Do you know the gospel and want to move into the deeper things of God’s Word?

If we look at the book of Colossians the Apostle Paul would seem to disagree. 

Paul was called as an apostle by Jesus (Colossians 1:1)

The good news of Jesus is bearing fruit throughout the world (Colossians 1:6)

The kingdom belongs to Jesus (Colossians 1:13)

Jesus is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). Another way of saying that Jesus is God.

All things were created by Jesus (Colossians 1:16)

Jesus  is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18)

All the fullness of God indwells Jesus (Colossians 1:19)

Jesus reconciled sinful man through his death (Colossians 1:22)

We grow spiritually as we remain steadfast in Jesus (Colossians 1:23)

The church is the body of Jesus Christ (1:24). Want to reform the church? Don’t fixate on what other churches are doing. Fix your eyes on Christ.

Maturity means becoming more like Jesus (Colossians 1:28)

We operate on a daily basis in the power of Jesus (Colossians 1:29)

All wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus (Colossians 2:3)

Every day of our life we are to walk in Jesus (Colossians 2:6)

We have been filled in Jesus (Colossians 2:10)

We have been circumcised in Jesus (Colossians 2:11)

We have been buried in Jesus (Colossians 2:12)

We were raised in Jesus (Colossians 2:12)

Our debt was cancelled by Jesus (Colossians 2:14)

Jesus broke the power of sin and death on the cross (Colossians 2:14)

We need to daily set our minds on Jesus (Colossians 3:1-2)

Our life is hidden in Jesus (Colossians 3:3)

Peace comes to us only through Jesus (Colossians 3:15)

We need to let the Word of Christ dwell in us (Colossians 3:16)

Every single thing we do in life should be done in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17)

All of our work should be done as unto Jesus (Colossians 3:23)

The way we treat employees needs to be done in the light of the fact that Jesus is our Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1)

Anesthetize: Overcoming The Desire To Numb The Pain Of Unmet Longings

“Thank God I got sober now so I could be hyper-sensitive for this series of humiliations.” -Meryl Streep in Postcards From The Edge

I still remember the conversation I had with a man who had gone through quite a few trials in his young life. He struggled with an addiction to cocaine but eventually he gave up his addiction and got clean. Not long after that he found out that his wife had a terminal disease and was going to die. After his wife died he needed to learn how to honestly deal with the pain of life without numbing himself with drugs. He was telling me about a time when he was at home and was contemplating having a beer. He was
not thinking about getting drunk, just having a couple of drinks. From his perspective, nothing overtly wrong with a beer or two. What got me is that he, in that moment, sensed that the Holy Spirit was telling him not to have the drink. Instead of having a beer he was being told that he needed to stop self-medicating and actually feel the pain present in his life. He knew that his propensity was to do something, take something, to help him cope with the pain of life. He put the beer down and began the lifelong process of embracing the pain of life and looking for how God was going to meet him, heal him, where he was most deeply broken.

It makes me wonder how often we anesthetize ourselves throughout our daily lives? It may not be cocaine, it may be prescription medicine, alcohol, entertainment, food, shopping, pursuit of romance, career advancement, money, etc…

Here are a few thoughts I have when it comes to our tendency to escape our pain rather than meet God in it…

