Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I like shortcuts.

These days I spend a lot of time walking through the University of Minnesota looking for short cuts to buildings in order to lessen the time and effort I need to spend in getting from one class to another. Since efficiency is high on my value list, I'm always looking for ways to streamline my day and my walking routes to spend less time in transit. I have found some routes that may save me a couple of minutes, or shave a few hundred feet off my path, but not enough to make that much of a difference in the end.
Frankly, the time and the energy I have spent trying out those shortcuts has actually had the opposite affect, and caused me to waste valuable time! No efficiency in that!

Although I'd like to think its all about efficiency, all this shortcut finding probably has more to do with laziness. I simply want an easier way. One that requires less effort from me.

Especially for those of us who are Americans, we highly value the "quick and easy" routes in everything from cooking to disseminating information.

Well, I hate to rain on your parade, but God doesn't seem to put the same value on shortcuts as we do. Ask the poor Israelites! They didn't get any shortcuts, but instead wandered for 40 years in a dry, hot, rocky desert! They are a great example of God leading their journey of discovery in KNOWING God into a longcut - (if there were such a word, but of course their isn't, because no one values taking a longer route to get somewhere and therefore create a word for it!)

In simple, organic, and missional life in Christ, you don't get shortcuts.

In fact, compared with the traditional structured Christian experience you may of had previously, this journey in Christ and fellowship requires A LOT MORE from you. It's a longcut!

Whereas before, spending a few moments of morning "devotional" reading was seen as sufficient time in the Bible. Or memorizing a verse or two from time to time was sufficient to allow you feel that you really knew the Word!

In O/S/M life, if you don't spend a large amount of time in your Bible on a regular basis, you dry up like a fig on a rock on a hot day! There simply is no short cut to the time you need to spend with the words of Jesus in His Word.

I recently had a discussion posted on my Facebook page where it was inferred that I was "duped" by a certain author and Christian leader. Before I could respond, a reader of that posting wrote what I wanted to say (probably better!). She wrote that if a person is in the Word regularly and diligently, it is not so easy to be "duped" by what anyone says. If your NOT in the Word constantly, but rather rely upon a meager portion of it, or what others TELL you it says, you will find yourself unable to know the truth from error. Hebrews 5:14 is pretty clear about this; "But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."

No shortcuts.

Maybe you used to depend on the shortcut of listening to a 40 minute, hit or miss message, once a week to get instruction. A sermon to get a "new insight" to ruminate upon about that someone else determined you needed to know. You walked out surprised, saying something like; "I really got something out of that sermon this morning!" Or, just as often; "I should of stayed home today!"
In O/S/M life, you have to figure out your own lesson for the week, month, or season of your life. You figure it out by listening to the Author Himself, and hearing what is important to Him in your life at this time. After all, He is invested in you. He is the One with the Plan. He is the one who directs your paths. He is worth listening to and obeying.
This means you are in constant dialog and with an "ear to hear" - all the time! Prayer is not for intercessors or widows with a lot of time on their hands, but it is the vehicle of communication of a loving and involved Father into the lives of His children. Why would we want any shortcuts to that interaction!

There are certainly no short cuts to fellowship. No way! If you want fellowship, YOU have to take the mature initiative to get involved. Either by starting your own simple church, or connecting regularly with folks in a manner that can be all the way from structured to fluid. The form matters less than that you actually get together with folks for the "one anothers". That takes a lot of work. Relationships that live out life together 24/7 takes time, effort, energy and commitment.

Worship? No short cuts there. Where you used to simply show up for a 30 minute set, and participate in it if you were interested in the current worship team leading, or the songs that were chosen, now you have to design your own worship LIFE! Sing, play, write, paint, dance, pray, meditate - worship is up to you!

For a lot of us, we come from backgrounds that teach us short cuts in our expressions of Christianity. I get asked many times for the short cut "formulas" to organic, simple, missional church life. Of course, people don't use those words, but the meaning is clear..."I want and expect this to be easy, quick, full of fast returns, etc., how do I do this?"

There are no streamlined pathways of efficiency in your relationship with God. He calls us into a relationship of depth, quality and intimacy. That is a lot of investment. A lot of commitment, and a lot of time.

Nope, no shortcuts.

Longcuts! But longcuts to an incredible journey of depth!
Are you in ?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Every Day Opportunities

What am I doing here?, I though to myself as I gazed around at the young faces in my college classroom. I'm old enough to be the mother of all those sitting here!

I was suddenly and painfully aware that I am on the downward curve of life, whereas these young people sitting around me are just beginning their adventure! I felt old.
Discouragement began to seep into my spirit. I pushed it away, and turned to the young woman sitting next to me and introduced myself, striking up a conversation before class started.

I was surprised to find her immediately opening up to me with quite a bit of personal information. She was a young single mom, working, going to school full time, and trying to make a life for herself and her young daughter. Alone. She began to share how she found it hard to identify with those around her at college, which resulted in her feeling even more alone. Whereas they could hang out in the dorms, go to parties, do homework with each other and enjoy the college scene, she had a far different life. The duties of a mother with a young child, maintaining an apartment, cooking, cleaning, keeping a part time job, etc. all came before homework and any social life. As she spoke, her voice quivered with the emotion she was holding back.

I listened to her pour out her struggles, to me a stranger, and I ached for her. This was the sort of thing she should of been sharing with someone who had known her much longer than 3 minutes! Maybe even someone like her mother!

I smiled, nodded, asked questions and all the while silently prayed the Lord would come alongside this young woman with all that she needed. She needed a lot, and only He would be able to do it!
I affirmed her commitments to her child as a mother, trying to get a college education to better her job prospects, and the inner strength she had to even attempt it all. That was all I could do before the professor began the class and our conversation was cut off.

I have prayed for this young woman ever since. I can't get her out of my mind. I am looking forward to other encounters she and I will have in the days ahead and how the Lord would want me to reach out to her and introduce Christ into her life. Even if I don't have any future encounters, I know my prayers WILL impact her life because I serve and pray to a God who is an impacting God!

The Bible tells us to always be ready to share with those around us the faith we have in Jesus. To look and see the fields ripe and ready for harvest. To be fragrance and light to those around us EVERY DAY of the great love and presence of Jesus. Whatever the context, He has prepared those around you to be receptors of Him. In some way, in some degree....we have opportunities before us. Are you looking?

I was so glad the Lord forgave my moment of self pity and refocused me on what really matters. People. And in this case, this young woman, who needed someone to care about her life and listen to her struggles.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16-17

Being old enough to be like a mother to these fellow classmates, actually, isn't so bad after all!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Disciple Making In Brazil - Turning On The Key

As the summer comes to an end, so does our motorcycle riding instruction for the season. Once again, I am amazed at the process of the average person with no riding knowledge or ability, going from; "where does the key go?" to riding tight curves at 15 mph, stopping quickly, swerving, and all with decent skill for someone with only 10 hours of motorcycle coaching!

I'd like to attribute it to Tom and my great coaching abilities, and to our own knowledge and skill in motorcycling. However, that is not the case. I started riding only in 2006, and Tom did not have that much more experience than me when we started. Of course we did pass the gruelling "training of the trainers" process (86 hours of insane intensity!) but that isn't the key to our students' rapid skill acquisition.

Rather, it is because of the intentional teaching strategy of the program itself.
The program teaches in the way in which we learn best; a small group of participants, a short verbal instruction, a visual demonstration, a time and "space" to practice, with a de-brief process at the end.
Small increments of skill are steadily introduced at each level.

