Category: Leader Craft

Discovering Jesus

I recently had an article published in Reach Beyond’s magazine. Here it is for your perusal.

Two ships sit in the harbor. Both tall-masted, with sails unfurled. So alike, so different. 

The one to the north is the HMS Merchantman, a merchant ship laden with valuable cargo. Anchored to the south, an exploratory vessel, the HMS Discovery. Can you see them? One carrying goods, the other carrying curiosity. Hold them a moment in your mind’s eye, then consider…

How might these two ships be equipped – one for commerce, and the other for discovery?

How might their itineraries differ?

Who would you expect to find on each? What skills would be needed in each endeavor?

How might dinner at the captain’s table go on each ship? Who would attend? What might the dialogue be?

If you were to spend a year on each, how different would those years be?

Narratives as vessels for thinking

We like to believe that we deal in facts, but in point of fact, we deal in stories. We are physiologically hard-wired to process facts by building stories to make sense of them. Narratives are the ships our thoughts sail in, the operating systems of our minds, and we can’t think without them. They make astounding cognition possible. But they also limit the places our thoughts can go, and if left unexamined, they can force us to see the world through crippling lenses.

Societies do this, too. Our most important processes are carried out in stories, so that our values can be transmitted undamaged. These processes (e.g. marriage, passage into adulthood, leading and following) are similar across the species, but the way we do it differs from culture to culture. Hollywood and Bollywood tell very different stories about exactly the same things, and this is why.

Cultures often have a central narrative, and members of that culture are rarely aware of it. These stories are usually morally neutral, but when a cultural narrative impedes our ability to obey Jesus, it requires critique, and an alternative narrative must be found.

We do mission inside stories, and sometimes those stories limit and warp our mission. It’s no accident that the Crusades happened during an era driven by feudalism. Conquest was the story, and so the sword drove the narrative of mission. Likewise, during an era of unprecedented Imperial British reach, we should not be surprised to find Colonialism driving the mission narrative of the day. People didn’t always shed blood and subjugate continents motivated by evil. Sometimes they were blinded by their narrative. An unexamined narrative will always misguide us.

Occasionally, an individual or a small group caught on and went off script, opting for a different story to live in. Francis of Assisi is an excellent example. Rattled by the dissonance between the gospels and the narrative on offer, Francis took off his clothes and the story they were made for, stood apart and began building a better story. 

Marketing Jesus

Perhaps the loudest voice in the missiological dialogue right now is the American voice, and the dominant American cultural narrative is Capitalism. It’s in everything we do, much of what we say, and in the majority of our assumptions about one another’s motives. It should not surprise us to find, then, that the narrative we do mission in is a story about marketing Jesus. Let me show you what I mean.

In the bible, pastors are skilled, gifted heads of believing households. In North America, pastors are CEOs of charitable institutions. The books on church leadership are business leadership books, baptized with Bible words. Churches compete for customers, and when income no longer meets overhead, churches close. In the New Testament, all the believers in a city were the church in that city. In the US, a church is where you shop for a spiritual product.

When I was in seminary, Coca Cola was a favorite tool of mission mobilizers. They would show a picture of a shaman somewhere in Papua drinking a Coke, and cry, “We have had the Great Commission for 2,000 years! How did Coke get there before us?” The analogy is totally irrelevant, but we all responded. Why? Because we thought of the gospel as a product we needed to deliver to a market. That’s the only way that analogy holds.

Once we get “over there”, we set out to find the felt needs in our communities. Usually, we walk right past our neighbors to do that. We don’t live deeply in communities; we study them, to find out how best to pitch our product, and we pitch. We talk a lot, and we don’t ask many questions. Jesus asked a lot of questions. So if we don’t do it like him, who’s doing it wrong?

If stuff starts to happen, we measure it. I was a scientist, once. I measured things, to learn about them. But we usually measure results to validate our efforts, our callings, ourselves. We rarely measure how our disciples effect change in their communities. We measure numbers and speed of spread. Market penetration. 

We write mission statements and vision statements and value statements, just like Jesus taught us to. Except he didn’t. We learned that from the business world, so whose disciples are we?

Listen, I think business is good. I love Business As Mission. I hate Mission As Business.

Discovering Jesus

So, here’s an alternative narrative to try out: Mission, not as spiritual entrepreneurism, but as spiritual exploration.

