Interview with Caesar Kalinowski

This is an interview I did with Caesar Kalinowski a number of years ago…

Caesar is a spiritual entrepreneur and an avid storyteller. His background includes communications, media production, working with youth, and extensive travel in international missions. He has worked in over 15 countries around the world including Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Burma, India and the Czech Republic. Before moving to Tacoma in 2004 to help launch Soma, Caesar and his wife owned and operated several businesses in and around the Chicagoland area.

At any given moment Caesar is starting a new Missional Community and handing over another to a new leader.  He’s one of the elders in the Hilltop Expression, leads the charge for international missions and helps oversee a lot of the structures and systems we need to keep a big family organized.

He has been married to Tina, his high school sweetheart for over 25 years; they have three children: Caesar, Christin and Justine.

Question: Your Missional Communities in Tacoma are living on mission together in very practical ways. Give us one or two examples of how your MCs are being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in their neighborhoods.

Caesar: One of our missional communities is led by Greg Landon. Greg’s “day job” is as the VP of Network Services in Tacoma. Network is a sister org to Soma in Tacoma and owns and manages 31 low-income and transitional housing. The goal of Network (and the Gospel) is to give homeless families a leg up, get them off the street, in many cases off of drugs, and to see them move on to be healthy families that are no longer homeless and fully dependent on “the system” to get by. Ultimately we want them to come to a restored relationship with the Father through knowing Jesus.

Greg has led his missional community to focus on being “family” to several of the individuals and families within Network housing. The idea being that to just give them an apartment is not enough—we want to be their family and show them the love of God and an active gospel via close relationships.

It has been amazing to watch young mothers and teens come off the streets, finding true community, becoming exposed to the Word via The Storyformed Way (a 10 week narrative, dialogical way to begin to make disciples) and living out the gospel in real time as they grow closer to God and his people. Simple things like shopping and cooking together, throwing birthday or graduation parties and filling out school or job applications can be profound expressions of love as God meets real needs in real time.

Greg is now looking for and leading others to form missional communities right inside the housing complexes as he desires to see the gospel more fully incarnated among the “least of these” people God loves in Tacoma.

Question: From my time with you guys at Soma I saw a wonderful, biblical balance between the Sunday Morning worship service and living together as a community on mission during the week. There are many leaders who would like to grow when it comes to how they live in community Monday-Saturday. What practical advice would you give pastors and churches that are trying to transition from a traditional church model (it’s primarily about Sunday) to a more holistic missional model (every day is sacred)?

Caesar: It all starts with the leaders. Always.

Leaders–the senior pastor…the XP…the elders etc. are going to have to become convinced that living life in gospel community on mission is the life we were created and saved to live out. As men, as women, as parents, as leaders in the church. Then begin to lead others into this life with you. Try using the following common, cultural rhythms to give you some “handles”. Try and begin to live life in each of these daily rhythms with “gospel intentionality”.

Story-formed. Live in the Story of God and get to know others’ stories and how they fit into God’s bigger picture.

Listen. Spend time daily and weekly just listening to God. Listen both “backward and forward”.  Listen backward through “listening” to the Word of God and listen forward by listening to the Holy Spirit and others in your missional community. You’ll be amazed at how much God has to say when you listen instead of talk.

Eat. Try and have 3 (of your 21) meals per week with not-yet-believers. You’ll have great opportunities to live out all of the other rhythms with them!

Bless. Live a life of blessing. Blessed to be a blessing was apart of God’s call and promise to Israel. Ask God to show you 3 people you could intentionally bless each week through words, gifts or service.

Celebrate. Make your Sunday “services” into true celebrations. Also, regularly throw parties, BBQs, and go to others’ parties with “gospel intentionality”.  Look to show them what God is like by bringing the best food and consumables!

ReCreate. This is the idea of living out the gospel through Sabbath rest…al the time. The gospel says that we now rest because of Christ’s completed work on the cross and the work or “create” out of that love and acceptance. Ask the Spirit to help you life in a rhythm of rest–create, rest–create…

End of Interview

I want to thank Caesar for taking the time to do this interview with us! My hope is is that it spurs you on to both know and embody the gospel wherever you live. For me the challenge is how to live this out in our suburban context. I no longer wrestle with the question, “should we should try to live this way?” or “will it work here?” The reason I have stopped asking those kinds of questions is that I see this radical/gospel way of living so clearly rooted in the pages of Scripture.  The question for me now is “how will we make it happen?”  Please feel free to add your thoughts to this ongoing discussion! Do you have a story of how you are living out the gospel in your neighborhood?

Interview with Scott Boren

This interview was done a couple years ago while blogging for Missional in Suburbia…

Question: Thank you for being willing to answer a few questions! Tell us a little about yourself…

Scott BorenScott: Husband of a beautiful woman, father of four kids (all seven and  under), pastor and someone who cannot help but write and research. But  even more basic, I am a hay-throwing farm boy from North Texas who felt  God calling him discover what it meant to be a leader in the church. To  my surprise, I found that traditional church leadership did not fit me  well. This has led me down some wild paths, from extensive intellectual  pursuits to very practical hands on experiments of alternative ways of  being the church.

