Missional Community

It’s been an interesting journey the past few months (years) as I’ve tried to find clarity in my own heart in regards to the future of Christ’s church.  A spiritual discontent has been growing for many years, as a pastor and even more as I’ve walked away and started dreaming about my future role in ministry.  I love the church, the global church, and how God continues to change the world through this institution despite us.  I want the church to change and grow, I want it to remain relevant, I want it to stay true to its foundation, but expand and flow with the local culture.

My unrest stems from a desire to be part of a Christ community that has the potential to reach my friends who are far from Christ.  The discovery of the missional church movement and the potential of missional communities has lit me up inside.  The more I read, the more I find others who are engaging in this movement, the more I realize this is (at least) the beginning of the answer I’ve been craving.  A healthy missional community is the right environment for my friends to discover Christ and see His relevance in their lives.  A community on mission in their community is what healthy Christians and the world are craving from the “church”.  A missional community is what I have been craving, and what I believe is the next move of the local church to continue reaching our world for Christ.

It’s time for the church to think outside of the “attractional” approach to reaching their community. We need to get outside our Sunday performances and move into the grit of everyday life in our community, alongside our fellow Christians, atheist, searching, lost.  It’s our community that God has called us to connect with.  We have to move from a weekly experience to a daily immersion.  We have to rethink how our faith translates into real life, how to merge our beliefs and our jobs, how to rectify the lifestyle Christ chose and our desire for stuff.  We need more authenticity in how we talk about our relationships, our sins, weaknesses…we need more environments for true conversation.  The Christian community has accepted a mediocre faith and is worshiping a safe Jesus.  We are ripe for change…I am ripe for change.

I have no desire to be part of a church that is not asking the difficult questions.  I don’t want to move to a ministry position that is simply building a volunteer team to create a Sunday environment.  I would work in a church that is attempting to change, that is willing to make difficult decisions, experiment and see where God leads them.  I would love to go plant or be part of a team venturing out to build a missional community, but either way, I want to be part of the movement.  I want to get in the thick of it with my family and “blaze” some trails for Jesus!

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True Respect

What trials measure the depth of a man’s heart?

  • Isolation
  • Failure
  • Sacrifice
  • Exposure
  • Love
We all want to be known, completely.  But being known is not enough.  What we truly desire is to be known but still loved.  This is the sticky side of authenticity.  Will they still love me if they really know me?  The fear of exposure is greater than the isolation of hypocrisy.  Very few live their lives in a way that truly gives others insight into their inner world.  This is why society respects true artists.  Whether through music, paint, words or dance; true artists lay their hearts on the canvas.  The viewing world is free to glimpse into the depths of an artist’s soul and choose to accept or reject. Artists respond in a variety of ways to this level of exposure, but in the end, we all have great respect for someone who is willing to lay it all out there.
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An Unpredictable Life

I have been blessed with an unpredictable life.

I love it…I hate it!

I don’t believe “standard” will ever be used to describe Lani and I.  We both enjoy this, but a life in the minority breeds unique insecurities.  Conversations about maintaining family stability and preparing for the future make you feel unwise engaging in this free-flowing lifestyle. Insecurities surface when what you sacrifice is viewed from the outside as valuable, almost essential to living a successful life.  Conversations about long-term career or financial planning are abstract. Fears and unknowns run rampant and some days I find myself craving a “normal” life.  I drive by suburban family homes and envy the steady, focused march of their lives.  How will I ever get anywhere this way?  Will my kids have a solid start if I continue down this path?  What does twenty years from now look like?   It’s a head game at times as God leads us down this unique road.  But…at the end of the day, week, year….life…I’d rather write a book about truly living than buy one.  I’d much rather tell stories about chasing after Christ than read the journals of others who did.

I’ll take the tension of sacrifice other the sting of regret any day.

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What I am not…

One of the great discoveries of the last few years is the “not”.  I spend a lot of time searching for what God wants to do with my life, (that information is still unfolding, very slowly). Instead, my area of greatest education has been along the lines of what I”m “not” going to do. The “not” has been very insightful in this clarification journey.

I’ve learned I’m not a corporate guy. (I actually knew that already).  Though I admire the leadership talents associated with an executive role, it’s not me (unless I was completely in charge…then it might work).  I’m also not an overly confident entrepreneur.  I love the idea of starting something new, and there are many parts of my personality that would thrive in that environment, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it would be my best work. Obviously planting a church involves a heavy entrepreneurial skill set.  If God ever led me down that path, it would require an extraordinary team around me.  I might have a different perspective on this if I wrapped my heart around a God-sized vision/burden that I feel He’s called me to, but I won’t know until then.  I’m also not a big city type guy.  I love to visit the urban environment, the architecture, the unique spaces, the energy and collection of individuals is fascinating, but not as a permanent residence.  I like space, I connect to God through nature and want to be surrounded by it.  I don’t want to live in the sticks, but I want some land.  I’ve found I’m not immune to past temptations even though I’ve built up resistance.  Things I struggled with years ago linger, and I must remain disciplined.  I’ve rediscovered that I am not an architect.  I love the creative process and I admire well-designed spaces, but my internal passions are not lit up by architecture.  I’m also not a Starbucks store manager or district manager.  I’m not an “Independent Consultant” or Rock Rebar advocate.  I’m also not willing to sacrifice the health of our home environment for financial or career advancement.  I’m willing to work odd, low-income roles so the kids have one of us as a full-time caretaker.  I’m also not an expert in any field (but I’d like to be).