Let’s imagine again. This time, imagine a parallel universe, just like ours, with one exception. In this world, the Western mission narrative for the last three hundred years hasn’t been delivering Jesus to needy markets, but rather discovering Jesus in the world and helping others see him, too. How might mission happen differently in this story?

Mobilizers wouldn’t ask people to “take Jesus to places he isn’t, yet.” Rather, they might invite people to go discover Jesus in the many places he hasn’t yet been sighted. He’s always been there. It’s just that the not-yet-engaged can’t see him.

Proclamation and disciple making would be less about delivering a message and downloading content into people. Rather, the preacher’s task would be to look for burning bushes, evidences of Christ at play, within and without. If I discover Jesus at work in my heart, I proclaim that, and when people have questions, I answer them from my own first hand experience of Jesus and the gospels. Like Peter moving from his contemplative vision on a rooftop to opening the Kingdom to the Gentiles under Cornelius’s roof.

When I discover Jesus at work in a lost community, I proclaim that, and I invite them to see that, too, using the Scriptures in tandem with the Spirit, to discover Christ’s invitation and an appropriate response. Like Paul in Athens at the statue of the unknown god.

Leadership would require a different skill set. We would need to release control of outcomes and learn to sail with the Wind. We would need perceptive skills like listening prayer, collective discernment, and reflective obedience. Leaders would have to become good at hearing the voice of the Spirit in their community, and then working with it until there’s enough clarity to act. Like the prophets and teachers in Antioch, the Jerusalem Council, and Paul’s team hearing the Macedonian Call.

I think I’d walk around differently in that universe. Instead of trudging through a world of darkness and hostility, trying to force a product on people who don’t want it, I could walk free through a world of beauty (with its dangers, toils and snares), seeking out the burning bushes, the whispers of God’s good intentions, declaring them as I boldly go. Playing hide and seek with God like it’s my job, except He’s not hiding from those who look.

We need a new boat

The Merchantman has taken us as far as it can. We need the Discovery. The unengaged need explorers, not marketers. Jesus is nearer to them than their skin, but the god of this world has blinded their eyes to his glory. We, however, can see him.

And I want to see all the ways Jesus makes beauty and justice grow from chaos and corruption. I want to hear His myriad names in as many tongues, watching Him reveal Himself to peoples who have never beheld glory, in households and neighborhoods who have had Him burning their bushes for years, but have never seen. I want to navigate the world, not as a traveling salesman, but as a peregrine, an explorer, witnessing restoration as I help to bring it forth along the way. 

And I know I’m not alone.

Let’s go see what we see.

Some help to live from your heart

I have a friend named Tim Addington. He’s great. He wrote a few books that changed the way I approach ordering my life. You can check out his stuff here. In one of his books (Leading from the Sandbox), he talks about how to live fully from one’s heart by identifying the key areas (Key Result Areas) that you feel the Lord has called you to make a lasting impact in, planning to make that impact, and then executing that plan. It sounds simple, and it is. Today I’m going to show you how to do it, and I’m going to share with you my Key Result Areas for the next 3 years.

So, what we here in Narnya do is we imagine, in vivid high-res detail, what we hope our lives will look like at a certain date in the future. For me, now, it’s 3 years. Others use 5, some 7. Pick a period of time that makes sense for you in light of the terrain of your life right now. In 3 years I’ll finish the big 40, so 3 years fits the natural contours of my life, as I’m looking to enter the next phase of life positioned well for our best impact.

Now, imagine that preferred future as clearly as you possibly can. What will your family look like? Your health? The teams you work with? Your ministry or your family’s ministry? Your neighborhood? Think about every area or person you care about, and imagine what you hope they will be like in that amount of time.

Got that picture in your head? It can take some time to get it clear, but don’t rush this part. Without this vision, your plans will perish.

Once it’s clear enough, identify the significant areas of that picture that you’ll have some influence over. These are your Key Result Areas (KRAs for short). For example, if you’re not in politics, the presidency of your country probably shouldn’t be one of your KRAs, but your family certainly should, as should your personal development, and whatever ministry you’re involved in. You can see below that I have 4 KRAs – Me and My House, the Church and the Work. A few years ago I did this exercise and had a longer list, but found a long list led me to dis-integrate my life, and that wasn’t helpful for me at the time. So, I’ve simplified the areas and just given them greater detail.