Question: Please define a Missional Small Group and explain how it  is different than what we typically think of when it comes to Small  Group life.

Scott: Definitions  of experiences are hard in some ways, but I know they are necessary so  that we can try to get a common understanding of what we are talking  about. In my book, I talk about four stories of group life, the first  two being normal and the second two providing stories of missional life.  Missional small groups are about living a story of life together that  steps beyond the normal group experience. By normal, I mean the small  group that is a Christian add-on to the normal American way of living,  the nice weekly or bi-weekly Bible study that helps us be better  American Christians. Missional groups live out an alternative story.  This story is shaped by a set of rhythms of life that we practice as a  community.

Question: I really enjoyed this quote from page 139, “We no longer  need haphazard gospel sharing that is not supported by visible  community. We need much more than good sermons, big buildings, and  professional video presentations. We need a people committed to specific  places who are called to bring redemption to those places.”  Explain  why you believe it is so critical to missionally engage our  neighborhoods “together” as opposed to an “individual” approach?

Scott: I’m finding that many people want  more than the normal American church experience. They realize that they  should be living differently, but they don’t know exactly how. The  practices that I offer in my book aim to provide entry points for groups  to discover together what it means to move into this “more” experience  or this “missional story.”

Question: I was excited to see that you explained that being  missional is not just another thing we do in the church, being missional  is a actually part of our identity as followers of Christ. Why do you  believe this is so important for us to understand?

Question:Personal  or individual evangelism has been a major thrust of the church for  decades. However, the “good news” of Jesus is much more than a message  that I as an individual can offer one of my friends. The good news of  the Gospel is a way of freedom, an alternative life to the entrapment  and bondage of the normal life that we typically live today,  characterized by isolation, individualism, rampant debt, fear, etc. The  only way that people can receive the good news of the Gospel is when  they see it. There will be a few who can see what the Gospel through  words alone, but most people need to see and outpost of heaven in a war  torn world. And they need to see it happening on their streets, in our  neighborhoods and apartment complexes, in our schools and playgrounds.  They need to see the good news lived out as we love each other and enter  into honest conversations with people around us. This is the reason the  word “engagement” is so crucial to being missional. But that gets into  the next question.

There  is a lot of talk about “missional” right now and many a using the  Mission alongside the words Communion and Community to help clarify  three parts of the life of a missional community. I find this highly  problematic primarily because when we conceive of mission as part of our  life we turn it into something we do for outsiders. Communion and  Community is insider stuff, mission is outsider stuff. But “missional”  is a being concept, not a doing concept. This is rooted in a rich  theological heritage. God is a God of missional being, not of doing. He  is a sending God, in that he sent himself through the incarnation and  through the sending of the Spirit. God is an overflowing fountain of  love who send himself out of his self gift.

Question: You write on page 49 that “When the focus of group life is  on the meeting, we limit the gospel…” Explain what you mean by a  “limited gospel”.

Scott: This  is the reason I talk about the three rhythms of missional small groups  in different terms: Missional Communion, Missional Relating and  Missional Engagement. Some might think that this is unnecessary  verbiage, but I think it is absolutely crucial. And my experience  reveals this. When we think of missional as something we do, then we  have strategic plans and activities for reaching people for Jesus. But  when it is something we are, then our praying has just as much impact  upon our way of sharing Jesus with our world as anything else. And our  way of loving each other can be as good if not better than the best  evangelistic sermons. Being missional is about living an alternative way  in conversation with people in our neighborhoods. The point of my book  is to help people enter into that life.

Question: What would you say to encourage the average busy Christian  who just does not think they have the time to commit to a Missional  Small Group?

Scott: A  limited gospel might get us into heaven but we don’t allow it to change  our lives now. A limited gospel has enough good news to forgive our  sins, but not enough to set us free to actually love and sacrifice for  those around us. A limited gospel opens the door for a personal  relationship with Jesus but lacks the power to challenge us to be  disciples. A limited gospel calls us to go to church or go to a small  group but does not call us on mission with others.

Don’t  discount this idea by using the excuse that you are too busy. You might  look at this idea and think it is too radical for your life, but I  guarantee that if you really consider it that your heart will resonate  with the possibility of living on mission. Just consider it. Pray about  it. Listen to your heart. And let the Spirit of God do the work in you.  Don’t start with action steps or trying to make something happen. Start  by listening to the Spirit of God within you and a new hope arise within  you from the inside.

One final note: I have  written a new study guide to help groups work through the ideas found in Missional Small Groups. If provides a simple and realistic process to  help groups get started on the missional journey. And one more thing:  It’s free. It can be downloaded at http://www.mscottboren.com/id5.html

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…

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

Welcome!

I have been blogging for a number of years over at Missional in Suburbia (recently shut down that site). I love talking about the mission of God in a suburban context, but it’s definitely time to branch out a bit. On this new site topics will include the gospel in everyday life, messy community, the mission of God, my love affair with books, and last but not least upside down leadership–I am saying goodbye to a non-biblical leadership that pretends to have it all together. Make no mistake about it, this blog functions as therapy for me and through it I hope you are blessed and encouraged.