Carl Medearis gets this right…awesome!

1Carl Medearis is one of my fav people in the world.  Never met him but have watched his videos and read his books…they have all been uplifting, challenging and informative.  On his blog today he featured a conversation he had with Dr. Ken Bailey before Ken died earlier this year.  You can read about Dr. Bailey HERE (New Testament Scholar).  I found this blog post encouraging today – I think you will too!

“…I asked one last question. I think I surprised him with this one. I simply said “Dr. Bailey, what do you think is the key to everything? Success? Purpose? Everything? What’s the key?”

Shockingly, he said “Oh that’s easy, it’s to experience God’s love.”

What? He’d been so careful to answer all my other questions and yet this one, the biggest of all, the answer burst out of him, almost without a thought. As if he knew. He went on….

“You see, to experience God’s love, and note that I said ‘experience’ his love, means to be secure. When you’re secure you make wise decisions. If you have not experienced, his love, then you’re insecure. And when you’re insecure, you make bad decisions. That’s the key to everything.”

Oh my. And of course, he’s right. It is the key to everything. This eminent Jesus-Scholar just spoke the most profound words I’ve heard in a long time. And of course, that’s what Jesus does – he shows us God’s love. He demonstrates God’s love. He is God’s love manifest.

If we want to know what God is like (and God is love), we look at Jesus. When we experience Jesus, we experience God’s love. Jesus is the exact representation of God. Jesus demonstrated his love for us by coming to earth and humbly living among us. By teaching and showing us a better way to live. By dying for us. By rising again and constantly interceding for us.  And ultimately, by spending the rest of his life with us. Amazing love.

Thoughts from the day…


There’s a verse in the New Testament letter of Thessalonians – Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in…” Now stop!  Look up the verse – 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  Once you read it, fill in this blank.  How many circumstances are we supposed rejoice in? ______________________.  Remember, as Paul writes, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. “Did you get that?  A small exercise, a short, little verse in the New Testament can challenge and change your entire perspective on life.

There was this Pastor of a large church in California.  He was speaking one Sunday morning and he was actually hearing grumbling going on in the sanctuary.  He asked someone at the beginning of his message what was going on and someone spoke up, “everyone got blank bulletins this week, what’s up?”  This is how the pastor responded,

“Well, I’m glad you noticed because RIGHT NOW we’re going to train everyone in this place to embrace a spirit of gratitude.  So right now, it is time to start. I’m glad you noticed when you came in and got a bulletin that it’s blank! Did anybody complain about that and wonder what that crazy Pastor was up to now? Here’s your instructions – this was all done for a purpose –  open that bulletin up now if you would, and get out a pen or pencil. This is deliberate. We’re going to try an exercise in this sermon, because sometimes during a sermon your mind will drift. Today the idea is to let your mind drift toward gratitude, and write down on this sheet what you’re grateful for. Then you can take this with you through the week. You can start right now. I’ll give you a few categories. Maybe there are individuals God will bring to your mind: a family member, or a coworker, or a teacher. You just want to write their names down. Or an experience: getting to go to school, or work, or travel. Or a time when you were suffering and God comforted you. Maybe you think of just a small gift: an encouraging word from somebody, a phone call, a text, a good night’s sleep, food you love to eat. Maybe it’s life-changing gifts: our faith, the Bible, the death of Jesus on the cross so I can be forgiven, the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide me, spiritual gifts, a community like the church. Through the message, God will nudge you with something you’re grateful for. When he does, just keep that pen out and write it down. By the end of this message you’ll have wonderful words to look at, and we’ll talk to God about it.”

