Have you been jipped

DO YOU REMEMBER THE WORD jipped? It’s not in my dictionary, but I think it’s one of the best words I’ve ever heard, kind of like ubiquitous, caveat, or robust—words that not only feel good rolling off your tongue but that carry a lot of meaning. To me, jipped means to get short-sheeted, shortchanged, ripped off, dissed, deceived, or intentionally screwed. I remember the first time I got jipped. I was seven, and I was at a local ice cream shop in Chicago. I had ordered one scoop of chocolate ice cream on a waffle cone. When the lady handed it to me, I remember having to stick my head all the way down into the waffle cone to find my ice cream.

My friend yelled, “Man, you got jipped.” It was the first time I’d heard the word, and I immediately forgot about my lack of ice cream and just sat there basking in how cool the word sounded. I recall riding my bike all the way home, saying “jipped” about forty times. After that, I started to say it to everyone. My mom grounded me because I used it so much around the house. “Hugh Tom, clean your room.” “Oh, man, that’s jipped.” After she scooped me some dinner, I’d yell, “Man, I got jipped,” just to get to use the word. This went on for few months, until I discovered the word chick. Jipped went on vacation until my freshman year in college.

It made its return when I was visiting a charismatic church by our campus. I remember being floored as the pastor talked about the Holy Spirit and its active working in our lives. While walking back to the campus, my friend, concerned about how I would process my first charismatic church experience, asked, “What did you think?” I’m sure he wanted me to comment on the old farmer dancing in the aisles and the lady singing a prophecy about “eagles and vipers” in the middle of the offertory. I didn’t comment on that. I said, “I got jipped.” “What do you mean?” he asked. 

I went on to tell him that in twelve years of being a Christian, I had never heard one person or pastor mention anything about this Holy Spirit guy or his pet bird. Seriously, I had never been taught about one of the primary aspects of God! I just kept mumbling, “I got jipped.” The next time I remember being jipped was in 2002. I was reading Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy. In this great work, Dallas cracks wide open the concept of the gospel and reminds us that it was never just “the gospel.” It is the “Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” That is, the gospel was about something really big, something different, and something that is to be experienced, not just spoken about.

This gospel, according to Dallas, is about an aspect of God’s divine life that is available to us now, not just after death. After reading and seeing the gospel in an entirely new light, my heart started to race, and I sprang out of my chair and yelled, “Dog gonnit . . . I got jipped again!” The Short-Sheeted Gospel Do you think it might be possible that the primary reason Christianity in the West is in such marked decline is simply due to the fact that we don’t know what the gospel is?

I know that sounds akin to telling professional basketball players that they don’t know how to dribble, or a librarian that he doesn’t read very well. But the church’s results of getting positive responses out of our gospel presentations begs the question, “Do we actually know what the gospel is?” About five years ago, I was in Sydney, Australia, working with about twelve young church planting teams. These were very bright, attractive, nontraditional-looking leaders. The first thing I asked was, “Why are you planting your church?”

I gave them a couple of minutes to think and write down their responses. When we came back together, I asked them to share. Their unanimous response was, “So that people will go to heaven.” “Fine,” I said. “Now describe how people are going to get to heaven.” After some debate, they all agreed that people would get to heaven by hearing the gospel and then responding appropriately. My next question was, “How are people going to hear the gospel?” Their response: “Through our preaching.” “Fine,” I said. “And what will their appropriate response be and how will you know they made that response?” Answer: “They will pray a prayer to receive God into their hearts.” “Where will this transaction take place?” I asked.

They all liked the idea that it could happen anywhere, but after a little prodding, they admitted that they see most of this happening after a sermon in their church. After getting their responses, I gave them one more opportunity to change or adjust their answers, but they decided to stick with what they had. We then took a Sanka instant coffee and Vegemite toast break (something I hope never to relive), and when we came back together I summarized their idea of the gospel. “So let me play back what you said was the reason and the means of planting this church. You are going to start a church so that you can preach the gospel, hope they believe your message, pray a prayer, and go to heaven. Correct?”