Once you have the areas identified, write a description of what you want them to look like in the amount of time you’ve chosen. Describe them using as much detail as you’ll have influence over (not control, but influence), while keeping it general enough that minor changes in the game won’t demand a total re-write. For example, a team mate here decided not to include the names of individuals in her KRAs (e.g. “Adil will be following Jesus and growing in his family life as a believer” was changed to, “A few friends following Jesus and learning to live that out in their households”), but to include the names in the specific monthly plans (which are a later discussion).

So, to review, you imagine your life and all that’s in it a few years down the road. You describe the areas of that life you’re envisioning as you hope them to look by then, and you write that down with as much clarity as you can. From here, you can make the plans that can get you there, but that is for later post.

Below I’ve edited my own KRAs so they’re postable without changing the way they are worded much. This is the document I refer to every month as I try to exercise appropriate dominion in my own living. Feel free to look it over, and to ask questions. Many of you, I know, are wanting to live a little more intentionally, but just need some good tools to get you there. This is a great one, so feel free to poke at mine and to ask questions or offer some push-back. The dialogue will force more clarity for me (which is always helpful), and it might help you live more fully and effectively from your heart.

So, take a look. Am I missing anything? Are there areas of life you think I should attend to that you’re not seeing here? Is there something I’m made for, but I’m not doing? Which of these can I clarify for you? Which of these do you like, or might you use yourself? How do you keep life from becoming a string of accidents?

See below, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Key Result Areas (KRAs): “When I’m 40…”

These KRAs describe my desired future in the 4 areas most important to me. This is what’s in my heart – the places I want to leave a legacy. The window is 3 years.

ME

Having been shown some of the Father’s intent for me, and understanding what I need to be and to do that, I want to embody these things:

  • Isaiah 50:4-5
  • I want to love strong and true, like sunlight on leaves; and I want to build a house to heal the world.
  • Athletic physicality – StrongDad
  • Understand and appropriately exercise authority and spiritual power
  • An Integrated Identity that is factual, flexible and fulfilling

MY HOUSE

I want to have built a stable, Christ-soaked core household that blesses and builds, catalyzes and cares.

  • A family team that works to understand, adore and celebrate each other, and that works together well.
  • Living established, simple rhythms and practices that members can be shaped by.
  • A normal means of training apprentices who come to live with us, and a steady stream of them.
  • The house 25% paid off
  • [My wife] happy, healthy and honed
  • Household members working regularly at 80% of their maximum pace (not more).

THE CHURCH

I want the churches in my reach to be increasingly Christomorphic, activated and rigorously Biblical. I also want critical mass toward 100 Disciple-making Households in Narnya and the Narnyan church intentionally moving toward a clear vision of health.

  • Living in clear relationship with the Narnyan church such that I am able to help them (and them me) in all the ways the Father intends (with my House).
  • A few clear, usable means to move toward clearly envisioned health
  • 10 of the 100 Households equipped and activated
  • Motion toward catalyzing a re-imagination of Narnyan Manhood
  • Houses/Churches/Fellowships elsewhere well connected to each other and to us, equipped and engaged.

THE WORK

I want more Workers doing the Work better (and together where appropriate).

  • My team clear, thriving and resourced.
  • Workers from all organizations and denominations here working as one with the Spirit.
  • Workers in my reach equipped, catalyzed and activated.
  • Local APESTers in play.

Ramblings on APEST gifts in the New Testament

The next post in the ROOTED series will mention the role of apostles in stewarding the mystery of Christ. I don’t want distract us from Jesus by bogging that post down with a lengthy defense and description of New Testament apostleship. But some clarity on apostleship (and on the other callings described in Ephesians 4) will help us a lot, I think. So, before returning to the ROOTED series, here is a reprint of a brief treatment of the APEST gifts (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers) as they are described in the New Testament.

Others have done a great job discussing how these folks can and should function now, but that is not my goal in the discussion below. Here, I am aiming to help the reader get a grip on what the Scriptures say about these people. Other things might also be true of them. But here we will just stick to what clarity we can get from the Text.

Feel free to add, subtract, detract and question. Dialog is healthy.

Ramblings on APEST in the New Testament

To start with…

I will be working with the assumption that these 4-5 categories refer to callings, not to spiritual gifts. These people are referred to as gifts to the church, but nowhere in the Text do we have any reference to a gift of apostleship, or apostolic gifting, or an adjectivization of the noun apostle. The same holds true for the evangelist and the shepherd. Prophecy and teaching are listed among the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, but as apostleship, evangelism and shepherding are not, it’s cleaner and likely more accurate to understand these roles as callings, distinct from (but not divorced from) giftedness. For example, an apostle might have a strong teaching gift, and a shepherd might have the gift of prophecy. These gifts will surely inform how each will fulfill his or her calling, but they are not themselves the calling.