As you can imagine, that message had quite an impact.  The pastor, John, began his message with a hypothesis…in fact, it was a great experiment.  HE BELIEVED THAT THE MORE GRATITUDE WILL NOT COME FROM MORE ACQUISITIONS AND MORE STUFF, BUT FROM MORE AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE AND GOD’S GOODNESS. Friends, there are therapeutic benefits to gratitude. There are a lot of them. They’re good things.  Trust me on this, people’s lives have been changed by one small emotional and spiritual choice – “I’m moving away from complaining and I’m moving toward being thankful.”  Being grateful, being thankful is not only an encouragement from Jesus himself through the scripture it is a gift Jesus can give to you!  HOW?  Right now, stop for a few moments and ask yourself what you are thankful for that is a specific gift from Jesus?  If you said, “his love, grace, mercy, sacrifice for me, gift of new life, promise of resurrection, hope, joy, or any other positive gift that you think of when thinking of Jesus, that is a good place to start.  Thanking Jesus every day at the beginning of the day sets your heart on gratitude rather than complaint.  Have you ever wondered why some days simply go badly?  For many people, myself included, it starts NOT with something catastrophic but rather simple – a simple grumbling spirit…a small complaint, a negative perspective and soon our “vision” for the day is set in stone and we are on the lookout for life’s disappointments.  Why not reverse that trend?

I believe with all my heart that we all have something to contribute to the Kingdom of God… no matter what our income, our age, our situation in life, our past failures, our limitations. Having a grateful heart, practicing an attitude of gratitude can not only change you but every person around you!  Gratitude is contagious.  If you wondered if Paul was being unrealistic in the verse above…when he said to be thankful in all circumstances he was not only being profound but speaking a life-changing truth.  A grateful heart is a happy heart.  A thankful disposition is a contagious disposition.  If you practice gratitude, it might be the greatest gift that you can give not only to yourself, Jesus but to every other person you encounter today and every day.  Give THANKS in all circumstances!

Discipleship…can’t have enough encouragement to live that life!

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship, pgs. 45-47.



A Disciple of Jesus is a reflection of God in the world. When Jesus talked about discipleship, it was an “I’m all-in” challenge. Discipleship must have been challenging but it was also inspiring…can you imagine what it would have been like to actually physically follow Jesus?

Imagine the wonder, the questions, those “I can’t believe what I just saw” moments, the times of frustration, all the things that those early disciples must have experienced. We do know that being a disciple wasn’t something that happened overnight. Just because you choose to follow Jesus does not mean that instantly you know everything about what it means to follow him in all aspects of your life. Then when Jesus says to “go, make disciples,” if you are like me, you say to yourself, “ME?” “Are you talking to me?” “How do I do that?” Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters– yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.‘” — Luke 14:25-30

Well, here are a few things about discipleship that you need to know: We don’t have to be perfect to be Jesus’ disciple, but we do have to know what we are signing up for and be willing to submit all areas of life to God. As Jesus discipled people, he expected that their discipleship would touch all aspects of their life, relationships, and even society as a whole. Jesus paid it all…Jesus did it all…Jesus saves us all through His grace…Jesus asks for all! Every disciple needs to count the cost because Jesus isn’t going to stop in convenient places in your life.

As Bob Logan says in the Discipleship Difference book, “we can’t be a 2/3 disciple – picking and choosing our preferred areas of growth.” Only when we have been fully trained can we be like our teacher. A real disciple needs to embrace and be growing in all the dimensions of discipleship. True discipleship is holistic: we can’t be content to be growing in some areas and lacking in other areas. Jesus never approached every disciple in the same way. Every person was cherished and every individual was discipled differently – from the Roman Soldier who stepped out in faith to the rich young ruler who would not yield his most precious possessions…Jesus approached every one uniquely.

Philippians 1:6 says that God is going to keep at it…working His Spirit’s intention in our hearts and lives and actions. He is NOT going to give up just as we will never “make it.” There isn’t a finish line when it comes to spiritual maturity or discipleship (at least in this life). Just as the Apostle Paul exclaims, “I press on toward the goal of the upward call of Jesus.”

That’s our call as well! In the book, Bob outlines 10 key principles of reflect on how Jesus made disciples – as you read them, not only reflect but pray!