Jesus taught like this.

He had his few disciples around him; the men and women who travelled from town to town with him getting "coached" in Kingdom living. He would give a teaching or a principle, demonstrate it, often times telling them to do it, and then later talk to them about it. With this manner of teaching, they were able to learn and be mentored in a short time and in a way that left powerful impact.

I don't know when standing up in front of people, teaching and downloading information and opinions, became known as disciple making and training in Christian Kingdom life! Disciples are made in much smaller contexts and with direct coaching and involvement in the process. If Jesus Himself followed this process of making disciples, why on earth would we do anything different and think it's achieving the same end?

Of course we also see Jesus speak to the masses, as in the Sermon on Mount. However, in His intentional training of His disciples, He did it small, concise, with practice, and in increments, getting them ready and prepared for His departure.

On our trip to Brazil, this principle was at work with the team we had and the results were astounding!

Three of the five young adults that went were my own kids. Now, my kids have grown up in an environment of ministering. Tom and I have intentionally discipled them to be able to hear God, and respond in faith with an action of some sort (i.e. prayer, a word, a direction, etc). Discipling our kids now is a matter of giving them new experiences to grow and mature in these areas and acting more as a coach in the process.

But one team member had not been a Christian for very long and had not grown up in a family that practiced faith beyond a trip to church once a year or so. Her exposure to the different aspects of what I call "ministry" (i.e. praying for the sick, dealing with the demonic, emotional inner healing issues, salvation, teaching, counseling, prophetic understanding, sharing The Word, and testimonies of God's faithfulness, etc.) were all new things to her. Completely.

She was like one of our new, totally clueless motorcycle students on the first riding day of class saying; "Where does the key go?".

Now a word here regarding the ministry trips I lead to this area of Brazil. It is in the Amazon River basin area. Sometimes we are in a large and modern town, and other times we travel on boat to more isolated jungle areas. We minister in organized church buildings, homes, on the street or in the jungle; the contexts change - the ministry does not.

We "rough it" in all aspects. We don't stay in hotels but live with the people we minister to. That means we are "on call" to minister at any time that we're requested to do so. On one trip previously, I was using the bathroom when a knock at my door requested that; "when I finished, a couple was waiting for counsel and prayer". Sure enough, when I exited the bathroom there they were, just outside the bathroom door!

You get the idea. We eat, play, sleep, take bucket baths, use whatever is being offered as an outhouse, alongside those we come to serve. The only thing we do different is drink bottled water ( it just makes life a bit easier NOT to be running for the bushes or outhouse every few minutes).

This was the context our more inexperienced team member was tossed into. A challenge in every way for even the more "seasoned" minister!

Wow, did she ever rise to the challenge! She was an amazing asset to the team. She took her key, turned it on and took off!

She jumped right in, fully and without hesitation on the first day in Brazil. By bold and audacious faith, she stepped into the learning process and, in motorcycle vernacular; rolled on the throttle!

I saw how the small size of the team, the modeling that was being done, the freedom to practice and experiment in the learning process, along with encouragement and "de-briefing" later on accelerated her learning process. She was in a huge growth spurt!

I also saw another principle at work.

In the motorcycle classes, we have noticed that skill acquisition for a student who may have initially weaker skills or complete inexperience, is directly affected by those other people in the class and their skill and experience levels. When a weaker student is placed in a class of more experienced or skilled riders, the student acquires skill and gains confidence far quicker and stronger than those in a class of students who are at similar levels in their abilities.

People learn best when they are being challenged beyond their ability, surrounded by those a bit farther along in small, intimate, trusting and encouraging environments.

This young woman quickly made up ground that the others on the team had spent a lifetime in learning (albeit a young life, but a lifetime non- the- less). The peer modeling that was in front of her was powerful in it's impact upon her own progress. No sermons, books, seminars or conferences could of done what a few days with those a bit farther on the journey, could do in her gaining skill, confidence and ultimately testimonies of God's faithfulness in serving and ministering to others.

Are you in a place where your being challenged to grow beyond your present abilities and acquired skills and knowledge in the Kingdom?

Do you have others around you that inspire you to growth and new adventures of learning with Christ?

Are you discipling and mentoring others that you can coach in their new adventures with God?

It doesn't take a trip to Brazil to have a growth spurt or coach someone else in theirs. It doesn't take a motorcycle class to learn some new challenge.

It just takes you "turning on the key" and taking off on the adventure with some others, both ahead and behind you in the journey.

"Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo I AM with you always, even to the end of the age" Matthew 28:19-20

Monday, September 6, 2010

To Brazil and Back - Leading From The Rear

Nothing unusual for the Amazon basin region of Brazil; the day was incredibly hot and it was only 10:00 AM.
My clothes gripped my body like a second skin saturated with sweat. Some 'community oriented ' sweat gathered together forming pathways like rivers down my back, and all I could do was let it flow! I was working intensely to keep the inflow of water feeding this sweating frenzy full, hoping to avoid the all too common affects of dehydration.

My butt hurt from the hard bench I sat on, my back hurt from all the gymnastics maneuvering needed to get in and out of such a river boat. I had already popped my first dose of Ibuprofen of the day and wondered if I needed to up the dose.
I was tired from an already jammed packed series of meetings, ministry and socializing (extremely draining for an introvert like myself), and I was working hard to keep the focus off my own self, and focus on why we were there. It's not 'all about me', and that's not always easy for our flesh.

I watched the team of young people excitedly disembark off the boat we had just traveled in, and take off into the jungle, unhampered by the heat which was consuming my strength and focus. I listened to them call out to one another full of the joy of adventure, as they made their way forward, without much more than a glance back at the two "old folks" struggling behind them.

I slowly found my way off the boat, through the water soaked bank, over a few rotting logs used as walkways, and into the humid bush. They were long gone in front of me.

I took swig of water, adjusted my pack and girded myself up with a prayer lately becoming more of a ongoing chant of; "help me Lord!" and moved forward, not leading this group from the front, but following from behind.

This trip was all about leading from the rear.

Ahead lay our final destination for the next 36 hours - a small, poor community carved out of jungle. Where we would spend the day and night visiting, playing, talking, eating and ministering.

As I had watched the young adults trek off into the bush, I felt a mix of joy and sadness. Joy that they were embarking on a wonderful adventure and journey with God for which they would forever be changed and stirred, and sadness that my similar adventures for this sort of ministry trek were nearing an end. I had done a lot of them, but knew I wasn't going to do many more.

Leading from the rear means you will eventually be left behind.
Each of us will find ourselves at some point, slowing down, making the adjustments necessary as our bodies decline with age and use. Finding that we just can't do the things we used to do, like we did them anymore.
Everything in me fights this process, because I hunger to be involved in the Kingdom moving forward, taking the former domains of satan for Jesus, and like my heroes "boldly going where no man has gone before!" (Star Trek).

But I know my focus needs to not be in my continued "doing" but in those who will come after me and continue on. An army is only as good as it's replacements.

It's not about me constantly doing everything myself, always in the demonstrating and teaching role. Instead, it is about me stepping back and allowing space for those coming up after me to experience, explore and practice Kingdom ministry themselves, finding my encouragement and support fertile soil for their growth.

