Interview with Tracey Bianchi

I did this interview with Tracey quite a few years ago while blogging for Missional in Suburbia…

Question: Thanks so much Tracey for taking the time to dialogue with us about being green in suburbia! Please tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Green MamaTracey: My husband Joel and I have three young children (ages 3, 4 and 7). Two boys and a girl. And a goldfish named Stinky Pete. I work part-time at my church serving in Women’s Ministry, part-time as a freelance writer and speaker, and work all the time I can with my family. So that makes me completely harried and more than a little frantic at times. But it keeps life interesting. Caffeine makes it all possible.

We live just outside the city of Chicago in an older suburb. It’s an easy-going, walkable and historic community. We’ve all lived in the Chicago suburbs on and off for most of our lives and have spent well over ten years in the community where we currently live. I believe it is significant, in our transient culture, to set roots down and invest in a community. This has been our goal for many years.

Question: Being green has become the trendy thing to talk about these days (similar to the idea of pursuing justice). As soon as a topic becomes trendy I know that many people tend to disregard it merely as a passing fad. What does the Bible have to say that should compel us to live green lives?

Tracey: There is of course not a single passage that says “God is Green.” All our “eco-friendly” conversations did not exist in Biblical times. But the Bible is filled with so many stories of God’s interaction and engagement with his people through Creation. Starting with the Creation story itself in Genesis 1 & 2. We see that God Created this world, gave us a gift to sustain ourselves through it. So right away on page one we see God’s concern for the natural world. God speaks to his people through the natural world, from burning bushes to statements that rocks will cry out. The Psalms are also filled with statements about awe, wonder and worship that come because of experiencing the vastness of God through the sun and moon and stars, the natural world. Paul tells us in Romans that Creation itself has been subjected to the sin of humankind and groans to be released.

Question: How would you define being green?

Tracey: Living wisely by knowing that our lifestyles impact others and then taking steps to  keep that impact as minimal or positive as possible. For some this means driving less or turning to alternative energy sources, for others it can mean just ditching disposable water bottles and recycling. It’s more about creating an ethos, a culture that is aware of others and how our lives impact people all over the world.

 Question: What makes a Christian response to the topic of being green distinct from a secular response?

Tracey: The impetus for going green, for the Christian, is about God and about worship. Culturally, going green can be political, anxiety producing, or just an attempt to be trendy. For the Christian it is about honoring God by treating well the gift he gave us. Also, the impact of our environmental actions often lands indiscriminately on the shoulders of the poor, something Christians should care greatly about. Caring for the poor and needy among us.

Question:  I think that many times (urban or suburban) we just start going with the cultural flow and lose sight of how God is calling us to live differently. Please give us some examples of how you see suburbanites not being very green.

Tracey: The suburbs breed a culture of convenience. After time we just assume that everything should be quick and easy. That wider streets, bigger cars and drive thru windows or even bigger homes should be the way we live. We forget that taking our time, walking places, or passing by the fast food outlet is a better option. That the often coveted, 4000 square foot “McMansion” is not always the most convenient for our neighbors and others with whom we share the planet.

Question: What are some simple steps we can take in suburbia to become better stewards of God’s creation?

Tracey: We can advocate for simple changes in our communities. Idle-free parking zones in front of our schools, encourage children to walk to school or parents to walk to errands. Petition for curbside recycling if it does not exist or for community-wide hazardous waste recycling events for the whole community. Waste-free lunchrooms and eco-friendly fundraisers at our schools. The opportunities are vast for making change!

 Question: One of the characteristics of suburbia is the chaotic busyness of everyday life. So the idea of adding “being green” to our to-do list seems overwhelming. How do we make it a priority when our plates are already so full? Is it possible that being green can actually simplify and slow down our lives?

Tracey: No one wants more on their “to do” list. Being Green is less about adding things to the list and more about doing what we already do each day, and just doing it smarter. Fill up a water bottle from home rather than buying a disposable bottle at work. Walk to the store rather than drive. Pack lunches in reusable bags and snack bags rather than disposable items. Turn off your car engine in the school pick up line, ATM, or dry cleaner. All activities that we do each day/week, just doing them smarter and with a greater awareness of our impact on the world.

Question: Do you have any other thoughts or ideas you would like to share with us?