They smiled and sheepishly nodded in unison. I pushed a bit more and asked, “What is the gospel?” Their response: “The message of God’s love and forgiveness of our sins and the hope of eternal life.” “So let me keep going,” I said. “The gospel is a systematic set of beliefs or doctrines about God, sin, heaven, and hell that you try to get someone to buy into?” Crowd still nodding. “So salvation is viewed as a gift you get when you . . . pray a prayer?” They nodded like a bunch of puppies watching a yoyo. “So a Christian is someone who has prayed a prayer, and a good Christian is someone who has prayed a prayer and consistently comes to your church, gives money, and generally stops doing all the ‘biggie’ sins.” They still nodded. “So a non-Christian, someone who is doomed to hell for eternity, is someone who hasn’t . . . prayed the prayer?” All of a sudden it got a bit quiet. I kept going. “Evangelism, then, must be the process of trying to get someone to pray a prayer.

Heaven, this beautiful eternal wildly awesome place, is only for those who have prayed a prayer. And hell, the fire, gnashing of teeth, eternal torment, is for everyone who didn’t come to your church, hear your sermon, and pray the prayer?” By now, I was visibly emotional, as was the wife of one of the church planters. Many of the other leaders were looking down at their feet. Some had put their hands over their faces, and we just sat there quietly. “I have to be honest.” I said after collecting myself. “I would not be interested in coming to your church if that is all you’ve got going.” I was saddened but not surprised, as we have heard the same anemic version of the gospel story for so long here in United States. Jipped again!

The good news is now bad news . . . or no news. Jesus knew that the only people who would find his news to be bad news would be the people who didn’t want to lose control of their lives or “come to the light,” as he put it. Everyone else would view his gospel as an attractive alternative to the life they were experiencing. There will always be people who are, at a heart level, completely resistant to Christ. But this book isn’t about them. This book is about the millions of people who are openhearted and curious about life and God but who are honestly not finding goodness in the good news that we talk about and that, at times, has been forced down their collective throats.

We have to be honest with ourselves and realize that if the message isn’t attractive, and the people of God aren’t attractive, then we must not be telling the story right, or we aren’t living the story correctly. Maybe we forgot the story, or even worse, maybe no one ever told us the whole story. Maybe you got jipped, too. If so, you may also have jipped others. 

Excerpt from Tangible Kingdom - By Hugh Halter

 

SAFETY – GOOD FOR THE SWEDES, NOT FOR THE SAINTS

By: Jim Mustain 

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo has built its reputation on safety. Want a safe car, drive a Volvo. Car enthusiasts typecast Volvo’s conservative and uninspiring cars by saying, “Volvo sells school teachers cars shaped like bricks”. Ouch!

Playing it safe has resulted in Volvo being far from the “top ten list” when it comes to car sales in the US. Truth is they own less than 1% of the car sales market.

Is merely “playing it safe” an overall good strategy for doing life?

Empirically speaking it doesn’t seem to be a stellar marketing genius for the Swedes. But changing gears and more to my point, what about for the “saints”? Is a risk averse posture, “playing it safe”, what God is calling us to be and do? I think NOT!

Some of us equate playing it safe with being sensible and prudent. But here’s my two cents. Most of the time, it’s something else all together. The real problem isn’t safety or risk at all. The real problem is fear.

What if I were to tell you that there was a little tiny part of your brain that pre-wires you to avoid risk and play it safe? Well, there actually is. It’s called the amygdala and it plays a big part in what motivates us to behave the way we do.

One of the functions of the amygdala is processing emotions – particularly those associated with survival. Like the emotion of fear for instance. When you are in a familiar situation that you know to be safe, your amygdala is happy and secure – and so are you. But when something new or seemingly risky comes along, the amygdala kicks into high gear. It lets you know, “Hey, we’re outside our comfort zone here. Retreat! Withdrawal!” Sometimes that reaction can save your life. Other times it can hold you back from a more fulfilling life.

The Scriptures teach that Jesus came to give us a full life, not a safe life. (John 10:10). We see where risk and investment are rewarded, not safety. (Matt. 25:14) Our invitation is not to the familiar or comfortable, but to the unfamiliar and outcast (Luke 14:12)

A quote I ran across from my recent readings has fueled my God imaginations and encouraged my inner risk taker. It is attributed to John A. Shedd in his book Salt From My Attic and says,

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

What are we built for? Safety? Or risking it all for the better good…for the Kingdom…for the King?

See you out at sea!

Jeebus or Jesus?

In a hilarious episode of The Simpsons called “Missionary Impossible,” Homer pledges ten thousand dollars to PBS and is generally credited for saving the television network. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Homer does not have the money, prompting a mob of characters and personalities from various PBS shows to chase him through the streets.