That morning, as we left for this particular ministry adventure, I had told the group of young people; "You all know how to hear from the Lord. I trust your ability to discern His Will in what the ministry we'll do will look like for this trip. Go for it. I'll be supporting you and whatever you want me to do, but you've got the lead".
It ended up being a powerful 36 hours of impact and lasting fruit both in the team and in those villagers, and each one of those young adults said those couple of days were their favorite of the trip.

Are you living the adventure in Christ AND investing in those who will have their own wild adventures in Christ AFTER you?

The scriptures say in James 4:14 b; "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."
Pretty minimal impact if your only concentrating on your own short vaporous life.
Elijah understood this and invested his time into Elisha who ended up having more than Elijah in power and impact. That's how it should be.

Jesus Himself, powerful and impacting, invested for a few short years into a group of men and women who would take what He invested into them, and increase it. He applies this to us also. It's an amazing scripture;
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
John 14:11-13

That's how it should be.

Leading from the rear.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rocket Science Part II

Recently, I was watching a television show on the orphans left behind after a country experienced severe war trauma. Children of all ages found themselves alone; dealing with the challenges of finding food, safety and a place to sleep at night. The need prompted the building of some large orphanages, staffed with those who would take care of basic needs such as; clean clothes, meals, a bed, some education, and a time and space to play with the other children. It was a great improvement over what many of these children had before the orphanage, certainly! But not ideal.
There was little affection provided to the children, and any individual interaction and encouragement on personal level, was just impossible with so many children to staff ratios. This resulted in the interaction being "corporate" rather than "individual" by the staff, and the children's personal, and emotional well-being was left to the children themselves to administer to each other.
Although their basic needs were met, the children were missing the best, and most basic of structures to provide what they needed to grow up in.

The small and intimate unit God created called a family.

A family that could not be replaced with a large, however good it was in meeting basic needs, institution; called an orphanage.

We are created to live and grow in families. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are good substitutes, but as the saying goes; "the good is the enemy of the best".

Families, are the best.

There is a lot of discussion of definitions these days about what defines church, and what does not. In recent blogs posts, I too, have been discussing aspects of simple, organic, fluid church from my perspective. I've also commented on where I see the movement at this point in time, and where I feel, we still need to go.

One of these areas that I believe still needs to change in our understanding, is seeing church as family (with all of its aspects,) instead of church as a gathering, a institution, a place we "go to", or "attend".

Church as family, is core to the discussion of what defines church. A family has certain characteristics that are shared, regardless of the culture or country it is experienced in. It can be large or small but the basics of a family stay the same. It is a universal structure, undisturbed throughout history in its form and function until recent years.

Now, you may be experiencing in your fellowship together, the sense of being "a family" with others already. That is great, and I'm preaching to the choir with you!
However, the majority of those who call themselves Christ followers do not experience this.

What is more often the case, (because we love to take words and water them down or change the meaning to suit our purposes), is that you are more likely having large group interactions. Interactions most likely on a superficial level, that function more as a organization, a school, a training center, a mass of people filling a building, a "congregation" instead of a family.

I've heard large churches of hundreds of people refer to themselves as "a family". I would agree in the broadest sense of the word (as the family of God), certainly. But I don't think any of us would really believe that a group of hundreds of people, could, and do, have the quality of relationships that would define a healthy relational family unit. That would be logistically impossible!

The phenomena of large churches creating weekly "small groups"," kinship groups", "cell groups", etc. in the last couple decades, as been a because we as humans are created for intimate, honest, consistent, committed relationships. The large group concept simply was not producing fruit and meeting the needs of people. This was obvious. The response was to add a small context to the large for that purpose. Again, good, but not the best.

Our relationships together are supposed to model after our relationship with The Father, and His Son (certainly words referring to familiar relationships of intimacy by their very definition!). Now THEY have a simple church - the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit!

God Himself, placed Jesus into a family to mature; "and the child (Jesus) continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom;and the grace of God was upon Him" Luke 2:40.

Jesus had his own simple church of relationships with the group of disciples around Him (men and women) that he treated like family members and when dying on the Cross, pointed the young John to his own mother for mutual care.

The book of Acts is full of simple churches that functioned as family both in the natural formation of a existing family; (Cornelius and Lydia), and the natural family with the addition of outside persons forming a whole familial unit of a spiritual family.
"Then he (Paul) left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synagogue. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all this household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." Acts 18:7-8

We are not created to be birthed, grow, mature, receive discipline, accountability, intimacy, love and ultimately long term commitment in a university, a hospital, an organization, a business - and yet that is what we have turned "church" into. No wonder we have such little fruit and impact - at least in the areas where BIG IS IN! Our western preoccupation with big and thus "better" is a delusion, and I'll take on that issue in the next blog post.

Is no one paying attention to China, India, Africa, Iran and other places where the simple, small, home, neighbor to neighbor type of church is growing, producing disciples, and evangelizing whole regions?
Are we missing the correlation that they (the above mentioned) resemble Scripture more than our large corporate gatherings? In fact, our large corporate gatherings resemble more of the very institutions that rejected Jesus!
Do we simply ignore the fruit and impact of these small family expressions of faith that are "over there", and satisfy ourselves "over here" with fancy buildings, large staffs, programs that keep people busy and attendance numbers?

I had a conversation recently with someone I know who was updating me on a mutual friend who pastors a church. This person kept repeating to me; "They have 1500 people in their church!" I'd say; "Are they producing fruit worth 1500 people in the area?" .
However, each response of mine with a question of what those 1500 were impacting, was returned with; "they have 1500 people!" Clearly, the goal is the number of people. We are stuck in the western mindset that "quantity is more important than quality."

I read in my Bible and see that David counted his people as a response to Satan's influence.

"Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel." I Chronicles 21: 1
It then says after this was done, that "God was displeased with this thing, so He struck Israel", verse 7.

God rebuked Davids pride and it had terrible consequences. David, and ultimately the people themselves, who paid the price of the judgement, were punished for the pride of counting the people that God had given him to lead. What other reason would we have for promoting numbers over fruit, maturity, and ultimately - impact, if not pride?

Let me just go on record saying - numbers do not equate with impact. It certainly could! However, the very nature of the huge beast of numbers is like a lumbering giant; hard to move, fat and lazy through constant self feeding, self absorption and indifference to everyone.

Can pride trip up small groups? Absolutely! I'm not saying that large groups monopolize that sin. We all need to check our own hearts often and have the close, intimate, family type of relationships that can hold each other in accountability regularly!

I've seen many small simple churches simply a "shrunk down" version of a large fellowship with the same dynamics and results! I'm not making an argument necessarily for the size, as much as the essence of "church as family". That said, having a healthy family with more than a dozen or so people would offer great challenges in the every way. I don't think the historical track record for "large" is a good one. That said, I'm looking forward greatly to when Christ returns and makes us into one large family in a way that only He can do. In the meantime, we will function best as small family units (natural and spiritual) of fellowship.

I'm not one to trash anyone else in how they practice fellowship in the Body of Christ as a Christian. In fact, I work hard as someone who values bridge building with traditional and the simple church expressions. If your happy with where you experience God and the life in Christ with other Christians, then great! I'm not out to convince anyone to leave their "happy place" of fellowship. However, I do feel that there is much more to experience in living a 24/7 paradigm of Christian fellowship, in families of intimacy, accountability, commitment and real Christian love, as well as provide a natural interaction and inclusion with those who don't know Christ that the simple, organic and missional paradigm offers above all else.

I recently read a blog post from someone who is supported in full time ministry defending the practice of large amounts of people attending weekly services for an hour, regularly supporting the projects that the leadership determines warrants funding and volunteer service involvement, and ultimately calling that church.

