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?