What are We Looking for When We are "Seeking the Kingdom?"

Jesus wants us to see what the Father is showing us.

“Open your eyes and look,” John 4:35.

“Seek and you will find,” Matthew 7:7.

“Seek first His Kingdom,” Matthew 6:33.

Likewise, Jesus warns us against missing what the Father is showing us.

“You will be ever seeing but never perceiving,” Matthew 13:14.

So, when we are looking for what the Father is showing us, what are we looking for?

Last fall, I blogged about this, offering a biblical framework for it (click link to take you to it): https://dwelling114.org/blog/2018/9/30/not-seeing-what-were-looking-at

Today, let’s get a little more specific. Think “indicator lights.” Like you have in your car.

In most cars, the manufacturers have included a variety of indicator lights that pop on in our dashboards when we need to pay attention to something.

An indicator light pops on when we are getting low on gas, or when we need to have a mechanic check the engine, or when a door is accidentally left ajar.

Indicator lights are important because they draw our attention to situations we may overlook otherwise.  We don’t always know what to do when we see an indicator light pop on, but at least we know we better pay attention.

The same is true for “seeking the Kingdom of God.”  In the context of worship, we are used to seeing and responding to God’s indicator lights.  When we see the Word of God being read, when we see a baptism or people approaching the Lord’s Supper, we know God is already up to something.  We are well trained to see and recognize these things as indications of God’s presence and activity.   When we see the fellowship of the saints whether in worship or sipping coffee in the fellowship hall afterwards, we are seeing indications of God’s presence and activity in the fruit of the Spirit being exhibited.

That’s Sunday and that’s easy.  But what about on Monday?  We may not be as experienced at seeking and finding the presence and activity of God in the crazy, work-a-day world of the weekday. However, God also gives us indicator lights we can watch for and even anticipate seeing there.

What are some of those indicator lights?  What are some indications that we should sit up and pay attention because God is showing us something He wants us to notice and respond to? (Ephesians 2:10)

Today let’s focus on three indicator lights:


Jesus is our model for seeing and recognizing interruptions as indicator lights from the Father.  As we read the gospels, the poor guy cannot walk ten steps without someone coming up and interrupting Him. (Among my favorites are Mark 7:21-43 and Mark 10:46-52.) But Jesus knows what He is really looking at (see John 5:17).  For Him interruptions are not simply someone screwing up His schedule.  For Jesus interruptions ARE the schedule.  Jesus recognizes that while interruptions may not have been on His schedule for the day, they were on His Father’s.  And Jesus is good with that.  So, we can be good with that, too.

The next time you are interrupted by someone, ask yourself, “What are You up to here, Father?” Take a breath. Take an extra second to look around, to look at the person, to look beyond your need to get to your next appointment so you can see what this appointment from the Father may be about.  This interruption is not simply an interruption. It is an opportunity. The only question is, how will you respond?


This just keeps getting better and better, right?  First interruptions are supposedly indicator lights from Jesus and now irritations??  Yep.  They are opportunities for us to look up and pay attention to what else may be going on right in front of us.

Think of it this way, when you feel irritation flaring up in you, consider it a pop quiz from Jesus.  When you “feel” irritation for a person, you can “see” that it is also an indicator light popping on.  How will I handle this? Like the same old me? Or like the one being slowly trained by Jesus in the ways of Jesus?  Will my irritation trigger me into adding fuel to a growing mess or will I see that my irritation is actually a perfect opportunity to respond like my Rabbi and be a way something good is introduced to a bad situation?

When irritations flare up in you, they are indications that Jesus is giving you a pop quiz… and He has gifted you and enabled you to ace it.  So be ready.  The next pop quiz will probably be any minute now.

Human Pain

If human pain is obvious to us, it is easy to recognize it as an indicator light.  If we see someone in obvious pain, we are more likely to slow down, have compassion and see how we can help.  (Although Luke 10:25-37 reminds us that while it may be easy to recognize, it doesn’t mean we won’t walk around it anyway.)

However, we also know that there is a lot more pain around us than is being revealed.  In our culture, these days, we have all become very skilled at hiding our pain.  So how do we see the indicator lights of human pain in our neighbors and co-workers if they are skillfully hiding it from our view?  There is only one solution.  We have to actually care about our neighbors and co-workers.


Truth be told, we are actually okay with not “seeing” their pain.  We would rather not bother with it anyway. But if we want to participate in the Kingdom coming and the will of the Father being done right here on earth as it is in Heaven, all we really have to do is get to know our neighbors, care about them as people and stay in touch with them. When they are in pain, it may not be obvious to the casual observer, but because we know them, care about them and are paying attention to them, we see their pain rippling out around their masks.

If we look, we are more likely to see.  If we care, we are more likely to ask.  And if we are Jesus-followers, we will stop what we are doing because we know we are looking at a big bright indicator light directly from the Father.

 Jesus wants us to see what the Father is showing us.

“Open your eyes and look,” John 4:35.

“Seek and you will find,” Matthew 7:7.

“Seek first His Kingdom,” Matthew 6:33.

So, let’s head into this wild and crazy day with Jesus, anticipating that an indicator light or two will pop on along the way.  Amen?

Do You Know Why Jesus Said, "Love Your Neighbor"?

If you want to make engaging mission much simpler for you (and more fun), try doing something Jesus told you to do:

Love your neighbor.

Do you know why Jesus said to love your neighbor?  Because it works.

There is no more effective way to engage real mission than by being with, eating with, and talking with real people who really need the grace and truth of Jesus. By creating this simple context of friendship, we are in a place where we can offer a little grace, a little good news, a little truth when our neighbor needs a cool cup of Jesus’ water.

We make mission so much harder and more awkward when we neglect the simplest ingredient: getting to know our neighbors.  What’s their name? What’s their story? What’s Jesus already been up to in their life?

If you say you’re “all-in” for joining Jesus on His mission, it starts with actually loving your neighbor which means hanging out with them. If joining Jesus on His mission seems to be stalled for you or taking a really long time to gain traction, the diagnosis is simple: you probably haven’t gotten around to loving your neighbor yet and hanging out with them regularly.

When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor,” He doesn’t want you to just memorize the words, or discuss it’s meaning in church, or recite it in the original Greek. He wants you to go home and do it.

Again, the reason Jesus says to love your neighbor is because it works.  You know why mission isn’t working in many of our communities?  Christians are disobeying Jesus.  We are not getting to know our neighbor, eating with our neighbor, laughing with our neighbor, mourning with our neighbor, talking about meaningful things with our neighbor.  We are not loving our neighbor.

So, let’s cut it out.  Let’s repent, believe the good news and go with Jesus to love our neighbor.

How do we get started?  Follow the K.I.S.S. method:

  • Share some food

  • Share some laughs

  • Share some stories

  • Add grace

  • Repeat regularly

And the Kingdom comes and the will of the Father is done.

Now go have some fun! (Your neighbor needs it.)

"Making Jesus Real" | An Advent Tale

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ.”

It’s a very Advent-y thought: God becoming flesh. But more than being an Advent thought, God intends it to be an ongoing reality for His material creation.

How? Through His people.

Here’s what I mean: God became flesh in Jesus. Jesus died and rose to take away our sins. His Spirit is breathed back into us through Baptism. We now literally have Jesus inside of us. We now are the material body of Christ in the material world of creation.

And what do we now do?  Sit on the bench and run out the clock until we die and go to Heaven?  Or is there something more in the meantime?

This past fall, I met Melanie and her husband, Don.  They live in the northeast where I was leading a mission training at their church. Melanie shared with me how she had become a Christian as an adult. She said that as she looks back on her years growing up, she now sees that Jesus was already introducing Himself to her by the way people interacted with her.

I pointed out that her story is a revealing example of what the Bible means when it calls Christians “the body of Christ.”  In other words, being the body of Christ is not a theological thought but a material reality for the people around us.  Jesus is always present. But His presence, love and activity become real… become experiential… become tangible through His people.

When we, as the body of Jesus, live out the love of Jesus, we make the person of Jesus real to the people around us who need Him so badly. That is, indeed, very Advent-y.

I asked Melanie to tell us her story.  And she graciously complied below.  Enjoy!  And Merry Advent!

Melanie’s Story

Years ago, I stopped in at a church to make an emergency phone call, on my way home from work. The pastor spent some time talking with me, gave me a Bible (my first one) and invited me to a service. Not long after that, Pastor Bill baptized me into the Christian faith.

I’m so thankful that he took the time to care.

As I read God’s Word and listened to Pastor Bill’s sermons, I remembered people who had been a part of my life earlier on and, with amazement, recognized the love of Jesus in them.


She was a senior and I was a freshman in high school, when I joined the silks squad. I remember being so excited and eager to learn how to twirl my flag while marching with the school band. To join meant to practice twirling in sync with the other squad members, of course, and this was hard for me because I was shy and I felt intimidated by the older girls.

Cynthia picked up on my discomfort and came to my rescue. She was warm and friendly, and she went out of her way to talk with me and to help me feel welcome. She even gave me rides home from practice, a real honor being that I was a lowly freshman.

There was something noticeably different about Cynthia. For one thing, she listened to Amy Grant on her car radio. I’d never heard of her before, so Cynthia explained that she sang Christian music. Cynthia went to church, and I’d never heard any other teenagers talk about that before either. However, she didn’t talk too much about it. She seemed more interested in hearing what I had to say.

Cynthia was different in a lot of ways, but most importantly she treated me in a way that I knew I didn’t deserve to be treated. That was the key. That was the real Jesus connection for me. Family loves you because you are family, but this girl - why did she genuinely care for me?

When the squad came together for a weekend in the Poconos, Cynthia’s support enabled me to overcome my shyness and join in the fun. I didn’t even mind too much when the girls toothpasted and feathered me, my ‘initiation’ into the group, because I knew that Cynthia and I would laugh about it after. It meant so, so much to know that this trusted friend was right there with me.

Remembering Cynthia’s care made everything I was reading in my Bible and hearing in church services wonderfully real for me. She had made the love of Jesus real for me. I can’t remember the names of the other girls in my silks squad, but I will never forget Cynthia.

After a few years I moved on to a new job and a new church, and I lost touch with Pastor Bill. I hadn’t kept up with Cynthia either. I wonder if they have any idea what an impact their little acts of kindness have had in my life?

They were just living out their faith in Jesus each day, actively and intentionally loving the people that our Lord brought into their lives, according to His Master Plan. They couldn’t see that plan, and they didn’t need to. Their trust in it, and in Him, made it real for them.

And, some years later, for me.

"Grandparenting in the Neighborhood This Fall"

I was talking with a retired couple from Denver.  They have lived in the same home in the same neighborhood for thirty years.  Back in the day, several families moved in around the same time and raised their kids together.  They said “neighboring” was easy then.


Those neighbors have all moved on.  The kids grew up and started lives of their own.  Now, the parents have moved on, as well.  Some retired.  Some downsized.  Some moved to be closer to their kids who are having kids.  No mater the cause, the result is the same.  My friends find themselves on the same block but nothing is the same at all.  They are the only ones left.  The neighborhood has completely turned over.  New young families move in almost monthly.  They know almost no one.

Their question: what should we do?

Sound familiar?  Many people in the congregations we work with have similar stories.  “Back in the day, neighboring was easy.”  Kids played.  Parents talked.  “We really lived the way you are describing. We really loved each other.”  Life and love and laughter and conversation flowed.  It seemed so natural. 

It can be again.

Many mourn the loss of community in their neighborhoods.  “It didn’t used to be this way.”  But, frankly, it didn’t used to be this way because we used to do things differently.  We didn’t think about it then, we didn’t plan it out, but it was happening: we were with our neighbors so we got to know our neighbors.  And, over time, as we got to know our neighbors, we started to love our neighbors.

The good news?  What used to happen naturally can happen again intentionally.

Think about it.  Your neighborhood still has several common denominators that are in play from “back in the day.” 1) new young families are moving in and living near each other (you may not be new to the neighborhood, but you are new to your new neighbors); 2) everyone has a need for community (they may not expect to fill that need with neighbors, but everyone still has that need); 3) the children in the neighborhood (you are not the parents, but you can thoroughly empathize with parents who are parenting); 4) Jesus is on the loose in your neighborhood (and He still wants families to have the peace and joy of living in His grace and truth).

The only thing missing?  Someone being intentional about neighboring… like you.

Back in the day, it used to happen naturally.  But Susan and I have found over and over again, from coast to coast, from urban settings to rural, that if someone becomes intentional about neighboring, neighborhoods come alive and neighbors start to love each other again. And the “Neighborhood Grandparents” can lead the way.

Are you the only “old” people left in the neighborhood?  Perfect!  You can become every family’s surrogate grandpa or grandma!

And that brings us back to my friends’ question, “What should we do.”

Be intentional about “neighboring.”

  • Bake some cookies and head out to start welcoming new families to the neighborhood. (Everyone loves fresh baked goodies. Even if families can’t accept them for dietary reasons, they will love that you offered.)

  • Start a closed Facebook page for the neighborhood and invite new neighbors to join it. This helps everyone stay in touch and can increase safety in the neighborhood.

  • Halloween is a great time to start connecting with neighbors.  Instead of hiding behind closed doors with the lights off, be out on the front lawn with the best candy on the block.  (Don’t go cheap! Now is not the time to be stingy.)  Some have asked about putting “Jesus-stickers” on bags or handing out pamphlets.  I would advise against this.  The information you want to share is awesome, but the context for the sharing is not.  Work on building friendship over time so you eventually have a natural context for sharing values and beliefs back and forth.  If you really believe now is the time for Jesus-stickers, etc., then be sure to give the absolute BEST candy.

  • The Thanksgiving season offers a unique opportunity to interact with new neighbors and their kids.  Right after Halloween, go door to door, re-introduce yourself and say something like, “Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time to show our thanks and share with others.  Wouldn’t it be cool to find someone in our own neighborhood who could use a little help or a little hope?  Do you know of anyone we can love-on and bless over the upcoming holiday season?”  Maybe it’s a single parent, or a widow(er), or someone who is battling an illness… you get the idea.  Invite neighbors to help figure it out.  Then work together to organize how everyone can be a part of whatever is decided.

  • Advent, believe it or not, is a prime time for getting to know young families better.  Invite families over to make Advent Wreaths together.  (We have found this to be very popular with young families longing to find more substance for their Christmas celebrations.)  Invite families into your home for this.  Ask parents ahead of time if there are any dietary restrictions.  (Hot chocolate and cookies are favorites if they are permissible.)  Provide foam rings from the craft store, four thinner candles, one thicker candle that can stand on its own, and some artificial greenery.  Let them decorate their own wreath.  You can share with them where Christmas came from, “Christians believe that God loves each of us so much that He sent His Son Jesus into our world to save us from our sin. They believe Jesus was born on Christmas. That’s why we have all the Christmas fun!  To celebrate His birth!  The Advent Wreath helps people remember this and count down the days to Jesus’ birthday!”

  • In connection with the Advent Wreath, or as a Christmas gift later, you can give each family the gift of a children’s Christmas book.  We have found Arch Books from Concordia Publishing House to be really, really good for this.  Right now Arch Books are on sale for only $1.99 each.  Here’s a link https://www.cph.org/c-246-arch-books.aspx?REName=Books%20%26%20Bibles&plk=240.

 What not to do:

  • Don’t be weird and clingy.  Don’t be presumptuous and don’t make this about you.  Instead, be friendly.  Be yourself.  Be helpful.  Be welcoming.  Read the signals they are sending you.

  • Don’t have an agenda.  And don’t make this simply about “getting them to church.”  If you are offering friendship as bait for church membership, they will see right through your deception.  And be disappointed.  What they need, especially in the beginning, is not your congregation but you.  In other words, before you invite them to church, BE the church.  Be the person they are glad to see.  Be the person with a smile and a word of encouragement.  Be the person who always seems to have a little love, joy and peace to spare.  Be the person they want to invite to their kid’s birthday party.  Simply love them and see what Jesus does from there.

Happy Grandparenting!

"Not Seeing What We're Looking At"

“You will be ever seeing, but not perceiving…” Matthew 13:14

 A few months ago, it was time to replace our car. We live in League City, Texas (outside Houston).  So I was thinking pickup truck or big SUV. You know, something “Texan.”

Susan was thinking of something a little different. She was thinking “Subaru.”


I tried to set her straight. I told her, “Texans don’t drive Subarus. Texans drive F-150s and Tahoes and vehicles like that. People in Vermont drive Subarus. People in Seattle drive Subarus. But not Texans!” (O.K., maybe some people in Austin drive Subarus. But they moved here from California.) I concluded my argument with, “I NEVER see people driving Subarus around here.”

Well, we talked it over. But you already know how this decision-making process ended up.

We got the Subaru. A Forester.

And then the strangest thing happened. Evidently on the very same day we picked up our Subaru, thousands of other Houstonians did the same. I mean, one day NO ONE is driving Subarus around and the next day there are THOUSANDS driving around! Subarus suddenly seemed to be everywhere!

What could account for this sudden influx of so many Subarus??

The answer, of course, is that the Subarus had always been there. I had looked straight at them every day driving up and down our roads. I just hadn’t SEEN them. I saw pickup trucks and SUVs and Camaros (nope, I didn’t get to have one of those either). But once I bought a Subaru myself, all of a sudden my eyes were finally seeing what they had been looking at all along. Turns out a lot of Houstonians drive Subarus. And now that I was looking for them, I was seeing them, too.

Not seeing what we are looking at. It’s really pretty common for us humans. Something is visible. It’s there. But we don’t “see” it.

…maybe it’s because we don’t have a framework for understanding what we are looking at… or we undervalue what we are looking at and, so, look right through it… or we are misinformed or misled about what we are looking at… or we weren’t expecting to see what we are looking at in the first place and so we do not see it now.

Whatever the cause, the outcome is the same: we don’t see what we’re looking at.

And for those of us who are aspiring to “seek the Kingdom of God” every day so we can join Jesus on His mission, that can be a problem. We end up being like the guy Jesus warns about in Matthew 13 who is ever seeing the Kingdom but not recognizing what he is looking at.

…maybe it’s because the guy doesn’t have a framework for understanding what he’s looking at… or he undervalues what he’s looking at and, so, looks right through it… or he’s misinformed or misled about what he’s looking at… or he wasn’t expecting to see what he is looking at in the first place and so he doesn’t see it now.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It doesn’t mean it isn’t visible. And it doesn’t mean Jesus intends for him to overlook it.

I don’t want to be that guy. Do you?

So, how do we start to see what we are looking at? It starts with knowing what we are looking FOR. In the story earlier, when I knew what I was looking FOR – a Subaru – I started to see what I had already been looking AT. Turns out, Subarus were already all around me. Likewise, what Jesus tells us to look FOR in the gospels will help us to recognize what we have been looking AT all along… the Kingdom of God breaking in.

Want to see the Kingdom of God all around you? Jesus says to look for the little people – the least of these, the overlooked, the undervalued, the judged, the rejected, the young, the old, the neighbor, the coworker, the friend, the family member – and look for the little opportunities to love them, bless them, and treat them better than they deserve. This is the “good” the Father is preparing in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10). This is the Kingdom breaking into the realm of the visible.

Do you see it now?

Jesus says if you look for the Kingdom you will see it. Because it is all around you. It is already prepared. It is already in motion. It is already visible. It is already seeking to get your attention.

Perceiving the Kingdom happens when you see the people nearby who need someone like you to notice.

Turns out, there’s a lot to see. And the more you look, the more you’ll see. And the more you see, the more He will be able to show you.

Today could be a very exciting day for you… and the people around you… because the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Then Jesus said, “Open your eyes and look. Seek and you will find. Do you see anything now?” (John 4:35, Matthew 7:7, Mark 8:23)

"The Source of Your True Value"

There are two kinds of love in the world:

1) The kind of love that seeks value in its object; and,

2) The kind of love that creates value in its object.

The first kind of love is the most familiar to us. It drives our everyday preferences. For instance, when I say that I love a good book or a good movie or good TexMex, that is the first kind of love in play. When I want the best employee for the hire I need to make, when I am not satisfied until the room is picked up, when I keep skipping songs on my play list until I find just the right one, that is the first kind of love in play.

There’s nothing wrong with such a love. It is what it is. It’s part of everyday life. It’s focused on what I want, what I prefer, what I need. It is a love that is felt when the object of the love is valuable enough, lovely enough or useful enough. The primary question is this: has this thing or person earned my love?

But there is another kind of love in the world. It is more rare.

It does not seek value and take it. It creates value and gives it. Perhaps I can best illustrate this kind of love with a story.

In 1987, my wife was already carrying our first child when we were sent to Missoula, Montana for a year of pastoral internship (our denomination calls it “vicarage”).  When Amanda was born later that year, the congregation was thrilled to have a newborn in their midst. She received gifts from many people, and among them was a small gift from a beautiful, elderly woman named Wilma.  Wilma was widowed and on a very limited fixed-income. She didn’t have much to spend on the Vicar’s newborn baby girl. But she wanted to give something.

So, Wilma bought Amanda a little plastic baby doll. The baby doll was cheap and only about 8 inches long but it quickly became known as the Wilma Doll. Now, the thing you need to understand about the Wilma Doll right off the bat is that… well… there is no delicate way to put it… it was ugly.  And the longer Amanda loved on her Wilma Doll, the uglier it got. Wilma’s facial features began to fade. In time, some mysterious spots formed on it. (My wife boiled Wilma a variety of times trying to get the spots off.) The cheap little dress it came with eventually fell apart and fell away.

You might wonder, why not just get rid of such a doll?  It was cheap, plastic, ugly and naked.

Well, here’s the thing. It may have been a cheap, plastic, ugly baby doll. But it just happened to be Amanda’s FAVORITE baby doll. And that made all the difference.

You see, there are two kinds of love in the world. One seeks value. The other creates value. And that’s what Amanda’s love did for the Wilma Doll. The Wilma Doll was not valuable or lovely on its own. But it became so because Amanda loved it so. Here’s the bottom line: the Wilma Doll was of great value in our home because it was AMANDA’S beloved Wilma Doll.

What does this have to do with you?


No doubt, you are like many who doubt you have true value or worth on your own. You think of yourself as nothing but an ugly Wilma Doll.  And you may even be right.

But here’s the thing… even if you are nothing more than a Wilma Doll, you just happen to be GOD’S beloved Wilma Doll.

Your deep value does not come from being lovey. Your deep value comes from being loved.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God… and that is what we are.” 1 John 3:1

"Before You Craft a Plan of Reform"

Your congregation is perfectly calibrated for the results you are currently getting in mission and discipleship. You agree that a plan of reform is needed. However, before you attempt to craft such a plan, experience shows it is wise to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the mission of God, according to God?
  2. How does God intend for us to participate in His mission?
  3. In the gospels, what is Jesus’ goal for those He is discipling?
  4. According to Jesus, what is a disciple and what does a disciple do?
  5. In the gospels, what process does Jesus use to train His disciples?
  6. How can we optimize our congregational groups and gatherings to accomplish Jesus’ discipling goals?

With those questions answered, we can then see two things more clearly: (1) how to join Jesus on His mission as part of our everyday lives and (2) how to disciple our family, friends and congregation to do the same.

Dwelling 1:14 helps congregations clearly answer the above questions. Once that is accomplished, crafting a mission and discipleship plan is fairly simple. After all, why make up a new plan when we can follow Jesus’ plan?

Our congregation can then be well on its way to becoming a mission outpost and discipleship training center. We will see thousands of people redeemed and restored with the grace and truth of Jesus and then trained to reach thousands more. Sound crazy? Nope. This is called normal when we follow Jesus’ plan. 12 become dozens, dozens become hundreds, and hundreds become thousands. It happened in the gospels and continued in the book of Acts; and it is still happening today in places like Africa and China.

And it can happen here in Iowa, too. Or California. Or Oregon. Or Illinois. Or Texas. Or New York. Or Virginia. (You get the idea.)

But not if we keep trying to do it our way. Our way gets our results. Remember, we are perfectly calibrated for the results we are already getting. If we want Jesus’ results, we will need to reform our way to His way. Jesus’ way for Jesus’ results.

Can you guess what won’t work? “Let’s reform Jesus’ way to our way.” Or, “Let’s tweak Jesus’ way to better fit what we’re already doing.” Or, “Let’s introduce new language and logos but follow our same old strategy and call it good.”

Nope. If you want to see your results continue, continue to follow your way. But if you want to see Jesus’ results, reform your way to His way.

It’s a simple strategy. But because of our ingrained habits, congregational preferences and misplaced priorities, we make it hard. So let us help.

Helping congregations discover Jesus’ way and then stay on course is what Dwelling 1:14 does.

Give us a call at 281-844-7644 or drop us an email at finkeonthemove@aol.com. Let's have a conversation about what that can look like for you.

"99 Isn't Enough" (A Reminder for Holy Week)

As we journey through these holy days between Palm Sunday and Easter, it is smart to remember exactly why God ordained these events to happen. Why was Jesus given over to this suffering and death? Why was this the Father’s will? What’s the point to the empty tomb?

These events – the suffering and dying and rising of Jesus – are means to God’s greater end. You see, God has a mission and the death and resurrection of His Son for the forgiveness of your sins are key means to His end. So, what’s the point of the cross? What’s the point of the empty tomb? What’s the point of your being forgiven and freed from sin?

The point is the mission of God.

You see, simply put, God wants His world back.  All of it.

Not some of it. Not most of it. The WHOLE thing. That’s the mission, that’s the goal, that’s the point.

Jesus leaves no ambiguity when He says in John 3:16 that God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son. Paul leaves no ambiguity when he says in Colossians 1:20 that through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, the Father was reconciling ALL THINGS to Himself. There is no ambiguity in the words spoken by the One seated on the throne in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making EVERYTHING new!”

No fooling. That’s the point! And you get to help.

“Come, follow Me,” Jesus says to you.  “Join Me on My Father’s mission to get His WHOLE world back.  Not just you, not just your church, the WHOLE THING! For God so loved the WORLD. I got you back. I got your church back. But I want all your neighbors, too. I want everyone you work with, too. I want everyone in your classroom, too.”

So, now you know what you get to do this week.  Walk with Jesus through Holy Week, yes.  Worship Jesus for who He is and what He has done for you, yes.  But don’t forget why He did these things. It is so that you could be freed from your sin and join Him on His Father’s redemptive mission as part of everyday life.

Remember the story Jesus told about a shepherd with 100 sheep? It seems that one of the 100 wandered off and got lost (see Luke 15). What’s the big deal, right?  The shepherd still had 99 left.  Isn’t 99 out of 100 enough?


Not for this Shepherd. Not for Jesus.  He essentially says, “I started with 100 and I want all 100 back. Every one of them. Every. One. Of. Them. So, who will join Me as I head back out to seek and save what is lost?” (See Luke 19:10).

Will you head out with Jesus this week? There’s a lost sheep in your neighborhood, at your workplace or in your school. Jesus already got you back.  Now He wants them back, too.  All of them. 99 isn't enough.

Your sins are forgiven, the tomb is empty, and His invitation stands. “Come, follow Me.”

Where should we look first?

"Easter in the Neighborhood: Here's How"

Each year, the Finke family teams with our neighbors to host an Easter Sunrise Gathering in our neighborhood. It is a simple undertaking that has had powerful long-term results. For instance:

  • Neighbors who are not yet ready for church, willingly hear the good news of Jesus.
  • Neighbors have a common spiritual experience that changes the status quo of relationships in the neighborhood. (Grace does that.)
  • We have seen de-churched neighbors re-engage local churches.
  • We have seen neighbors baptized in Jesus’ name.

None of this is even remotely surprising since Jesus is already on the loose in our neighborhood. And here’s the thing: He’s already on the loose in your neighborhood, too.

If you are ready to see what Jesus can do with an Easter gathering in your neighborhood, here is a simple plan for getting started. Easter is April 1 this year, so it’s not too late to plan yours. (No fooling!)

As You Begin...

  1. Keep it simple. Don’t approach this as you would a big church event with lots of moving parts. Instead, approach it as a low-key neighborhood gathering. The focus is fostering relationships… with Jesus and each other.
  2. Start small. Don’t shoot for LOTS of people coming from all over. Start with your immediate block. Give yourself the grace to start small and learn as you go.
  3. Check your motive. Is your real motive to get neighbors to eventually come to your church? (Been there done that.) Or is it for them to meet Jesus in the neighborhood? Remember, neighbors can smell your bait-and-switch tactics from a mile away, no matter how good your intentions may be. Instead, focus on simply introducing neighbors to what Jesus has done for them. Let Jesus be in charge of where they go from there.  We will get much further if our neighbors know us as joyful Jesus-followers rather than church-sales representatives.
  4. Pray. Pray for the Lord of the Harvest to prepare the way in the lives of your neighbors.  In fact, take a moment to start now… Invite many others to pray the same intercession. “Come, Holy Spirit, come.”

Some decisions that need to be made soon: (Note: Before you make final decisions, ask your immediate neighbors for their input. If you don’t yet know your immediate neighbors, honestly, it is probably best to postpone an Easter observation and instead plan a gathering where neighbors can get to know each other first.)

  1. Where will it be?  Will you have the gathering outside or inside? In a home or in a public venue? In many parts of the U.S., being outside is a great option and capacity isn’t an issue. However, if you are where Easter weather is not so pleasant, gathering in a home or neighborhood club house makes sense. Plan to invite just enough people to fill the space, whether that be a small group or larger. If hosting is not your gift, ask someone who enjoys hosting to open up their home.
  2. What time will it be?  The Finke’s stick with sunrise, which is usually around 7:00 a.m. in our area. (This year sunrise is 7:10 a.m.) Why have the gathering so early? Because the excitement of the original Easter kicked off at sunrise! But sunrise also works well because the gathering happens well before people have other activities. You might think early is not the best choice. But it works!  We have gone from a few dozen people gathering the first year to well over 100 today. And most of the participants are not church-goers.
  3. What’s the win? In other words, what will success look like for you?  Again, this is “motive-checking time.” Decide now that the win isn’t wrapped up in the quantity of people who come but in the quality of the time you have together.

Here’s how we do our Easter Gathering:

  1. Invite immediate neighbors to help. Something good happens when neighbors are invited to give of themselves for the good of others.  You might think it is easier to do everything yourself. Don’t do it. When the gathering is something “we” (the neighbors) do together, the impact is deeper. Invite neighbors to help with things like the following:
  • Bring chairs and tables
  • Provide coffee, juice, donuts, paper products (etc.)
  • Come a little early so they can welcome other neighbors as they arrive.
  • Help with the devotional part of the gathering (see below).

2. Get information about Easter out to the neighborhood approximately 10 days early. The Finke’s use social media, printed fliers, word of mouth among neighbors and a yard sign to invite people to participate. We work hard not to use churchy words. Remember, this is a neighborhood gathering not a Festival Worship Service.

Here is a sample of what we include:

  • “Join Your Neighbors on Easter Morning!”
  • When: Sunrise, April 1, 7:10 a.m.
  • How Long: 30 minutes-ish (plus coffee and conversation time)
  • Where: In the green space at the end of Wickford Court
  • What to Expect: a reminder of what Easter is about, a message for the kids, some simple music and a great time with neighbors.
  • Bring a lawn chair if you can
  • Don’t know much about Easter? This is a good time and a safe place to find out more.
  • Hosted by your neighbors on Wickford Court

3. Keep the devotional portion short.  25-30 minutes tops. For your neighbors “less is probably more.” So here is a sample of how we lay out the devotional part of the gathering:

  • To start: we start with some simple guitar music to help alert people that we are gathering together (we have a simple altar area set up with a cross to help provide a focus for the space).
  • Greeting: welcome them as neighbors. Remind them why we are gathered. Explain why sunrise.
  • Song: with the music, be realistic.  We may love big music on Easter - bands, orchestras, organs, bells, lots of hymns, etc. However, we are talking about a neighborhood gathering here not Festival Worship at church. Regarding group singing: less is also more. Our experience is that people are generally not comfortable with singing along. So, invite them to sing, but be ready for them to choose simply to listen. Keep the length of songs brief.
  • Prayer: give thanks to God for the death and resurrection of Jesus to take away our sins (see sample below)
  • Scripture Reading: read one of the Easter Gospels
  • Kids' Moment: use Google to find one you like
  • Devotion: Keep it brief and simple. 10 minutes or less. Invite everyone to receive Jesus’ love and forgiveness – after all it’s why He did all the work of suffering, dying and rising again. And then invite them to freely offer that love and forgiveness to their family, neighbors, coworkers and classmates every day. It’s what everyone needs.
  • Prayer: pray for neighbors and the neighborhood (see sample below)
  • A blessing: choose a blessing from Scripture to speak over everyone (see sample below)
  • A final song verse

We have found great value in asking neighbors to help with the devotion:

  • Someone can read the Easter Gospel
  • Help with a kid’s moment
  • Help with music
  • Lead a prayer. Here’s a couple samples:

*Dear Jesus, thank you for dying and rising in order to take away our sins and make us right with the Father. Help us to believe that you love us that much. Help us to receive the love and forgiveness you freely offer each of us. And then help us to share that love with our neighbors who need it so badly. In your name we pray.

*Dear Father, we know you so loved this world and this neighborhood that you sent your only Son to die on the cross and rise again so that we would not perish but have abundant and eternal life. As we head back to our homes and into this new week, help us to freely receive your love and life and to freely give it away to others. In Jesus’ name we pray.

  • Announce a closing blessing on the neighbors and neighborhood. Here’s a sample:

*The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us. The Lord look upon us and this neighborhood with his favor. And give us his peace. Amen.

*From Luke 24, Why do you look for the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” Remember his words. Believe his words. And now let’s go with him back into our neighborhood, our workplaces and schools so that we can be a blessing to the people there. Amen.

While we as Christians will place the highest importance on the devotional time of the gathering, the things that happen before and after the devotional time may be just as important for the non-Christian this Easter! Especially when you consider the long term. Remember, the friendly conversations and connections that happen before and after the devotional time set up ongoing conversations and connections over time. The good news of Jesus is the seed and the friendly conversation and connections are like the cultivation of soil so the seed has a better place to land.

Enjoy your Easter adventure with Jesus!

A final note for nervous congregational leaders:

In my 25+ years of pastoring, I have rarely seen 100 Lutherans gather for an Easter Sunrise Service in my congregations. And yet more than 100 people gather every Easter sunrise in my neighborhood. So here’s an idea: what if we stopped emphasizing coming to an Easter Sunrise Service at the church building and started preparing members to have Easter Sunrise Gatherings in their neighborhoods instead? Members can still come together for congregational worship later in the morning.  Could this be a win-win, both-and opportunity?

Think of it this way: we can struggle to get a few dozen of our members to our congregational sunrise services, or we can send out a few dozen of our congregational members into their neighborhoods to do Easter Sunrise Gatherings.  A few dozen becomes hundreds hearing the good news of Easter.  If three dozen members have just 10 people each at a neighborhood gathering, that adds up to 360! Something to think and pray about…

Fun Stats and Fast Stories from 2017

Some Fast Stories

In 2017, I heard so many stories about lives impacted and changed because people were trained to join Jesus on His mission as an everyday lifestyle. Here is just a sampling:

  1. A pastor in northern Illinois: “My people are reporting having conversations with friends and neighbors they would have never had just a few months ago.”
  2. A thirtysomething man in New Jersey: “I have been looking for something like this [the mindset and practices of D114] all my Christian life. This makes so much sense!”
  3. An outreach leader in the San Francisco Bay Area: “Our elder chair and his wife wholeheartedly embrace joining Jesus on His mission. The latest was [the wife] telling me of her conversation with a couple she met in a local Starbucks. It ended with them praying together. She said to me, ‘This is so easy – even for an introvert like I am!’”
  4. A pastor in north-central Texas: “I have a dear friend serving in Africa as a medical missionary. When he was here for a few months last spring, he went through your book with us in a small group. He has incorporated much of it in Uganda [where he is now serving] with his patients and medical colleagues.”
  5. A fortysomething businessman in Iowa: “I am a follower of Jesus now because [my friend] joined Jesus and was willing to walk with me even though at first my heart was hard and uninterested.” (Go, Jesus!)
  6. A man in his 80's in Washington state shared with his neighbor that he was unbaptized and not sure what to do. The neighbor did! The man was recently baptized into the grace and peace of Jesus! (Go, Jesus, again!)
  7. A seventysomething woman in Arkansas: “I am so excited! Each day is now a wonderful adventure with Jesus. This has changed my life!” 
  8. A man on the move from Colorado to Washington state: “A friend in Grand Junction, CO loaned me a copy of ‘Joining Jesus’ last summer. It changed my life in many ways - my view of current events and my attitude toward pretty much everything. I have recently moved to Washington state and am interested in introducing Dwelling 1:14 to my new church.”

Some Fun Stats

Total number of “Joining Jesus” books and video curricula distributed since their release:

  • 42,191
  • The seating capacity of Minute Maid Park - where the Houston Astros play baseball - is 41,676.
  • Minute Maid Park could be filled to capacity with everyday missionaries!

Dwelling 1:14 celebrated its 6th birthday in 2017! If we added up all the people over the years stirred to join Jesus through D114’s books, trainings and presentations, how many would there be?

  • It is estimated that the people could more than fill the 107,601 seats of the Big House at the University of Michigan, the nation’s largest football stadium.

Number of People Trained in Dwelling 1:14’s Missional Lifestyle Training Process in 2017:

  • 37 congregations
  • with combined average worship attendance of 9652 people
  • from California to New York, from Texas to Wisconsin

Other Opportunities in 2017:

  • Greg presented at 11 conferences nation wide
  • 352 congregations were present
  • from the Pacific Northwest to Florida, from Arizona to New York state and in places like Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois and Michigan in between

Greg was also invited to present to

  • Concordia Seminary students in St. Louis
  • Concordia University students in Austin
  • Native Americans at the annual LIM retreat

It is awesome to be invited to influence the future leaders of our congregations and mission efforts!