I'd call that a school, a place to involve yourself in a project or mission for a season - not a church.

My friend John White is passionate about describing church as family. John encourages the basic familial unit of a husband and wife as a "church" and calls them CO2 (Church of Two), and from that basic unit, as in nature, new life results with the birth of children (natural and supernatural) and the church expands. In fact, he has invested his life into training and establishing such churches with the ministry he leads called LK10. If you'd like to read more about this you can at;

We need to see church, and our fellowship together, more as a family, and function as such. If we continue to see it as a "thing we do" or "a place we attend" we will function more like those orphanages where basic needs are met, but real family dynamics lacking.

This week I'm off to Brazil with my kids and two other young people to experience mission, relationship and ministry together. I got a letter this week from one of the "father's" of the simple church that one of the young people joining us is from. In it he says; "Take care of our boy!"

Now, that's the concern, love, support and commitment of a family man!

"But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction, and makes his families like a flock. The upright see it and are glad; But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth. Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things. And consider the lovingkindness of the Lord" Psalm 107:41-43

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's Not Rocket Science

At this point in my life, my kids are almost grown up.
They are forging into their unique life paths, testing, experimenting and learning on their own the faithfulness of God in new ways as adults with adult issues.
I see the fruit of their dad and my labors on their behalf, to form a family, these past 24 years. And labor it was!
From learning how to live as a couple, birthing and raising children, struggling with our selfishness as we strove to die to ourselves. Laying down our own agendas for the sake of the health of our family. The trial of figuring out parenting while doing it (and making lots of mistakes you pray won't wreck them). Seeking God continually for wisdom, guidance, patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and asking Him continually for more than what we, as husband and wife, as parents, had to give each day. A complete labor of love, and not without cost and trials. It's a lot of work to have a family!

What formed, unfolding slowly, was a family of five. A family committed in love to each other, seeing the good, the bad and the often really ugly stuff in each other. A family who nurtured, equipped and built character in each member. A family that is outwardly focused in launching three young persons uniquely into their destinies and hopefully starting new families of their own! A family filling the hearts of the parents with gratitude and awe. If I've participated in anything of any value in my life, my family is it. No ministry can compare, no achievement more valuable. No fruit as sweet.

Sound like church to you? Probably not.

Do you instead, think of a large building, with all the latest technology, modern and awe inspiring, filled with hundreds of people every Sunday?
Or do you think of the charismatic, dynamic, thought provoking preaching platform that you take pride in when telling others of "where you go to church"?
Possibly your one that goes to church every Sunday simply out of guilt and worry about what everyone else will think if your not there with a smile on your face and your weekly check in; "Hi, how are you?", before moving to your regular seating position.
Maybe you meet in a cool "third place", where the coffee is good and the atmosphere trendy.
Or possibly, your one of the most recent 7% polled that claim they have church in their home.

If you do, I want to challenge you that your still seeing church as a place to go, some place to attend for a specific time, to give or receive something that makes you feel it was worthwhile. Now, that could be a business, a community event, a project of value, a job, college, a mission, but that's not what I believe Christ refers to as His Church, His Bride, His Body.

Whatever the venue for how you find fellowship, intimacy, accountability, maturity and ultimately fruit in your life as a Christian, do you think it is a good representation of the word "family"? You see, because I believe that family is exactly how God wants us to view our fellowship together. He even went to all the trouble to create the first one with Adam and Eve, and THEN even had the humility to set Jesus into the most humble and nondescript kind!

Why? Simply to raise children in the most healthy way? Or is it to give us the blueprint for forming strong, meaningful, intimate, lasting, and fruitful relationships for eternity?
Why would God continually use the word Father, to describe Himself in relationship to us, and Jesus as His Son, and our brother (as well as Saviour, Lord, King).

If God sees us as a family, joined as a living Body, relationally intimate and nurturing, why do we keep taking it to institutional, organizational and superficial levels of intimacy?

Maybe because most of us come from unhealthy, dysfunctional examples of family. We have not experienced an example of what healthy families look and act like. We may even be fearful or uncomfortable with those kind of relationships because we've learned "families are not safe, good places", and we protect ourselves now from further hurt and disappointment.

Whatever your reason, it does not change the fact that the ultimate way for us to experience God, Jesus and the life of The Body of Christ together, should be experienced in the context of families.

Families where the leaders (the parents) invest in each other with mutual support and encouragement. Without competition, power struggles, selfishness, or ambition obeying the scriptures in; "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

Families where everyone lives within the natural rhythms of life together. Sharing the normal, every day experiences that make up the essence of our lives, not just the super highs like a wedding, or the super lows as in illness or death, but everyday life issues. The good, the difficult, the joyous, the defeats, all shared together. Life, not snippets of life moments.

Families where forgiveness, understanding and long suffering flows. Restoration is valued. Commitment; a given.

Families where love and relationships to one another are forever! Not until you move to another state or "church". That is our western "here today, gone tomorrow" mentality of relationships, not

I think God, as The Father, set us in natural families to give us the model for His Divine Families. We mess up the model with all our imperfections and wounds, of course.

But the model still stands there for us to learn how to love, serve, relate, multiply, train and all the rest.

The scriptures are filled with good and poor examples of families - the basic unit of relationship for us to learn from, for a reason. They are not just bedtime stories we've read to our children, or areas of Scripture that we skim over.

We are living epistles to it ourselves.

To think of families as the basic model of "church" and the living out of our faith in Christ may be something you need to rethink and evaluate. You may think it's way too simple a concept and your brain may baulk at the idea. After all.....

..... as the saying's not rocket science.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

God is Moving! Third Shifters; Are You?

God is moving, and it's not just in China, India, Iran and other places.
He's moving here too - in the United States.
Where, you ask?
The Scriptures tell us; "Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. John 4:35

The fields are there. The harvest is there.
The problem lays with us, and our inability to recognize either one.

Or maybe we recognize it, but choose passivity.
Either way, we're missing out on one of the biggest blessings of our lives.
To be used by His Hand. To see God change a life. To witness the supernatural reaching Love that floods a broken and bruised life and changes it forever.

Jesus encountered this dullness of perception, and apathy of involvement, in the folks around Him. People doing all sorts of "religious activity" but with little fruit or impact. People who should have, but did not see the activity of God. Or, they saw it and remained aloof from it.

In John 5, Jesus found it necessary to remind the Pharisee's, when they persecuted Him for healing on the Sabbath (not a condoned religious activity), in verse 17 with; "But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working."
He's saving the lives of those who have not known Him, but have asked questions like; "Are you real God?" "Show me if you exist!" "Help me!" God replies; "Here I AM!" when "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

God is moving and Jesus has made it possible for us, you and me, to be the instruments of that moving.....if we're watching for it, if we are willing, and if we make ourselves available. The choice is ours.

I shared in the last blog post, about Third Shifters being those who ultimately make the biggest and most transformational impact of the Kingdom. Mainly because they make up the larger group of those who can cause impact.
First Shifters are few and trekking into new territories. Second Shifters are busy teaching and creating systems and building blocks.
It's the Third Shifters who are the heavy lifters, so to speak. They, by their shear mass, can reach into the lives of people and make a difference through those relationships and encounters.