He hides out in the First Church of Springfield and bargains with Reverend Lovejoy who, despite Homer’s obvious lack of Christian faith or understanding, packs him off as a missionary to the South Pacific. Just as the plane is about to take off, Homer shows his utter ignorance when he anxiously exclaims, “Jeebus? Jeebus? But I don’t know Jeebus! Helllp me Jeebus!” Homer arrives on the island where he meets the natives. At first he is so fearful that he’s about to be eaten for dinner, he drops to the ground crying “Oh God!” repeatedly. The natives take him for a religious mystic and so they too fall to the ground crying out to God.

Emboldened by his new status as spiritual guru, Homer begins trying to teach them about religion, but realizing that he knows nothing about it, he tries something new. While the natives were noble savages ignorant of and unspoiled by civilization, Homer decides to build a casino on the island, which he names “The Lucky Savage.” This introduces alcohol, gambling, and violence to the island and totally ruins the natives’ previously virtuous way of life. We start with this story because it highlights the impact of how ignorance of Jesus by those who claim his name is toxic to both the believer as well as those around him or her. Following “Jeebus,” Homer wreaked utter havoc on the population, and we are left wondering if this does not describe large tracts of Christian history equally well.

Now we of all people do not want to say that God doesn’t use the odd Homers of this world (we think the church should be a freak collection and that God does use weirdos of all sorts), but it does highlight the fact that the missional disciple must know God in a real way or else bear false witness. And given our previously mentioned commitment to a distinctly missional form of Christianity, this will highlight some of the ways ignorance of Jesus (willful or otherwise) creates a toxic religion that is not only not worth spreading, but detrimental to the cause of Christ. God Is Like Jesus The first and absolutely most foundational thing we can say about missional discipleship is that it must be based squarely on the founder of the Christian faith—Jesus the Messiah.

And while this might seem obvious, one can easily be excused for not being able to recognize anything approximating Jesus in some of the people who claim his name. This discontinuity between Jesus and the religion that claims his name, what Jacques Ellul calls the “subversion of Christianity,” has led countless people to say with political humorist Bill Maher, “I don’t know anyone less Jesus-like than most Christians.” It also prompted researchers David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons to write a book called unChristian , which is based on what most non-Christian twenty-somethings said about so-called Christians. 1 Jesus is the key not only because Christian discipleship is about becoming more like Jesus but also because it is only in and through Jesus that we can get the proper, truly Christ an understanding of God. In other words, Jesus gets defining rights in relation to life, discipleship, theology, and everything in between.

Not only is he the mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim. 2:5), he is the prism through which we can and must understand God (Col. 1:9–21, Heb. 1:1–3). New Testament scholar Albert Nolan is quite right when he states, By his words and practice, Jesus himself changed the content of the word “God.” If we do not allow him to change our image of God, we will not be able to say that he is our Lord and our God. To choose him as our God is to make him the source of our information about divinity and to refuse to superimpose upon him our own ideas of divinity.

This is the meaning of the traditional assertion that Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus reveals God to us; God does not reveal Jesus to us. . . . We cannot deduce anything about Jesus from what we think we know about God; we must deduce everything about God from what we do know about Jesus. . . . To say that Jesus is divine does not change our understanding of Jesus; it changes our understanding of divinity. Reclaiming the centrality of Jesus will help us avoid the perennial mistake of superimposing upon the life and personality of Jesus our preconceived ideas of what God is supposed to be like.

N. T. Wright affirms this when he says, "My proposal is not that we know what the word “god” means, and manage somehow to fit Jesus into that. Instead, I suggest that we think historically about a young Jew, possessed of a desperately risky, indeed apparently crazy, vocation, riding into Jerusalem in tears, denouncing the Temple, and dying on a Roman cross—and we somehow allow our meaning for the word “god” to be recentered around that point."

Jesus is, and must be, the central reference point for the Christian because God looks like Jesus and Jesus does what God wants to do! (See John 10:38, 12:49–50.) We love Greg Boyd’s wonderful description of this: Jesus spent his ministry freeing people from evil and misery. This is what God seeks to do . Jesus wars against spiritual forces that oppress people and resist God’s good purposes.

This is what God does . Jesus loved people others rejected—even people who rejected him. This is how God loves . Jesus had nothing but compassion for people who were afflicted by sin, disease, and tragedy. This is how God feels . And Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, suffering in the place of sinful humanity, defeating sin and the devil, because he passionately loves people and wants to reconcile them to God. This is how God saves . It is true that Jesus is like God, but the greater truth, one closer to the revelation of God that Jesus ushers in, is that God is like Jesus!

