Sunday, May 31, 2009


The first year Tom and I were married we decided we go up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness for a canoe trek.  The BWCA  is located in Northeastern Minnesota, and has a million acres of wilderness, with over 1,000 lakes and streams, and more than 1500 miles of canoe routes. Beautiful, rugged and isolated. In our youthful optimism we thought; "no problem"!

We mapped out a trip that would cover close to 100 miles in 10 days, going deep into the more isolated areas of the wilderness.  At the time, 10 miles a day didn't seem like an unrealistic goal, but we based that on what we could easily accomplish on the lakes and rivers we had grown up canoeing. Those usually did not require much, if any, portaging.  However, this trek would require many portages, and some quite a distance. Our canoe which we would be portaging weighed 75 lbs., (heavy but durable against the rocks). Tom's backpack was 75 lbs, and mine was 65 lbs. (Who knew that dehydrated foods and noodles could weigh so much!)  We practiced lifting and carrying it all a few times, finding it heavy, but doable. Our confidence was high!  This was going to be great!

We quickly discovered how much this trip was going to challenge us.  It would challenge us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and as a newly married couple.  We would gain a whole new perspective on the word endurance.

The first day was great and our goals met. Easy portages, great weather, and smooth waters.  We tried fishing for our supper, but with no luck there, we were happy to boil up noodles for a nice dinner.  All in all, our expectations were met.  As Tom would say; "nice!"

 It went steadily and consistently downhill from there. Now the real trek was "game on".

Storms on lakes that came up quickly and powerfully.  Three foot waves causing us using all our strength and skill just to stay afloat, but inhibiting us from making progress to the shoreline and safety.  Portages that were really bogs and sank us up to our hips.  More storms that kept us in our tent for two full days, anxious that the trees blowing down nearby would not land on us!  Mosquitos that were really more like sucking, flying bats, and black flies that were so thick you breathe them.  More portages that were rock cliffs instead of nice level paths and far longer than the rods listed on the map.  Rapids that dumped us and all our gear, causing us to lose time and miles just to dry everything out.  Portages that were supposed to be there (the map said so) but were not, and required us to forge new ones through dense woods. Exhausted and completely spent, some nights we didn't even bother with a fire and cooking (yes, our noodles), but crawled into our tent and sleeping bags wanting sleep more than food.

I remember one night, waking up to the sound of heavy breathing outside our tent, and that unmistakable smell of bear.  Trying to remember if we hung our food packs far enough up and out of reach, I was so exhausted that I couldn't even stay awake to pay attention to the situation.  All I wanted was more sleep, the bear could do what he wanted.

Everyday we talked about quitting.  However, we had reached a point in the trip where going back would of been longer than pushing forward.  Talking often turned into arguments of blame, frustration, and impatience.  We were dependent upon each other in whole new ways.  We could only make it through the trip if both of us endured.  If each of us kept the course and carried their load.

I remember often thinking of the verse where Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow him, as I picked up my pack, hoisted the canoe overhead and slowly trekked forward.  It gave me a whole new perspective on its meaning.  His burden may be light, but often our cross's are heavy.  Sometimes moving forward is difficult.

In the end we accomplished our journey. We did our 10 days and 87 miles of wilderness adventure.  We lost weight, gained muscles, learned about our weakness's and strengths.  We learned to guard our tongues and keep each other focused on the mission for the day with encouraging words and attitudes.We had a new appreciation for each other and that kind of bonding that occurs when you endure some hard and difficult times together.  And, we didn't eat noodles for many years after that trip!

It's been 25 years since this infamous canoe trek.  Yet, I think about it and all the things it taught me often.
I see a similar journey in our lives as followers of Christ.  We start out so confident in our own strength and capabilities and how much "we're going to accomplish" for the King and Kingdom.   We, in our naivety we think we will not have difficulties that test our endurance, challenge our faith, cause us to question, and wear us down.  Yet, the walk of a Christian is one of endurance.  We are destined to persevere through storms, rough portages, unforseen difficulties, and situations that require us to depend up each other and the Lord.  

Paul talks about endurance in 2 Timothy 2, verse 10; "I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory". 
 Paul endured for the goal that by his steadfastness, others would come to know Jesus.  That his endurance had a purpose and affect. 
 Again Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 11 with a list of things he endured; labors, imprisonments, beatings, stoning, lashing, shipwrecks, dangers from rivers, robbers, countrymen, hunger, thirst, cold and exposure.  Then he adds the internal pressures of his concern for all the churches. 

 In the end, he concludes that for the sake of Christ, it is all worth it.  

" Consider it all joy, my brethren,when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing".  James 1:2-4

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Organic Leadership Track

 In my 1/2 acre yard over the last 15 years, I have planted many different varieties of trees, shrubs, flowering bushes, vines, perennial flowers and of course; my annuals of vegetables and flowers.  With the exception of my vegetables, I rarely plant more than one of the same kind.   I purpose every year to find some new addition to my yard that will add something unique, something special. I have plants that flower only in the spring but what beauty they bring during those short weeks!  I have vines that continue to grow and spread wide that produce the most beautiful flowers all summer that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  Some shrubs that add great wind protection and privacy, giving a great nesting place to birds.  A bush that turns bright red and orange in the fall, rightly called the "burning bush".