Here is a recent unedited testimony a friend of mine sent me after he participated in a day of watching God move in our city. Read how God is moving through average, obedient people responding to His leading:

"We had about 120 people at the water baptisms tonight and the LORD gave us a spontaneous word of instruction that we were to go out and every person was to invite someone to the gathering for dinner. After the spontaneous outreach we had about 200 that we fed and loved on and led many to the Lord!!! Then we went down to the beach and had over 20 water baptisms (we had only 4 scheduled but the Holy Spirit poured out so dramatically that we had 16 spontaneous first time believers or rededications). Here are a couple of the stories. Wow!

There was Allah Mohammed Hussein. (Spelling) A 17 year old Iraqi Muslim who lost his sister a year ago. He called out to God for help and Jesus came and comforted Him when he was in Iraq. He Has been in the United States for only 6 days and was out running and stopped at the pavilion we were at. A brother invited him in and he couldn't believe how much love he experienced. He decided to surrender his life to Jesus so that He could be cleansed of his sins and start over with God. He was baptized in the lake with the others. Then there was Brenda. She was a native American. She had been part of an Alcoholics Anonymous program for the last 14 months. Just today she texted her friend and told her she really wanted to surrender her life to God. She was out walking by the pavilion where we were gathering and stopped to listen to the preaching. A sister approached her and she gave her life to Jesus and was baptized in the lake with the others. Then there was Amby. A latino young woman with a new baby. She talked with one of our Spanish speaking brothers and wanted to give her life to Jesus. A leader joined him and led her to the LORD. She started weeping as she was filled with the Holy Spirit. We had many hmong families who joined us for dinner and got prayer including a man named Tao whose arm was hurt and a couple people prayed with him and Jesus healed him. He got to experience the Holy Spirit in a significant way and a powerful witness was released to him."

Pretty exciting stuff isn't it?
God is moving!

This was in a park in St. Paul, Minnesota with a group of men and women who themselves are largely new Christians. They happen to be lead by a group of leaders who teach from the beginning of their walk with Christ, to hear and obey. They are taught that God wants to and will move to reach out and save the lives of people. They expect it - and listen to His instructions on how, who and when.

God is moving. Now. In the United States. In your city. In your neighborhood. He wants and waits to use YOU!

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah 6:7-9

Your commissioned and sent!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Third Shifters; Bringing Impact

Recently I received a publication from an organization that plants churches in Iran called Elam Ministries ( or Here is something I want to share with you from that brochure:

"While it is safer to plant a church in the West, it may actually be simpler to plant one in Iran. Go to a church planters' conference in North America, and you will hear about budgets, programs, marketing campaigns, and the need for a good worship set. Attend a conference for Iranians, and you get a different picture. They'll talk about starting by sharing Christ with friends and family, gathering new believers for a weekly Bible teaching and fellowship, and then encouraging and praying with them to go and share with their friends and family."(Elam Ministries, Issue 2, 2010)

Let's look at the points they make:

1. Start with friends and family
2. Study the Bible together
3. Get together for fellowship
4. Empower, encourage and pray for each person to go out and share Christ in their "okios" (spheres of influence)

Simple, Organic and Missional. Every believer in Christ can do it.

This is the way the Kingdom has been extended since the book of Acts, and the rest of the New Testament, was written for our instruction and encouragement.

The Apostle Paul, Barnabas and others as "First Shifters", carved out through their missionary journeys "The Way". They pioneered new territories and laid foundations.

Then, those like Timothy, Titus, Apollos and others "Second Shifters" began to build on those foundations.

It was the "Third Shifters" however, that I believe created the impact and real expansion of Christianity and the Kingdom of God. The masses of normal, regular people living out their faith and commitment to Christ in every day life.

The names of most of these people we don't know. Although the Apostle Paul does from time to time in his letters, acknowledge some of them and their faithful work in the Kingdom.

It is these nameless, faceless, empowered, obedient Believers in Christ that God really works through in profound and powerful ways. This group of people multiplies itself over and over, causing transformation in neighborhoods, cities, regions and countries. This is the group of real impact.

Here is a testimony from an Iranian couple who have gone into a deeply Islamic city from the Elam article;

"We started with two people who were Christians, but had no Bible teaching. We met with them and began to disciple them. The Lord blessed us and now we have twenty faithful believers".

Another church planter who oversees over 20 house churches says:

" Our churches grow through our members. We started with one family in Tehran. We would visit them in their home for worship and fellowship. We taught them the Bible and encouraged them to share Jesus with their friends and family. They did, and the church grew." (Elam Ministries, Issue 2, 2010)

Felicity Dale, a friend of mine, recently posted an article called; 15 Reasons Why We Don't See Harvest ( In it she offers some suggestions as to why we are not seeing a lot of harvest that I would encourage you to read and contemplate. Even better, join in the conversation!

In my opinion, we will not see the results that are seen in China, India, Iran and other places until the Third Shifters begin to faithfully, simply, organically and missionally walk out their faith in the natural rhythms, circumstances and oikos' of their lives.

"But you are a Chosen Race, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a People For God's Own Possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light" 1Peter 2:9

Start proclaiming, and let's see the Book of Acts come alive in our own time and lives!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Second Shifters - The Communicators

You can go to almost any grocery store these days and find foods with an Organic label. The term has become in vogue and put on everything from produce to clothing. But be warned. Not everything that is labeled "organic" has met the qualifications for that identity.

In fact, the label Organic has been so misused and slapped on anything someone wants to call Organic in the last couple years, that new stringent requirements are being put into effect before a product can legally claim that title. That's good. It keeps the integrity of the label and then we all know that what we're buying is the real thing.

We are in a similar place with the Organic, Simple, Missional expression of Christian life and fellowship. Organic labels are being slapped on anything someone wants to call by that name. Any why not? It sounds green, cool and trendy - and that's important to some people. I wrote a little about some of this already in the April post called "The Human Hijacking of Organic".

This issue needs to be addressed over and over because the the repercussions could be the difference of this initiative of God being either being squelched, or ultimately nurtured.

In a recent Twitter post, a friend of mine asked; "Will the real Organic please stand up!". For some of us older folks, we remember a television show called; 'To Tell The Truth' that was popular and used this phrase in it's conclusion of the show. In the show, three people would claim the name and identity of the only one true individual with that name. The other two would fake it as best they could, looking, speaking and acting as much as possible as the real person of that identity. The judges job was to discern the real one.

With the influx of multiple definitions and explanations of the word Organic, it becomes even more important that we continue to stand for what is truly Organic and not let the term, and ultimately the expression of it, find itself far removed from its true essence.

So how do we know what is really Organic or just a transferred label?

Second Shifters, your task is to wade through all the pablum and find the real thing and communicate it well using your gifts and influence.
It won't be easy. But, I believe most Second Shifters are those with gifts of teaching, discernment and are Truth Seekers. God has put within you a desire to "know how something works" and how to apply it for use. God has given and equipped you with all you need to take the baton from the First Shifters and Explorers to transform the wilderness into settlements. Your those to lay foundations of what is to be built upon by the masses who will adopt Organic life and allow God to flourish in their individual oikos's (spheres of influence).

Just to reiterate what I say over and over in my blogging, I will continue to define Organic Church as: that which is initiated by God through a intimate and dependent relationship with Him and then expressed naturally and uniquely through that relationship to others. Be it through how you fellowship, with whom, and in what place, the primary feature is that it is the initiative of The Spirit of God for His unique and natural outflow of Himself through the life of a believer to those around him. It has far less to do with a form, a style, or something to be copied and eventually placed into a model.
Jesus is our perfect example of this, seeking the Father each day for instructions as to how and with whom, He was to interact with on that particular day. A lot of variety, a lot of unique interactions, a lot of fruit because it was born and initiated in the will of the Father. That's organic.