Tracey: Just an encouragement to think about green living as a way to connect with God and others. It’s less about trends and climate change or politics and more about a way to get in touch with God’s desires for our lives. That we would be wise people who care for others. Our environmental impact plays a very important role in the lives of others. If God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, being environmentally conscious is a way to do this.

Thanks Michael for the opportunity to share some thoughts! If people want to follow up they can visit me over at http://traceybianchi.com or via facebook and twitter.

My Interview with Shannon Sedgwick (The Mom Who Stopped Joseph Kony)

I did this interview with Shannon quite a few years ago while blogging at Missional in Suburbia…

UPDATE: Since I did the interview with Shannon I found HERE an article about how she helped stopped the reign of terror of Joseph Kony. Definitely take some time to read this fascinating, inspirational story! There is another link HERE from Christianity Today about Shannon.

I first heard about Shannon Sedgwick Davis by watching her do an interview with ABC News. The title of the interview is “The New Face Of Evangelicalism.” (This link use to work. When I tried it recently I had little success. If you know where I can find the video please let me know). What struck me was her passion when it comes to using her life for the good of others. Shannon agreed to answer a few questions for us at Missional in Suburbia…

Question:  Shannon, tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Shannon: I’m a “normal” working mom of two young boys- which are the joy of my life and continue to amaze me every day! My husband Sam and I have been married for 6 1/2 years. We enjoy spending as much time as possible with our boys and playing tennis together (although don’t tell him I told you; he’s a lot better than I am!) This year I learned to surf which was challenging but a lot of fun.

Question: What do you do for a living?

Shannon: I’m a Human Rights Lawyer and President of Bridgeway Foundation. I also serve on several advisory boards: The Elders, Eastern Congo Initiative, Humanity United, TOM’s Shoes, Blueprint Ministries and Relevate.

Question: Clearly you are a person who personally strives to see justice brought to a hurting and broken world. What motivates and compels you to live this way?

Question: My relationship with Christ. Not because I am a Christian but because I believe Christ’s life was about showing up. When I read about Jesus’ time on earth, I see a constant theme that runs throughout- He showed up. In every situation or person he encountered, Jesus was given knowledge and then responded by doing what God put on his heart. The knowledge I have been privileged to receive and the faces of people along my path, compel me every day just to show up and say yes to the life God has called me to.

Question: What do you see as the greatest challenges for families living in suburbia? Or to spin it this way; what are some of the things you believe keep us from living the radical life that Christ is calling us to?

Shannon: Fear. I think innately we know that knowledge equals responsibility. The atrocities of the world are overwhelming and we become paralyzed in fear because we don’t where to begin. Yet all God asks of us is to bring what we have to him. To be obedient and bring our gifts and skills to bear on these problems then trust the miracles to Him. There is nothing more powerful in the entire world than when a person finds himself caught up in a cause far greater than himself.

Question: Mothers today are so incredibly busy! Soccer practice, work, errands, managing a household, church, etc…With all the busyness of daily life is it even possible for moms to be thinking about issues of justice and the needs of a hurting world both locally and globally? If so, what are some first steps you would recommend to a mom or a parent to participate in God’s redemptive mission in this world?

Shannon: Yes, I know it’s possible first hand! A first step could be, to pray and ask God what you are supposed to do. He is faithful and will lead you. As Christians, as people who love God and love His people, we must not sit idly by and watch evil triumph! Even if we are incredibly busy with day to day life, we must do something, we must show up!  Whether that means to pray, to become more aware of the issues that people face in the world, or to give of our time, talents or treasures, God has placed in each of us a purpose that He will use for His glory. (end of interview)

Thanks again Shannon. I loved this line, “There is nothing more powerful in the entire world than when a person finds himself caught up in a cause far greater than himself.” It truly is liberating when we embrace the gospel truth that life is not about us, it is about losing ourselves for the good of others.

The picture of Shannon was taken from Christianity Today.

Interview with Helen Lee (The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose At Home And In The World)

I did this interview with Helen Lee a couple years ago while blogging at Missional in Suburbia…

Helen LeeHelen Lee is a busy mom living in the Chicagoland area and she is also the author of a wonderful book that is soon to be released; “The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose At Home And In The World.” Helen has graciously agreed to allow me to interview her and  my prayer is that this interview, and her book, will be a tremendous encouragement to all the moms (and dads too!) who are working hard everyday to raise up and train their children in the way they should go!

