THE PRIVILEGE OF STEPPING INTO THE DARKNESS

Forge Dallas resident Cristina Roberson spends most of her time on North Lancaster Street in her Oak Cliff neighborhood. She’s trying to be Jesus to the kids, parents and teens who live there.

On this night, she didn’t even make it out of her car before one of the neighborhood boys ran up and announced the news: "Cristina, a kid got shot last night and now he's dead." His sisters weren’t far behind, and together they made their to another neighbor’s house, where more kids were gathered. She sat with them, listening, as they talked about the 15-year-old boy that had been killed, how he had been a good friend, how just one night before they were all hanging out, how sad they were, and how afraid they felt that they might be next.

Mostly she listened, and then listened some more. But they had questions, too. So Cristina stepped into this time of pain on a dark night in the “hood” and partnered with God where He was already at work. Even in the midst of this tragedy and chaos, she shared that God was with them, and that he was upholding them with his mighty right hand. He allowed her to represent the heart of Jesus, that even in this brokenness, God has not abandoned them. Cristina walked away that night, poured out and once again aware that Jesus is often found outside of the church walls, in the streets with broken and hurting people.

How easily she might have missed this moment. She earned the right to sit with them in their pain over time. She shows up, consistently. She has celebrated with them. She has listened to stories of young love and family drama. She has stepped into their boredom and hardship and joy over so many everyday moments.

They were able to hold a memorial prayer time for the boy that was killed. In the home of a neighborhood family, they gathered a couple of the boys from neighborhood gangs, and they had the opportunity to speak life, and to pray with them.

As a tribe, we want to join them. Please be in prayer for Cristina’s neighborhood. For the families of this boy, for a 7th grade boy battling cancer, for a young girl who just became a mother, for a young gang member who recently ran away and hasn’t yet been found. Her neighborhood is a rough place to grow up, but these are children made in the image of God, children who matter to Him. “Many people see these kids as troubled kids that will never be anything,” Cristina shared with me. “But I truly believe God has a purpose and a destiny for each and every one of these kids and he desires them. I believe that if we step outside of our comfort zones and go to the broken hurting people in this world, we will truly see God's power.” 

About Cristina
Cristina is a Forge Dallas resident who lives and works in an inner-city of Dallas. She is humbled to get to live her life with the kids and teens in her neighborhood, striving to love them as Jesus would. For more info about her organization, check out The Urban Bridge on Facebook. 

About the Author
Kimberly Culbertson works with the communication team to steward the stories of the Forge tribe, and loves coffee almost as much as she loves Jesus.

Remembering the "Why"

Recently I have been reading a book titled, Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In short, Sinek discusses how great organizations and organizations that make a difference know and communicate the "Why" behind what they do. As I read I could not help but reflect on the "Why" behind Waken Ministries & Forge Dallas.

You may know what we do and even how we do it but, I would like to take moment to remind you of the "Why."  When we started this organization 4 years ago we did so because:

  • We dreamed to see the world changed, communities transformed, & neighborhoods filled with life.
  • We dreamed to see every Jesus follower wakened to his/her ability to join God in His mission right where they already live, work, and play.
  • We dreamed to see every Jesus follower empowered and equipped to make a difference in the communities and neighborhoods they live.
  • We dreamed to see those who will never walk through the doors of a church building experience the love of Jesus from the Jesus followers they rub shoulders with.

Throughout the last four years these "Whys" have been our inspiration and as we begin this new year these same “Why’s” continue to drive us.  Many have joined us in the venture and we look forward to meeting those of you who will join us in the future. 

This Christmas Choose Incarnation Rather Than Invitation

A few years ago while having lunch with a friend my friend asked me, 

“Why is it that Christians are always inviting me to their stuff. They invite me to their services, their events, their programs, their classes, their church buildings, and the list goes on and on. I don’t get it. They always invite me into their world but they never want to step into mine. What’s up with that?”