Calling must also be understood as distinct from office. There are two offices described in the Scriptures: elders and deacons. As these are not within the scope of this treatment, suffice it to say that the Scriptures nowhere speak of the office of apostleship or prophecy, etc.

Below are some cursory descriptions of each of these people as supplied by the New Testament.

Apostles

Obviously, apostles are “sent ones”. The word in the First Century had its own undertones, most obviously referring to emissaries sent by a king, a lord, or another person who held authority.

That apostles continued to be called after the original 12 is obvious. See the quote below from B Mark Anderson:

James, the half brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church – Galatians 1:19

Barnabas – Acts 14:14

Paul – Acts 14:14 and many other references

Apollos – Corinthians 4:6-9

Timothy and Silvanus – I Thessalonians 1:1 and 2:6

Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25.  While the King James Version translates the word as “messenger”, the Greek word (apostolon) is actually “apostle”.

Two unnamed apostles – Second Corinthians 8:23.

A brother of fame among the churches, and a brother tested – “As for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.” Again, the Greek word is “apostoloi” but is translated here as “messengers”.

These nine now make  a total of 22 (13 + 9 = 22).

Andronicus and Junia – Romans 16:7  “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”  Were these genuine apostles or were they, as some (Charles Ryrie and others) translate, “well-known to the apostles”? If we count Andronicus and Junia, the total jumps to 24.

In addition to this, when John was the last surviving member of the original 12, the churches are told to test those who claim to be apostles. If he’s the last, that would be a really easy test – anyone not John is not an apostle 😉 .

Most cases that there are no apostles anymore are actually reactions to abuses of the term. Two primary examples of such abuses are the Roman Catholic notion of apostolic succession and the more recent emergence in some charismatic circles of folks calling themselves apostles and using the term to exert control over multiple churches or networks of churches. Neither of these ideas can be defended from the Scriptures, but neither can the notion that there are no more apostles after the 12 originals plus Paul. The passages noted above make that very clear.

When we track how Paul describes what drives him, we can see several functions attached to his calling as an apostle:

  1. Pioneer. He is indebted to Jew and Greek and Barbarian. He has to get the message to where it has not been.
  2. Spiritual/Relational architect. How the relational structure is shaped is important to him. He builds carefully, like a wise and skilled master architect.
  3. Guardian of the gospel. It matters deeply to him that the message is transmitted whole and in one piece, both across cultures and across generations. He uses the word “entrusted” to describe this responsibility, both in reference to himself and to Timothy.
  4. Connective tissue across geography. He connects the churches (which are city churches). They are not held together in their identity as the one holy catholic church by statements of dogma or hierarchical leadership structures, but by the movements of the apostles. Paul even abandons his push to Spain (his Pioneer driver) to mobilize the Gentile churches to care for the famine-stricken Judean churches, leveraging a crisis to knit the Church together relationally.

It is also worth note that some apostles are described as “apostles of Jesus Christ”, and others are called “apostles of the churches”. The apostles of the churches, in these instances, are commissioned by a local church to execute the intentions of that church in another place. For example, they were sent by Gentile churches to carry money and love to the church at Jerusalem. Those described as apostles of Jesus Christ are not sent as the agents of a local church (though a local church may respond to the Spirit and send them out). These are separated to the Holy Spirit for the work he has for them. They are directly accountable to Jesus for how they execute their calling, and they are safe in that because they are the kind of men and women who would never use their freedom to prey upon the church, go rogue or abandon mutual submission. This is the kind of character Paul describes as indicative of true apostles in his defense of his own apostleship in the letters to Corinth.

Apostles are last of all, least of all. The New Testament does not describe apostleship as some sort of super-eldership or in terms of regional authority. I’m not saying folks don’t get called to regions. Nor am I saying that apostles don’t have authority. I am saying that contemporary presentations of apostleship as some sort of uber-bishoprick are not supported by the Scriptures. Apostles are last of all and least of all.

Prophets

It might be helpful to draw a distinction between the verb “to prophesy”, the noun “prophecy” and the person of “the prophet”. In 1Corinthians all believers are encouraged to prophesy (speak forth what the Lord is giving them to edify the church). Some believers have the spiritual gift of prophecy. And some folks are called prophets.