Question: What motivated you to write, “The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose at Home and in the World”?

Helen: I had been aware of the growing trend of churches calling themselves “missional”, then had the chance to write about this trend in more detail for Leadership Journal. As I began to speak with missional church leaders and understand more about what the word meant, I was captivated! At the same time, I’d been thinking for a while about writing a book about Christian motherhood, and one day the idea came to me that being a “missional mom” was exactly what I wanted to think and write about. So for the past year and a half, I spent time finding a number of women I felt embodied the spirit and substance of living missionally, learning from them and from their life choices, and I finished the book this summer. It comes out in January 2011 from Moody Publishers, and I am hopeful that it will be encouraging, inspiring, and challenging for today’s moms in their own life and faith journeys.

Question: You mention in your book that many women today are not finding joy and fulfillment in their role as mother. What do you have to say in this book that will inspire and give moms a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in their day-to-day life?

Helen: I think that today’s moms are pulled in so many different directions, and one of the reasons they have a hard time attaining a sense of joy and fulfillment in their lives is due to a sense of internal tension; “am I living the life that God intended me to live?” Part of that tension comes from either not knowing their calling, not feeling the freedom to pursue it, or erroneously misunderstanding their calling. In the book, I write about this idea of calling and suggest how today’s moms might consider rethinking their own sense of purpose and mission. I think once you have the proper perspective about your own mission in life, you can live with much more freedom and passion than if you are constantly struggling with the question of, “Is this what God has intended for my life?”

Other factors that weigh today’s moms down are the strong cultural pressures on moms to produce “perfect,” “successful” children. In the book I try to identify some of the more insidious of these pressures that moms might not even realize might be affecting them–hopefully as they understand these cultural influences better, they will be able to make choices to free themselves from those influences, which I believe will help them attain more joy and fulfillment in their lives as moms as well.

Question: What would you say to all the busy moms out there who don’t think there is enough time in the day to be missional?

Helen: I understand all about busyness! I have three young sons, 8 years old and younger. I also homeschool, so you can imagine that my life is very full. But there are so, so many ways we can be missional that won’t even add a minute to our day–there are lifestyle and attitudinal changes you can make that can make a huge difference in your life and especially in the lives of your children that will have longstanding effects. For example–you can start talking more in your household about the global needs in the world, and help your children to be aware of those needs. You can pray with them on a regular basis about children in other countries who are suffering and who are in great need, and this opens a child’s heart and mind to the idea that we have a responsibility to care for “the least of these.” You can encourage your kids to donate their own money to help others, you can reduce consumeristic and materialistic attitudes in your own home, which can all help your family live more missionally…the list goes on and on! Being missional isn’t just about “doing” missional things–although that is part of the picture–it is a way to live and those are just a few examples of changes that can any mom can start making regardless of how busy she is.

That having been said, though, we all make time for the things we care about. Even if it’s only an hour a week or month, every mom can take steps in her life to build in active missional living–which, as Scot McKnight says in the book, comes down to a simple question: asking “how can I help you?” in every situation. We can all take time to help a neighbor, a friend, someone in need. And we need to build that discipline in our lives, no matter how busy we are, no matter how much we would prefer to just live our own private lives, because ultimately loving and caring for others is at the heart of what it means to love God.

Question: Highlight some of the cultural pressures you see at work today that makes it difficult to raise children who love God more than anything else on earth.

Helen: I mentioned a couple above that are worth repeating: materialism and consumerism are two huge pressures. It’s very difficult to live counterculturally to the constant messages in our culture that we must always attain more wealth and more stuff in order to truly be “happy.” Achievement-orientation, I feel, is another. Here in America, we like saying that every person has a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What that usually means here in this country is the pursuit of material success. But I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that we are either entitled or guaranteed happiness or material success. I see a Christ who sacrifices everything to save the world, and who calls us to be willing to do the same. God may choose to bring material blessings into our life, (and many of us are blessed beyond measure, compared to the majority of the rest of the world), but it’s not something to seek after, or to train our children to seek after.

I have a friend who is a pastor of a missional church, and he regularly asks his congregation, ‘How many of you who are parents pray for your children to be missionaries or to go to full-time Christian ministry?” It’s a good question to ask ourselves as parents, to test our desires for our kids and see if we are wanting for them a future that is based on a specific idea of success that might actually not be God’s ideal. The issue is not whether our child will end up in ministry, but whether we ask ourselves, “Are we as parents praying for our children to fulfill God’s calling on their life, whatever that calling might be?” It can be a very challenging prayer–but God is not asking us to do anything as parents that he did not do himself, which was to offer up his own Son to give his life for the world.

