Valentine’s Day and the Gospel

I’m thinking that many of us, myself included, are putting too much pressure on our marriages by seeking ultimate satisfaction and happiness in our spouse. Instead of finding contentment in Jesus Christ we have this culturally romantic notion that we will be made complete when we find our true soul mate (or if we work really hard to shape our spouse into our one true soul mate). Of course we are setting ourselves, and our spouse, up for massive disappointment because the hole we feel in our soul can not be filled up by our husband or wife. 

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that romance is unimportant. Truth be told, I think it is something that we all deeply crave. On top of that, Song of Solomon clearly reveals that romance and affection for our spouse is a precious gift from God. The problem is when we can not be joyful or content without it. Seeking our deepest fulfillment in another person is a guaranteed way to destroy our relationships and our spiritual life. The apostle Paul never mentions being married and yet he experienced deep joy and contentment as a single man (Philippians 4:10-13). As I have learned from 20 years of marriage there will be ups and downs. There will be seasons where we do not feel all the emotions that we want to feel. So, what do we do in those moments? Look for romance in someone else? Or, do we realize that there is a good chance that we have made romance a god in our life?

This video from Alanis does a good job of revealing how we can be looking for something in our human relationships that is simply unattainable.

You’ll rescue me right?
In the exact same way they never did,
I’ll be happy right?
When your healing powers kick in

You’ll complete me right?
Then my life can finally begin
I’ll be worthy right?
Only when you realize the gem I am?

But this won’t work now the way it once did
And I won’t keep it up even though I would love to
Once I know who I’m not then I’ll know who I am
But I know I won’t keep on playing the victim

These precious illusions in my head did not let me down
When I was defenseless
And parting with them is like parting with invisible best friends

This ring will help me yet as will you knight in shining armor
This pill will help me yet as will these boys gone through like water

But this won’t work as well as the way it once did
’cause I want to decide between survival and bliss
And though I know who I’m not I still don’t know who I am
But I know I won’t keep on playing the victim

These precious illusions in my head did not let me down when I was a kid
And parting with them is like parting with a childhood best friend

I’ve spent so long firmly looking outside me
I’ve spent so much time living in survival mode

“In sharp contrast with our culture, the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. That means that love is more fundamentally action than emotion. But in talking this way, there is a danger of falling into the opposite error that characterized many ancient and traditional societies. It is possible to see marriage as merely a social transaction, a way of doing your duty to family, tribe and society. Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family’s interest. By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual’s happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees GOD as the supreme good – not the individual or the family – and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feelings AND duty, passion AND promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.” -Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

The Church and the Kingdom of God

In the gospel of Matthew the word ‘kingdom’ is mentioned 52x. The word ‘church’ is mentioned 2x. At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). Later on Jesus told his followers that they should “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

Maybe it’s just me, but this makes me wonder why we are so foggy on what the kingdom of God is all about. Is it a distrust of authority? Could it be that we are accustomed to living under a democracy not a monarchy? Whatever the reasons might be I’m thinking that our failure to understand the kingdom of God has seriously limited our understanding of the church and her redemptive purpose in this world.

We need a concise, biblical definition of the kingdom of God; “The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation.” -The Gospel Coalition

Here are a three ways I believe a robust understanding of the kingdom of God would impact the church:

  • Churches would grieve over the fact that God’s people skip from one church to another because they know that while a church grows this way the kingdom of God does not. Less competition and more cooperation among churches.
  • Churches would work harder at equipping their people to live out their faith in the context of everyday life. Jesus is Lord over area of life and therefore all of life is an opportunity for ministry just waiting to happen. We would celebrate those who serve God in the workplace. Just as we pray for Sunday School teachers and Small Group leaders we would pray for those who are faithfully living as ambassadors for king Jesus Monday to Friday in the corporate world.
  • Churches would measure their effectiveness, in part, by signs of the kingdom of God flourishing in their city or suburbs.

What are some of the ways you can think of that a proper view of the kingdom of God impacts the way we view the church?