To avoid some errors that have occurred in different eras of Church history, it is in some places common to underestimate the function of the prophet – to define it as merely “speaking forth truth” or, slightly better, “speaking forth God’s Word, as we have it in the Scriptures.” It could be argued that simply reading the Bible out loud would be the same as prophecy in that case, but the way Paul speaks of prophecy and prophets suggests that it is something more than that.

The prophet Agabus gives us an excellent example (Acts 11 and 21). In the accounts we have of him, he foretells the future, hears the words of God, speaks the present situationally relevant words of the Holy Spirit, and calls his audience to hear the Holy Spirit. It is this function of hearing, saying, and calling the community to hear the words of God that seems definitive of prophets – both in the Old and New Testaments. Hear-say-call.

Evangelists

The word means “good-news”. But the term itself in 1st Century Rome may well have been borrowed from the Roman political machine, baptizing a commonly known function – that of a herald who announces the good news of an Imperial victory or decree – and applying it to King Jesus. We can’t say that for sure, though.

In reality, we can’t say much for sure on this one. The three occurrences of this word don’t do a lot to fill out our understanding of this term. Timothy is told to “do the work of an evangelist”, which tells us a few things. First, the work of an evangelist is a set of intentional actions that Paul’s co-workers would have understood as “the work of an evangelist”. The term suggested an understood person with an understood function (as opposed to a command to “evangelize” or to “do evangelism”). Second, the work of an evangelist was distinct enough from the work of an apostle that Timothy, functioning as an apostle in Ephesus, would have needed the instruction to do it. And finally, it is noteworthy that in an environment with an established church and emerging leadership, an apostle is encouraged to do the work of an evangelist, alongside the extant church.

Phillip is the only person called an “evangelist”. His work in Samaria is a good example of this work, and it’s noteworthy that it is attended by miracles (something often misattributed only to apostles). It is well after the event in Samaria that he is called “the evangelist”, so it appears he remains an evangelist – that is, it is not an ability or grace that descends upon people, but is rather a calling that remains.

Shepherd and Teacher

I am grouping these together here because it’s unclear if Ephesians 4 refers to shepherds and teachers (distinct), or to shepherd-teachers. Very little is said about these people in comparison with prophets and apostles. There is the obvious warning in James that not many should be teachers, conspicuous for its grammar – rather than “not many should teach,” it is “not many should BE teachers” – suggesting a distinct and observable function. Other occurrences are discussed in the section below.

What is probably most needful here is say what these terms might NOT mean. That is, it would be easy to say, “Well, we know what these people are. They’re the people who stand in front on Sundays and talk, and who do counseling during the week.” While some teachers and/or shepherds might be found in those settings now, those settings did not exist in the New Testament milieu. While a discussion of first century forms and local church ministry is beyond the scope of this little essay, it should be said that whatever shepherds and teachers did do, we must not read present prevailing practice back onto the Epistles.

Teams, combos, architecture and some implications

The teams described in Acts and the Epistles seem to include at least one apostle, plus other gifts. There does not seem to be a described or prescribed effort to have all 4 or 5 of these gifts on a team. While that might be a great idea and a commonly fruitful strategy, and while I really like having all 5 callings on any team I’m on, that is not a priority we read from the Text. To be clear, it might be a priority, but we don’t find that priority prescribed or described in the Scriptures.

Explicit grouping of such people is observable in Acts. Prophets and teachers in Antioch gather to minister to the Lord. Luke doesn’t bother to tell us if they are elders. To Luke, it doesn’t matter if this is a leadership meeting. It’s prophets and teachers in a city, gathering before the Lord. In my view, it is likely Paul was one of the teachers (as opposed to prophets), as he often refers to himself as a “teacher of the Gentiles”, but never as a prophet.

Phillip the evangelist has two daughters who are prophets. That’s an interestingly intentional description of Phillip’s family. And it’s to this unusual family that Agabus the prophet seems to travel.

The most important grouping of these terms, I think, is in Paul’s architectural ecclesiology. Paul says that the church is built upon the apostles and prophets, with Jesus being the chief cornerstone. This is a big deal. At least, we must come to understand what it means that the foundation of the church (and churches?) is comprised of apostles and prophets. The fact that the order is not prophets and apostles is suggestive that post-Reformation interpretations of this passage – that the prophets are the OT and the apostles are the NT – must be fabricated; it cannot be read off the page. This is strengthened by Pau’s statement that “God has set in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then [a list of special capabilities]”. Again, the order: 1.Apostles, 2. Prophets, and (here) 3. Teachers. There is something in this related to the spiritual, social or phenomenological architecture of the church in Paul’s mind.