At this point my stomach sank. I honestly didn't know what to say. The only thing I could initially come up with was an apology.

I went on to confess that we “Christians” somewhere along the way had missed the Jesus of the Gospels. Jesus did not expect us to enter into His world; rather, He did the exact opposite. He came into ours.

 It still makes me cringe  to think that my friend, and probably others who are not yet Christ followers, have this impression of “Christians.” This shouldn't be. 

As followers of Jesus we must embrace the Incarnation, step out of our worlds, and enter into the worlds of those around us. We must incarnate into our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, & other social spaces we inhabit.

In the book Untamed, Deb Hirsch writes,

“God became a man not only in order to identify with us (presence), but also to live with and among us! He was no recluse, keeping a safe distance; he literally immersed himself in people. Much of his time was spent just hanging out and getting to know the people around him. Jesus didn't expect people to come to where he was, as we so often do, but rather went to them. He hung out in their social spaces, markets, and synagogues, and visited their homes. In other words, he came into direct proximity; he was near to them.

Likewise, we need to reflect this in our own lives. Too many Christians "hang out" only with other Christians and in environments frequented by other Christians. If we are to follow Jesus, we need to make intentional choices to move out of our religious zones and be where the people are. It will require that we come into direct social contact with others and become a regular part of the natural rhythms of their community.“ 

The next time you think about inviting someone to your church service stop and ask, “Have I taken the first step to enter into this person’s world?”

In the spirit of Christmas, live as Jesus. Make an intentional decision to enter into the world of those in your neighborhood, and as you do, enter with a posture of humility and love. See those in your neighborhood in the same way Jesus sees them; as people who have been created in His image, who are loved, and who have value to bring to us and the world.

 Here are a few ways you can enter into the world of those in your neighborhood: 

  • Apologize to a neighbor for not really knowing them. 
  • Meet a new neighbor. Share a meal with a family in your neighborhood.
  • Attend a neighborhood Christmas Party.
  • Join a preexisting group in your neighborhood.
  • Ask a neighbor for help with holiday chores.
  • Consider having a Christmas Eve party in your neighborhood and invite your neighbors. Have great wine, wonderful food, and be with those in the places you have been sent.

 

Why We Do What We Do - Part 5

This is the 5th installment of WWDWWD.

Forge Dallas wants to create win win partnerships. We serve local churches & individuals and partner with, organizations, non-profits, universities, and seminaries, to train men and women to live as missionaries on their campus, at their workplace, and in their neighborhoods.

This is our heartbeat and this is who we are. 

You can watch the previous four videos here!

 

Why We Do What We Do - Part 4

This is the 4th installment of WWDWWD.

Forge Dallas understands that it is not just about being missional, simply going out; rather, being missional must be paired with being incarnational, the going deep. This is the example Jesus gave to us. Jesus was sent out and He also became “flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”

You can watch the previous three videos here!

FORGE DALLAS - Empowering the Everyday People of God

God is at work all around us and He invites us to participate with Him in His mission. It’s not just the professionals who get play a part in God’s kingdom, rather God invites all people to join Him in His redeeming work. He uses moms, mechanics, accountants, artists, grandparents, & gamers.

This is a story of how God is using one person to make a significant impact in the lives of those around of him. 

Interested in learning more about the Forge Dallas Residency? Click HERE!

Also, We would love for you to join us at our next Forge Dallas Residency Informational. Details HERE.


Why We Do What We Do - Part 3

"Where you stand determines what you see," notoriously spoken by Deb Hirsch in this third installment of WWDWWD. What if the place you are standing right now is the very place where God is asking you to join with Him?

Ryan and Deb allow us to peek behind the curtain and see one of the core distinctives of Forge- your context, your place, matters. A lot. If it's true that the best teacher is experience, then the best learning laboratory is your current context. We place such a high value on the place you're already in because we believe that you've already been sent there by the Redeeming God.

In this video you'll hear Ryan Hairston ask, "What is the Good News to the place where God has sent you?" And in order to discover this, we must first open our eyes and hearts to see what He may already be doing-- right in front of us.

Question: After watching the video, what is the place where God has already sent you? What is your context?

You can watch the previous two videos here!

The Art & Science of Mission

 

There's a brand new and FREE resource available from Baker Books by Alan Hirsch. His latest, "Fast Forward to Mission", calls us to re-engage our imaginations with the very first Sent People of God. As a friend once told us, "Perhaps the way forward is the way BACK." Alan is inspiring us to do just that with his most recent work. 

“I believe with all my heart that the future of Christianity in the West is somehow bound up with the idea of becoming a people movement again. Somehow and in some way, we need to loosen up and learn how to reactivate the massive potentials that lie rather dormant within Jesus’ people if we are going to make a difference to our world.”
— -Alan Hirsch, "Fast Forward to Mission"

What's refreshing about this new eBook is that it isn't another ministry trend to latch onto or discipleship model to quickly integrate into a local church. Rather, it is a potent and powerful look into both the science and art of mission and how it moves- out, in, alongside, and from.

You can get it here.
Enjoy!


Embrace Your Sentness

There are two competing postures for the people of God today: a church of consumers, demanding goods and services, and a church of missionaries, sent and sending into the world. These compete for the minds of Christians. Every church functions according to one or the other. Every disciple stands on these two foundations for life, two theological bases for making decisions, two postures that shape all we do: selling or sending.

We must break away from the things that hold us back from living in fullness and sentness. How might we do this? 

On July 17, 2014, Forge Dallas will be hosting a 1 Day Event to help individuals and churches find practical ways to break away from the posture of consumerism and embrace the posture of Sentness

Kim Hammond, author of Sentness, will lead our conversation on this day; we hope you can join us.

For more information about this event visit: Embrace Your Sentness



Why We Do What We Do - Part 2

In Part 2 of our five part video series, "Why We Do What We Do" Ryan Hairston and Deb Hirsch share something near the heart of the Forge DNA- All are invited to participate in this Grand MIssion of God. All the way from the expected ones- the established authors, large and small church pastors, itinerant speakers, and church planters, to the often overlooked- mechanics, stay at home parents, IT workers, grandparents, and children.

In this video, Ryan tells us a powerful story of his 5 year old daughter, proclaiming the anthem of the Kingdom, "Daddy, I think we need to love people...and we need to help other people love people too."

Because throughout the Scriptures everyone had access to Jesus- women, lepers, Gentiles, crooks and thieves, prostitutes and soldiers- everyone now has permission to join in the Mission of God.

Empowered & Equipped

Forge Dallas trains men and women to live as missionaries where they are already doing life. It is in the midst of our everyday lives that God invites us to join Him in His mission. We believe that all men and women, not just the “professionals,” have abundant amounts of potential to impact the communities and neighborhoods they live in.  Our goal as an organization is to come alongside these everyday people and empower and equip them to be the good news to those they rub shoulders with. When ordinary people are empowered, watch out, because this is when movement happens.

Here is the story of an individual who recently completed the Forge Dallas Residency and finished feeling empowered and equipped.

“When my wife and I started the Forge residency we were burnt out and frustrated with our experience of church. There seemed to be such a large gap between what I read in scripture and what I saw lived out in our church community. I was tired of coming to the same realization week after week that we were not engaging our world like Jesus did. I felt like there was a great divorce between what we said we believed as a faith community and the way we lived. I was tired of just talking about engaging the world. I wanted more but felt stuck. My church, it seemed was still trying to convince me that Jesus was worth following and what prayer to say to “sign up”. In our bible studies we seemed to do little more than acknowledge that we weren’t living the way we ought to be living. It was like collectively we knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to move past it, or for some reason seem to care. It was from this spot that we connected with Forge.

The people of Forge put flesh on what were only ideas. By that I mean to say that I found a group of people that were willing to follow Jesus into the world. They were willing to bring the Gospel of Christ to those who may never enter through the doors of a church building. They were willing to seek out the broken and engage them right where they were, whether in the neighborhood, the pub or the work place. What I found through the Forge residency was a group of Christ followers who had left the status quo of the American Church and stepped into the world with all of it’s mess. I found a tribe that was willing to admit their shortcomings and imperfections. A tribe that was ok with hard questions. The Forge residency has expanded my view of the Gospel. It has allowed me to see people as worth pursuing and equipped me with a gospel fluency that allows me engage the lost and broken. We started the Forge residency feeling frustrated and burnt out. We graduated a few weeks ago feeling equipped, empowered, renewed, and a part of tribe that despite it’s imperfections was willing to follow Jesus in his mission to seek and save the lost.”

Interested in learning more about Forge Dallas or the Forge Dallas Residency? 

Visit FORGEDALLAS.ORG  and/or CONTACT US.

Forge Dallas Resident Story - John

Forge Dallas recently finished its 2013-2014 residency. in this blog, John Reece, a residency graduate, writes about his experience as a resident.

Reflection on My Forge Residency

John Reece

The most recent chapter in my journey of faith has been significantly impacted by my participation in the Forge Residency that has just concluded. A few of these observations of influence are noted below, while the full impact has yet to be realized.

Some anchor points of background as I entered the residency include:

  • I have been on a quest of integrating my faith in all aspects of my life, and have made significant strides over the past ten years;
  • I have a heart for discipling and mentoring others; and
  • My wife and I desired to learn how to further express our faith on a daily basis.

The Forge Residency has expanded my vocabulary and understanding of what it means to live on mission, or missionally. There is a shift in perspective that I have come to understand. Instead of intentionally being focused on kingdom-minded activities in all areas of my life (e.g., marriage, parenting, work, and recreation), I now view all of my activities through the lens of realizing that I am participating in God’s kingdom.

My attention is focused on how I might demonstrate the gospel – God’s reign over his kingdom through Christ – embodied in my activities of life. With this adjustment of perspective, I am learning to stop trying to identify distinctly kingdom-minded activities. In other words, every activity is to become kingdom-minded, without a hierarchical distinction of value. There is no difference in value within God’s kingdom, for instance, between my coaching a little league baseball team or feeding the hungry. We are to look for ways to announce and demonstrate the gospel in every moment of life, and to go deeper in the relationships we have with others.

It has been very freeing for me to more fully understand that the gospel is God’s reign over his kingdom through Jesus Christ. My spiritual background focused on the salvation aspect of the gospel. With a broader view of the gospel, I am now free to establish relationships with and love others that have not yet started to follow Christ without an agenda of attempting to nudge them across the line of faith. My heart breaks for those who are missing out on God’s grace, and I am sent to love others in a way that offers a foretaste of God’s kingdom, to share God’s grace. I do not have to attempt to sell salvation.

I am more aware of the opportunities to announce and demonstrate the gospel in every aspect of my life, to those around me from different backgrounds and perspectives of faith.

I am focused on sharing with other followers of Jesus their general call of being sent by God to live out the mission of announcing and demonstrating the gospel, and to help them discover what that may look like in their life

The Forge Residency has influenced my journey and I am grateful for the experience.

 

 

 

 

Lessons from the Journey

by Laura Hairston

About 4 years ago, my husband, Ryan and I heard the term ‘missional’ for the first time. For us, it was a completely new concept learning to live as missionaries in the places God had already placed us. Also, hearing of the 60% who would never walk through the doors of the church on our best Sunday where we were on staff. And, hey, I grew up a southern Baptist girl in Texas - all of this rocked my world, as I am sure you can imagine.

So, we made a huge paradigm shift and life change. We are forever grateful God opened our eyes to the amazing neighbors, now great friends, around us and the value they have brought to our lives. Many great stories have birthed and God is helping transform our neighborhood into more of what the kingdom is about. Truly living out our faith has brought so much life to us. We are not just taking in material and sitting on our butts, but, we are actively engaged in making disciples of Jesus and that is an exciting journey.

But, I would say we have definitely learned some things along the way, and are continuing to do so.

1.  Build relationships not projects.

At times in our efforts to start living missionally in our neighborhoods, the first step is often meeting our neighbors, but, I have heard people talk as if ‘checked that off the list’ instead of wanting to build genuine relationships. Be willing to learn something from someone that may not be a Christ follower. Just because they are not church attendees or followers of Jesus does not mean they don’t have value to offer you. Be a learner and a friend. Build relationships not projects.

2.  Be authentic. 

As Christ followers, we are in the process daily of hopefully becoming more like Jesus, but there is a reality – we are human and imperfect people. Just because we choose to follow Jesus does not mean we immediately stop sinning! On the contrary, it almost becomes harder because of the desire to live one-way but our flesh does the other (something Paul knew a lot about!).

A TED talk I heard by Dr. Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability completely turned me upside down. We need to learn the art of vulnerability. After six years of stories, interviews and focus groups, here is what she found:

These folks (whole-hearted people) had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

Is that not how we want people to feel when they come in contact with us? If we want friends to walk in authenticity with us, then we must be willing to do the same. Jesus came and died so that we did not have to live under the bondage of perfection. Walk in his grace and allow others to do the same. Be authentic.

3.  Know when to stop.

Do you ever feel the need to be all things to all people for the sake of the gospel? Do you feel that their wholeness is dependent upon you? If so, stop it! I have heard that referred to as a savior complex. Remember, Jesus is the saving one and through him is ultimate hope, healing and restoration. Now, I believe we are to serve, love and walk alongside the least of these, but with a healthy reality that God is in control; we are his hands and feet. We have to know when to release what is not ours to own.

Also, learn to set rhythms of rest for your family and yourself to be renewed, re-energized and to reflect on what God has done and allow him to prepare you for the future. Know when to stop.

4.  Don’t judge too quickly.

The past few years, I have noticed judgment on the established churches from different organizations and/or individuals. Now, I’m not saying prophets and others are not to speak into the system, but let us remember we were all their at one point, going through the motions and becoming wrapped up only in what happens on Sunday morning, all the while forgetting our city and neighborhood. In their book, Sentness, Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw say,

It is easy, in a consumerist age, to judge quickly and critique loudly. But we have been learning to celebrate mission and sentness where we see it, and to learn what we can from one another across all different styles of church.
— Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw

At Forge, we want to hold the hand of the local church as well as the mom, mechanic, artist, accountant and those on the fringes because we believe all are important in the kingdom of God, and we want to celebrate where change is taking place. If you have friends attending a local church and their minds cannot even fathom what missional or incarnational looks like, then disciple them too. Bring them alongside you in the journey. I heard Alan Hirsch once say, “Let the critique of the old, be the practice or fruit of the better.” If you want to speak into the church consumerism and lack of disciple making, then live it out and have stories to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

Take some time this week to mull over some of these questions.

  1. Am I building genuine friendships with those who are not yet Christ followers? Do I humbly want to learn from them or are they a means to an end (be honest)?
  2. Am I being authentic with others and myself about my weaknesses? Am I allowing others to do the same?
  3. Am I taking adequate times of rest? Is my family taking time to rest?
  4. Am I helping those who have not yet identified themselves as sent ones live out their true calling or am I judging them because they are not?

Staying Is The New Going

"The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14, Message)"

We are living in a day where far too many people are on the move. Many people fear putting down roots, committing to a place, and the idea of missing out on a better offer that might be right around the corner.

How could our world, our communities, and our neighborhoods change if we fought against this fear and committed ourselves to the very place we live now?