Okay, so maybe you disagree, or have found some other alternative definitions. That is to be expected. Who am I anyway? The challenge is for you Second Shifters, the Implementers, to take your role and position to communicate clearly, effectively and accurately just what is in essence; Organic.

As I said previously in my last blog post; communication at this point of implementation becomes far more important because the impact and scope is so much greater, than during the exploration phase. There is a lot at stake with this phase and Second Shifters have a huge responsibility. Portability is a necessity if there is to be any real change or impact. But, portability of the real thing. Not an impostor, an adaptation, or revised humanized religiously acceptable version.

In marriages, friendships, work relationships, parent/child interactions - basically any relational connection, communication is always a challenge.

Communication is both the delivery of what we're saying, AND the receiving of the message.

Some people think that good communication is just in the delivery. They spend all their time on putting as much information out there as they can, oblivious to how it is being received and possibly misconstrued. Both delivery and reception have equal validity in creating and sustaining good communication, and it's not an easy thing to accomplish. Our own ideas, past history, emotions, hurts and just the skill of picking the right words, all make it challenging. Really listening to someone else, without imposing your own thoughts or words to what their saying is extremely difficult and a skill that takes time and practice.
Those of us who are married know you can say one thing to a spouse and it can be received in an intirely different way! Or with a teenager who heard something completely different than what was said.

The First Shifters primarily explored the wilderness of doing/being church and mission differently. Second Shifters teach and communicate it for the adaptation. Third shifters are the majority and it is they who will bring real transformation and impact. If each one reaches their own oikos, their own spheres of influence and relational connections, widespread impact can occur. The scope of reaching the world with the Good News of Jesus, all of a sudden, takes on the proportions of places like China, and India, where God is moving powerfully through each Christian, not just the few.

With the next blog post I want to explore the Third Shifters...........

Saturday, May 22, 2010

First and Second Shifters in the Organic Movement

In the early 1990's, I heard someone speak on the radio about the simple way church was done during the early formation of Christianity. They mentioned a series of tapes available from different teachers on the subject, that Jim Rutz had put into an album called, "Open Church: Lions In The Pews". I sent for the tapes, and listened to them many times over. I checked their claims with Scripture, prayed for discernment, and eventually passed them around to all my friends. I resonated with the messages and concepts on these tapes, and soon Tom and I were on the journey of discovery in Simple/Organic/Missional Church.

When I first began to talk to people years ago about this topic, it was challenging to find words and communicate accurately this new paradigm of thinking about church. I struggled to describe and "re frame" for people, this new (but old,) lifestyle of simple Christianity. I used words and descriptions like; "living church 24/7" , "being church", "living like a missionary in my neighborhood, work, coffee shop", "having simple church", "full time but not paid", "I don't go to church, I am the church", "church is relationships not buildings", "release of the laity","church in the home", "fluid church", etc.

I predominately encountered the "huh?" response. In Minnesota, we call it the "deer in the headlights" look. Most people didn't have a clue of what I was talking about! I know some thought I was in major error, if not apostate. Others, I just confused. Painfully, I had a few relationships distance themselves from me for it.
Those were some lonely and often very isolating times. You ask yourself, and God, a lot of questions and usually don't find the answers you want. Such is the life of faith.
However, the unmistakable Spiritual Fruit that we saw in our own lives, the lives of our children, the lives of those we were reaching out to, was a continual affirmation of our direction.

That was then, this is now.

Now, I believe, we are transitioning into different times.

The words I mentioned above, their concepts, and those practicing the life and journey of organic, simple, missional living are becoming more and more mainstream terms. We have great authors who are writing books, blogs and doing regional teaching/trainings to communicate the stories, definitions, and particular aspects of the paradigm.
More and more people are stepping out of traditional churches and exploring this Christianity of less church activity and more God intimacy. Mega churches, traditional churches, multi-site churches are beginning to seek out certain aspects of this movement that they want to incorporate into their expression of church. Major Christian publications are writing and discussing it. Just Google the words house church, simple church, missional, open church, organic church to see the multitude of links!

We've moved into the second shifter phase.

Second shifter is a great description for the natural progression of going from exploration to implementation. Where the ideas, concepts and ultimately a new paradigm of living, begins to take root into the culture as more and more people adopt its principles and concepts. (Thanks Trey)

In the exploration phase, those who function like "Lewis and Clark" discover and set the trails.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with American History; Lewis and Clark were explorers who opened up the western United States to settlement in 1804. They were called the Corps of Discovery. Their journey was short, but of huge significance. They are known to have opened up everything west of the Mississippi for settlement. In just a couple decades, the west was forever changed. They opened the way for the second shifter phase.

The implementers.

The implementers are those who take the information of the explorers and actually use it for settlement. They make it available and useful, giving definitions, application. Communicating these in such a way that allow for the settlement phase to take root.

Communication at this point of implementation becomes far more important because the impact and scope is so much greater, than during the exploration phase. Portability is a necessity. However, there is a lot at stake with this phase. Second shifters have a huge responsibility.

In my next blog post, I'll share some of my thoughts about that...........

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SEE - Search, Evaluate and Execute in Organic Church

My husband and I are motorcycle riding instructors for the State of MN, certified by an organization called MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation). In the classroom portion of the motorcycle instruction curriculum, we teach a strategy for motorcycle riding which goes by the acronym SEE. The S is for search, E for evaluate, and the last E for execute.
We teach riders to "SEE" constantly while driving their motorcycle, and that it is a never ending process in riding a motorcycle.

Search and pay attention to all the details of things going on all around you. Use your eyes and ears to search and gain information. What do you see?

Evaluate. What are your options and the possible scenarios and courses of action you could take with what you've seen and heard? What will your response be to what you've seen? What are you going to do?

Execute an action based upon your evaluation. Commit and move.

The Bible tells us to have eyes and ears that hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us. To each of us, individually and uniquely, through our relationship with Him, He is communicating with us. Have we learned to listened? Have we learned to hear His Voice above all others?

He is our teacher and instructor. He is committed to conform us into the likeness of Christ and accomplish the plans and purposes of God, in and through us. He has a strategy for accomplishing this in our lives.

A strategy birthed in Him and initiated by Him - that's organic.

It's not following a model or technique. Rather it is following the Biblical principles that teach us to listen, obey, mature, how to have authentic relationships, live in a lifestyle that incorporates Him into every interaction.

Similar to my husband and I instructing the individual motorcycle riders in our classes in affective riding, Gods strategy for accomplishing Organic Kingdom Life also involves our seeing/searching, evaluating, and executing. And like our SEE acronym in riding; it is a never ending process!

Here are some of His own words to us on the topic of see:

Ezekiel 40:4

The man said to me, "Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see.
Mark 8:18
Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?
Isaiah 41:20
That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the LORD has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Jeremiah 23:18

"But who has stood in the council of the LORD, That he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened?
Mark 8:1
And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?
Revelation 3:18
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Deuteronomy 1:33
I who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
Ezekiel 34:4
You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.
Matthew 10:11
"Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.
1 Corinthians 2:10

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

And to evaluate (understand):

1 Chronicles 28:19
"All this," David said, "I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan."
Psalm 119:125

I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
Philemon 1:6

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

And to execute (act):

Philippians 2:13
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
2 Thessalonians 1:11
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.
Philemon 1:6

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Organic Kingdom life is a never ending process of seeing(searching), evaluating and executing alongside the Holy Spirit who is the faithful Guide. He will get you to where you need to be. No doubt about that! The choice is ours. Will we learn to let Him guide us and live a life of faith and adventure of not knowing where the road will take us on our journey to the finish line?