  1. Most likely we have tightened the stranglehold of an addiction in our life. Every time we turn to something other than God to deal with the pain of life or unmet expectations we enslave ourselves to something that can not possibly deliver what we need. Every compromise with sin makes it a little easier to give into it next time.
  2. We are telling God that he is not enough. When we give into an addiction we are making it very clear to ourselves and anyone else in our life that we do not believe that God is enough for us. We may not say that God is not enough out loud, but the way we live reveals what we truly believe.
  3. We are quenching (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and grieving (Ephesians 4:30) the Holy Spirit and keeping him from healing our brokenness. God loves us no matter what. Time and time again in Scripture (Luke 15) we see that God’s love for the prodigal knows no boundaries. Yet Scripture does warn us that, even as Christians, that there are repercussions if we continue our sinful habits. If we feel distant from God or that there is a serious lack of spiritual power in our lives it may be because we are trying to manage the sin in our lives instead of treating it like a cancer that wants to kill us.
  4. We keep from seeing how God was going to care for us and love us in our moment of desperation. We read in God’s Word that Jesus is (John 4:14) the living water that satisfies our deepest longings and thirsts. Perhaps we have gotten into the habit of giving into our temptation instead of patiently enduring the trial and experiencing God’s gracious provision in Christ.
  5. We may have given the devil a foothold in our life (Ephesians 4:17).  The Bible is clear that we are in a spiritual battle (1 Peter 5:8) and it would appear that continual, habitual sin may give the devil an undesired influence in our life.
  6. We keep from seeing and understanding why we are feeling the way we do. Our pain may be revealing something that we love too much. Is it possible that we feel desperate, angry, bitter, depressed, anxious because we love something or someone more than we should? If we numb ourselves instead of dealing with the pain we may never see the the many idols that are present in our lives.
  7. We reveal that we fail to understand that God uses hardships and trials (1 Peter 4:12) in our life to shape and mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. It is rather easy for us to dismiss the prosperity gospel as truly awful theology. Yet, how many times do we we demonstrate that we harbor a little gospel prosperity theology in our lives when we question God’s goodness in the middle of our trials? The Bible tells us that God redemptively uses suffering in our lives to spiritually transform us and make us more like his Son Jesus Christ.
  8. We fail to see what God is doing in mundane, everyday life. Is it possible that we have unrealistic expectations about what it means to walk with God? If so we may be tempted to escape and look for a quick fix to our unmet expectations. For some people following Jesus will mean giving up everything and moving to a new country for the sake of his kingdom. Sounds radical. Sounds exciting. For most people living as a Christian means living out our faith in the grind of everyday life. Jobs, raising children, sports, neighborhoods, friendships, hobbies are all a gift from God and his desire is that we live as salt and light in the middle of it all. Have we taken for granted what we already have been blessed with in Christ?

The Ecclesiastes Moment In The Movie “Boyhood”

movie boyhood
As soon as I saw the trailer for the movie “Boyhood” I wanted to watch it. I am a highly nostalgic person and look back on the days of my youth with a mixture of wonder and regret. If you want to know why the movie is Rated R you can take a look at Christianity Today’s review of the film. I enjoyed the movie but as a father with three young kids I fully realize that this film is not age-appropriate for them.

The movie, as far as I can tell, is one-of-a-kind in the sense that it is filmed over the course of 12 years. It is amazing to watch everyone in the movie grow old right before your eyes.
movie boyhood 1

If you are looking for explosions, car chase scenes, and lots of action you will be incredibly disappointed. The plot is very simply the day-to-day happenings of one family. The simplicity, to me, is the beauty of the film. When you think about it, each one of us has a pretty amazing story played out through everyday life. The film’s star and primary character is Mason played by Ellar Coltrane. The father is played by Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr), the mother (Olivia) by Patricia Arquette.

Throughout the movie you get to watch the highs and lows of Mason’s family. Mason’s mother has an uncanny knack for marrying men with anger issues and serious drinking problems. This leads Mason’s family to continually pack up, move on and keep looking for a better life. One of the things I keenly sensed in the movie is a restlessness. All of the characters seemed to be looking for fulfillment, meaning, a place where they belong. Because of the fact that Mason is such a free-spirited boy at one point in the movie one of his teachers asks him, “What do you want to be Mason? What do you want to do?” Important questions for all of us.

The Ecclesiastes Moment is towards the very end of the movie. Mason is about to head off to college and Olivia completely breaks down, cries, and makes the haunting statement (paraphrased), “I just thought there would be more to life.” Olivia has been through two terrible marriages, worked hard to get back on her feet, earned her Master’s degree and becomes a fairly successful college professor. Yet, as she sees her son head off to college she is left with a nagging feeling that there should be more to life. Life has happened and it was not what she had dreamed it would be. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, worked harder than most people at finding fulfillment in knowledge, pleasure, wealth and at the end of it all he wrote this…

And what ever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11

I think it is fair to say that we all have a deep restlessness and we are longing to find purpose and fulfillment from the stories of our lives. Even as followers of Jesus Christ we can fall into the trap of thinking that we can find happiness in the stuff of this world.