1. Principle 1 – Jesus made disciples of ordinary people – not superstars.

2. Principle 2 – Jesus started with unbelievers and made disciples outside of the community of faith.

3. Principle 3 – Jesus expected his disciples to make MORE disciples.

4. Principle 4 – Jesus’ context for making disciples was relationships.

5. Principle 5 – Jesus intentionally made discipleship all about the practical vs. the academic.

6. Principle 6 – Jesus started with his disciples where they were at in their lives.

7. Principle 7 – Jesus dealt uniquely with each individual disciple.

8. Principle 8 – Jesus recognized and accepted that discipleship was a process, complete with setbacks.

9. Principle 9 – Jesus assumed that discipleship would touch and transform every area of life.

10.  Principle 10 – Jesus intended disicplemaking to continue through the generations.

Look again at the diagram above…it was created to represent 8 dimensions of being and growing as a disciple. As Jesus became incarnate and lived among us, these are the ways we see him living. Take a look at the diagram and categories. Then evaluate your own life. Allow others to speak into your life as well: we never travel alone on the journey of allowing God to work in our lives. These are the areas we will be reviewing over the coming weeks. If you want a “taste” of some of the subjects these devotionals will cover, surf over to Peace @ Monroe’s website – click on Disciple Training and then scroll down to Dimensions of Discipleship. More to come next week – the best is yet to come! Stop NOW and pray. Take a special vow to follow Jesus – to love him, others and to live in obedience to him…to live a lifestyle of worship, relationship and mission. Hey, stop now. Don’t let this moment go by!

The issues of the age…why “church” is losing

719276This morning, Dr. Scot McKnight featured a blog post on Jesus Creed regarding Pew Research results regarding what they label as, “the Religious Landscape.”  In the original article, these results were specifically shared in relation to the Southern Baptists.  As you know, I am no SoBap.  Even so, I am interested in how religious mores are being shaped by contemporary culture and trends.  What I decided to do was copy the pertinent info for you to be able to see.  I especially want to share with you the “conclusions” (three specific points) at the bottom of the article.  Take note of some of the issues raised in this article. I’m actually going to underline the insights I believe are especially relevant for the churchworld:

The Pew Research Center has featured results from the Religious Landscape Survey in a couple of stories over the last month that have bearing on these issues.  The survey was conducted in 2014 and compared with a similar survey in 2007. As reported in May 2015 (here), over the seven years between these surveys the Christian share of the US population dropped from 78.4% to 70.6% and the Evangelical Protestant share dropped from 26.3% to 25.4%. Those who claim none or unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic, nothing in particular) grew from 16.1% to 22.8% accounting for the lion’s share of the decrease in the Christian population. The results released this year dig into this a bit deeper, Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind. The chart to the right comes from this report. Most of the “nones” shed their religious identity in adulthood … 78%, or about 17 to 18% of the US population. Among the common themes:

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. (Robin’s comment – my experience is that this is true. A new book by Os Guinness makes note of the fact that we are experiencing the full impact in our times of cultural shifts in essential belief systems).  This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God (Robin’s comment – again, this has been my experience).  

Another 20% cite the shortcomings of religious institutions, with hierarchy, power, and abuse scandals playing a role (Robin’s comment – no one in churchworld wants to address these issues – to those in religious institutionalism, their motto is “don’t rock my boat.”).  Among the more damning from the Pew study: “Too many Christians doing un-Christian things,” “Rational thought makes religion go out the window,” and “Because I think religion is not a religion anymore. It’s a business … its all about money” (Robin’s comment – remember, culture is not rebelling against Jesus and spirituality but about “religion”)

The Unaffiliated makeup a growing share across generations…the none phenomenon is not just about younger people.  In fact, it is not entirely generational! It is also important to realize that the growth in “unaffiliated” is both between and within generations. Among those in the cohort to which my children belong (born between 1990 and 1996) 36% identify as unaffiliated, compared with 17% of my cohort. On top of this, the percentage of unaffiliated in each cohort increased between 2007 and 2014 (well, except my kids’ cohort because they were not adults in 2007 and thus not part of the survey). If trends continue, by 2021 we may well see half of those born between 1990 and 1996 claiming “unaffiliated.”

The Pew story on factors concludes:  “Whether Millennials will become more religious as they age remains to be seen, but there is nothing in our data to suggest that Millennials or members of Generation X have become any more religious in recent years. If anything, they have so far become less religious as they have aged.”