As far as obvious implications go, I’d offer one admonition, one warning, and one encouragement.

The admonition. If it’s true that apostles and prophets are literally foundational to the church, we have got to prioritize clarity on who they are and what they do, finding them, training them, activating them and setting them loose. This needs to become an explicit goal.

The warning. This isn’t social science. The Scriptures offer descriptions of called individuals working in community. Reducing these callings to sociological synonyms, quantifiable predilections or other American categories might well do significant violence to them. We are well served to be rigorously Biblical – striving to say what the Scriptures say, and neither more nor less. Extrapolation will likely not help us here.

The encouragement to folks looking to send APEST teams. What is most observable is that apostolic mission is accomplished by apostles, plus lots of others. But always by apostles. So my encouragement is to mobilize apostles. Green apostles to seasoned apostles. And mobilize other personnel to seasoned apostles. Apostles don’t replace God. They are last of all and least of all. But they are the catalysts and activators, the architects and arrowheads. Or to use a different analogy, axles don’t replace the engine (God), but they are the center of the wheels (APEST teams) that the car needs to meet the road and make progress. More important than perfectly balanced teams is the mobilization of apostles. In Acts 13, the Spirit didn’t ask for an APEST team. He took two people and made apostles of them. From there, the teams grew.

This Sunday, what if we tried this?

I was thinking today. If I were a local church leader, here’s what I’d do.

First, on a Sunday morning, I’d ask everyone what they would do to minister to their extended families and/or their neighborhoods if they had one extra day a week. I’d give them time to think about it and to write it down.

Then, on that same Sunday morning, I’d ask them to get up and to go sit down in extended family groups or by neighborhood, and I’d give them a good chunk of time to discuss with one another what they wrote down.

Third, on that same Sunday morning, I’d likely read the Great Commission from Matthew and then dismiss the crowd.

The next Sunday morning, I’d read the Great Commission again, along with Acts 2:42. Then, I’d put them back in their groups and ask them to pray together and to make a plan that incorporates one or more of their ideas. I’d lay some ground rules for how to have a conversation like that so everyone participates, and so that someone can lead and maybe someone else administrate so the plan is actually workable. The only big rule would be that the plan would need to incorporate everyone, and that it would have to use families working together as families. But mostly I’d leave them to themselves and I’d pray silently for them while they worked. In the last 15 minutes or so of the meeting, ‘d have groups share their plans aloud with the whole crowd, and I’d give them a little more time to tweak their plans after hearing from one another.

At the end of that second Sunday meeting, I’d tell them that where two or three are gathered in His name, He’s there with them in a way He’s not with them when they are alone. I’d explain that “in his name” means “as his agents”. And ‘d tell them in no uncertain terms that they had just gathered as his agents, and that he had been in the midst of every single group, and that I was 99% certain that their plans were his plans given to them, and that they must obey them. In fact, I’d on the spot cancel the following Sunday’s BigShow, and I’d tell them NOT to come to this building next week. Rather, next Sunday is that extra day of the week – a day we are giving back to them to meet in his name, pray through their plan and execute it. And as they execute it, they should expect Jesus to engage them directly and to disciple them while they seek to disciple their communities as communities.

That following Sunday some people would just stay home. Their loss. But some would have a cookout or a bonfire or a block party for the neighborhood, and they’d bring up Jesus. Some would mow lawns in Jesus’ name. Some would spend the day with the elderly in their neighborhood, or at the group home down the street. Some would prayer walk. Some would pick up trash. But all of them would encounter Jesus – I’m sure of that – and that’s not something I could say if we’d kept the BigShow on for that week.

The following Sunday we’d read about when Jesus sent the 12 out to teach and heal and take the land, and how he debriefed with them afterward. And we’d debrief. And from there, gathered as his agents, we might begin to re-imagine together what a monthly meeting rhythm might look like. And we might come up with something that got passive individuals off of pews and got engaged neighborhood teams and family teams out discipling communities in Jesus’ name. Maybe a big meeting every other week. Maybe less often. Maybe more. But lots of getting at it as local neighborhood families taking direct action on the disciple making target together.