The tragedy is that the ache we all live with can lead us to destroy ourselves as we recklessly pursue the next buzz that we hope will keep us going. Could it be that this ache is a good thing? Perhaps we should acknowledge this craving in our soul for what it truly is, a sacred gift* that has been given to us to point us towards the only one who can truly satisfy us. We find the only source of true fulfillment towards the end of Ecclesiastes…

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth… Ecclesiastes 12:1


*Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. -CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wallenmeyers are moving to Dallas-Fort Worth!

June 25 we leave New Jersey and head out to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We are (sadly) saying good-bye to many wonderful friends and, yet, at the same time looking forward to this new season of life.

Marcie has already begun a training program that will lead to her teaching middle school kids in Fort Worth. I will be looking for work in the area once we get down there.

We are looking for someplace close to Fort Worth to live. Here is what we need from you. We would love to hear from people who know the area (FORT WORTH) when it comes to good cities, neighborhoods, churches, etc…Anything you can share, insights, will help us to determine where we will live!

Thanks!

Dallas-Ft-Worth

I Have Resigned

I have resigned as the Lead Pastor of Mt. Laurel Evangelical Free Church in South Jersey. After nine years (June 22 will be my last Sunday) I sense that God is leading me into a new season of life. I thank God for all the wonderful memories and moments that I have had with the people of MLEFC! I am praying that God will richly bless them with a new pastor that loves Jesus, and the church, with all of his heart!

My future is uncertain at this point and time, which drives me absolutely crazy. When I know for certain what is next I will let you know…

Over the coming months I plan on doing a little soul searching and writing when it comes to the highs and lows of pastoral ministry. Blogging about things I have learned, what I would do differently, and other insights as I have time to process the past nine years.

The page turns…

Interview with Author Kimm Crandall (Christ in the Chaos)

I have said it before that I love it when people have the courage to admit their weaknesses. Yet at the same time talk about how the gospel meets them at their place of greatest need and empowers them. With that said, I want to introduce Kimm Crandall; wife, mother and author of “Christ in the Chaos”. Kimm was gracious enough to allow me to ask her a few questions. My hope and prayer is that this encourages you in the middle of everyday, mundane life!

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

Hmmm….how do I answer this question without romanticizing our life? It would be so easy to share all of the great things that happen in our home and what fun we have together. There is a time for that, but what you really need to hear is that I am just like you.

When I was young I didn’t want to get married and instead of raising children I wanted to have pet monkeys. Things have changed and here I am in my seventeenth year of marriage and with four kids, Grace (13), Jonah (10), Lily (8) and Jackson (6) (all of which do great monkey impressions). As you can imagine my adult life has turned out much differently than what I had expected.

There is never a dull moment with four kids and there is always a need for much grace in our home. Our family is just like yours and we struggle to believe the gospel just like you do. Our life is a constant cycle of messing up, asking for forgiveness and messing up again. We face the daily challenges of life with kids who argue, cry and don’t want to go to school. We have to make them eat their broccoli, clean their rooms and do their homework. Justin and I are in the trenches and have never seen our need for Christ more clearly than we do now.

Unfortunately, many of us have been taught to think that the gospel is what gets us into the kingdom of God but fail to see how it sustains us every moment of every day. How does the gospel empower you in everyday life?

I used to think that the gospel was just a way in and that the rest of the Christian life was about following the rules and trying harder to be a better person so that God would be happy with me. When life fell apart and I could no longer hold to the standards that I had kept for myself of what a good Christian was to be, I was forced to finally acknowledge that my need for Christ extended into every minute of every day.