Solutions? Most of the “solutions” I’ve (the “I’ve” is the author of this piece) seen proposed focus on aspects of Christian practice that could be called “style.” Music style, for example. How we worship on Sundays. Now I’m not against music or other aspects of style evolving over time, but our core problem isn’t style. Nor is it “doctrine.” Rather, we have a credibility problem. The reasons I pulled out above highlight this point.

(1) Christians do not live and behave according Christian principles. “Hypocrite” is too often a valid judgment.

(2) Religion isn’t religion, it is just another business.  The focus is too often on numbers and ‘success,’ profit, prestige, and power, personalities and performance. A church is a Sunday morning (or Saturday evening) audience. This is just, plain wrong. The church is the community of God’s people and this is the only worthwhile thing we have to offer, now and for eternity.

(3) Rational thought makes religion go out the window. This is front and center in my town and among colleagues. Christians are often seen as opposed to reason, to science, but this goes far beyond science (Robin’s comment – I’ve often told my friends and people in our faith community that churches operate in such a manner where they expect people to leave their brains at the door and accept everything by blind “faith”).  We need to teach people how to think and live as Christians in a changing world. 

I don’t know about you but this is a good article on which to reflect.  The author’s three points at the end do hit “home” with many of the non-Jesus followers that I know as well as those who have walked away.  I could add some more reasons, but for the purpose of this post, this is enough to get you thinking…SO, got an opinion?  Go ahead and make a comment OR email me your comments at


The Miracle of Community

60ae8-6a00d83451607369e201538efebc56970b-piThe Miracle of Community

“The future of the church depends on whether it develops true community…unless we
sense that we belong to each other, with masks of , the vibrant church of today will become the powerless church of tomorrow” – Larry Crabb

“Spiritual community = the presence of conflicted relationships met by spiritual friendship, spiritual direction and characterized by the dependence upon the Spirit of God” – M.Scott Peck

How about starting with some personal remarks – when I was young in the faith, I
got a taste of spiritual community…in fact, true community is inherently spiritual.
You and I were created in the image of a God who is “eternal community”…when we
share in relationships of love, encouragement, prayer, support and challenge, we are
experiencing a glimpse of the very nature and character of our Lord. In my case,
the story of community started in earnest during my college years. There were three
young men (Steve, Russ and Jeff) who poured themselves in me as a brother, friend,
and someone with whom they shared life. For two years, those relationships gave me
hope, healing, comfort, accountability and, most important, a constant glance at
Jesus and the reality of the Kingdom. Over a period of months, that little “band of
brothers” became infectious and grew…other people wanted “in” because they saw
something that they wanted and weren’t experiencing in their own life. I’m confident
enough to call a spade a spade…they saw Jesus and saw the Kingdom of God.
To say the least, I’ve been searching for a way to quench my deep desire for
community ever since. Throughout numerous experiences, I have gotten close only to
be sidetracked by ecclesiastical agendas, congregational politics, superficiality, and a
host of other relational elements that caused community to break down. I’m tired of
empty feelings when it comes to community – it has been my dream for a long, long
time to enter anew into redemptive and Kingdom community before I reach the end
of my earthly journey. I want to take the vision of scripture for a “ride” and find any
way I can to experience the sense of awe, power, and satisfaction that comes in living
in the flow of what Jesus created for us to experience.

I promised the Lord that I would pursue that dream in every move and every
transition in life. Friends, Jesus followers were created to experience oneness with
God and each other. It is only when we enter into that oneness do we experience the
fullness of life that God intended for us. I also realize as someone who takes the
scripture seriously that we need to have the quality of community that incarnates
Jesus and gives people an opportunity to see something that can only happen because
of God. Relationships are difficult because of the essential brokenness of humanity.
That’s why Christ-followers cannot tolerate having community that is anything else
than a glimpse of the Kingdom. We need to be inviting people into an experience in
relationships that actually transcends anything that can happen without the presence
of the Holy Spirit. To have relationships like “everyone else does” does not give
witness to the lives that Jesus calls us into. I’m attaching to this email a PDF link (if you
are interested) that outlines a set of values that are non-negotiable in our belief about
community. Community is transformational. We single-mindedly pursue the unity of
love and the missional and incarnational witness of community in the context of our
lives together in Kingdom living. This little booklet is divided up into three sections:
The Theology of Community – it is an overview of theological insights gleaned from
scripture and historical reflection. Secondly, the Practices of Community – these are
essential things, or practices that we do in relationship and, finally, our Pledge to each other – the life we are calling ourselves to live.