Question: What are one or two things that you hope moms take away from your book?

Helen: One: that God has a purpose in mind for you, and that motherhood–while vitally important and a critical role in your life–is not the only purpose and not even the primary purpose for you. (The book will explain that concept in much more depth!) Two: that as mothers, we have an incredible opportunity to help our children embrace missional living. Three (sorry, I couldn’t stop at two!): that living missionally can be the key to helping a mom experience more joy and fulfillment in her life as a mom.

Thanks to Helen Lee for taking the time to join the conversation here at Missional in Suburbia! Wonderful stuff, lots to think about! We would love to hear your thoughts, questions and comments…

Interview with Jayne Vanderstelt (Soma Church)

A few years ago my wife and I spent a week at Soma Church in Tacoma, Washington. We went out there to be a part of what they call “Soma School.” Soma School is an opportunity to learn about what it means to be immersed in both the gospel and community while on mission to the city of Tacoma. The week that we were out there had a profound impact on me and my view of ministry.

jaynevanderstelt (1)Jayne Vanderstelt is married to Jeff (Elder and Missional Community Leader at Soma). Jayne was kind enough to answer some of my questions so that I could learn from her and in turn share her responses with you. She has some incredibly insightful things to say in regards to life in a Missional Community, making disciples, and the importance of loving where we live.

Tell us a little about yourself.  I was born and raised in the Northwest, Seattle, and met Jeff when I was 19. He was working as a youth pastor, fresh out of college, a transplant from Michigan. We’ve been married for almost 20 years (March 13) and have 3 kids…Haylee (10), Caleb (8) and Maggie (6). I have a graphic design degree and worked a bit in that before having Haylee when I was 30. I have always loved art and am a visual artist on the side. Most of the work I do is for my kids’ school auction or projects for friends. I took a classical drawing class that I really loved, but mostly do art as a hobby. I haven’t worked outside our home since my oldest daughter was born. I currently volunteer at my kids’ school (mostly on the auction committee and in the classroom), I am a hospice volunteer, have played a very active role in our Soma Kids Ministry, and finally I am meeting with various women in our body in a mentorship role. We host MC at our place and I do DNA with 2 ladies. Our kids are in soccer and Swim team, so those things keep us busy as well. I also like to read, watch movies with Jeff, listen to music and eat and drink yummy food! Haha…oh and now that I am 40, I am learning to like exercise.

There are many people who do not feel deeply connected to the city, suburb, in which they live. Why is our attitude towards the place in which we live so important?  Being connected in a community is a very intentional act. It means I am meeting people and engaging in events that are happening in my city. I am going to the grocery stores and coffee shops, learning people’s names and trying to frequent places that will communicate that I am a faithful and consistent customer (you can easily do this in the city or a suburb). I strongly believe that you need to be loving the people you are living with…and if you struggle with this, to ask God to give you a heart for them. It’s very true that you can either love or despise a people group/culture quite easily. Growing up in Seattle, I was afraid of and even looked down on Tacoma. In fact, had you asked me in my 20’s to move here it would have been a straight up “NO WAY!” But as God called us here and I started to engage with the people, I realized what an amazing place this was. We had lived in Chicago for 6 years prior to moving to Tacoma and a close friend that I had developed there told me once that I was always comparing Seattle to Chicago and she was starting to take it personally. I didn’t realize that my homesickness for the Northwest was starting to affect my ability to really enjoy and engage in the people I was ministering to so I’m sure I was portraying a bit of an arrogant posture, not trying to, but communicating to them that what I was experiencing there wasn’t quite as good as what I had “back home.” How offensive is that??? Well, once I realized this, I started to become very careful with my comments and started focusing on the positives of my new home. I realized that I was encouraging the natives and ministering to them in a way they felt built up and loved. This in turn helped me to get my focus off myself and my selfish desires and put it on others. I then started to really love the people and the culture. This lesson has served me well in every subsequent experience of new surroundings. Bottom line…If God calls you somewhere, HE alone will put a love in your heart for the people.