We Need A New Measure for Spiritual Maturity

I was at a recent GCM Collective in Philly and I was inspired by something one of the pastors said. He referred to the fact that we need a new measure for what it means t0 be spiritually mature. Borrowing from some of Rob’s thoughts I came up with the following…

The old standard for spiritual maturity:

  • Knows the Bible: Have you ever met someone who knew the facts and stories of the Bible really well but they did not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit? Reminds me of James 2:19;  it is truly bizarre. Early on in my seminary days I realized that there were scholars who spent their entire life studying the Bible and they did not believe in Jesus. Never got the logic behind that. Needless to say, spiritual maturity requires more than knowing the Bible.
  • Is a church member: I encourage people to become members of our church. The problem is not with being a member, the problem is when we live as if all membership entails is attending church events and programs.
  • Is busy doing church work: Ponder this frightening thought; it is possible to spend years in the church and never actually do the mission of the church. If you doubt this is true, keep reading.

The Biblical standard for spiritual maturity:

  • Is fluent in the gospel: A mature Christian understands that being a disciple is more than knowing truths about the Word of God, it is understanding that the gospel is the very power of God and that it must be applied to every area of life. Think of an area of life that you are currently struggling. Really, stop and think about it.  Now, ask yourself, “how does the gospel apply to this area of need or temptation?” When we can answer questions like that we know that our hearts and minds are being transformed by the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel is not merely what saved us it is what sustains us every moment of every day.
  • Is committed to messy community: The New Testament describes the church as the family of God. Families are not primarily meetings! Families do life together. This is easy to say, really challenging to do.
  • Is involved in the true mission of the church: What is the mission of the church? Good question. I don’t think I will get many arguments if I say it is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Right? Who are you discipling with the purpose that they will go and do likewise?

Which standard for spiritual maturity best describes you?

Lost in Paradise

We’ve constructed a safe, comfortable world for ourselves and our families yet there remains a longing unfulfilled. A cruel wanting.

“The Christian says, ‘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.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” -CS Lewis

Song by Evanesence

Picture/art by Gregory Crewdson

3 Lessons Joseph Teaches Us About The Workplace


As I have been preaching through the book of Genesis over the past year it dawned on me what a powerful testimony Joseph is when it comes to living out our faith in the business world. Here are three truths I see revealed from the life of Joseph regarding the workplace:

1. Joseph’s identity in the workplace was rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3. Joseph knew that God had called his father, Jacob, and his family to be a blessing to the nations. No doubt this calling was confirmed to Joseph through the bizarre dreams he received. It is clear from Scripture that Joseph understood that this covenant impacted the way he viewed all of life, including his job. Genesis 12:1-3 is more than a few verses prompting God’s people to be nice to others. The Abrahamic Covenant is part of our very identity as the people of God; to be a blessing to the nations. Does Genesis 12:1-3 shape your view of the workplace?

2. Joseph knew who his Boss was. The nation of Egypt actually believed that Pharaoh was god-incarnate. Imagine working for a guy with that kind of ego! Most of us, upon learning this wacked doctrine, would have bailed. We never hear Joseph say, “I can’t work for this pagan boss.” Why? Joseph knew who his true Boss was. He knew that God had strategically positioned him in the workplace as an agent of love and blessing. Are your consciously aware throughout the week that you are doing your job for king Jesus?

3. Joseph served God with all his heart in the good and bad times. Joseph is, at this moment, my favorite Old Testament guy. He reminds me alot of the apostle Paul. Paul wrote this in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul was faithful regardless of the circumstances of life. Allow me to make this personal. If I were sitting in a prison, like Joseph, because I was obedient to God there is an (ever so slight) chance that I would not be a shining picture of contentment and trust. Joseph knew that when his station and status in life was low that God was still good and wanted to use him for his redemptive purposes. Likewise, when Joseph was promoted to a prestigious job with big money he was still faithful to God in all that he did. I simply can not think of a another person in Scripture that teaches us so much about the life we should live in the workplace as Joseph. Are you faithfully serving God and others even if you feel undervalued in the workplace? If things are going well and you are experiencing more obvious success, are you using your position for your own gain or to be a blessing to others?