The Visions and Values of Community PDF link!

Check out some of this Bible Stuff:

1. Ephesians 2 – how far God goes to knock down the walls that separate people.
Jesus died on the cross to bring down the dividing wall, to settle once and for
all, any and all enmity between the people He loves. Any time you purposely put
up a wall, you make a mockery of the sacrifice of Jesus.
2. Forgiveness – Matthew 18 (the entire chapter) – In Jesus’ heart, personal
forgiveness is not enough…God can and will forgive as we pass that
forgiveness on to others. This section is one of the most challenging aspects of
3. The Great Commandment – Matthew 22 – Jesus says, “you want to follow me?
Love God, love others…and follow me (obey me).” Friends, loving God is not
enough – loving others is our call as well – love God/love others so important
Jesus called THEM the greatest commandment – not two commandments but
4. “One another” passages – there are 59 “one another” passage in New

“Many communities of the religious…live in large buildings that tend to separate their
members from other people…isolated personal lives, irresponsible and dishonest attitudes, unresponsiveness to communal needs and assumption of values and aspirations that are ignorant of the Kingdom of God Jesus Himself embodied and proclaimed” John Kavanaugh

Going “public” with Disciple Training…

Many of you know that I am a leader in a local faith community.  I’ve been involved in professional, local church work for most of my life.  I started at 17 years old with Campus Life/Youth for Christ.  Though not technically a “church” based ministry, it was something that was grounded in essentially the same objectives – encouraging and challenging people to discover what it means to love God, love others and discover a Jesus-following lifestyle.   Then at 19 years old, I was hired to work in a local church for the first time.  An Episcopalian priest took a risk on a young person like me…the vestry of that congregation paid me $200 a month to be their youth worker.  From there it was leadership in a bible camp, then a youth ministry “movement,” then work in local churches…first as a ministry associate and finally as a pastor in what now has totaled seven congregations.  In other words, I’ve been around the block.

One of the things that has always interested me is how much GOOD STUFF comes out of the leadership of local churches.  You might not know it but some of the best and most applicable “training” materials for local church ministry has NOT been published by a major publishing house.   Some leaders have the honor of being published…they are at the right place at the right time (or have the right contacts) to leap into that world.  For most though, they simply plug away, day after day, doing their best to be faithful in their local contexts.  They don’t dream of national or international fame or exposure…all they want to do is be faithful with the sphere God has entrusted to them.

Well…over the years, I’ve run into many, many of those types of leaders.  And we all agreed to do one thing – when we had the opportunity to make “stuff” available, we would.  SO, in an effort to do just that, for the sake of my local community and for my friends who are part of my journey, I’m “publishing” some of the discipleship training materials that I use in my local faith community on our church’s website.  If you like portions of what you see, copy and paste whatever you want to use.  If all you do is read over the materials, great.  If you are a growing Jesus follower and want to work the lessons through for your own personal spiritual and disciple formation, great!  It is all there for you!

Go to – click on the Disciple Training links and all that material is yours. If you know of any other websites or leaders who are sharing their materials, let me know. I love getting new ideas!


Forgiveness…the power and the challenge

1I’m a realist and I know that one of the MOST realistic statements I can write is this – “we get hurt.” If you live long enough, you will be forced to embrace and admit that life is painful…that someone has hurt you…someone whom you trusted or depended upon. We’ve all felt the sting of someone’s disloyalty, betrayal, or even emotional brutality. I know, I know…you didn’t deserve it! I didn’t either but it happened. How do you cope with these experiences in life? How can you navigate those issues lurking in your past or in your memories hitting your heart at the most unexpected times?

