The Timeline for Community Building

I remember sitting in the chapel of Edmonton Baptist Seminary (now Taylor Seminary) as a young student poured out his heart. He was sharing of his “failures” as an Intern Youth Pastor of one our sister NAB churches.

This young man summarized his service of 4 months as a complete failure as in his own words “I was unable to build a strong youth ministry in the church and I failed to change the lives of the students as I had determined to do from the beginning.”

As he shared his story while fighting back the tears, I was moved in my heart for this student. When he had finished his testimony the professor running the chapel service for that day stood up, walked to the front and asked the worship team to come back up for the last song. He gave not one word of encouragement to the student, did not offer a prayer for him and seemingly showed no concern for the young man that had just bared his soul.

This service was my first chapel that I had at attended since taking over as the ABA Youth Area Minister, so I felt an obligation to the student. I approached him after the service ended and told him that I was sorry to hear his story. I then asked him to accompany me to my office so we could talk. Once in the safety of my office I asked him a very strongly worded question: “Who told you that you could build a strong ministry and change the lives of students in 4 months?”

I honestly wanted to know if this well intended student had set the bar too high for himself or whether someone had misled him in his goal setting. The answer was that no one had helped him set his goals. Therefore, he did it himself and set very unrealistic goals.

I began to explain to him that building a relational youth ministry was a very slow and arduous process. I told him my personal story of how I poured into the lives of many students for years before seeing any seeming fruit from the effort.

It is my fear that with our leadership at LFC, and with those leading our Clusters especially, I have not helped with realistic goal setting.

I think it is important that I help us all understand that building a Cluster to have a true sense of Biblical community is a long-term task. This calling will require a lengthy commitment that will try your patience and heart’s calling at times.

You will need to learn to be persistent, and you will need to develop thick skin. You are being called to help people develop a sense of community and care where they may not see a need, or understand the potential of what that community may accomplish.

Despite the lack of understanding on the part of the people we serve, I want to encourage you that what we are seeking to accomplish is worth the effort and energy. As we see authentic community develop I assure you we will see Kingdom fruit that will surpass our expectations. It is to that end that I constantly pray for our Cluster Leaders.

So hold fast to the task set before us. Commit to the work and trust the Lord of the harvest for the fruit.

I will be writing more about this topic so please stay tuned.

Real Life Hosting: When Hospitality Meets Reality

I have a friend who has spent much time in our home.  We would invite him over quite often before he was married.  He always complimented us on the meal and the company.  One day he said to us that he wanted to be invited over sometime for leftovers and without the house being cleaned.  He loves us, and we love him, but he knew the difference between our real life and our acts of planned hospitality.

It was his desire to be “just part of the family”, and that meant the family with all of its messes and “refrigerator leftover buffet”.

It has been hard for Joanne and I to invite people into our home unless we have had the opportunity to make everything ship-shape.  Over the years we have loosened a bit on this, but we struggle with this still.

I recently had someone send my a blog post by Jack King an Anglican Priest from Knoxville, Tennessee.  In this post King quotes one of his earlier sermons on the topic of “Scruffy Hospitality”.  In this message he says:

“Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.”  Jack King-

In the blog post, King goes on to unpack “Scruffy Hospitality” in a more in-depth manner.  I encourage you to click here to go and read his post on the topic.  It is well worth the read.

Where Does Everyday Mission Take Place?

In this week’s discussion on Everday Mission we are going to address the question of “Where does everyday mission take place”?  In their book  “A Field Guide for Everyday Mission” authors Ben Connely and Bob Roberts, Jr. give a number of good answers, but I would like to share in this first post the thoughts I shared in a previous post I wrote entitled “Discipleship at the Kitchen Sink: The Art of Regular Hospitality.  Here is that post again:

I have said for a long time that “discipleship happens at the kitchen sink.”  I believe this to be true for our children and those God has arranged to cross our path on a regular basis.  It is in the rhythm of ordinary everyday life that God brings about extraordinary changes in the lives of those we walk life with.  While we wash dishes and do yard work God provides the opportunity for us to share the fabric of our faith with others.

I learned many years ago as a young youth pastor that it was hard to sit across from a young person and get them to open up to you.  If you, however, were active in some pursuit with them they would open up to you.  This pursuit could have been throwing a football, shooting hoops, washing dishes, setting up for an event, raking leaves for a senior or anything other of a million things we could do together.