I think God does that with us.  Planting us in a large garden, chosen and placed to add something unique and special.  Our purpose is to add whatever it is to the garden that we are created for.  To bear fruit in accordance with "our kind", as the Scriptures say.

Organic Leadership is based on who we are naturally. Not leadership based on business models of leadership gifts, qualifications and charisma.  It is "organic" to who we are and what we have been given to serve with.  
Naturally and uniquely adding what has been given to you for the Kingdom of God.  Growing where you are planted, faithfully and obediently.

In Matthew 21, Jesus is in discussions with the religious leaders of the day who are questioning his authority.  Jesus relates a story of a vineyard that has not produced any fruit, and in fact, have abused those who tried to produce any fruit from it.  He says in rebuke; "therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it", (vs 43).

Organic Leadership is something that produces fruit of the Kingdom.  Fruit in many forms and  with impact.  It has influence and an authority that is not positionally based but in self sacrifice; "whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave", Matthew 20:27-28.

Ezekiel stood by the banks of a great river that flowed out of the city of God.  Everywhere this river flowed, life resulted.  He gives us a description of the trees that grow on the banks of this river in chapter 47:12; " By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food.  Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fall.  They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."

Organic leadership is based on dependency, humility and intimacy.   As Jesus taught us; "I only do that which I see the Father doing", John 5:19.   Not with great ideas, programs, strategies and steps to success.   Regardless salary, stipend or honorarium, Organic Leadership is serving out of love, privilege and the desire to be a servant at any cost.

Neil Cole will be leading three sessions in the Organic Leadership Track; Pulling the Weeds From the Garden of Leadership,  on Friday night.  On Saturday morning; From Movement to Monument.  And the final session for the conference on Saturday night called; Organic Leadership.  I will be leading a session called Igniting People to Purpose, on Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Living The Mission - The Simple Church Track

According to Wikipedia; "A simple church may meet anywhere; with or without trained leaders, formal liturgy, programs or structures.  They meet to facilitate relationship, discipleship, multiplication, mobility and member ownership.  The term is used interchangeably with the terms like organic church, essential church, bodylife, relational church, micro-church, and the most common being house church."

This track will explore the values and practices  of simple church.  

On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Tony and Felicity Dale (, will introduce you to what happens in a simple church gathering.  They will share from years of experience in starting and multiplying simple churches and mentoring others in the process.  If you have wondered how to begin a simple church or you have some questions as to how it functions with leadership, children, money, teaching, how often to meet, when and how to multiply, etc., this would be a great opportunity to learn from seasoned leaders.

Friday and Saturday morning, John White ( will be leading 4 sessions from his philosophy on simple church called; The Seven Practices. Beginning with intimacy with Jesus, then growing naturally to spouse, to family, to neighborhood,  to community and finally; a region.  (These practices can be read in detail on the website;
  If you want to hear how Jesus makes planting a simple church a possibility for all of us, this series of workshops will inspire, equip and encourage you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Living The Mission - The APEST Track

Have you ever wondered about how God has gifted you?  What He put within you specifically to serve and work alongside Him in Kingdom expansion?  What your passions, interests, and personality aspects say about your gifting and purpose?

What made the Apostle Paul successful in his ministry and yet he struggled often with interpersonal relationships? How did Barnabas see the potential in Paul before anyone else and took the time and energy to invest in him?  What made Phillip present the gospel so clearly to the Ethiopian Eunuch and as a result, evangelise a whole nation?

APEST stands for; Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher.  Alan Hirsch and Brian Schubring have developed an assessment test (taken before the conference, and done online in about 10 minutes) that will help you understand how God has equipped you.  This workshop presents the 5 gifts listed in Ephesians 4, from the premise that we all have elements of these gifts within us since God wants us to reproduce ourselves and equip others for the Kingdom.

This is a highly interactive class.  The same session is offered on both Wednesday and Thursday for you to choose from and allow you to take in other workshops.   On Saturday both groups from the Wednesday and Thursday night sessions will gather together and do some "urban trekking" which will be fun, stretching, impacting and full of individual coaching and encouragement.

In order to come prepared for this workshop.  Please take the APEST assessment test online before hand and come to the conference with the results page printed out to discuss in the workshop.  There is an extra $10 charge for the test(online), and another $10 for workbooks that will be given during the session.  
The team from LVC (Leadership Vision Consulting), who works with Alan Hirsch (The Forgotten Ways, The Shaping of Things To Come, REJesus) and developed by Brian Schubring will be leading this exciting workshop.  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Living The Mission - The Missional Track

What is missional?  
 Christian vernacular changes constantly, and definitions change as a result.   The meaning and value of words change with the wind, and because of that, I want to make sure we are using the term in the same way for the purposes of this particular Track in the conference.