You essentially have three choices:

1 – Forget – but trust me, this is easier said than done. It is very difficult, if not impossible to erase hurt. It is like a virus on your computer…it just keeps messing things up in your life. My experience? Forgetting doesn’t work!
2 – Get Even – you know the phrase, “I don’t get back, I get even!” Trust me in this as well…that’s the saddest game in town. Someone once told me a long time ago, “you can never get even in the exchange of pain.”
3 – Forgive – yep, that’s God’s “invention.” It is something Jesus uses with us. Regret, hurt, pain, betrayal…God’s experienced them all in His relationship with you and me. All that we are and have done and God forgives.

Well, it seems to most of us that God has it easy…when it comes to forgiveness, since He “invented” it, He wields it without effort. The rub happens in our hearts when we read what Jesus said about not just RECEIVING forgiveness but then being challenged to BE a forgiver. When Paul writes in Ephesians 4:

“be kind to each other, tender-hearted, and forgive as Jesus has forgiven you.”

Or as Jesus said himself, “love one another AS I HAVE LOVE YOU”…or “love one another as you LOVE yourself”…if you have experienced the power of forgiveness, now the ball is in your court to be a forgiver.

So, how DO you get to the point that you can say, “you are forgiven”…”we are reconciled”? With that strong move in your life, how can you get to the point where you are ready because you have forgiven to be the son, daughter, friend, coworker, or even spouse that you want to be?

Permit me to give you some pointed encouragement. You can download a PDF below that has four “session” explanation and challenge to all of us regarding the power and the challenge of forgiveness. Each of these challenges come straight from how our Lord treats us in terms of forgiveness. You see, when we are awestruck, moved and transformed by the “amazing grace” of the forgiving heart of Jesus toward us, we are at the same time challenged to be one who “pays it forward” in our relationships. Since we are created in the image of God and that “image” is one of forgiveness, it would seem that a commitment like that would be easy for us to make. But often it is not…so we all need to have a clear look again at how far God goes to forgive us so that when the challenge comes to be a forgiver, we have a specific and clear example of what that forgiveness looks like. We are all called to,

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us[a] and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:1

Forgiveness Series 2

If you are interested…I am a senior Leadership of a faith community…this is an articulation of what drives us in who and what we do!

1Some of my friends around the country as well as some of my University students have been curious about the faith community that I lead here in the state of Washington.

Here’s a link to a more extensive definition of who we are and what we do…our core values and common purpose and mission.  

If you are interested, it will give you a broader picture, a snapshot of that which we believe Jesus has given us.



The Sacrament of the PARTY? Hmmm…

1I am a HUGE fan of Hugh Halter.  He and his buddy Mat Smay wrote a book that inspired and encouraged me at a critical time in my leadership journey.  You can check it out yourself OR read the summary pages that I wrote here Chapter by Chapter Overview of Tangible Kingdom.

Hugh has written another book that I have NOT read yet (I’m having a few shipped to me even as I write this).  He “previewed” the book on a missional website that I frequent with a short article entitled, “The Sacrament of the Party.”  NOW, as a pure extrovert and self-confessed relational addict, that got my attention.  Take a peek yourself at what Hugh says,

“Somewhere, everywhere, people are connecting socially. From the beginning of time and throughout the scriptures, God’s people patterned their lives around celebration, feasts, social gatherings, levity, story-telling, eating, drinking, laughter, and listening. For God’s ancient fans, levity, sobriety, and a good ol’ fashion party helped create a social connection that makes spiritual connection possible. It used to be Five O’clock somewhere, but sadly, over the last century, the church is the last one to the party. I remember growing up as a Nazarene boy hearing that ‘good Christians’ don’t smoke, chew or have friends that do. As such, I didn’t venture out to the movies, look at art, play cards, and I had to listen to all my secular music undercover. My friends were Christians…all of them. As I entered training for ministry my reading of Jesus’ life didn’t square with a seminary prof who suggested that all wine in the New Testament was simply grape juice or the denominational leaders who wanted us to plant churches for them, but only if we abstain from having a beer with neighbor. It just seemed that at every turn, my old perception of being committed to Jesus didn’t allow me to follow Him or live like He lived. Now that I’m a big boy, not much has changed. Except for one small adjustment. I now pattern my holiness after the human life of Jesus instead of the traditions of any certain church, outdated ministerial code of ethics or leadership definitions born of prohibition, or the subjective and selective literalism so many of us grew up under. I simply want to be holy as Jesus was holy. And for Him, leadership, influence, witness, the gospel as good news, the new covenant, life according the heart & spirit instead of the law and his main message of the kingdom of God was no longer a matter of eating and drinking, which now meant you can do exactly that. Enjoy life, faith, friends, great food and drink and yes all while being holy.”