If I were a local church leader, I might do that this month.

The Homeless Necessity

I beg your indulgence. This post is designed to encourage and give clarity to people in my line of work. It’s not meant to exclude anyone else. To some of you, it might sound a little us-focused, but this one is for them. They could use the encouragement, so I hope you understand.

This is for all you apostolic workers out there, and for those of you struggling to understand us.

Blood is considered a connective tissue. It’s not muscle, not bone, not an organ. People like me, like my team mates, are blood. The apostolic worker is connective tissue, and more specifically, blood. In the global body of Christ, we’re the blood.

In your body, where is your blood? It’s not here, it’s not there, yet it’s everywhere. It has no home, except everywhere, and when it does stay in one place, it stops being what it is. It carries bits from one part to another, and carries fresh oxygen to the whole. It is homeless, yet is somewhat at home in the whole Body.

We’re the blood. It’s important for us to remember that. We won’t feel at home anymore anywhere. Wherever we go, we’ll be a little different, and our job will be to be a little different, because we’re carrying within us some of what it means to be the last place we were. When I go to the States, I’m a little Narnyan, and that’s what I’m supposed to be. It makes me lonely, and that’s alright, because what I am able to bring to those I love in the States because of my experience being somewhere else is worth it to me. And when I return here, some of the grace and light I experience with my believing friends in the States comes with me, spreading strength and perspective to my team mates and helping me encourage believers here.

My friend Phil lives in Antioch. He IS Antioch. He’s made of Antioch. He incarnates Jesus as an Antiochan. That is what he is for. He is bone and stability and place. The located necessity.

My friend John is a networker. He pulls people together and helps them give their strength to each other. John is a ligament. Without him, two strong muscles would never be able to connect to truly move the body. They couldn’t produce coordinated action. John makes that possible. The binding necessity.

There are other organs, other parts, other muscles. And each is necessary.

But we, friends, we’re the blood. A little lonely everywhere, yet able to live anywhere. And that’s what we’re for. We’re weird, not because our clothes fall out of style, but because we have been broken and remade on a different potter’s wheel. No one will likely ever really understand us, except another one of us. We will only be at home in the whole world. And that’s ok. We’re the blood. The homeless necessity.

The Planet Core

A dear friend – more like family, really – back in the States recently wrote me about some intense emotional difficulties she was having. Something really rough had recently happened, and she was also under lots of situational stress at the time. Altogether, a good environment for crazy feelings to erupt. She talked about having flashes of joy and periods of peace, but always being so close to the brink, teetering on the cusp of despair.

I’ve had my own run-ins with strong, negative feelings and situational stressors lately. I wrote her back, sort of from my own experience. Apparently, by some twist of Providence, it was helpful. Maybe it will be helpful for some of you. Maybe not. But, here it is, with some minor alterations:

“So, here’s what I’m learning here. This tug of war between peace and anxiety, depression and despair – it’s at the surface level of my soul, and yours. It’s the surface of the planet, where weather changes rapidly and nothing is sound. In periods like this, when I’m fighting for joy and what I’m getting is anger, it’s important to realize that these feelings are on the surface. But there is another layer to my created emotionality. There is the deep, still center. The planet core. There, “Christ may dwell in your heart through faith.” It’s when all hell is breaking loose on the surface that we have a chance to learn to burrow down deep, to meet Christ inside us, and to commune with him in the interior rooms. The mystics referred to this as mystical union with Christ, and they talked about sinking down with your mind into your heart until you’re seated with Christ in your still center and knowing each other there. Put another way, peacefulness is a feeling that reflects the reality of peace. Joyfulness is a feeling that reflects a reality called joy. Despair is a feeling that reflects a reality called desolation. And anxiety is a feeling that reflects a reality called chaos. Now, here’s the thing – you’re pressed but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed. The realities of joy and peace – whatever is happening on the surface – are already inside you. 2Peter is clear about that. The inward you IS being renewed day by day, whatever is happening to the outward you. Inside the planet core you HAVE peace and joy. “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” That is all inside you already. You’re not waiting to get it. But it’s in the basement, where Christ is sitting with a hot cup of coffee and a good, sturdy chair to get ‘stuck’ in. Go downstairs, and if you don’t know how, ask Jesus for directions. He’s already there, so he’s found the stairs.”

I pray you find that space inside you, and learn to dwell with Christ in your own heart by faith.