Interview With Alan Roxburgh

This is an interview I did with Alan Roxburgh about year ago while blogging for Missional in Suburbia…

alan roxburghAlan Roxburgh is a pastor, teacher, writer and consultant with more than 30 years experience in church leadership, consulting and seminary education.  Alan has pastored congregations in a small town, the suburbs, the re-development of a downtown urban church and the planting of other congregations.  He has directed an urban training center and served as a seminary professor and the director of a center for mission and evangelism.  Alan teaches as an adjunct professor in seminaries in the USA, Australia and Europe.  His books include: Reaching a New Generation, Leadership, Liminality and the Missionary Congregation, Crossing the Bridge: Leadership in a Time of Change, The Sky is Falling – Leaders Lost in Transition, The Missional Leader (co-authored with Fred Romanuk), Introducing the Missional Church (Baker, Nov 09) and Missional Map Making (Jossey-Bass, Jan 2010).  He was also a member of the writing team that authored Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.

Through the Roxburgh Missional Network, Alan leads conferences, seminars and consultations with denominations, congregations and seminaries across North America, Asia, Europe, Australia and the UK.  Alan consults with these groups in the areas of leadership for missional transformation and innovating missional change across denominational systems.  Along with the team at RMN, he provides practical tools and resources for leaders of church systems and local congregations.

Through Allelon Alan co-directs the Mission in Globalizing Culture(s) Project.  This is a multi-year project addressing questions of mission in Western culture(s) from the perspective of the local church and its context, and the implications for leadership development.

When not traveling or writing, Alan enjoys mountain biking, hiking, cooking and hanging out with Jane and their five grandchildren as well as drinking great coffee in the Pacific North West.

Question: In chapter one of your new book (Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood) you write this, “In this book I propose that what I call “church questions,” with a primary focus on the church, only misdirect us. At this point in our history, we need to be asking radically different questions: What is God up to in our neighborhoods and communities? How do we join what God is doing in these places? Church questions are a subset of these far more important questions.” Explain for those who have not yet had the opportunity to read the book what you mean by the idea that we have been asking the wrong questions.

Alan Roxburgh: Almost all the books I read right now in terms of ‘missional’ are, in one form or another, proposals for fixing and/or making the church more effective. I am certainly not against this. My point is quite different. Its the focus of these books and the conversations they generate. The energy resourcing them is about the church. The focus of the conversation is the church. This is where I talk about the church being, either implicitly or explicitly, the subject and object of these conversations. This is what I mean by our asking the wrong questions. Not only are these the wrong questions but, theologically, they are the most uninteresting kinds of questions. Really, they are a continued expression of our North American preoccupation with ourselves. Church questions are the religious side of life coaches helping people to self-actualize. I know this sounds totally counter-intuitive to most people, especially clergy whose whole life is invested in church and shaped by church questions. My contention is that church questions are not the questions that preoccupied the early Christians. We need a reorientation of our imaginations to engage the world opening up before us. The good news is that the Spirit is breaking the boundaries and containers into where we have put the Gospel.

Question: Some people might misunderstand and think you are minimizing the role of the church in the world today. From the reading I have done of your book  I get the sense that you believe the church is incredibly important and relevant today. How would you explain the role of the church when it comes to the mission of God?

Alan Roxburgh: Yes, I do believe the church is incredibly important to the mission of God in the world. I am a member of a local church. I preach bi-weekly in my own parish so I’m pretty committed to the local church. But I also believe that the Spirit is out there ahead of us in the neighborhoods and communities where we live and work. It is as we Christians re-engage our neighborhoods by asking the question of what God is up to on the streets where we live that we get a picture of how the Spirit wants to shape our churches. So its not a question of whether the church is important or not. Of course it is. Rather, its a question of order an focus. I don’t primarily, discern what God is calling the church to be by huddling together in church meetings or having outsiders give us some mission/vision statement. We don’t even get there by reading books (even mine) on how others have made their church ‘successful’. Its as we learn to enter and sit at the table of the other (Luke 10: 1-12) that we get the chance of hearing what the Spirit is up to. Those encounters then change and change the shape of our churches. This is a reversal of how most churches function. Now this is not about giving away theological convictions but it is about having them shaped and reshaped by our contextual encounters with the Spirit in the communities where we live.