God give us faith and ears to hear!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Human Hijacking of "Organic"

What is it in our human nature that thinks that we can take something God initiates and make it 'better' and mold it into our own style and paradigms ? And after doing so, claim it was never God after all because of its ineffectiveness?

Time and time again, God grabs our attention with an incredible invasion of our time and space with something that is obviously HIM. His fingerprints show a clearly divine, supernatural, and completely Scriptural initiative.
It doesn't take long before we take what He has begun and try to do it better.
To do it our way, 'the new and improved' marketable and human version. Taking control seems inevitable.
Remember the old Frank Sinatra song; "I'll do it myyyyyyy way!"?
Why do we end up making this same mistake and quenching, or at least watering down, what God is doing time and time again? Why aren't we learning from our past history?

Unfortunately, this is our human nature from the beginning of time, so I may be fighting a losing battle in even writing about it. But I am compelled to. I just can't sit by and see it happen in the simple, organic, missional movement without using my voice, and any influence I may have, to stay the trend of the human hijacking of the move of God.

I've been so privileged to have seen some of the most beautiful areas on earth.
Places of creation that take your breath away in their beauty, vastness, power and impact. The Rain Forest, coastlines, canyons, endless mountains, rich river valley's, forests of vast diversity and splendor, incredible rock creations and colors, rolling prairies, colorful deserts, peaceful meadows...I could go on and on.
I never tire from seeing the intricate beauty and great creativity of God in His creation. It is evident that He is truly the Master Artist!
Seeing His Hand in creation humbles me, exhilarates me, restores me, and awes me. I glorify God for His power, love and attention to details - all for our benefit and His expression of Himself.

I glorify God because it is obvious that it is His creation and His alone! No one could even come close to duplicating what He has already done.

I've also been to many places in the world that are considered to be the greatest creations of humans hands too. Renown cities for their architectural fame and claims to beauty, art and history. Palaces, gardens, cathedrals, art museums, bridges, historical ruins, ports, plazas, monuments, and so many wonders of human ability, talent, knowledge and effort. Great works of human hands, and albeit inspiring, they are in a far limited sense when compared to Gods creations.

The very best humans can offer, is far inferior to the least of God's creation. Like someone once said; "the good is the enemy of the best"!

Humans want to imprint themselves into God's work. We make improvements and adjustments for better "fit". We water it down to lukewarm. We enhance and organize. We put Spirit led initiatives into a system so we don't have to be wondering "what's going to happen today Lord?" We make it strategic and marketable for the masses. We take pride in the work of our hands and minds.

I remember seeing Mount Rushmore for the first time. My exclamation stunned our tour guide when I exclaimed; "Oh, they wrecked that beautiful mountain!" I couldn't understand how anyone could think that those carved human faces enhanced the mountain cliffs that they were carved from!

Being dependent upon Him daily for instructions and guidance takes a lot of time and effort. We have to slow down, listen and often wait.
It's easier, quicker and far more ego flattering, if we make our own way. We take what He started, make the adjustments we think it needs for consistent use and value and put it into action. We then feel good about our imprinting. We like the "new and improved" version because we see ourselves in it. And we like other people to see us in it too.
We are carving our own faces into a smaller version of Mount Rushmore.

When God brings in a manifestation of His will and Presence, it is like a bomb goes off. Chaos! Everything is shaken up. Man made systems of dead works, religion, and gnostic doctrines are exploded into fragments. The status quo is challenged, the equilibrium of a nice comfortable religion is thrown into upheaval, and blinders are removed. God steps in to claim once again; His Purpose, His Plan, His People, His Church.

We have seen this in the current move of God. The organic, simple, missional movement has shaken the status quo of "doing church". It has confronted much of the religious systems that have existed for years.

As the organic, simple, missional movement becomes more known and widely practiced, it inevitably becomes imprinted with human hands. In the process it begins to loose much of what was originally a part of it. How presumptuous and prideful that we as humans think we can always make improvements on God, but we do. The result is the we are far from the original when we do this. We delude ourselves into thinking we're not. Things not even remotely "organic", "simple" or "missional" are being touted as such, and they are far from it! You can read article after article with claims of being organic that are nothing but "same ole, same ole".

Neil Cole talks about this in his books, (Organic Church, Organic Leadership) and in the Greenhouse Training that CMA offers ( He uses the example that when we make a copy, then copy the copy, and so forth, soon the copy is so diluted that the original is completely lost. We are left with a distorted, and vague imitation of the original. We have people now doing this to the organic, simple, movement. They are taking the original, and making copies of copies and calling it organic, simple, missional when it has very little of the original in it. Instead, it has become a revised and humanized version. It's full of imprinting.

One of the greatest aspects of this present move of God, is that it works on the premise that everyone can hear God and do what He says (simple), that He has something to say and wants us to respond (organic), and everyone is invited to share in it if they want (missional).

It believes that God actually can instruct the average Joe/Jane Christian in "the way he should go" that will make an impact of eternal significance. That each person is valuable to "the plans and purposes of God", regardless of ordination and professionality. That we can, and are expected, to walk like Jesus when "He did only that which He saw the Father doing. "

Leadership is seen as serving, self-sacrificing parents who want more for their "kids" than they want for themselves. Leadership that seeks to encourage (you), release (you), empower (you) and launch (you) rather than follow (me), (my) vision, (my) plan for your life, support (me and my). Leadership that really believes in and lives out; "that you may increase" and "I decrease". Church is viewed and participated in as "family", relationally sharing life together, living in natural rhythms and flows - not just having meetings and "doing stuff" together like a work crew.

This is a life and faith of complete dependency upon God as "the author and perfecter of our faith." "Of growing up into all aspects of Him".
Not dependency upon a leader, a church, an organization, a system or institution.
It is a movement of the whole Body of Christ growing into maturity and being available for impact. Each person strategic.

Yup, you and you alone are responsible to read the Bible for yourself, to seek God for understanding and obey what it says. You are responsible to pray and develop intimacy with God on your own. To recognize His Voice above all others because it is so familiar to you. That's maturity. It is a movement of each of us fulfilling our design and purpose in Christ.

"until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13), and "we are to grow up in all aspects into Him" (vs 15.)

Just like snowflakes and grains of sand - no two are exactly alike in their design and formation, and yet in their coming together as one, they seem like one and the same! And in their mass, they are formidable! Believe me, living in Minnesota, one learns the impact of one flake of snow joined with others! It's called a blizzard, and that's impact!!

We have another opportunity in these days to be teachable and trainable by The Spirit so we can fully experience and participate in this incredible time in history. We have choices to make. Will we allow the Spirit free "artistic creation" in our lives, or resort to the comforts of doing it ourselves? Will we choose to take responsibility and mature in Christ, or remain dependent children tossed around? What will we do?

Lord help us!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Puzzle Master

One of my daughters loves to put together jigsaw puzzles. The huge, challenging 2000 piece kind. I am amazed at her patience and diligence, and even more so, that she actually finds the process both fun and relaxing! For me, the process is frustrating, slow, and frankly a bit overwhelming looking at all those pieces that somehow will fit together and form something recognizable from the chaos of pieces.