    And 2018 is Starting FAST!

    2018 is already off to a fast start! In January alone, we will have been in New Jersey, Iowa, California and Florida. (Training weekends are filled through early May. Fall dates are now available.)

    Two BIG Initiatives for 2018

    1. Two new couples to help as Trainers: For the sake of increasing the reach of D114 beyond what Susan and I can accomplish, we have recruited two new pastoral couples to the D114 team.  Both will be “keeping their day jobs” with their current churches and will not be employees of D114 per se. Rather, they will be mentored by us in how to lead congregations through the Missional Lifestyle Training Process so they can then go out and connect with congregations in their respective regions. Think of them as independent contractors who are under our supervision. Please keep the Borgs and Schauers in your prayers as they begin their training processes with us.
    2. A new video curriculum supporting the new discipling book: As soon as the second book was published – “Joining Jesus: Show Me How” – leaders started asking if a new video curriculum would be created to support it. The answer is now, “Yes!”  We still need to raise a portion of the $25,000 to $35,000 the project will cost, but we have started laying out the script and design and hope to begin filming in late spring. Can you help us? Make a donation via our D114 Donation Page. Thank you!

    To our small army of prayer warriors and financial supporters, thank you for all you have done in 2017! As I hope you can see, the Lord has greatly blessed your investment - so many real people really joining Jesus on His mission! We invite you to join us on the adventure of 2018, as well!   – Greg and Susan

    What's Jesus Up To? Merry Neighboring!

    The upcoming holiday season will provide many opportunities for us to join Jesus on His mission via Christmas parties, neighborhood open houses, cookie exchanges, New Year’s Eve celebrations, invitations to watch football games, and more. 'Tis the season!

    Through events like these we have the opportunity to get to know the people God has placed in our lives. What’s their name? What’s their story? What’s Jesus already up to in their life?

    The tool below will help you take your first-step or next-step on your mission adventure:

    Step 1: Getting Started

    “I don’t really know my neighbors yet.”

    • Many of us have successfully ignored our neighbors. So, how can we get started?

    Goal: Meet your neighbors, learn their names, and get acquainted. (Share some time, share some laughs, share some stories and see what Jesus does.)

    What’s your next step?

    • You can accept invitations you would have previously declined
    • Take holiday treats around to neighbors
    • Invite neighbors to an open house
    • Invite co-workers to watch a game
    • What’s your idea?

    Step 2: Becoming Friends

    “I am friendly with my neighbors, but I don’t feel like I have had many important conversations yet.”

    • Some of us have already started neighboring. We have had a neighborhood gathering or two. We are acquainted with several neighbors and are on friendly terms with them. We have shared some stories about who we are. But the conversations remain generally at a small-talk level.

    Goal: Spend unhurried time with a few specific neighbors, usually around a meal. (By creating this kind of opportunity, you provide the space and time for more stories to be shared and for conversations to drift deeper. You will see the relationship move from “friendly” to “friendship.”)

    What’s your next step?

    • Now that you have met your neighbors, it is time to focus on the ones who seem open to becoming better friends.
    • Invite a few households to a small holiday gathering: a white elephant gift exchange, a meal, dessert and coffee or a New Year’s Eve game night.
    • What’s your idea?

    Step 3: Investing in Friendship

    “I am becoming friends with people who are living without the grace and truth of Jesus.”

    • In the process of sharing stories and conversations with some of your neighbors, you have found that one (or a few) of them is living without the grace and truth of Jesus. While loving each neighbor is important, investing in friendships with the neighbors who are living without the grace and truth of Jesus becomes the priority. Why? It is Jesus’ priority. See Luke 19:10, Luke 15:1-32, 1 Timothy 1:15.

    Goal: Become consistent at investing in your friendship with the one who is living without the grace and truth of Jesus.

    What’s your next step?

    • Pray for your friend daily.
    • Go out of your way to check in with your friend weekly. “How’s your week going?”
    • Once a month, invite your friend to a meal. Even if you fall short of this goal, you will be together more often.
    • Invite them to join you in making a difference for other neighbors or people in the community. Working together for the good of others will open your conversations to the things of the Kingdom.
    • What’s your idea?

    (For more information about “neighboring” see Greg Finke’s book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission” chapters 17-18.)

    Merry Neighboring!

    Let's Give Thanks for One More Thing

    In less than 10 days we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

    We are, of course, thankful for things like our faith, family, health and country. But I would like to suggest that we give thanks for one more thing: a simple but important opportunity which is within our reach every day.

    The opportunity I am suggesting - if each Christian would engage it - would literally transform each of our communities. What is it?

    Our country is going mad. Mass shootings are commonplace. Racial tensions are boiling over. Young men and women are being radicalized by ISIS. Domestic violence, opioid abuse, sex trafficking, bullying, loneliness, isolation, and depression are all dramatically on the rise.

    Governments and national organizations are trying to figure out policies and programs that will solve these problems for us. But there is a radical idea already out there that just might prevent future terror attacks, and reverse the other trends almost completely.

    What is it?

    “Love your neighbor,” (Jesus in Matthew 22:39).

    More from Jesus, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” “Freely you have received, freely give.” “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (John 13:34, Matthew 10:8, Matthew 25:40, Luke 6:46)

    Any questions?

    What the world needs now is love, sweet love. And what the world needs now is for Christians who have received abundant love from the Father to then love our neighbors who need it so badly.

    “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). And now, having received that abundant love, we can go love the people the Father has placed nearby. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,” (1 John 4:11).

    I know it’s tempting to ask, “But am I my brother’s keeper?”

    The answer of Jesus? “Yes.”

    By the way, “Love your neighbor,” doesn’t mean simply to be “nice” to your neighbor, or politely “tolerate” your neighbor. It means to offer “grace” to your neighbor. Grace is the gritty kind of love that is not deserved or earned but is desperately needed. Grace – simply put – means treating people better than they deserve… like the Father has already treated you and me.

    “Christians-who-actually-love-their-neighbors” is the radical idea that will transform and save every community. Because that’s what grace does when it is shared… it transforms and saves people. Enemies become friends. Strangers become family. And those who would have been left alone with their festering thoughts come into the light of care, grace and truth because a Christian regularly invites them over for a meal and conversation.

    All we have to do is do it.

    What if we didn’t wait for governmental policies to be written and implemented? What if we didn’t delegate to national organizations what Jesus gave us to do? What if all the Christians in worship on Sunday went home and did the one thing Jesus gave us to do – love our neighbors?

    And that’s the opportunity I am suggesting we give thanks for on Thanksgiving. The opportunity to notice and care about the people God has placed nearby each day. What’s their name? What’s their story?  How are things going for them this week?

    What if we hung out with our neighbor so we could find out from our neighbor? What if Sayfullo Saipov, the man who drove a rental truck onto a Manhattan bike path on October 30, had had a Christian neighbor who regularly invited him over for meals? What if Devin Patrick Kelley, the man who shot dead 26 worshippers in Sutherland Springs on November 5, had had a Christian co-worker who noticed his increasing anger and agitation and had walked with him rather than avoided him?

    In those cases, we will never know.

    But there’s the opportunity. Yes, what’s done is done. But starting today we can be that Christian neighbor or co-worker who understands the real reason our Lord placed us where he did: to be a way through which His love, care and redemption would get to the people nearby who need it so badly. From Him, through us, to them.

    In nine days we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

    With thanksgiving in our hearts, let’s go do what Jesus gave us to do.

    While Celebrating the HOW, Don't Forget the WHY

    We are finally arriving at the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Back on October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther nailed 95 theses for debate to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

    And what was at stake with the Reformation? The answer to that is as simple as it is critical: Getting the “HOW” right of our salvation. How are we saved? Is it by works of the law or by grace through faith alone?

    Of the many portions of Scripture which answer this basic question, the one that is most prominently held up on Reformation Sunday is Romans 3:19-28. It is one of the assigned readings for the day. This familiar passage culminates with, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” (verses 21-22).

    That’s HOW we are saved. By God’s grace through faith alone. And that’s worth celebrating.

    However, while we are celebrating the HOW of our salvation, let’s not lose sight of the WHY of our salvation. Because the Lutheran Church was born out of a grave concern for getting the HOW right, we can sometimes forget the importance of the WHY. However, the HOW and the WHY are two parts of the same whole. They belong together. Together they form the COMPLETE message of God’s Word.

    So, HOW are we saved? By grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, of course. And WHY are we saved?


    See what I mean? We Lutherans are wonderfully clear and articulate about confessing HOW we are saved. And it is a gift to the world. But we are a little less clear about WHY we are saved. And because of that, our response to being saved by grace through faith can devolve into a vague passiveness as we live out our daily lives. In other words, because we are clear on the HOW but not so clear on the WHY, we settle back quietly to sit on the bench and run out the clock until we die and go to Heaven.

    But can such a passive response to salvation by grace through faith be what God intended? Of course not. But what IS our response then?

    The good news is that the same Bible which clearly answers the question of HOW we are saved also answers the question of WHY we are saved. (We just haven’t asked the question as consistently.) And it turns out there is a very important PURPOSE behind God going to all the work of saving us.

    Paul puts it succinctly in Ephesians 2:8-10. First Paul gives us HOW we are saved, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Nice and clear. Then he gives us WHY we are saved, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In other words, WHY did God do all that work of grace-ing us and faith-ing us and saving us? Simple. So that we could be freed to do the good the Father has prepared in advance for us to do each day. Again, nice and clear.