I remember when I realized that was true with friends as well as my youth group.  It was while cleaning the kitchen with a friend that I was able to enter easily into a spiritual conversation.  In the flow of an everyday activity, I was able to intertwine a discussion on this person’s view of God and his involvement or seemingly lack of  involvement in their present situation.  This simple conversation was a springboard for a season of heart to heart discussions that would make us both grow in our understanding of God and his place in our lives.

I know that this information may not be revolutionary to some who read this, but for others, this kind of ordinary life conversation is something yet to be experienced.  For those on either end of the spectrum I think that there is one thing that we need to master to make sure that we don’t miss out on a single opportunity to deepen the spiritual richness of our relationships, and that is the art of hospitality.

I believe that hospitality, while a natural gift for some, needs to become something that we all work towards.  I feel this is a lost art that needs to be restored to and through the Body of Christ.  I feel that Joanne and I have or at least have been able to develop the gift of hospitality.  We love to have people in our home, and yet there has been a dry season of entertaining and sharing life with others in our home.  What has caused this season?  Simply being to0 busy.

I recently read an article by Jeff Vanderstelt, an old friend from my youth ministry days.  In the article, Jeff addresses the lost art of Gospel Hospitality.  He gives this very unique and interesting definition of Gospel Hospitality:

“In light of the Gospel, we might define hospitality as the creation of a space that allows people to BE themselves, to BECOME renewed, and to DO the works God has saved them for. When we properly exercise hospitality, we welcome people to be themselves in the warmth of the light of Christ, to become renewed by being changed by the work of Christ, and to do works we have been created for in Christ.”

This definition and the article as a whole has given me much to think about.  I will write more later, but I encourage you to click  here to read the complete article by Jeff on the Gospel Centered Discipleship website.


Following up on my last post I thought it would be helpful to show the video above.  I have shared it before, but I thought it is well worth the 2 and a half minutes for all of us to hear these words of wisdom again.  Enjoy and ponder!

The Natural Pace and Path of Our Lives-When Does Mission Happen?

There is a phrase that I have been using a lot lately, especially in my writing.  That phrase is “in the natural path and at the natural pace of our lives.”  What proceeds this phrase usually has something to do with us being on mission, or reaching out to, or being salt and light to those God has placed around us.  These words are not meant to be just a pithy phrase we can throw out there to not make everyday mission seem so bad.  They are words that represent the true heart of Christ for the life that he presents us with and that he desires us to live.

I am truly convinced that if we are living at a pace that is healthy and Christ-centered, and if we are living where God desires us to be, then we can have ministry as a natural part of our lives.  Most of us would say that we are living where God wants us or where he has planted us.  On the other hand, I am not so sure that most of us would say that we are living at a pace that is healthy, natural or according to God’s plan for us.

I know that our family struggles with the pace of our lives.  There are many seasons when we are simply too busy, or try to fit more into life than we should.  It would seem unreasonable that I or anyone else would ask you to add more to your already busy life.  Even the thought of adding Kingdom focused caring to our schedule seems wrong.

That is why if we are going to  see mission fit into our everyday lives we will need to make sure that those lives are functioning as they were intended to function.  I am not asking you to fit more into your already busy life; I am asking you to take a hard look at the pace and rhythm of your life.  If you feel that there is no margin in your life to be on mission for God, then I would suggest that you consider making some changes.  Not changes that would simply add more to an already busy schedule, but changes that would allow for mission to be a part of the natural rhythm and pace of your everyday life.

Let me give you one example of what I mean.  I was challenged a few weeks ago at the meetings I was at in Tacoma.  The challenge was one that I have been given before by my good friend Hugh Halter.  The thought is that we have 21 meals a week that we take part in, and one good way to involve others in our life is to commit to spending three of those meals entertaining others.

These meals are times that should be a natural part of the rhythm of our lives, yet most of us would cringe at the thought of trying to include others in three of these meals.

I know this has often been the case for us.  What this tells me that we are living at a pace that does not allow for mission to be a part of our everyday lives.