What I am not is just as insightful as what I am.

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I have begun the search for the right seminary.  To say that I am skeptical of every higher learning institution created to train pastors is a gross understatement.  Every seminary was created with a theological agenda.  By committing to a school, I’m committing to a specific interpretation and a willingness to be inundated with this specific approach.  My rebellious tendencies push against narrow thinking, and everything I know about the unpredictable nature of the Holy Spirit doesn’t pair well with it either.  There is a reason I have avoided making this decision until now.

But, I know there are some great schools out there.  And I know there are some great professors nestled in schools that might not be too popular.  I also realize that my cynical perspectives are probably just a poor attempt to hide my fears and cloak my lack of faith. God has made it clear to me that some type of education is the next step in my ministry journey, and who am I to narrowly define how the unpredictable Holy Spirit will work in my life through the seminary process.

Looking back on my immaturity, if I had gone the typical pastoral route I probably wouldn’t have lasted long in seminary.  I might have walked away for good and completely missed God’s call on my life.  Grace has led me here, grace allows me to step into schooling in this season of life with more life experience.  I have a wiser lens to filter my education, patience I never thought was possible, and clarity of gifts and passion.

My future…the search continues.

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Find Your Soil

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” -St. Catherine of Siena

Over the past 15 to 20 years, this great quote has fleshed itself out in the form of a question: “What’s my purpose in life”.  I’ve asked this of myself, challenged others to reflect and I’ve seen many find fulfillment as they discover who God meant them to be.  As a man transitioning in life, I find myself once again wrestling with this question, yet the typical question of my past is not resonating with my heart.  Finding “my purpose” in life has self-focused undertones, implying the goal of discovery is to fill a personal, internal void.  I realize the implied idea is that “my purpose” benefits others and makes an impact for good in this world, but this form of the question still starts with me.   I don’t want the underlying driver of my life to be one that is motivated by personal interest.  My human nature has no problem with self-preservation; I naturally drift towards benefiting me.  What I need is a question, a starting point, that shifts my focus outward first, and personal fulfillment becomes a byproduct.

The other side of this question that’s eating at me is a distorted perspective of what my life will be like once I find “my purpose”.  Many times I believe once I find my purpose, life will be easier with less struggle and pain.  The opposite is true.  Internally I will have more peace, but the discovery of “who God meant for me to be” marks the beginning of true sacrifice.  It’s at that point our eyes are opened to the enormous emotional and physical payment we must give to live in our purpose.

So I’ve started to look at my life with a different phrase.  Find my soil.  Find the plot of land created for you to till, plant, water and hopefully harvest.  Soil takes on a variety of meanings.  For some their soil might be a specific community.  Local politicians, police officers, government employees, retired volunteers invest in their community, work in it, vote to improve it and know that they are a part of influencing the families that live there and moving their community forward.  Other leaders find a church as their soil.  They pour everything they have into it, impacting the individuals God brings to them.  The soil for others might be a people group; orphans, women, teenagers, abused, alcoholic, Kenyans, migrants, and they pour all they have into impacting these types of individuals for good. Sometimes moving to a different country, starting a non-profit, or gaining degrees to work in a field that helps a specific group. Still, others might view a country as their soil, investing all of their skills and influence to move their country to a better place.  There are many individuals in the current middle east uprisings who have laid their lives on the line to move their county to a better place.  Some have found a talent to be their soil.  Sports starts who pour all they have into a sport and utilize it to impact others.  Musicians or artists who bare their soul through art.  Owners who toil in the soil of their business to create a life for those who work in the organization.

Finding your soil starts with looking outside of yourself.  Looking at who or what you can impact for good in this world.  Its foundation is “others focused”, and it helps take the focus off of me. Also implied in this approach is the idea that there is work involved, hard work.  There is nothing easy about farming and there is never the assurance of harvest.  You commit to a plot of land, plant what you have, water and trust that God will grow it.

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” -St. Catherine of Siena
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A Planned Identity Crisis

The biggest challenge for me in this transition is that I am not only moving my family, changing all of our established systems and uprooting all of our relational connections; personally, I am redefining who I am. It’s a planned identity crisis. I am reshaping the vision of who I want to be. I am a clean slate in God’s hand to mold and shape for His future plans. It’s a beautiful place and a scary place.

So…Who Do I Want To Be?

The adjectives that describe my life will always be the same: faithful, authentic, creative, adventurer, relational, fun, driven, etc. What is changing is the context of how that will play out. For the past 10 years, my purpose has been clear…love and serve the people of PCC. It was something I could hold in my hand and say, “This is what I do”. Now, my concrete “thing” I’m holding is very abstract, more of an idea than a “hold in my hand thing”.

So…Who Do I want to Be” leads to “What Do I want to do?” leads to “How do I want to get there?”

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