Many Small Groups have primarily been focused on caring for one another, Bible study and prayer. All great things! Why is being on mission to your city so critical for Missional Community life?  Any time we completely focus on ourselves we miss so much of what God has to do in us and through us while we are living on this earth. God intended for us to not only receive grace, but to give it away. I have so enjoyed being part of other people’s lives in a way that leads me to pray for them and the people they are reaching. Being involved in mission in the city fuel’s our time together at the MC meeting. We all come together and are able to build each other up, bring the Gospel to each other’s situations and relationships, pray for each other and experience joy together when someone has a victory. I think it’s hard for people to understand that caring for each other within the body is only fully realized when it involves caring for people outside the body.

What are a couple things that you love most when it comes to being a part of a MC?  I love seeing people experience family in a new way. I love seeing needs being taken care of. I love it that I have a group of people who are checking in on me when Jeff is away. I love the spiritual dialogue and growth that happens in our lives. Just last week, Jeff was gone and I hosted our MC. I looked around the room and realized that most of the people we were on mission with have come to faith in our community…or are “coming” to faith presently. People’s lives are very precious and the journey God has us all on is very unique to each one of us. This is the beauty of an MC. We are all at different places, but God is at the center of it, uniting us all. Our MC is a community where we are all personally growing and being stretched as well as constantly talking about the people God has put in our lives and how we can pray, watch and join the Lord’s work in their lives.

What are some of the struggles, challenges you have when it comes to sharing life in a MC?  We have been a part of many MC’s over the years and I am learning to recognize a cycle that we go through. We start with a smaller group, learn to trust each other, get to know personalities, work through conflict, find sometimes that we are socially drawn to some more than others, and learn to love and grow…as a family…all the while some leave, new ones join, and others remain “consistently” “inconsistent.” (for lack of a better description:). I can recall one group in particular that I really struggled with at first and I remember praying and asking the LORD why He would put us with these people, I thought there might have been some mistake and entertained the thought that maybe we needed to reaccess this group and assign ourselves people we had better chemistry with. I knew this was wrong and that God had a purpose in choosing us to be together so I devoted myself to praying that God would give me a new heart for these people. Long story short…as I prayed and applied my heart to loving them, God gave me a deep love and understanding into their lives and the very different perspective they were coming from. My love muscle was exercised and grew during that time. I constantly look back on that experience and thank God for it because it taught me the power of God in my life…to change my heart towards another person. Functioning and “surviving” in the MC God has chosen for us will help us learn the discipline of applying ourselves to love…which will in turn, help us in the”real world” be the kind of selfless people that those in the world need to be in a relationship with. To learn how to interact with people in which we don’t see eye to eye on everything is of great value and a vital practice if you are going to reach the world for Jesus…and shouldn’t that start in our MC family!

How do you personally disciple ladies in your MC/church? In a nutshell…it’s not in meetings. I am devoted to prayer, reading God’s Word (where I am learning a ton on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus), living it out,  and I am sharing it with the people in my community. I have found that my life experiences are way more impactful than what I believe and teach. I am in a DNA that meets on Monday nights and I am starting two separate Mentorship groups of women who have contacted me to ask if I would meet with them. I am convinced that one on one mentorship is not nearly as effective as a group situation. But mainly, I am interacting with the ladies by asking them what they are learning and how are they working it out…and sharing with them what God is teaching me and how I’m working it out. If you want a practical example, here is a recent situation…I was helping at a function at my kids’ school and needed some extra hands so the first people I contacted to help, were a handful of the ladies I am mentoring. They were eager to help and it was an amazing testimony to the school who thanked me for providing my own helpers and were encouraged by people outside the school who are willing to give up a Friday night to serve them.

Lastly, I just want to add that prayer is a vital part of all of the above. I encourage intimacy with Jesus and a devotion to learning to listen to the Spirit in everything. Honesty with Jesus and those around you and a humble submission to His will, will open the door of clarity in the area of truly being missional in a way that pleases God. Life on mission is messy, changes frequently, unpredictable, etc… If you are not truly connected to Jesus through it all you will rapidly crash and burn because of your weak choice to burden yourself with a life that is not empowered by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. As a beloved daughter of God I have functioned in both arenas and will say with great conviction and authority that the Spirit of God is mysterious and unpredictable but simultaneously grounding, comforting and clearly the only one who will leave you with the profoundly supernatural experience of peace, joy, and the undeserved fruit of your labor.

Grace Means We Don’t Have To Hide (Imagine Dragons-Demons)

No doubt in our culture we want to front the best image possible; it’s no different in the church. So we end up hiding parts of our true self. But the emotional and spiritual cost of hiding is astronomical. No one gets to know us for who we are.  Always posing. Keeping up the illusion. Inside we are screaming that there has to be a better way. We need a safe place so that when people see us for who we truly are we know they won’t run away. Instead they stay, listen, love and extend grace.

Interview With Seth McBee About Being On Mission, Community And Discipleship

Who is Seth McBee?

Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade Seth is an seth mcbeeInvestment Portfolio Manager, serving as president of McBee Advisors, Inc. Today, he’s a preaching elder with Soma Communities in Renton, WA and part of the Executive Team with the GCM Collective. In his down time he likes to CrossFit, cook BBQ, host pancake ebelskiver breakfasts at his home and many other neighborhood events in his hometown of Maple Valley, Washington

Question: What do you do (the strategy) to make sure that people in your church are being discipled do that they can go and disciple others?

My strategy to ensure people are making disciples is pretty simple.   We trust in the work of the Spirit as we live out the implications of the gospel in community as a family of missionary servants.  I am not sure any other way to “make sure” people are being discipled.  You can do trainings, classroom discussions and studies, etc. but that isn’t ensuring anything is actually happening.  You must get the people in community, living out the implications of the good news with the power of the Spirit for this to happen.  We see this is exactly how Jesus did it as well.  We can see him discipling his disciples on the mission field with the broken 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time was just with the disciples.  The interesting thing is that by doing this we get to see the real responses of the discipleship process, meaning, we even as readers 2000 years later, get to see where the disciples need the gospel.  We see Peter saying some pretty stupid things and the apostles failing to heal (Matt 17) and asking Jesus for explanation, (with many other examples) all these happening as real responses from being on the mission field.   So, by living out discipleship on the mission field, you will see where you, your missional community and those that are not yet believers actually need the good news of Jesus in their life.  When you are having a BBQ and a neighbor’s kid spills his fruit juice on your carpet and you yell at him and get angry at the cost of carpet cleaning, it reveals you need to understand who’s carpet it actually is and why you have your home.  You need the good news applied to both your anger and your possessions.  If you have the BBQ with your MC, and you see them as family, they can point these gospel needs to you with confidence you desire correction to make you more like Jesus and under his Lordship in every area of your life.

Not only this, but we encourage everyone to live as normal people with normal lives, but understanding they have an abnormal calling.  Everything we do needs to be transferable to each one of our people instead of discipleship only being able to be done by a select few.  If your discipleship can’t be transferred over to a single mom, a CEO or college student…you are probably not doing what Jesus was doing.  He lived in such a way that was transferable to a wide range of people.  Fisherman, tax collectors, zealots and even crazier…women. (crazy for that day…don’t get mad at me).

The last thing I’ll say about this is to realize that the second people meet someone, they are discipling them to who Jesus is.  Everything you say and do people perceive is what a follower of Jesus does.  When your people see this difference, it opens their eyes to understanding discipleship and how much they are discipling in the every day.  Much more to say on this topic, but we don’t want to belabor that here.

Quick summation: Holy Spirit empowered, Gospel saturated,  in community, on the mission field, transferable, in the every day.

Question: Do you make disciples in a group (Life Group or Missional Community) or do you do it one on one? Or is it a combination of the two? Please explain.

Both, but mostly, like 90%, in community.  There are times to meet up one on one, I get that.  But that cannot be the totality of our discipleship.  There is a reason that God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, God calling out Abram to start a new nation, God calling the people of God the church, a family, a body, a flock.  Because the point of all these are to point people to who God is and what he is like.  God is Trinitarian, therefore, by living and discipling in community, we show off who God is and the fact that he lives in community as Father, Son and Spirit.  If I merely disciple someone one on one, that person will start to look like me, instead of Jesus.  I can call them my disciple, instead of them being Jesus’ disciple.  It would be like going to the gym and merely working out your right bicep.  Sure, that bicep will be huge, but it will not help your whole body’s development.

Again, this doesn’t mean you negate one on one, but you must see the fallacy of that being the way to make a fully formed disciple of Jesus.  Even Jesus rarely met with the disciples one on one…what makes us think we should spend most of our disciple time doing that?  Unless one thinks they are greater than Jesus.