    Going back to his letter to the Romans, Paul is a little less succinct, but he is unpacking the same message. In chapter 3 he begins unpacking the HOW of our salvation and continues to unpack it all the way through chapter 6. But when he finally gets to the end of explaining the HOW, he then points us directly to the WHY: “Therefore, do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather [wait for it] offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness,” (Romans 6:12-13). In other words, we get to offer ourselves to God so he can use us as tools for making something right happen in the lives of people around us.

    Paul delivers both the HOW and the WHY.

    Of course, he does. They belong together. And together they form the complete message of God's Word.

    According to God, now that we are saved by his grace through faith alone, we have things to do each day. God does not save us so that we can passively sit on the bench and run out the clock until we die and go to Heaven. He saves us so that we can again be the way by which his goodness gets loose in the lives of people around us who need it so badly (Ephesians 2:10). He brings us from death to life so that we can be the reason something right happens in the lives of people around us who need it so badly (Romans 6:13).

    So, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, let’s keep the WHY of our salvation as clear as the HOW of our salvation. God’s Word instructs us to and our neighbors need us to.

    By grace through faith... for a purpose. Here we stand.

    Because You Just Never Know...

    Fellow Neighborhood Missionaries, this is why we do what we do. This is why we cast the seed of attention, conversation and interaction with our neighbors - because you just never know what Jesus may be up to.

    Mark and Malinda had lived in their neighborhood for 20 years. And for 15 of those years they had diligently tried to avoid a certain couple that were... well, shall we say "rough around the edges." They drank, smoked and had tattoos. They were a little too loud for everyone else in the neighborhood.  You know the type.

    Then Jesus decided to intrude on Mark and Malinda's tidy little attitude and routine. (Yep, this is what we refer to as "Jesus messing with us.") You see, their congregation had gone through a book called, "Joining Jesus on His Mission" and, in a word, Mark and Malinda knew it was time to repent of their attitude. They knew it was well past time for them to go down and re-introduce themselves to their neighbors of 15 years.

    And, wouldn't you know it, just as they decided to do this, a "For Sale" sign went up in the neighbors yard! They couldn't believe it. They felt terrible. Here they had successfully avoided their neighbors for 15 years and now that they were finally ready to get over themselves and join Jesus, their neighbors were going to move. Wow.

    However, instead of giving up in defeat, Mark and Malinda immediately headed down the block to do something they knew they should have done long ago: knock on the door, say hi, and ask how their neighbors were doing.

    And when they did, well, like we said, you just never know what Jesus may already be up to. Turns out Mark and Malinda were warmly received and had a great conversation with their neighbors. They found out their neighbors were worried about the sale of their home.  They needed to get a certain price in order to be able to do what they wanted to do in their next season of life. Their realtor, unfortunately, was not optimistic.

    When it came time for Mark and Malinda to go, Mark took a bit of a chance and asked, "Before we go, would you mind if I prayed for the sale of your house?" Surprisingly, the couple quickly agreed and even wanted to hold hands for the prayer!  Afterwards, Mark and Malinda headed back to their house truly amazed at how Jesus had set everything up. But it was only the beginning. They hadn't been back in their home for 15 minutes before the phone rang.  It was their neighbor. She was breathless. "You're not going to believe it!" she said. "We just got off the phone with our realtor. We got an offer on the house and they offered ABOVE THE ASKING PRICE!"

    Fellow Missionaries, this is why we do what we do. You just never know what Jesus may be up to! Don't judge your neighbor or ignore your neighbor. Have fun casting the seed of attention, conversation and interaction with your neighbors.

    Because you just never know.

    My Small Part of God's Great Big Mission

    "What difference can I make?"

    As I talk with people across the country, I find that one of the biggest reasons people shrink back from getting up and getting started with joining Jesus on his mission is that the mission itself seems overwhelming.

    And it is.

    After all, the mission of God is global in its scope. It is by definition massive. It includes every person in every community in every nation. As I write this, there are approximately 7.2 billion people spread out over 57.3 million square miles on the face of the earth. How in the world can our small lives make a difference when the mission of God is so enormous?

    Well, hold on there. Before we give up, let’s do some math. You see, while there are 7.2 billion people on the face of the earth, 2.2 billion of them are baptized Christians. That leaves 5 billion unbaptized people. Still overwhelming, right? But if we do the math, do you know how many unbaptized people there are per Christian on earth? Not millions or thousands or even dozens. There are two.

    Five billion unbaptized people divided by 2.2 billion baptized people is roughly two people each. Millions or thousands or even dozens would be overwhelming. Two is not. Two is doable. Looks like Jesus’ overwhelming mission isn’t so overwhelming after all. All that needs to happen is for each of us to take up our very small part of his great big mission.

    You see, the scope of God’s mission is, indeed, global. It is as massive and expansive as the earth and everyone in it. But the focus of God’s mission is radically local and radically personal. We don’t start with the whole earth. We start with our nearest unbaptized neighbor or friend. We can’t win the world for Christ until we meet our neighbor who needs Christ. So, what’s their name? What’s their story? As simple as it sounds, getting to know and offering friendship to one or two of them is how we engage the massive, global mission of God. And if each of the 2.2 billion Christians on the face of the earth took up their small part? Wow…

    Imagine 2.2 billion Christians taking the next year and starting to get to know and offer friendship to one or two of the unbaptized people nearby? What if we stopped being overwhelmed by the 4,999,999,998 unbaptized people who we don’t know and started to invest in the one or two who are already nearby? The magazine “Christianity Today” recently reported that in the U.S. 20% of unchristian people don’t know even one Christian personally. Is it because no Christians live nearby or work alongside them? Is it because no Christians hang out at the same coffeehouses or brew houses? Is it because no Christians work out at the same gym or have kids in the same school? Hmm….

    But this could change. And easily.

    What if all the people in church worshipping Jesus this Sunday went home and did the one thing Jesus gave us to do? What if all the people in church worshipping Jesus this Sunday went home and started loving their neighbor? Not the nations, not the city, not thousands or hundreds, just the few already nearby.

    By the way, mission is much easier and a lot more fun when we get to know our neighbor’s name and a little of their story. Fred Rogers, from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” used to say, “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” Are you tempted to dislike your neighbor, judge your neighbor, or avoid your neighbor because they are so… whatever you disapprove of? Then draw deeply from the grace God offers you, and invite that neighbor over for a meal. During your time together, have the goal of getting to know a little of their story. Then replace your neighbor in the story with yourself. What would you be like if you had grown up in the environment they had? What would you be like if you had been caught in the consequences of one or two of your bad choices like they had? What would you be like if what had happened to them had happened to you? And if you had ended up “that way,” wouldn’t it be a blessing from God to have a neighbor nearby who treated you with the kind of love you didn’t deserve but needed so badly? Wouldn’t it be a blessing from God to have a neighbor who took time to get to know you and really listen to you? Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a neighbor nearby who wasn’t repelled and judgmental like a Pharisee but patient and redemptive like Jesus?

    This is who we are. This is what we do. We aren’t given the job of fixing our neighbor or saving our neighbor. Our job is much simpler. We are to love our neighbor, as the Father has already loved us. This is our small part of His great big mission.

    If 2.2 billion of us each took up our very small part, his great big mission would come to pass.

    What is "Disicipling" According to Jesus?

    The following is an excerpt from my new book, "Joining Jesus - Show Me How: How to Discple Everyday Missionaries."

    If we’re going to understand what discipling is according to Jesus, let’s start with gaining clarity on what the word discipling means.

    Perhaps you are familiar with these words: Apprentice. Trainee. Intern. Padawan (for you Star Wars fans).

    What do these words have in common? They are familiar nouns used to describe a person in the process of becoming skilled at something – like a profession, a craft or being a Jedi Knight, for example. They are also synonyms for a less familiar noun: disciple. A disciple is a person in the process of becoming skilled at something, too. And then there are these familiar words: Coaching. Training. Mentoring. Drilling. These are verbs we use to describe the actual process through which certain skills are developed. As in, “The employee receives coaching to develop her job skills.” These familiar verbs are synonyms for a less familiar verb: Discipling. Discipling is also a process through which certain skills are developed.

    So when you hear the term disciple of Jesus, think apprentice, trainee, intern or Padawan of Jesus. Likewise, when you hear that Jesus is discipling us, think Jesus is coaching, training, drilling or mentoring us.

    Now, the next question is, “To what end?” If a disciple is a person in the process of becoming skilled at something and discipling is the process through which the skills are developed, then what are the skills? And what are we to do with them? In other words, to what end are we being discipled? For that answer, we will first go to Jesus and watch how he disciples his followers in the gospels. After we have done that, we will start distilling what we have found into clear and simple summary statements.

    Over the years, I have settled on the following summary: Discipling is Jesus’ process of showing the people of God how to participate in the mission of God as a daily lifestyle. Could it be that simple?

    Well, let’s go find Jesus in Matthew 4 and find out. Matthew 4 is one of the places in the gospels where we see Jesus initiating his discipling process with people. He approaches two brothers and says in verse 19, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus is on a mission. He has been sent by his Father to redeem and restore all things. When Jesus says, “Come, follow me,” he is inviting the brothers into a training process so they (the people of God) will be able to participate in the mission of God as a daily lifestyle. This training process then continues to unfold throughout the rest of the Gospel narrative until Matthew 28 when Jesus commissions them to make even more disciples who will participate in the mission of God, too.

    But it starts here in Matthew 4:19, where we quickly learn four things about Jesus’ discipling process:

    1)      Being a disciple of Jesus starts with Jesus.

    Jesus initiates the discipling process and it is born from his grace. He comes to them. He chooses them and befriends them. He gives them a new identity and a new vocation. And then he begins to train them. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

    2)      Discipling is a process of training that changes us for the good of others.