My daughter starts doing the puzzle by sorting through the pieces one by one and placing them into piles of similarities. Then she begins to slowly join them together with another piece that has some of the same features but still uniquely itself. Eventually she will find the ones that fit perfectly beside it.
In time, she will have whole areas that are joined and
slowly, the puzzle begins to form into the picture on the box cover.

God is doing the same with us. As the great Puzzle Master, in diligence, patience and purpose, He is forming us into one larger picture of His Kingdom. I'm confident He is enjoying the process of putting it all together piece by piece, group by group into His finished work. He has cut and designed each of us to uniquely fit alongside other pieces and then into groups of resemblance to be joined with still other groups, and eventually into one whole.

Completely strategic and completely His to work out.

Let me give you one story from my own life that illustrates this.

In 1995 we started a 501 c(3) ministry called 'Outreach To The Nations'.
We wanted a "vehicle" of ministry that would encourage and enable people sitting "in the pews" to get out into the mission field and to use their gifts and abilities in Kingdom ministry. No superstars, few if any, professionally trained, none with flashy gifts or notoriety. Just regular, faithful, average Christians loaded with the riches of Christ to share with the world.

Our first trip was to a seminary in southern Brazil. We went down with a team of four guys and me, to do a conference on the Holy Spirit. (I could write a whole lot on what happened in that week on so many levels and topics, but I'll save that for other future blog posts. )

Suffice it say, that God showed up and did all the things He loves to do; heal physically and emotionally, grant deliverance from satanic strongholds, bring conviction of sin resulting in repentance, offer salvation and new life, and to call, empower and release into Kingdom service.

It was powerful, supernatural, incredible, and oh so much fun!

Many students touched and changed as a result of this week, invited us to bring ministry teams to their home regions of Brazil when they graduated from the seminary. I did take teams to a few different areas and had fruitful ministry, but one area proved to be the puzzle piece I was meant to be connected to above the others. It had "perfect fit" written all over it.
I have been going back to this particular region of northern Brazil with teams since 1995, planting people into the Kingdom of God and coming alongside Brazilians in their ministry callings.
Disciples have been made, churches of fellowship formed and established, training, mentoring, equipping, strengthening and encouragement of the work of God have all come from many years of ministry working alongside one Brazilian man that is more than just a "ministry contact". He is closer to my heart than any earthly brother, and we are completely fitted to each other in what we are called to do, and do together. We don't speak the same language or come from the same culture or environment. And yet, we "get" each other and work side by side in union and fruitfulness. It really is a manifestation of the Puzzle Master, working out His purposes in the bigger Kingdom puzzle. Fitting and knitting His pieces together.

When we do see the Puzzle Master's Hand in our life and the strategic connections made for divine purpose, it's encouraging and exciting! We all want to be counted in the larger purposes of God and that is what we were created for.
"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:9-11

The longer I live, the more I am awed by this act of the sovereign formation of His Church, His Bride, His Body. Jesus said, " I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail over it". He is certainly is "doing the work of My Father" even now on earth as He places us in His strategic places of connection. This gives me great encouragement and strength as a lowly little puzzle piece with only limited views of the bigger puzzle formation.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Missional Paradigms In Flux

There we sat, Tom and I, just married a few months, in front of the pastor we were told to see to help us decide our future. Bubbling with excitement and eager anticipation of a great new journey ahead of us, we said to the man sitting behind the big desk separating us from each other;

"We want to serve the Lord full time with our whole lives. We want to help people find salvation and a life in Jesus, as we have", we said. "What should we do?"

His unenthusiastic reply was: "Well, Tom you need to go to seminary or Bible school, as you need theological preparation before you go anywhere or can be used in ministry full time".

"Okay, what about me? Should I go too?" I said eagerly.

I was told it didn't matter if I went or not, since I was a woman and in a supportive role to Tom's calling. (Yes, I really was told this, and it was only the first of many more such comments to come to me over the years, but that is another topic to someday write on).
He suggested nursing school for me, or something else that would supplement our income if we needed it.

He continued on, oblivious to my obvious deflation, directing us onto the mission field as a "better fit" for us with:

"Then, you'll need to pick a country to go to and live in. Find a place, people group or culture and get prepared in what you'll need to set up a ministry there. You also need to begin to raise the monthly financial support you'll need for years, so start cultivating relationships with those who will give financially to you and your ministry."

We didn't follow his advice, and someday I'll share what we did instead. But for the sake of this topic, let me summarize the advice points that he had given us:

1. Training and education are required preparations for Christian ministry
2. Ministry is seen as a profession
3. Men are seen in the primary and crucial ministry role, women are supporters to that role
4. You need to "go somewhere" to live to be considered a missionary
5. Relationships are sought out and cultivated so they will financially support your professional ministry

Humans like systems. We like to organize our beliefs into workable and manageable systems and then set up our strategies to achieve them effectively. At some point in history, we began to do this with the Kingdom mandate to "go and make disciples of all the nations" that was given to all those who believe in and are followers of Christ.

In our created system of religion, we formed distinct ministerial jobs; professions of service and positional status and accessibility. We separated men and women, young and old, trained and untrained, usable and unusable, the really important roles from the not so important roles.
A few such categories I'll list are; " Missionary" (full time or short term).
"Pastor" (Executive, Worship, Senior, Children's, Youth, Women's, etc) . "Full time" (important ministry) vs "lay" unpaid (less important ministry).

In Frank Viola's book, Pagan Christianity, he covers much of this. I would recommend it to you for further biblical study on the subject, so I won't go into all it's history and formation. Instead, I want to relate the negative affect this theology has had upon our seeing each member in the Body of Christ as a "sent one" (apostle), an ambassador and full time representative of Jesus and His Kingdom. Each one necessary and having all the qualifications needed because each one is filled with the Holy Spirit who has all that we require.

As Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch and others have written about so much better than I could ever do, we are infused with the DNA of Christ when we become believers. All that we need is found in that Jesus DNA. It's not Jesus AND education, Jesus AND credentials, Jesus AND .....whatever gives us qualification and credibility.
Sure, we can add education, training, and all the systems of organization and classification we want. It doesn't necessarily enhance us, in fact, I think it can hinder us because we begin to rely upon our heads, our training, our qualifications, over the Holy Spirit and His empowering.

I've been writing the last few posts on some people I know who are living out being sent ones. Sent ones everyday, in all the contexts of their lives in obedience and in love.
These are not people who are professional missionaries, pastors or in any way would meet the criteria that the pastor years ago instructed Tom and myself with. And yet they are incredibly anointed and fruitful in ministry. Their lives are impacting people around them with Christ.

The story of the Samaritan woman illustrates this so well. Not only was she a woman (highly unqualified in that culture), she was also a Samaritan (low in stature), and a woman likely held in disdain for her many husbands and boyfriends. She was about as unqualified as a person could get, and yet in her short contact with Jesus, she became a missionary. A sent one with a message that she delivered to her village, and they responded to it. She had the DNA.

I'm not in any way, criticizing those who call themselves full time 'missionaries' or 'professional pastors' who serve here or live in other countries through the endorsement and financial support of others. However, I am wanting us to rethink our paradigms of missional calling.

What should be natural and a part of normal life for all of us should not be made into a professional job that only the few are called and trained to do.

My desire in writing on missional life, is to bring some balance back into our lives and theology. We have separated mission from our lives in Christ for too long.