The gospel has freed me to embrace my weakness as a means to embrace Christ. Grace is not just a net that catches us when we fail; it is what sustains us. We are in constant need of Christ’s work on our behalf. For example: When we yell at our kids and the condemnation threatens to overwhelm us, we can remember Christ’s perfect life of never having treated others unfairly. We can remember that there is no condemnation for us because his record of always treating others fairly became ours at the cross. We can also remember that the Holy Spirit continues to work in our hearts, changing us and sanctifying us. Just as we have died with him we are also raised in the newness of life with him. He is, in that moment, providing us with everything we need. We are no longer slaves to our sin.

Knowing our freedom through the gospel then frees us to admit that we have sinned and gives us the desire to run to our kids and ask for forgiveness. There is no more shame and no more pride. Just grace and freedom and restored relationships.

Christ in the Chaos Describe how your relationship with your family is impacted when you are not finding joy in Jesus Christ.

When I forget the gospel and try to do things on my own, living by the law, I become demanding and harsh with those around me. It’s when I fall back into performance based Christianity that tells me that I must earn my way through perfect parenting, and rule following, that I become “Monster Mom.” When I forget that my right standing with God is based on Christ’s perfect record I spend my days writing my own resume’ of works thinking that I have to impress my way back to into God’s favor. And when others don’t fall in line with what I believe makes me look good on that resume’, I become angry and more demanding.

 How do you discipline your kids in such a way that is not merely punitive but it leads them to Jesus Christ?

Ha, this is a tough one. I feel like much of our discipline has been in the chaos management area for a long time now. We have so many different maturity levels in our home that it looks very different for each child. As my kids have gotten older we are finding ourselves with more and more opportunity to share the gospel through not just discipline but every day situations. We do our best to help our kids to see that good behavior is not a requirement for Christ’s love or their parents’ approval. This is hard because it is so tempting as a parent to rule over these little people with the law. I find that the use of the law gets me immediate results but the results don’t last very long or change their hearts. It just gets me what I want at the moment. There is certainly an important place for the law in parenting. We use it to show them their sin. We teach them what the law requires and after doing so (and this is not something we do every time with every kid) they often say, “but I can’t.” It’s then that their hearts are ripe for the gospel. I agree with them and then tell them that I can’t keep the law either and that’s why we both need Jesus. There is a lot of sin confessing and forgiveness-seeking on my part throughout our days. I don’t have any parenting answers but I do know that this is how we are to treat our other relationships so I do it with my kids.

What are three or four books (outside of the Bible) that have encouraged and challenged you when it comes to how the gospel relates to everyday life?

I’d say that the book that really got me started down the path to the cross would be Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It was given to me as an assignment in counseling and although I fought it the first time I read it, this book completely rocked my world.

A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent quickly became a handbook for me. I continue to go back to this book for encouragement when I forget the gospel.

The third book would have to be Gerhard Forde’s Theologian of the Cross. This was the first theology book I had ever read. My husband almost died of shock when he saw it in my hands the first time because I always left the studying to him. Now I can’t get enough of Forde.

Luther on Galatians is another book that I continually refer back to. I loved reading this book so much that I carried it around in my purse for at least a year. It’s like my second Bible. Luther gets me. I love his boldness and ability to admit his weakness.

Kimm’s Blog

Link to buy Christ in the Chaos

Interview with Gloria Furman-Author of “Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home”

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

momWe moved to Dubai in 2008 to help start an evangelical church planting movement in this region. Dubai is a major city in the United Arab Emirates, a country that sits on the Arabian Peninsula just north of Saudi Arabia and across the Arabian Gulf from Iran. My husband Dave pastors Redeemer Church of Dubai, which was planted in January 2010, and helps coordinate other church planting efforts. When we landed on the sizzling tarmac five years ago we had one child, and now we have four (#4 due next month).

Describe what happens, spiritually and emotionally, to a mother who does not see the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in the mundane activity of daily life.