Question: I must confess that I enjoyed chapter five immensely! You are arguing that the way we read God’s Word may actually hinder us when it comes to us becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. You write, “Scripture isn’t a textbook of information; it isn’t a formula for making life work or a religious Dr. Phil for people who want to improve their lives, expand their bottom line, or ensure their kids get the right start in life. It is full of stories that invite us into the drama of where God is moving creation. Christians are invited to embody this drama.” Explain for us in practical terms how misreading scripture, as you have mentioned, could keep a suburban family from faithfully following Jesus into the world. Describe what that might look like.

Alan Roxburgh: One really simple way to illustrate this is our deeply embedded individualism. Everything about suburbia is about the self-actualizing individual. Go inside the homes of suburban folk and individualism is the way of life from each having their own rooms, TVs, computers etc. So, the deepest value of modernity and the Western imagination is codified in bricks and buildings, in the design of houses, the construction of roads and the TV adds that bombard us 24/7. What this means is that the typical suburban Christian reads his/her Bible from the perspective of the individual. The Bible is a guidebook for me, for my self-development, for my personal life. NO! When the typical suburbanite reads, for example, Paul’s letter and comes across the pronoun YOU it is read individualistically when in fact all this language is plural about social community. The narrative about self and identity in the Bible is the opposite of the narrative the the suburbs. And so, churches shape their ministry around meeting people’s needs or the self-development of individual Christians (often called discipleship) when these are actually the opposite of what is happening in the Scriptures.

Question: In chapter 11 you write about the danger of “decisionist evangelism”. If I understand you correctly, and please let me know if I am off base, what you mean by this is that we have reduced the gospel to simply making a decision to follow Jesus. You go on to explain that when it comes to the gospel we need to understand the depth and power of the word “peace/shalom” as mentioned in Luke 10. So here is the question, what does it mean for disciples of Jesus Christ to bring a gospel of shalom to our cul-de-sac? What does it look like?

Alan Roxburgh: You’re asking a question that really needs a lot of time and space to address. ‘Shalom’ is shorthand for the ‘reign of God’ that has come. It is far more than personal peace etc and way more than some decisionist evangelism that invites people to make ‘personal’ decisions (there is that misplaced individualism again). To be very brief, to live the shalom of God in the cul-de-sac would mean, minimally, recovering basic practices of Christian life (I write about this elsewhere). It would mean living into the rhythm of Luke 10:1-12 which means choosing to stay put and make the neighborhood ones’s priority. It would mean modeling kingdom life which, for example, would mean create extended family in the house with open doors that welcome the neighborhood into its life.  There is so much to discuss here. Let me be very clear though, I am convinced that the cul-de-sac is not something to be cursed but is the place where God’s transformative shalom is waiting to be birthed.

Question: This may be a little off track from your book, but I know that there are quite a few leaders who are attempting to transition their church from traditional to missional. What are four or five things that you believe are most critical for such a transition to occur? Since I am always looking for hope and reasons to be encouraged in these uncharted waters, have you witnessed any churches that have actually made the missional transition?

Alan Roxburgh: Hmm! Always struggle with the ‘four or five things’. But let me be foolish. Pastors trying to transition…

Stop trying to change and transition your people. That makes them a project. Start loving them for who and where they are just now. This creates safe space. You start to model what you believe the Spirit is calling your church toward. In other words, YOU move back into the neighborhood and start practicing Luke 10. Until you do that stop trying to change others.

Share the stories of what God is doing in the neighborhood and be a detective of divinity by looking at where the Spirit is stirring heart desire in others in the church. Encourage them, work with them.

Become an interpreter of the Biblical narratives so people can start to read their neighborhoods with God’s eyes.

Stay put, stop moving from church to church.

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

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 or via facebook and twitter.