Homework:  For your homework this week I want to encourage you to pay special attention to your schedule, your life rhythm and the pace of life this week.  Write down what you do each week and make some observations about the pace at which you live.  If you find that it is out of balance, begin to brainstorm about what changes might need to happen.  Be blessed as you do this.

What Do Everyday Missionaries Do?-Part 2

There are many ways to answer the question of what everyday missionaries do.  In their book “A Field Guide for Everyday Mission” authors Ben Connely and Bob Roberts, Jr. give a few different thoughts on this issue.  The List _ things that they see that a person on mission will be about in the daily exercise of partnering with God on His mission.  The things they list are:

  1. Everyday Missionaries See the Big Picture
  2. Everyday Missionaries See the Ground Level
  3. Everyday Missionaries Rearrange Their Lives For the Sake of Others
  4. Everyday Missionaries Grow in Love for Others
  5. Everyday Missionaries Rely on God the Spirit (The Holy Spirit)

I was challenged by all of the points made in this section of Connely and Robert’s book.  I think it will be helpful for me to push us on the issue of the “Big Picture” quality of missionaries at work.

Connely and Roberts say the following about the stories tied to our mission field:


Everyone has stories. Some are personal; many are shared with others. One person might be traumatized by an auto accident, but an entire community might mourn the loss of a beloved neighbor. A raise might impact a family, while excitement at their baby’s birth ripples through their extended community. Each of our mission fields are filled with stories, some personal and some corporate. Everyday missionaries learn the stories of our mission fields for two reasons. First, stories help display worldviews, values, and beliefs. Second, stories show points of rejection or connection to the gospel. What do we listen for as we hear stories? Here are a few elements:

-What’s this person’s/community’s history?
-Where do they find their identity?
-In what do they put their hope?
-What are “wins and losses” this person/community has faced?
-What wounds exist?
-What are they hardened to?
-What do they love?
-What do they spend time and money on?
-What does this person/community value?
-In what ways are they indignant; in what areas do they feel entitled?

These questions are good ones for us to consider.  Take some time this week to ponder on these issues.  Take notes or keep a journal on what you discover. Don’t assume that you know the answers, though you might.  Keep an open mind and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a clear vision.

What Do Everyday Missionaries Do?-Part 1

I just arrived home last evening from a week away.  While there were a few days of visiting family in Portland, the reason for the trip was ministry related.  I was attending the second of four meetings with fellow pastors and leaders from our North American Baptist family.  These meetings are worth the time and effort due to the relationships I have experienced, but there is an added bonus as well.  The bonus is that each time we are together we are visiting a ministry that is evolving and finding fruit with regard to being on mission in the context that they find themselves.

This last trip was the one that I had been waiting for.  We were gathering in Tacoma, Washington at one of the neighbourhood churches of Soma Tacoma.  Soma until recently has been under the leadership of Jeff Vanderstelt.  I have known of Jeff for many years and have enjoyed watching what God has and is doing through him.  I was not disappointed with our time.  I was sufficiently challenged during the time with Jeff and the team that is now giving leadership to Soma.

As I sat down to begin writing this post, I was reflecting on what we experienced last week.  I was amazed at the degree to which Jeff and his Soma community were on mission to their neighbourhood(s).  The truly were about the mission of God where God has planted them.  One thing Jeff mentioned was “Mission is inviting those who need Jesus into our everyday life.”  They are all about living with people who are in need of the gospel and then finding opportunities on the natural path and pace of life to present them with the Good News of Jesus.  If we are living to bring glory and honor to God in every moment of life then all we have to do is invite those in need of Jesus into our everyday life.

As we live our everyday life, trying to serve Jesus and at the same time become more like Him, we will have countless opportunities to share the gospel.  Jeff said it this way:

“Every time you live out an attribute of Christ you create a metaphor for sharing the story of the gospel.”

His point with this comment was that when you treat people with the love and respect of Christ, we will be given opportunities to explain why we would do such a thing and this will be accomplished through sharing a snippet of the gospel story.  We will be able to tell people of the God we have been changed by and the work that He has called us to in bringing hope to a hurting world.

I will write more for Thursday’s post about what an everyday missionary does, but for now consider how to go about the task of “Inviting those who need Jesus into our everyday life”.  If you do this you will be well on your way of doing what an everyday missionary does!