Question: How often should Life Group or Missional Community Leaders meet for training? What curriculum do you use?

How often? Not sure.  This will be different for every community.  We need to be careful from trying to set this up for all people for all time.  Some questions to ask to determine for one’s community would definitely be these:

  1. Where do we see our people needing to be trained in?
  2. How long do our people need to live out the training before we start a new topic to train them in?
  3. Can we gather for training that will not interrupt their normal discipleship lives in an unhealthy way?  If yes, the question then comes, how often should this be to make sure it is not a burden?
  4. Can we use our other gathering times for training? MC meetings, Sunday gatherings, etc.

We use many of the resources found on the GCM Collective.  I am about to embark on this with my MC as I am moving and expecting three MCs being born as I leave.   I will be going through these first: Empowered by the Spirit; Gospel Fluency; How to Create an Environment for Discipleship; The Power and Purpose of the Gospel.

Question: What should we do if there is a lack of Life Group or Missional Community apprentices? Steps to take?

They are there.  Usually people just have too high of expectations for apprentices.  Too high being the apostle Paul would struggle to pass your test.  I think the very first step is to ask the Spirit to reveal them to you.  Remember it is the Spirit’s mission and the Spirit’s power, so he’ll provide the workers.  We must rely on him and him alone for leaders to be not only born, but empowered.  Once he shows who this is, and he will, take extra time with them.  Make sure you are continually living life on life with them and tell them what you see in them.  Tell them you believe they’ll be leading some day and you believe in them because you believe in the power of the Spirit.  If we think every one of our kids are going to be “good enough” to one day lead their own families, we should look at our MC family the same.  Every one of them could lead, doesn’t mean all of them will.  But, just as you treat each of your children differently because of age, maturity,etc. do the same with those in your MC.  Some will be ready for leadership more quickly, so spend more time with them now readying them to multiply, and when they do, look for the next batch by asking the Spirit again.

This all goes back to the first question though.  You have to make sure that you are discipling in ways that are empowered by the Spirit, transferable and in the every day.  If you do this, more people will believe it’s easy to lead an MC.  I am about to leave for Arizona and my MC is freaked out some, but they know that they can do everything that I’ve done, because everything I’ve done is pointing them to the Spirit’s power, easily transferable and very much in the every day.  They’ll miss me because we are family and I have some distinctive gifts, but they won’t miss me because they don’t think they could do the exact same thing with me gone.

Question: What are a few books that you have read lately that have had a big impact on you?

I always get rocked by seeing the life of Jesus and how he lived with the power of the Spirit, in relationship with his Father and discipling in such simple ways.   I have been reading the Bible and focusing on the life of Jesus looking for these things.  Powerful.

Other books that have been killing me, in a good way, are Creating a Missional Culture by JR Woodward and also The Permanent Revolution by Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim.  Both focus on Ephesians 4 with the giftings given to the church: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers.   Both these books are revolutionizing my thoughts on the church and I believe is the tip of the iceberg for the church at large.

Question: Is Caesar Kalinowski coming out with a book? If so, tell us why we should be excited about reading it.

The reason you should read it is because Caesar does a great job of showing everything I/we believe about discipleship in the everyday empowered by the Spirit.   Love that guy…he means a ton to me.  Great friend and even better brother.

The book will be coming out next year, stay tuned!

END INTERVIEW

If you want to learn more about Missional Community life go to GCM Collective. There is a GCM movement underway in South Jersey; if you are interested you can contact me (Michael Wallenmeyer).

The Discipleship Crises

The Critical Question

One of the most important questions facing the church today is this; is every believer called by Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples?

The Biblical Answer

If there is one passage of Scripture that Christians are familiar with it is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Just because we are familiar with a particular passage of Scripture does not mean that we fully understand it or obey it.

The phrase “make disciples” is in the imperative which means that Jesus is highlighting the importance of it. The short and sweet of it is this; every Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples who make disciples. In fact, making disciples is a primary characteristic of someone who claims to know Christ.

Six Reasons We Don’t Make DisciplesChurch pews

“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.” –Francis Chan, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples” 

1-Christian leaders have not been discipled

In my 43 years of being in the church I have experienced the love and encouragement of many people, yet I have never had someone disciple me like we see Jesus doing with his followers. From the conversations I have had with many people I know that I am not alone.