Hugh is the USA Director for the “missions training” network called FORGE. Forge believes, and rightly so, that we are experiencing life much like the early Jesus followers did in the first century.  Hugh writes, “in a pure missionary context the church can no longer ask the secular culture to act the part of the missionary and come to us and our church services anymore. We must be the ‘sent’ ones again. We must be the missionaries.”

Amen to that!  His point?  A missionary starts NOT in the hallowed halls of the already convinced but where the people in culture are in an attempt to “connect, identify, and learn the context of one another’s story.” We call that CONTEXTUALIZATION.

This is what I wrote a number of years ago on the subject of contextualization,

“To “contextualize” means that you enter the world of another…you start to care about their lives…you come to understand what makes them “tick”…you stop the tourist life and become a resident. That’s why this is an important topic in terms of life living for Jesus. If we are just “passing through” this world, then why care? Why build relationships? Why do any of the things we do as a faith community with a passion and/or vision for God presence/power to impact people’s lives? Those who don’t “contextualize” build bunkers and fortresses to keep the rest of the world out and wait until the battle is over. Unfortunately, that’s not been the way God has acted in history. God is not a detached God…He has infiltrated human life at every intersection. In fact, one of if not the most powerful and history-shaking aspects of God’s work in the world is undoubtedly the incarnation – and please understand, the incarnation is all about contextualization – for the ultimate expression of contextualization is “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).”

Hugh quotes another good, missional guy, Alan Hirsch who has said, “PARTY IS SACRAMENT” when he starts to think out loud about contextualization.  He says,

“Many people have asked, “Hugh, what is the one key to turning a typical small group into a true missionary community?” Another asks, “Hugh, how did all those people find faith..really how did it actually happen?” Another asks, “how do you disciple people to live more human lives like Jesus?” My answer is always the same. “You have to teach and disciple people in how to throw a good party. It’s where everything starts.” It’s where we learn to listen instead of judge. Where we become advocates instead of adversaries and where people cease to be targets or projects because they are our friends. Remember, when teaching about the gospel of the kingdom, our living metaphors are that of a wedding feast, a banquet, and a supper. It’s time to include this in our own spiritual formation.”

Now, I wasn’t born yesterday (in fact, it was 61 years full of yesterdays).  For Hugh to use the word, “sacrament” is bound to scare off or irritate a few.  I don’t think that is his point as much as it is that you and I as Jesus followers have been “commissioned and called” to live out the purposes of God.  Those moments where we rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit as well as find ways to “incarnate” the truth and grace of Jesus in and through our lives become holy indeed.  I have written before on the issue of sacrament and what that means for Jesus followers.  You can read that article here!  For now, I’m going to think about this new “take” on following Jesus in daily life.  Who knows…maybe a party is a sacrament in some sort of manner…yeah, it doesn’t necessarily “fit” in a classical sense of the word…EVEN SO, it does give the love of Jesus, the grace of God opportunity to do what the sacraments do – embody God’s Word, release God’s grace, give an experience of God’s promises…

“A means of grace is a way God creates faith, bring about conversion, justification, and sanctification.”

“A Sacrament is a sacred act – instituted by God Himself; containing certain visible means connected with His Word; by which God offers, gives and seals unto us the forgiveness of sins…essentially a sacrament is a means of grace.”