Speaking from my own experience, what this looks like for me emotionally is a burnt out, bitter frustration with everything—God himself, the season he has placed me in, the people he has placed around me, the things I’m responsible for, and the everyday circumstances that I deal with. Spiritually, this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve experienced flippant apathy toward prayer, evangelism, Bible reading, service, and participation in fellowship among other believers.

What are some practical ways a person can stay focused on Jesus and his ongoing work in everyday life?

This is a great question! We want the affections of our heart to be enamored by the person and work of Jesus. Then, temptations toward distraction are pushed out the heart by the expulsive power of a greater affection. Practically speaking, I think the spiritual disciplines are of tremendous help (especially in a busy home life!), and our conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit in these efforts is a guard against our tendency toward legalism.

What would you say to encourage stressed out, busy people to open their homes and show hospitality to their neighbors?

I’d say, in short, that God has designed showing hospitality to be a blessing to you and your neighbors even in the midst of your stress and busy-ness. The joy we receive in opening our homes and serving with the strength God supplies is joy in Christ himself. There’s much more to be said about hospitality and how God enables us to serve; I’ve expanded on this in a chapter dedicated to hospitality in Glimpses of Grace.

In your book, Glimpses of Grace, you write that the routine of everyday life provides us with an opportunity for spiritual growth and transformation. Can you explain what you mean by that?

To get the answer to this question go HERE and download the first chapter of “Glimpses of Grace” for free.

What are some books that have encouraged you when it comes to a greater understanding of the gospel?

A couple of my favorite contemporary books on the definition and application of the gospel include: God is the Gospel (Piper), Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Packer), Gospel for Real Life (Bridges), Comforts from the Cross (Fitzpatrick), What is the Gospel? (Gilbert), A Gospel Primer for Christians (Vincent)

Gloria’s Website

Gloria’s Twitter

To buy “Glimpses of Grace”

Interview With Mark Sellers About The Gospel, Community, And Living on Mission

Question: Tell us a little about yourself, your family and your role at Summit Crossing Community Church.

I am a native southern boy. I was born and raised in Mississippi and have now been in North Alabama for 13 years. I am a preacher’s kid and have been raised in the church world. Unlike many of my fellow PKs I grew up loving the church! My father is an amazing pastor and lover of the Father’s bride and his own bride and family. I have been married for 13 years to my amazing bride, Staci (also a native southern girl) and have two precious children: Andrew (6) and Ava (16 months). I was a part of the core team (4 families) that planted Summit Crossing Community Church 10 years ago. My official title at SC3 is “Community Life Pastor”. It’s my job to give both vision/ direction and execution to our missional communities. So I am responsible for discipling and equipping MC leaders, getting folks in the general church body connected, and overseeing the multiplication of the MC movement in our city. I also oversee our membership process and reaching out to new folks in our community. So basically, I get to hang out and eat with a lot of folks! Best job ever.

Question: What is your definition of a Missional Community?

In a sentence, a missional community is the family of God’s missionaries on the mission of making disciples who make disciples. We do this quite simply as we go, doing life together, seeing every moment in life through a gospel lens.

Question: What does it mean to be fluent in the gospel and why is this so critical for the spiritual health of every believer?

To be fluent literally means to be able to write or speak something with ease. Practically, to be fluent means that something is a natural part of you. It flows out subconsciously, without thought. To be fluent in gospel means that the gospel is a natural part of us, both literally and practically. So not only are we able to speak it without much thought, but we are also able to apply it without much conscious thought. So we speak it, we think it, we apply it when we make decisions, when we interact with situations and people, its natural! Why is this critical? Look, we are in a battle, both personally and corporately. And its the same battle that our original ancestors fought in the garden: our ways versus God’s ways. He has given us Himself and in that He has given us everything. But apart from both the purpose and power of the gospel, we are completely unable to choose anything other than ourselves. We must know the truth of the gospel and must apply its truth to our lives and to our communities to be healthy people and healthy communities. The world will not encourage or empower this. Our only hope is found in the gospel and the gospel is the answer for life period.

Question: Loving our neighbors in practical ways can be quite a challenge for people who do not all live in the same neighborhood. What does it look like for the MCs at Summit Crossing to be on mission?