2-Churches are not looking for pastors who make disciples

Churches are overly focused on the show, the performance on Sunday morning. I’ve seen quite a few job descriptions for pastors in my time. I can’t honestly ever remember seeing “we are looking for a Lead Pastor who makes disciples” at the top of the list. Think about that for a moment. Frightening. Why is it that the very thing Jesus commanded each one of us to do so that the gospel would spread throughout the world we fail to make a priority for our leaders?

3-We assumed that the “church” was responsible for making disciples and failed to own the responsibility ourselves

I think there are many people who would agree with the idea that Jesus commanded us to make disciples but they believe it is the “church’s” job and don’t understand that they personally bear the burden and the joy of discipleship themselves.

4-We mistakenly thought we could make disciples through programs and worship services

Many church leaders have been trained to put together worship services and programs. Sunday morning is important and there is a place for programs, but the truth of the matter is that disciples are made in messy, gospel centered relationships. We have attempted to make disciples like Ford makes automobiles; impersonal assembly lines and mass production. Jesus modeled a very different way to create disciples.

5-We have substituted discipleship for accountability partners

There is nothing wrong with having an accountability partner; the issue is that we are not reproducing disciples. Let’s not throw out the idea of accountability, instead let’s add to it the disciple making component.

6-We don’t feel spiritually mature enough to make disciples

One obstacle is that we do not feel qualified to disciple another person. Perhaps we are painfully aware of our own sinfulness or we have not been a Christian for very long. The truth is that we will probably never feel ready. Chances are good that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead you to disciple someone who is more spiritually mature than you are. But what about your colleague at work? The neighbor at your child’s bus stop? There are opportunities all around us if we will open up our spiritual eyes.

Do you see yourself in one of the above six reasons? What other reasons can you think of for why we are not making disciples?

What Does A Church That Makes Disciples Look Like?

What would happen if a church took discipleship seriously? Imagine being done once and for all with the clergy/laity divide which has led some of us to conclude that the “professionals” are the ones responsible for discipleship. Imagine followers of Jesus who take full responsibility for the discipleship of people in and outside the church. Consider the depth of relationships and community that would exist because there is not an unhealthy dependence on programs and worship services to generate discipleship. Imagine a church where each person is reorganizing the priorities of their life with the purpose of investing in others? Imagine the people in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces that are being loved and led to Christ by ordinary disciples like you and me. Imagine the gospel spreading and people in our city becoming worshippers of Jesus Christ because of our relational investment. This is a glimpse of what would happen to a church that takes discipleship seriously.

The Way Forward

What are some first steps we can take when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ? How do we get started? First of all you must realize that the command to make disciples is not a spiritual gift for a few select Christians, it is a command for every Christian. Second, you must be willing to reorganize your life around disciple making relationships. If you are waiting for a time in your life when you are less busy you will find, unfortunately, life does not slow down on its own. We have to make space for things that are important. Third, pray about it. Ask God who he has placed in your life for you to love and invest in. Fourth, make sure you are very intentional about the fact that the end result of your time together is that each of you will go and make other disciples.

Leader or Manager?

The following is a quote from “Leading With A Limp” by Dan Allender

The difference between a manager and a leader is the internal urge to alter the status quo to create a different world.  In that sense leaders are prophets.  They see the present as incomplete and inadequate and are willing to risk the comfort of the present for the promise of a better tomorrow.  A manager, on the other hand, is content to keep the organization running as smoothly and efficiently as it can function. A manager serves to keep the plane in the air, whereas a leader wants to put a new engine on the plane midair.

A manager wants to approach the inevitable chaos with the tried and true methods that have worked in the past. In contrast, a leader knows that as difficult as it is to bring about change, not to do so will destroy the community. There can be no freedom from the bondage of the daily rut without the chaos that comes from leading people out of the status quo.

Dan Allender, “Leading With A Limp”

A leader who desires nothing more than the status quo becomes an ostrich with its head in the sand. A leader must be troubled and discontent, and he must ask the question, How can tomorrow be better than today? He must be a visionary, living in the tension between how to honor what is good and true today and yet be discontent with today in light of what could transpire tomorrow. He is torn between what is and what could be, yet he speaks the future into the present due due to his compelling desire for change. P. 58