    Jesus invites them to follow him in order to train them and change them. And this change is not primarily for the good of the disciples themselves. Jesus changes them for the good of others. When Jesus says, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” he is saying, “Come, follow me and I will change who you are and what you do for the good of others.”

    The rest of the New Testament uses a variety of terms which are essentially synonymous with the personal change discipling causes: Discipling = training = growing = maturing = transforming = sanctifying = conforming = being “taught to obey everything I have commanded.” And all for the good of others.

    3)      The way Jesus disciples them is through joining him on his mission.

    Joining the mission is both what Jesus trains them for and the way Jesus trains them. Being discipled isn’t something that precedes joining the mission. It is something that happens as a result of joining the mission.

    4)      Discipling the way Jesus does in the gospels results in disciples who make even more disciples.

    Multiplication is built into Jesus’ discipling process from the beginning. In Matthew 4:19 when he invites the brothers to be discipled, he already knows his goal is Matthew 28:19-20 when he will commission them to make even more disciples. So from Matthew 4 to Matthew 28 Jesus is showing them how to participate in the mission of God as a daily lifestyle so that they can then show others how to do the same. The way Jesus disciples his followers results in disciples who make even more disciples – who will make even more disciples – who will make even more disciples – until the nations will be discipled to participate in the mission of God throughout the entire earth. (Pretty cool, huh?) In many nations this is already happening. If we clarify, simplify and imitate Jesus’ discipling process, we will see it, too.

    Is that what you thought discipling was? This may not be the answer you thought you’d get, but it is the answer Jesus has been giving from the beginning.

    What about catechesis and catechisms? What about all the nuances and details of pure doctrine? What about the next volume of theological textbooks we still need to tackle?

    I hear you. But what about, “Come, follow me?”

    When Jesus disciples someone in the gospels, he says, “Come, follow me.” When we disciple someone, we say, “Go to a class.” Hmm… Something is off. Is this one of the reasons we are not seeing the kind of results Jesus saw in the gospels? Is it because our understanding of discipling is not the same as Jesus’ understanding? “Come, follow me” is not the same as “Go to a class.”

    Have we unintentionally begun substituting a system of scholarship for Jesus’ process of discipleship? Have we made knowing answers about Jesus more important than actually joining Jesus in the community? Have we made “being a disciple” only for the smart kids who can master theology? There is nothing wrong with being smart or mastering theology. The problem comes when we substitute mastering theology for actually joining Jesus on his redemptive mission as a daily lifestyle. C.S. Lewis once observed, “Being a great theologian can easily be mistaken for being a good Christian.”

    Of course, studying the Word of God and discussing its theology was a key part of Jesus’ discipling process. Whether as a twelve year-old boy in the Temple or in Caesarea Philippi with his disciples, he encouraged theological discussion to be rich and deep and wide-ranging. But here’s the question: To what end would he have us study and discuss? So we can know more? Or so we can be more and do more with him in our communities that need it so badly?

    If scholarship is the goal of discipleship, then we end up with scholars who make more scholars who know right answers. If joining Jesus is the goal of discipleship, then we end up with disciples who make more disciples who participate in the redemption and restoration of all things. Scholarship is fine. But redemption and restoration of all things is the goal.

    “Come, follow me,” Jesus says, “Let me show you how to participate in my Father’s redemptive mission.” This may not be the answer we thought we’d get, but it is the answer Jesus has been giving from the beginning.

    [More next week...]

    "Don't Whisper Softly"

    My sincere apologies for not having posted a blog since Advent! I have only one excuse. I was busy writing a book. And, I don't know about you, but writing a book - even a short one - is slow, hard work for me. But now that it is complete, I can share a few excerpts with you over the next few weeks (or at least until the book is finally available on Amazon).

    The title of the new book is "Joining Jesus - Show Me How: How to Discple Everyday Missionaries." And here's a peek at what you can expect:

    I never saw it coming.

    As I sat in the passenger seat of this 75-year-old grandma’s aging Buick, I was about to have the ride of my life.

    Over the weekend, I had been speaking at a women’s mission conference in Eugene, Oregon. The conference had ended at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday and I was scheduled to lead a training workshop at a church in Portland later that afternoon. So in order to save money on a rental car, this gracious senior had volunteered to drive me back to Portland. I anticipated an uneventful two-hour ride at a reasonable pace (read: within the posted speed limits).

    I was wrong. On both counts.

    After I put on my seatbelt, she carefully shifted the car into drive and eased her big Buick out of the parking lot. Once we were on I-5 heading north to Portland, she glanced at me and said, “If we hurry, I can take you on some back roads and show you our beautiful wine country. Would you like that?” I asked, “Can we do that and still make it back to Portland in time?” She answered with a gleam in her eye and a slight smile on her face, “We sure can.” And with that, this 75-year-old church lady literally put the pedal to the metal!

    Leaving others in the dust, we sped along the interstate for several miles. When she saw the exit she was looking for, we got off the interstate and headed into the hills. Quickly. And she was right. It was beautiful. It was June and the hills between Eugene and Portland were filled with one picturesque vineyard after another. And she was eager to show me it all. But to do so she had to race along the back roads at speeds that would make any Formula One driver proud.

    The roads twisted left and right, up and down. Each corner took my breath away, both because of the speed at which we took them but also because of the next view that was revealed. If I lived, I would have some beautiful memories! And then, unexpectedly, she decelerated. We had entered a wide valley and just up the road was a little place she knew of. As she eased into the parking lot, she said, “I always take a pit stop here.” The place was an unexpected wonderland. It was a cornucopia of garden produce, crafts, flowering plants and baked goods. My adventurous friend also knew it was hosting an annual event called “The BBQ, Berries and Brew Festival.”

    I partook of two of the three offerings. (She insisted.)

    After we got our plate of food and glass of brew, we were directed outside where the land and the view opened up. People were sitting at picnic tables, relaxing and visiting, while an artist played his guitar and sang. It was a surreal experience. Moments before, I had been flying white-knuckled through this picturesque landscape. Now I was sitting in it, enjoying some music, some surprisingly good BBQ and a little something from a local craft brewery.

    I turned to Speed Racer and asked, “Do we have time for this?” She looked at me disapprovingly and replied, “Of course, we have time. Now, take a deep breath and enjoy your surroundings.”

    So I did. And when I did, I discovered something. (Like I said, I never saw it coming.) Jesus had evidently brought me here for a reason. It wasn’t just for the beauty, or the BBQ, or the brew. It was for the song. Turns out, the artist singing was Tyler Stenson, an award-winning singer/songwriter from Portland. (Clearly the event planners were serious about the entertainment they brought in.) When I heard the words he was singing, one of the lines really settled on me. It went like this, “When it’s the end of the line – your train having rolled through its time – all your graces and legacies stand. So don’t whisper softly the things you want loudly to be.”

    The song wasn’t a Christian song or even particularly spiritual. And yet it was. “Don’t whisper softly the things you want loudly to be.” I scrambled to find something to write with so I wouldn’t lose the words. There was something there. Jesus was messing with me through the lyrics.

    As we got back in the Buick and continued to Portland, I hardly noticed our breakneck speed anymore because 1) I had come to trust my friend’s skill as a Formula One driver, and 2) I was busy rolling those lyrics around in my head. Through it Jesus seemed to be wrestling with me about legacy; about seeing the end from the beginning; about limited time; about clarity and priority; about intentionality and consistency. And then I realized. There was a parallel here for me about how I was leaving my legacy with my family and friends and how I was discipling them. If I wanted to leave a legacy of family and friends who were filled with Jesus’ love, joy, peace and patience; if I wanted to leave a legacy of them seeking his kingdom and joining him on his mission, then I couldn’t whisper softly the things I wanted loudly to be. Instead, I needed to disciple them on purpose.

    [More next week on what discipling is according to Jesus and how to disciple people the way he does in the gospels.]

    "Armed Robbery and Emmanuel"

    I was taught a valuable lesson about being the “Emmanuel” of God by an armed robbery.

    Between March and August, 2011, I worked in a jewelry store owned by my neighbors. They hired me while I got back on my feet and started building the foundation for Dwelling 1:14. During my six months at the store, I never did find my mojo as a jewelry-guy, but I got to know the staff and became friends with many of them. I got to know their stories and they got to know mine.

    Of course, most of my story is wrapped up in being the husband of Susan; the father of Amanda, Emilie, and Ellen; a pastor for 20+ years; and a follower of Jesus. Some of the staff embraced me right away. Some were unsure of the “new pastor guy.” I had to prove I was there not to sell religion to them, but jewelry to the customers. And eventually I did.

    Even though I never got the hang of selling jewelry, as the months passed I began to gain the trust of the rest of the staff by at least trying hard and being willing to laugh at myself. And even though I wasn’t selling religion (or, more likely, because of it), I eventually found myself having spiritual conversations with most of them. I did that not by being a pushy or clever Jesus-salesperson, but by being a watchful Jesus-follower. I simply watched and listened for what Jesus was already up to. I would ask some questions, do some listening, offer some encouragement or insight or, sometimes, prayer. I was surprised when they began jokingly referring to me as “the Pastor of Lewis Jewels and Timepieces.”

    When the day came for me to resign my position so I could lead Dwelling 1:14 fulltime, I was leaving a group of friends. And, after that, I would make it a point to regularly stop in to say “hello” and stay in touch. Which is why I was so concerned when I got the phone call from my owner-friend a couple years later. The store had been robbed at gunpoint. Shots had been fired. The armed robber had been wounded. Everyone was fine. But no one was fine. They had shut down the store for a couple days to clean up the damage. “But could you come by?” my friend asked. “I think everyone needs some encouragement and prayer.” We set it up that I would come the next morning.