When we transitioned to MCs, we really pushed folks to all unify around an adopted mission. It looked good and sounded good on paper, but it really frustrated many of our groups. That kind of mission is really easy (or I should say easier) for groups that are contained within 1-2 neighborhoods. But it was very difficult and frustrating for groups that were regionally connected but not defined by 1-2 neighborhoods. What we realized was that we were in danger of establishing a “missional legalism” that would take us away from Jesus’ simple words in His commission to us. It was subtle, but it was present. So we took a step back and encouraged our communities to consider asking these questions: “How are we making disciples both personally and corporately, and how does this community encourage and equip us for both?”

So we really want our MCs not to “rate” themselves on whether they are unified around A mission but to ask whether they are unified around THE mission. One of our MCs is localized in a suburban community but is spread out across many subdivisions. They were one of our “frustrated” groups that couldn’t unify around a particular mission. They began to break into smaller discipleship groups based on geography and relationship and found that each of these groups were much more effective in not only discipling each other but in making disciples within their other spheres of influence. So two times a month they all gather to share and celebrate the grace of God in their personal lives and in their missions. So at that gathering there is not only encouragement but the opportunity to partner with others in mission. The rest of the month these smaller groups meet and do life together to make disciples.

Our MC originally started as a neighborhood MC and it was really easy to be on mission in our neighborhood. We experienced a lot of traction early on but grew outside the boundaries of our neighborhoods. Our group was also very diverse and so it was even hard being on mission in our neighborhood with so many different walks of life. So we began to discuss where God was giving us favor or traction with people on mission. This led to some of us really giving time and energy to a rec team that involved a few of our group children. This led to the whole group being able to be a blessing to two families that we met through this rec league. One of the families has now since joined us and is getting to see what a gospel family looks like. Other parts of our group have been able to penetrate the artistic community and many of us have been able to join in with them on mission. Not all of us but a few of us! One of our girls got engaged and our group was able to help plan and execute her wedding which was a blessing to their extended family. So all of us didn’t do everything, but we all have had the opportunity to engage where God has given us personal traction with the help of our MC. And my family has been able to help others in our community do the same thing. So there’s no pressure to do it all, but there’s the freedom to follow the Spirit to engage with others as they live the mission. It’s actually fun and its a delight, not a duty!

Question: What do people study in your MCs?

Most of our groups study the same texts that we are preaching through in our corporate gatherings. Right now, that’s Romans (pray for us!). We have these groups answer 5 basic questions about the text each week that center around observation, interpretation, and gospel application. It is our hope that our people learn to be self-feeders! Many groups are actually studying ahead of what we are preaching so that they hit it before it’s preached. This allows them to hit the text fresh and be led by the Spirit and not just the preacher. A few of our groups do other book studies or other things like The Story of God or Gospel Parenting, etc. Anything outside of the sermon discussion must be approved by the church elders.

Question: How do you train your MC leaders?

Our training is really a two tier approach. On a large scale corporate approach, we offer quarterly workshops for all leaders and apprentices across all three campuses. This is a really big deal for us. We feed them all breakfast, take care of their kids, and give each family a free resource (not free to us usually!) along with the training that we do. In short not only do we try to equip and encourage them, but we try to bless their socks off too. The training generally has four sessions that revolve around these four components:

1. Evidence of God’s Grace (sharing MC stories)

2. Vision Training (one of our 5 community essentials or 4 rhythms)

3. Practical Training (gospel fluency through counsel training or the like)

4. Collective Prayer Time (both for the leaders and for their MCs; divided up geographically)

Our leaders love this and we almost always have every community represented at these events. They are led both by elders and MC leaders, but always by practitioners! On a small scale, our 3 campuses are divided into 9 geographic regions that we call collectives. Each collective has elders and deacons present that oversee individual coaching, accountability, encouragement,and equipping amongst the collective leaders. So the workshops are our air war and the collectives are our ground war for training.

Mark is also on the Executive Team for GCM Collective.

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