that explores the relevance of the Christian faith for the modern world.

Dickson shared insight that may be helpful for us in American culture. In particular, notice his response to this question:


What advice do you have for church leaders in America about how to engage the broader culture effectively?


I think the very first thing is to do is adopt a stance of mission instead of admonition toward the world.

CLICK HERE to read all of the article.

Lord, please teach us how to simply love our neighbor again, in hopes that they, too, will know that they are loved by You in this way – You sent Your Son to die for them. May we live sent, as You were sent to us.

Enough admonition. Much love. :)

Cultivating Daily into Family: 5 proven suggestions from parents of 5 grown kids.


I recently asked our friends Tom and Connie (@clalbers) to share some parental insight with me with permission to post it here on the blog for all of our benefit. I am so grateful that Connie is a mentor and friend to my wife, and my wife and I are so grateful for one of her daughters who is our chief babysitter (she rocks the house). This family is such a blessing to us. I pray that their wisdom shared here will encourage you as you cultivate daily into your family!

I asked Tom and Connie this question:

>> What are the five things you would encourage parents to cultivate into their kids in hopes that they live daily with Jesus and live a life on mission with Him regardless of their profession or location.

Here are their five suggestions:

1. Don’t get caught up in the do’s and don’ts. Christianity is not a religion. Cultivate a love relationship.

2. Cultivate a sense of family. Make sure there is an atmosphere of unconditional love. No matter what happens, family will always be there, and they will always love you. This is not based on what you do or don’t do. Spend as much time with the kids as possible while they are young, growing a close relationship.

3. Encourage them to spend consistent time in the Word. Don’t make it a legalistic “school” type activity. It’s NOT about reading a book. It is about getting to know the only true God that has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ (John 17:3). “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col. 3:16). As we are filled with His Spirit, we will be what God wants us to be.

4. Our goal in life is to bring glory to God in all that we do. To cause others to seek the God we love. Get our children to understand that “It is not about us.” We need to be servants. We need to be ambassadors.

5. Realize that our life is not our own. We have been bought with a price. Live it with Jesus and for His sake, not our self interests. We are to be good stewards of the time that God has given us on this earth.


Thanks Tom and Connie. Jen and I love you.

Cultivating Daily for Unity: here’s an awesome story of one local church putting the needs of another local church above their own.

It was their first Sunday for a public worship gathering. This new church start had been preparing for this day for some time, already having walked together and grown together and served together during what most call a “core group” phase. But this Sunday they would start a weekly Sunday gathering for the people of the community they had been already loving.

One of their goals was to be a new local church that helped to start other new local churches. But for most leaders, that day will come. It’s not something you do in your first year, right? It’s not something you do at your first Sunday gathering, right? Not when you have so many needs yourself, right? Well, not unless you value generosity toward and unity around mission with other local church families.

Only if you believe that “put the interests of others above your own” stuff applies to the 2nd person plural “you,” too.

And it does. It’s the only way for we as His church to actually be the church that He intended and prayed for in John 17:18-23.

“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)

On that first Sunday, an offering was collected, as does happen in many Sunday gatherings around the world. But on that first Sunday, this new church start did not keep a penny of it.

Visiting with them was another leader whose family and a few friends would be cultivating for another new local church expression not too far away. And without having told him it was going to happen before, the offering collected on that first Sunday was given in totality to the visiting leader of another local church family in order to help their ministry begin.

And that’s love – caring more about what someone else is becoming than what you are becoming. That’s love – being willing to give everything you have denying yourself to help someone else.

And that kind of love among local churches is what cultivates for unity in a community, is what becomes an answer to Jesus’ prayer, is what ushers in the work of God in a city.

The near love of Jesus on display, that the world might believe in the One who was sent.

May we go and do the same.

are southern baptists asking the right question?

A friend of mine named John holds a prominent post in southern baptist life. I love his heart to want to see southern baptists living sent and loving the world as the church should. I also appreciate some of the questions he is asking. Here is a clip from a recent email he sent out:

Consider some very sobering statistics. 56% of the growth in Florida Baptist churches from 1960 to 2008 has been through transfer growth. We all know that transfer growth may increase membership or attendance in a specific church, but the Kingdom of God hasn’t grown when people leave one church for another. The mission Jesus gave His church is very specific. We are called to “seek and save that which was lost”.  A church’s attendance and membership can increase through transfer growth while hell’s population increases also. Transfer growth doesn’t de-populate hell. We’ve got to be more missional in our churches and convention of churches.

In 1960 the population of Florida was  4,951,560.  There were 1257 churches and missions in the Florida Baptist Convention at that time.  They gave $2,584,840 to the Cooperative Program.  50% of the Cooperative Program giving stayed in Florida.  There were 62 Florida Baptist Convention staff members. There were 480,407 in total Florida Baptist Convention church membership who witnessed 25,517 people come to Christ and follow through in believer’s baptism.  They baptized .52% of the population of Florida.

In 2008 the population of Florida was 18,807,219. There were 2907 churches and missions in the Florida Baptist Convention at that time.  They gave $38,654,690 to the Cooperative Program.  60% of the Cooperative Program giving stayed in Florida.  There were 154.5 Florida Baptist Convention staff members. There were 1,016,726 in total Florida Baptist Convention church membership who witnessed 34,414 people come to Christ and follow through in believer’s baptism. (Not including approximately 7000 people baptized in our Haiti partnership.)  Our churches baptized .18% of the population of Florida.