    When I arrived, the store itself was almost back to normal. But the staff was not. They were trying to be brave but their eyes were still haunted. Fear remained close by. My friend gathered his staff. The store became a sanctuary. I gave them words of grace and encouragement. We held hands and prayed in the name of Jesus. It was good. It was reassuring. It helped.

    Then my friend made a little announcement. “For the remainder of the morning Greg will be available to talk with you in the back office. Feel free to come back. Take as much time as you need.”

    Everyone headed back to work and I headed back to the office to await the first person. And I waited… and I waited… I had waited about 15 minutes when I realized no one would be coming to me in the office. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I decided to go back out into the store and see. I went up to the first lady I saw and just asked her how she was doing. For the next several minutes she poured out what she had experienced the day of the robbery, what her thoughts had been, and what her feelings still were. I was able to repeat several of the things I had said earlier to the group, but this time it was to her personally. There were tears, there were smiles, there were hugs.

    I spent the next couple hours going from person to person doing the same thing.

    What had I learned? I call it “the Lesson of Emmanuel.” I could have waited all day for the people to come to me in the office and nothing would have happened. But, as soon as I went to them – and was with them – the words and feelings and healings began to flow. They just needed someone to come to them. To be with them. To ask. And then listen. When all the “bad stuff” from inside got out, then the “good news” I had to share could be heard and get in.

    Of course, “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” And Jesus is Emmanuel… literally. He is the “with us” God. He is God made flesh and dwelling with us. And as the Father sent him, so he now sends us. Because Jesus is inside of us through baptism, we are now Emmanuel… literally. We are the body of Jesus living in the neighborhood, heading off to work, attending classes at school.

    And we are sent. Not to sit in offices waiting for hurting people to come to us, but to go out to them and see how they’re doing. Allow me to repeat: Not to wait for them, but to go to them. To be with them.

    That’s what an armed robbery taught me about Emmanuel.

    Where Does All the Love Come From?

    As I talk with people both in the church and in the world, it is clear that the #1 solution to most of our problems, hurts, burdens and aggravations is forgiveness and love.

    For instance, what would happen if in every marriage both the spouses humbled themselves and loved each other... especially when the other spouse was acting like a jerk. Or what would happen if all of us Christians who were in church last Sunday went home or went to work and started to do the one thing Jesus gave us to do... love our neighbors... especially when they are irritating us. What would happen if all the teens and young adults who are rocking to Jesus songs in their ear buds on campus, treated people who were rude to them better than they deserved? If Christians loved unlovable people, and loved such people habitually, the world would be better. Yes?

    Love changes people.

    Here's the rub. Where in the world does all that love come from? I'm not feeling it when I'm not first receiving it, especially from the angry, rude, irritating people. I don't have it in me. And, I'm betting, neither do you.

    So is loving our neighbors and loving our enemies just a nice thought for Sunday mornings? Do we hear the words of Jesus and immediately beg off because "we are sinners" and can't do it anyway? Or have we not answered the question correctly yet?

    Here's the question again... Where does all that love come from? Not from Christians. Not from inside me. The answer is, “Love comes from God," (1 John 4:7). From God, through Christians, to a world that doesn't deserve it but needs it so badly. You already are loved with the abundant love of the Father, so, “Freely you have received, freely give.” There’s a lot more love where that love you have received came from! You don’t have to wonder if you have it or where you can go find it. You don’t have to chase after it or earn it. You can simply remember you already have it. And in abundance. In fact, way back when you were baptized, it was already settled. What the Father said of Jesus at his baptism he said of you at yours, “This is my son (This is my daughter), whom I love; with him (with her) I am well pleased.” That’s our starting point. That’s our source. That’s our True Identity. We are loved, forgiven, and pleasing to the Father. We have that. And in abundance. Remember it and then share it with the next person who doesn't deserve it but needs it so badly. “Freely you have received, freely give.” That’s who we are and that’s what we do.

    It's the only hope for the world. 

    Now – deep breath… hold it… exhale – what happens when you actually believe this? What happens when you believe you are loved by the Father? Have you noticed? When you believe you are loved by the Father, joy starts to bubble up. You already had an abundance of joy in you, but it wasn’t bubbling up as long as you forgot you are loved. But when you remember you are loved, here comes joy! And on the heels of joy, do you now see what is emerging? Peace. Love and joy together call forth peace. And with love, joy and peace, look what now is within reach… patience. It’s always been there inside of you. You had it as a gift. You just forgot you are loved by the Father, so it seemed far away. But remembering you are loved jump-starts the chain reaction toward patience. After that, look what starts tumbling forth… kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness… and finally even self-control emerges not as an effort of our own but as a fruit of his Spirit and love.

    Where does all the love come from for loving the unloveable, loving the jerk, loving the rude, loving the enemy, loving our neighbor or coworker or spouse who is irritating us?

    Love comes from God. Freely receive. Freely give. From God, through us, to a person who doesn't deserve it but needs it so badly. It's our only hope. And then watch what God will do when we do so habitually.

    Mission Effectiveness: Good, Better, Best

    “Activity does not equal accomplishment.”

    Years ago I jotted down this quote as I listened to a John Maxwell talk. It made a lot of sense to me then and it still does today. Being busy doesn’t mean I am being effective.

    This is especially true of mission. Mission activity does not equal mission accomplishment.

    As I travel around the country, I often meet increasingly weary, frustrated leaders who have poured a lot of energy, leadership capital and money into activities and programs they had hoped would have “missional” results. However, despite all the effort and investment in mission activity these particular leaders are not seeing a correlating mission result. In other words, they are not seeing new people come to faith in Jesus.

    These leaders are starting to realize mission activity does not necessarily equal mission accomplishment.

    Can you relate?

    Perhaps it is time for a more insightful way of evaluating mission effectiveness before we put all that effort into the activity.

    See if this helps.

    Some years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the late Steve Ogne. Steve had been a well-known church planting trainer and coach. When it comes to evaluating mission effectiveness, he had suggested using a simple spectrum of “good, better, best.”

    In other words, when considering “mission” activities, think about the level of mission accomplishment you can realistically expect to see as a result. Since so many pioneers have been experimenting over the last 20 years, we can evaluate with a relatively high level of experiential insight.

    Here’s how. In terms of mission accomplishment relative to activity investment:

    1) Making a difference in a person’s life is good.

    2)  Making a difference and making a friend is better.

    3)  Making a difference, making a friend and making a disciple is best.

    Good, better, best.

    So, concerning the mission of God, it is good to make a difference in someone’s day or life. That matters immensely. However, it is better to not only make a difference for the person but to be in position over time to become friends with the person as well. And, at least in terms of mission effectiveness, it is best to not only make a difference and make a friend but to then be on our way to making a disciple.

    Experience (and the Gospels) tells us that the key to mission effectiveness is not activity per se but relationship. Therefore, activities that put our people into position to progress from strangers making a difference to friends making disciples can be our new, clearer goal.

    Recently I received a note from a mission leader in another state. They were becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of mission-result they were seeing from a huge food give-away they sponsored as a congregation. Lots of volunteers, lots of money, lots of energy. However, as far as they knew, no one had come to faith in Jesus. Giving away food to the hungry is good, of course.  But they had begun this activity with the hope that they would see many people eventually come to faith in Jesus.

    As it turns out, the leader and congregation had made a common mistake… one which we have been slowly coming to understand over the last several years of experimenting. They had underestimated the importance of ongoing relationship in mission effectiveness.

    The leader writing me wanted to let me know that as a result of reading my new book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission,” they had gone to the latest food give-away and instead of simply making a difference (good), they sat among the people and began to make a friend (better). As a result, the leader has an ongoing friendship (outside of the food give-away environment) with a family from the community. Now there is a realistic hope that this friendship, in time, will be a context for the Holy Spirit to lead the family to faith and discipleship (best).

    What are you and/or your congregation doing that is intended to be “missional?”

    Into what categories do your activities fall?

    ·        Making a difference. (Good)

    ·        Making a difference and making a friend. (Better)

    ·        Making a difference, making a friend and making a disciple. (Best)

    Once we have a realistic understanding of what our activities can accomplish, then a clearer, more realistic strategy can emerge.  For instance, mission activities that simply “make a difference” can take on a strategically important but more realistic role in a congregation’s overall mission strategy. These kinds of activities are effective at giving our members a way of dipping their toe into the “missional” waters for the first time.  Activities that “make a difference” can be viewed by mission-rookies as relatively low-risk. Such activities give them first-step experiences that help them begin to think and feel differently about the people in the community around them. (Good)

    However, where leaders unintentionally help their people get stuck is when these kind of “good” mission activities are the only environments we propose or promote even though they are not necessarily conducive to the next step of making friends. A better idea is to have the next step of the strategy prepared ahead of time so that when people are ready they can move from “the good” of making a difference to “the better” of investing themselves for the sake of making a friend. As leaders, we do not need to think “either/or” – that is, either good or better – rather, we can think sequentially. Good to better to best.

    Each step in this progression requires more of a personal investment from our people, but the progression we now propose and promote gives them the actual experience they need to be ready for the higher investment and gives them a more realistic opportunity to see missional fruit as a result of their investment.

    Mission effectiveness is all about the depth of relationship we are able to enjoy with people who don’t know Jesus. What will be your strategy to help your people progress from strangers making a difference to friends making disciples?

    Many have found my book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission” to be a helpful tool for accomplishing just that.  Shoot me an email or give me a call if you’d like to talk.