For those who follow Jesus, this is our call. To incarnate, to move into, to put down roots, and care deeply about the place God has sent us. Mike Frost writes,

“Incarnational mission means moving into the lives of those to whom we believe we’ve been sent. Living in one neighborhood, working in another, playing in another, and churching in yet another doesn’t model to people that Jesus is willing to move into their neighborhoods. It says that if Jesus’ followers don’t want to live here, neither would Jesus.”

What if the commitment to place became the norm for those who follow Jesus? How would this change the communities we live in?

What if staying became the new going?

"Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made. Put the interests of your community first. Love your neighbors – not the neighbors you pick out but the ones you have." ~ Wendell Berry

 

 

Lives Changed Forever

Recently, a Forge Resident shared this with us and I would love to share on this blog,


"As we began the Forge Residency, the books we read started to make us think differently. Our paradigms were changing as to whom we were called to and what our purpose in life was. As our coach began mentoring us and talking through life with us, our eyes were opened. We began to see everything through a new set of eyes. We humbly and honestly admit that when we began the Forge residency we would have said that the people that have value to add in our lives are those older than us and those that have the same beliefs as us. We now look at that same statement and cringe with shame...we are thankful we serve a God of mercy and grace who has opened our eyes to the beautiful value that every person has...not just those that believe what we believe, but the mom next door, the little girl across the street, and the elderly couple that shows off their handmade quilts. When we stop and take time to talk, get into our neighbor's worlds; whatever it may be (playing poker, swapping mom stories, or walking together on walks) we found a whole new beautiful world. This new world is one that is filled with broken people just like us. When we opened up about our own struggles and imperfections, we found that we are not alone, and together, regardless of age or beliefs, we can love each other and make our neighborhood look a little more like heaven...

God has truly transformed our hearts, our lives, & our neighborhood. We now live with such a deeper purpose, a love for each person we come into contact with, and with an intentionality that makes life much more beautiful. Our lives are now forever changed and we can't help but to share the incredible paradigm changes in our lives with the ones we love. Our families tease us now about loving on our neighbors so much, but honestly, it's the biggest compliment ever that they have seen the transformation in our lives...

We couldn't be more grateful to Forge for the opportunity to have our lives forever changed."

Forge Dallas Resident Story - Shawn

At the time which Shawn joined the Forge Dallas residency, he was considering starting a Christian centered support group for alcoholics and addicts. For years he had attended both AA groups and other Christian recovery groups but as of recent had only been attending the Christian ones. As Shawn walked through the Residency, he began to ask the question, “God where are you at work and in light of my gifts and resources, how can I join you?” From this, he began to realize that God was already at work in the traditional non-religious AA meetings that he once attended. As a result, Shawn decided to join God in His redeeming work by participating regularly in local AA meetings. Since this, Shawn has built many relationships and friendships with those in AA who are broken and hurting. He continues to ask what the good news of the Gospel is for these people and how can he continue to show the love of God to those he meets with. Shawn has said,

“The beautiful thing about AA is that it is a group of people that are brought together by their brokenness to help one another. Being connected with AA groups has given me the opportunity to connect with people, learn from others, and has given me the opportunity to bless and help those who are hurting who might never walk through the doors of a church building.”

Forge Dallas Resident Story - Tony

Tony decided to participate in the Forge Dallas Residency and has since been on a journey to understand his calling to follow Jesus in daily mission. After a time of reflection, Tony realized he had been spending most of his time in church activities and had very few friendships with people outside the church who might be far from God. Knowing he would need to invest relationally in those outside his Christian circles if he was to follow Jesus into daily mission, Tony joined a local fitness program/gym and now exercises with the same thirty people five days a week. Instead of relying on inviting his friends at the gym to church activities as he might have in the past, Tony is asking God where and how He is at work in the lives of gym members, how God is calling him to join in God’s mission, and what the good news of the Gospel is for the people he now sees five times a week. These questions have led Tony to join other members of the gym in regular outings, to share meals with the owner of the gym, and to introduce his new friends to God by inviting them to participate in social justice projects in which he was previously involved.