Many books have been written and will continue to be written as people grapple with the word and how to define it.  I think personally, that the essence of  'missional'  is described well throughout the book; The Shaping of Things To Come by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch.  I'm not a smart as those two, nor do I think I have the complete understanding as of yet.  However, I have to attempt to communicate what I believe about the word missional, for the Track's description in today's blog.

Being missional is NOT a new word for the Emergent Church. It is NOT something only a few do "full time" or on special "mission trips" slotted into convenient spaces in our lives.  It is NOT a program to be instituted in a traditional church or house church to be highlighted every once in a while.

The word missional is an adjective.  In grammatical terms, it describes; "what kind of" in reference to a noun.  We are the nouns.  You, me, us, as the Body of Christ.
Simply put: we are the message.
  Jesus calls us salt, light, fragrance, witness's.  All of those have emitting qualities.  All are adjectives describing us.
We are in a working partnership with the Creator.
  He has allowed us to be a part of the Missio Dei; the extension of the Kingdom of God.  As Jesus was the representative of God, so we represent Jesus.  Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, our lives are a constant living epistle to the realities of Jesus and His Kingdom.

If we are part of the Body of Christ we ARE missional.  We are those who represent the King and the Kingdom. 

Whether we do that well, or choose to ignore it, it is part of our identity in Christ.

This Track will be exploring this paradigm and removing the obstacles that have hindered us from living more fruitfully in our missional identities.  

On Thursday night, Neil Cole will be discussing how Jesus makes disciples.   How He empowers us to partnership with Him in this process in the session called; Search and Rescue. 

Ed Waken will be inspiring us to see the simplicity of living as representatives of Jesus and what things have kept us from doing so on Thursday night and all day on Friday in his sessions titled; Discovering What Has Been Stolen.  

Finally, Tony Dale will explore the variety of avenues that are available to us as we live missionally in the business sector on Friday morning in the session called; Kingdom Apostles/Entrepreneurs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Transitional Track in the Living The Mission Conference

Let's begin these next few blog posts regarding information on the tracks we offer in the conference with the Transitional Track.  What is that?

God is always moving to build His Church and release the knowledge of Himself  through The Kingdom.  How many times did Jesus refer to the phrase; "the Kingdom is upon you" to indicate to his followers just what this Kingdom was like?

 The Kingdom was not in form or structure, but in essence, atmosphere, authority and influence.

Study, books, and conversations are happening today on the various aspects of what particular structure is valid and biblical for the Kingdom to be expressed and lived.  I'll leave all those conversations to those who are far smarter than I am, and those of biblical scholarship.

I'm a pragmatist.  I know that God works with us wherever we are in our present understanding of structures.  He desires obedience and rewards faith.  He wants us all to be transformed and transformers!
We are all on continuous journeys of living out what we know at the given moment in obedience and faith.  All those journeys are unique, even if they do hold aspects of commonality with others on similar journey's.

In the Transitional Track; conversations, experiences, tools, and ideas for what is now referred to as simple, organic and missional will be explored as expressions of the Kingdom within any structure.

The Transitional Track in this conference is for those who like some structural aspects of what we are lately referring to as "traditional", "conventional", or the term I dislike; "institutional" but have become hungry for more influence and essence of The Kingdom in that expression of structure.

This track will especially focus on hearing specifically from the Lord what He is telling YOU about the Kingdom and the structure you worship and serve Him in.  No models, no formulas, no 10 Steps to success, but the encouragement to explore some new paradigms of thinking and possibilities.

This track has sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 7-9 PM and facilitators are Brian Williamson, Ed Waken and myself.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Living The Mission

 I complain about our long Minnesota winters.  The long dead months of white on grey.  Endless days of dormancy, cold and the lack of color.  Then the world around me changes.  The buds of new life in all their various forms and colors arrive, noticeably more vibrant because of the long winter from which I emerge.

In June, we will be having a "spring moment" available for us.  A time for those things within us that may have become dormant, pruned back, or transplanted into new gardens, to spring back into life.   A season of being watered, fertilized, and mulched.  All necessary for life, growth and weed control.  A time for the buds abiding in the Vine,  to blossom with the promise of coming fragrance and fruit.

In the Book of John, chapter 15, we hear Jesus talking with his disciples about this.  He says; " You did not choose Me but I choose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain," vs 16.

We are created to bear fruit.  Lasting fruit.  Fruit that will bring glory and honor to the Vine Dresser and the Vine.

For this reason, I'd encourage you to attend the conference Living The Mission; The Journey in Simple, Organic, Missional Church, June 17-20, 2009 in Bloomington, Minnesota.   A few days to come together, water one another, get some fertilizer and weed control.  A time to come out of winter dormancy and become revitalized for a season of "bloom".    A time to "spring forth" with expectations of new beginnings.

For brochure on the conference in PDF, printable form:

For registration: