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.

Some news regarding the Dukes family and the Westpoint Church family.

Jen and I shared some life-changing news this last Sunday morning at the end of our gathering.

We tried as best we know how to communicate that we sense a leading from the Holy Spirit to be sent by this awesome church family which we helped initiate and with whom we have walked these last nine and a half years in order to equip and lead a local church family elsewhere. It was with a profound ache in our hearts but with a peace we don’t understand that we shared this news, and we are grateful for the loving, affirming encouragement we have received.

When we started Westpoint, we started with the full intent of growing old with Westpoint. We were not looking to leave. We were not pedaling resumes. We have over the last year sensed an unsettling in our hearts that we could not explain. But we are very surprised to even be writing this, much like you might be surprised reading it.

Long story short is that someone recommended us to be considered for lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Booneville, MS. It happens to be the church family of which my brother and his wife are a part, which is not in and of itself significant except to say that is how they knew who we are. We know that we will be stretched to lead a beautiful people in a culture like which we have never led before. We pray that we will be able to equip and love and send a people eager to make disciples, live on mission, and equip future leaders to go and be the church from the most churched state in the country, Mississippi.

We have a peace in our hearts. We have sought the wisdom of a multitude of counselors. We have been affirmed in personal prayer and study of scripture. We look back and see some spiritual guideposts via a few relational experiences and God-sighting circumstances over the past year for both Jen and me. We have had so many people with the church family there who have prayed for a pastor to lead them to live sent locally and around the world. We have had the fervent prayers and full support of our elders. We simply feel like God is saying that He wants us there.

We don’t understand. But we have a peace that we don’t have to. It is hard to even proclaim excitement. But we have a sobriety that in past experiences has always indicated God’s presence in the midst of something.

We are sobered by the notion of moving our family there to learn the ways of Jesus in a whole new context as well as to think and live like a missionary among a people who are so familiar with the stories of the Bible they often find themselves, without intending to be, complacent and self-sufficient. And we sense the Spirit whispering as we lean in close that we have encouraged the church here in Central Florida to live sent, and now He wants us to encourage His church in Mississippi to do the same.

I will also continue to write. I will still continue to support and serve church starters and missionaries in Montreal, Quebec in partnership with NAMB. And I will begin exploring relationship with Mississippi Baptist church starting leaders as well as exploring partnership with the Launch Network for new churches.

The bottom line. We hurt at the thought of leaving. And the culture of Westpoint isn’t one in which there would be hurt for leaving SOMETHING, but rather SOMEONE. We hurt to leave the beautiful, caring people with whom we have been being the church together and living sent daily. Who have cheered with us over the births of our children. Who have stood beside us during the accident of my parents and the death of my mom. Who have supported us as we have tried to equip leaders both here and around the world. Who have endured so many long-winded teaching times on Sunday mornings. Who have prayed with us for the continued growth of our marriage. Who have welled up with joy with us at the continued growth of our family. And who have simply been our friends. Loving. Gracious. Forgiving. Beside us.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We have a little time left together before we would move. It looks as though our last Sunday with Westpoint would be July 7th. We would then load up and move the following week. We hope to soak up this time with you between now and then.

As far as Westpoint goes, may she be even more committed to loving as we have been loved and living on mission unified by togetherness around sentness. Westpoint is led by a strong, Spirit-led pastoral team and vision team who are equipping others to think and live like a missionary here. A transition team is being pulled together to lead Westpoint during this transition on into the future of whatever God has for His local church here. They will begin exploring options and be regularly communicating with the Westpoint family.

In case you might be wondering – what about Jason’s dad? Doesn’t he live here, too? Well, he is moving to Booneville, as well. And as you might expect, he is grateful for how God would bless him during this season of his life to be in a town that contains both sets of grand kids. Twelve in all (at least for now). Both sets of parents are grateful, too.

Regarding Jen’s family, Jen and I will miss the blessing of living so close to them here in town. We will miss them very much, but they have been and continue to be so supportive and very affirming of this calling to equip in a more traditional setting.

Please pray with us as we transition. Thanks to all who have been praying and encouraging us through this decision.

-Jason and Jen

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

The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does.

As the WestpointChurch.org 2013 SENT life emphasis continues, the equipping focus for this month is NEIGHBORING. The Sunday teaching series is entitled “God became neighbor.” This past Sunday morning, we spent time in John 4. Each week, I close the teaching with “the bottom line.” Here it is from March 10th:

THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Gospel is not some concept to believe. It is the proper lens through which to see yourself and others as God does. It is the moving news of God changing locations, coming near, compelling us to take initiative to go near. God’s commands are not overbearing rules that when kept earn God’s love. They are rather eye-opening pathways down which we walk with Jesus in order to experience God’s love. And worship is not some emotional event defined by geography and circumstance. Rather, it is a breath-by-breath, relational response to the God who stepped into the geography He made to resurrect life from our consequentially deadly circumstances, transformationally declaring once and for all the Truth of His love.

When we believe this Good News, and over time as His Spirit grows us in understanding how this Gospel is embodied in our daily relationships (which is wisdom, by the way), then we realize how neighborly God has been with us and are gratefully and graciously compelled to go be neighborly with each other as well as to others.

So grateful to be reminded of the mysterious, beautiful, compelling news that God came near taking up residence among us. We are loved. His presence is our good.

-jason

marriage and making love _ encouragement for those embarking on the Spouse Beach Diet with us this month…

Our emphasis on SENT life together continues this month with a focus on the most intimate of all of our relationships – marriage. The oneness or lack thereof in the relationship between a husband and wife can define and empower SENT life or distract and hinder mission together. The hope this month is to better equip husbands and wives to grow in oneness and experience the SENT life Jesus intended.

Last Sunday in the teaching, we learned together about “Eating Jesus Together.” If you so desire, you can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here are some encouraging words about romance in marriage from Dennis and Barbara Rainey of Family Life Today. Enjoy…

________________________

Dennis and I received a cute email about the romantic differences between men and women. It began by asking, “How do you romance a woman?”

Answer: “Wine her, dine her, call her, cuddle with her, surprise her, compliment her hair, shop with her, listen to her talk, buy flowers, hold her hand, write love letters, and be willing to go to the end of the earth and back again for her.” I could go along with that.

But when it asked the same question the other way–“How do you romance a man?”–the answer was much more brief and to the point.

Answer: “Arrive naked. Bring food.”

Ahhh . . . men.

But in a way, this blending of our roman¬tic differences is similar to how you make a good salad dressing. Oil and vinegar are about as dissimilar as condiments get. The only thing they have in common is that they are liquids. Other than that, they’re night and day. Oil is smooth; vine¬gar is sharp. Oil is thick; vinegar is thin. Left alone in the same bottle, the two will always migrate to opposite ends and remain there forever–unless shaken.

Interestingly, however, even after the bottle has been shaken, the two ingredients retain their unique identities. And yet they complement each other in a savory unity. Together, they serve as a zesty finish to an otherwise bland mix of lettuces.

And so it is in marriage. No matter how many times a husband and wife come together, they always remain unique. He will always think like a man; she, like a woman. And although their innate design will never change, they can better under-stand each other and move to love one another with compassion, knowing that in so doing, they create a savory blend of romantic intrigue.

Discuss:
What do you love about your romantic differences? Which ones can drive you crazy?

Pray:
Pray for patient understanding and for new ways of embracing and loving this wonderful person you married.

__________________

As an ADDED BONUS _ here are “4 Ideas to Improve Your Love-Making” also from Family Life. Really enjoy this one :-)

Much love.
-jason

28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet)…

Eating was important to Jesus, and so it should be important to us as His followers.

“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)

Jen and I like to go out to eat. We don’t always like learning the nutritional information about some of our favorite restaurants, though. Jesus didn’t come with a nutritional information guide, but He did ask His followers to eat Him!?!

So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.
(John 6:53-55 HCSB)

Paul gives us an indication of what it is that we are “eating” when we eat of the Bread of Life, because we become what we have eaten.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
(Galatians 5:22, 23 HCSB)

The same principle is true in our marriages. Our marriages become what we are feasting on individually and together. The Spirit blossoms in us or the flesh rears its destructive head.

And so, “The Spouse Beach Diet.”

This month, as the Westpoint Church family focuses on the letter E of the SENT emphasis, as we continue to emphasize the mission of Jesus central to our daily rhythms and alive in our everyday relationships, we turn to the most intimate everyday relationship we can have on earth. Marriage is metaphorical of the relationship between Christ and the church, and it is literally the one relationship that can define the very purpose of our lives.

Because this is so, let’s take the time this month to discover what the Scriptures teach us about the dietary nutrition of our marriages.

On a very practical level, here are 28 Days of Suggested Nutritional Choices for the Diet of Your Marriage (aka The Spouse Beach Diet) – one a day for the wives to consider and live out (if they so choose) and one a day for the husbands to consider and live out (if they so choose). You can click on the links below to check them out. Just to be clear, they are rated M for “marriage.” :)

For the husbands to consider – https://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/husbands-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions-copy.pdf

For the wives to consider – https://jasoncdukes.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/wives-spouse-beach-diet-28-days-suggestions.pdf

Hopeful that this February will be a nutritious one for your marriage!!! Find a few couples to pray for you and with you and share the ups and downs with as you diet together this month.

Much love.

-jason

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.