We praise God for every witness given, every soul won to Christ, and every dollar given to missions through the Cooperative Program!! We praise God for every staff member who has served our local churches and local associations.

Statistics are not always a true indicator of everything that is happening.  Praise God He knows all that is going on for His glory!!! At the same time, we can learn some things from information we as baptists have desired to gather and report through the years through our Uniform Church Letters and now the Annual Church Profiles.

We are obviously not keeping pace with the population boom of Florida!!  Just last week, I learned from Dr. Tola, Director of Language Missions for the Florida Baptist Convention, that 60% of the population growth in the past five years in Florida is Hispanic. What a wonderful opportunity God is placing before us!!

We must ask ourselves what we see when we consider these kinds of statistics? What do the numbers show? If reaching the lost is truly our mission, how successful have we been?  Are there reasons we are falling behind in reaching our state?  Are we willing to ask hard questions that may lead us to be more effective and efficient in fulfilling the Great Commission here in Florida and globally?  These are just a few questions that come to mind, there are no doubt many others.

When you ponder the stats from the last forty years, several questions typically come to mind. These are the ones I most commonly hear. Why aren’t we baptizing more? Why are so many churches dying? Why aren’t our churches growing at a faster rate, or even growing at all? However, these may not be the proper questions. We’ve been asking these for some time now, and arriving at their answers has not affected change. Could it be that we are not asking the right question? Could it be that we are asking these questions with the assumption that our measurement systems are exactly what they should be? Could it be that the answer to these most commonly asked questions are not helping us focus on the right answer?

A friend of mine was actually on the team of engineers that helped to launch the first space shuttle. He told me the story one time, with a proud smile on his face, of a brainstorming session his fellow engineers and he had before that first launch in order to solve a very small but important issue with the shuttle. It weighed too much to get off the ground. The force of the blast off was not going to be capable to lift the weight of the shuttle and all its accessories. It wasn’t enormously overweight, but like most baptist pastors, it needed to lose just a bit. A change of some sort had to be made.

The engineers looked at the situation from all angles. Most were angles that people who completed only 10th grade geometry would not understand. A simple matter of weighing too much, and these educated engineers could not come up with a possible solution. They finally settled together that they would find something to take out of the cargo bay. However, nothing that could be spared weighed at or above the amount of weight that needed to be shed. They were baffled.

Finally, my friend asked a question. “How much does the paint weigh on the fuel tank of the shuttle?” The amount was calculated. It was just over the amount that needed to be taken away in order to get the shuttle off the ground. A simple problem. So many complicated solutions proposed. The right question. An answer so obvious it is missed. The problem solved. And the shuttle went up with an unpainted fuel tank.

We see the problem. Are we asking the right question? The question that helps us to arrive at the appropriate solution and affect change? What if “why aren’t we baptizing more?” is not the right question? Don’t get me wrong, baptizing is important. That public confession of our personal commitment is a beautiful expression of faith. But asking that for the last forty years has created an emphasis that has not created the desired result. What if the right question is simply this – HOW MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE PART OF A SOUTHERN BAPTIST LOCAL CHURCH FAMILY HAVE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS OUTSIDE OF THAT LOCAL CHURCH FAMILY? I’m talking about with those Jesus called “lost.” Are there lost people who would introduce that local church member as “my friend.” Sadly, we have been the salt of the earth by acting as a preservative of our church stuff rather than being the church daily as “salt” that brings out the flavors of God in the lives of the lost around us. That’s the only way they’ll taste Jesus. This may be why we are not baptizing more. This may be why churches are dying and not growing.

We see the problem. Are we asking our common questions with the assumption that our measurement systems are exactly what they should be? Take a look at the annual report forms. How many baptized? How many in worship? How many in small groups / Sunday School? Again, all important. But measuring these for the last forty years has not created the desired result. Our measurement systems always indicate our definition of success. How many are coming has been our measurement system. This means that the number of people “coming to church” is our definition of success. However, Jesus sent the church. We all agree that the church is not a place or an event, and yet we keep wanting more and more to “come TO church” or “be AT church.” Both “to” and “at” are prepositions that when used with the word “church” indicate that we do not define church as people. She is a who, not a what. And how many people “come to church” may be the wrong measurement system. After all, “in worship” and “in small groups” are both INward focuses. The church was intended to be sent. How many are living sent? Are our strategies pushing people out the doors of our church buildings to be connecting with the lost or trying to get the lost into a “place” that they don’t want to go? This may be why we are not baptizing more. This may be why churches are dying and not growing.

We see the problem. Are our most commonly asked questions helping us focus on the right answer? Almost all suggestions given for church growth strategies are focused on changing aspects of the church. Better music. Better preaching. Better media. Better visitation programs. Better small group curriculum. Better facilities. Can we really make the church better? Can we make her more beautiful? Can we adorn the bride any more beautifully than Jesus already did at the cross? The answer is simply NO. And we weren’t intended to. Jesus did not expect the world to become infatuated with His church. Jesus did not intend the world to be attracted to something better. He wants no one else courting His bride. He wants the world to fall in love with Him and become His bride. Are people staring at Jesus when they look at your local church, or just some place or event you have attempted to make more attractive? Maybe that’s why we are not baptizing more. Maybe that’s why churches are dying and not growing.

Because people can become engaged with church and not meet Jesus. However, if they become engaged with Jesus, they will be His church.

These statistics are alarming. If we do not make a shift from “come and see” approaches to “church,” then I am afraid the statistics will tell a far worse story forty years from now. May we ask the right questions, define success the way Jesus did, and focus on Him.