As Michael Ramsey, the former Anglican archbishop, noted, “God is Christlike and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all.” Or as Jesus says when asked to show his credentials, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” and “I and the Father are one” (John 14:9; 10:30). We Become What We Worship Focusing our discipleship on Jesus forces us to take seriously the implications of following him, of becoming like him . . . like God. The spiritual agenda for discipleship is thus set: Jesus is our primary model, teacher, guide, savior, and Lord. He is the standard by which we assess discipleship and spirituality. And we must become living versions of him—little Jesuses. So, if we want to know what God is like, we need to look no further than the person of Jesus Christ.

Now while this may seem like an incredibly obvious thing to say, it is staggering how few of us really integrate this most fundamental of truths into our lives. Recently one of us was reminded of this reality when attending a local Bible study. The group was studying a book on the character and attributes of God. The leader of the group was asking whether God was knowable, and if so, how we can really know him. The participants were caught up by the “otherness” and “awesomeness” of God experienced in worship, and seemed to sit more comfortably talking about this.

When the leader pushed for more specifics, one person mentioned creation and then another the Scriptures, but no one seemed to be able to go further. It wasn’t until the study leader stated that it was Jesus who shows us who God is, and that we know God in and through him, that the people seemed to make the connection. What is interesting is that these highly intelligent, mature men and women had been going to church most of their lives, and yet they missed this primary fact—the Jesus factor. That there is a radical disconnect between God and Jesus for many believers, as illustrated in the story above, shouldn’t surprise us. For most people it is far easier to sit with the “otherness” of God—we prefer our divinity at a safe distance.

But while God’s transcendence does, and should, instill feelings of awe and a desire to worship within us, it does not immediately show us a way to follow . We see God or read about him and stand in awe. But what then are we supposed to do besides worship and adore him? When confronted with the reality of God in Jesus, God in human flesh, God is no longer beyond and unfathomable, but immediate and present. He has come close to us, and his claim on our lives becomes somewhat more unavoidable.

And that.... was the whole point of the incarnation.

- Excerpt from Untamed by Alan and Debra Hirsch

The Incarnational Way of LIfe

This past week Hugh Halter, National Director of Forge America, spoke at the Forge Dallas 1 Day Training. Half of the content focused on how we live out the Incarnational way of life in the very places we live, work, and play. The two videos below are of Hugh sharing some of the same content that was shared at our training. We hope you find this resource incredibly beneficial.

A Life Changing Experience

On June 8, 2015, Forge Dallas concluded the 2014-2015 residency. As you might know, the Forge Dallas mission is to train everyday men and women to live as missionaries where they're already doing life. We hope lives are changed and the participants are empowered to make a difference in the places they live, work, and play.  

Recently, we asked the graduating residents to answer the question, "How have you changed as a result of your Forge Dallas Residency experience?"

Below are a few of their responses:

"Forge Dallas has given me a new lens to see life."

"Forge Dallas has given me license and language for joining Jesus in his mission in the everyday spaces of my life."

"Forge Dallas has helped me to be present in the places I live, work, and play. I now talk with people and pay attention to people I would have never spoken to and been attentive to."

"Forge Dallas has helped me to see my workplace as my mission field."

"I am an architect. As a result of the Forge Dallas Residency I changed jobs and am now using my gifts to aid in community development so that my city looks more like Heaven than Earth."

"Forge Dallas has given me direction."

"Forge Dallas has helped me see that the primary work of God is not in the church building but in the world around me. I am now asking how can I join You, God, in your mission in my neighborhood."

"Forge Dallas has given me hope for what could be."

"Forge Dallas has given me a picture and real life examples of what it looks like to follow Jesus."

"Forge Dallas has helped me become more like Jesus."

"Forge Dallas has given me a tribe. I do not feel alone."

"Forge Dallas has helped me answer the question, “To whom have I been sent?” I am now mentoring kids in poverty with the hope that wholeness and purpose can be brought to these kid’s lives."

"As a result of Forge Dallas, we moved into the neighborhood we felt called to."

"Forge Dallas helped me to realized that my workplace and my neighborhood are my mission field. I feel equipped and empowered to make a significant difference in these places."

"Forge Dallas has grown me as a leader. I have invited others to live  as missionaries in the places God has placed them alongside me."

"Forge Dallas has helped me make my neighborhood look more like the Kingdom of God."

Pictured are those who competed the 2014-2015 Forge Dallas residency and their coaches.


Hugh Halter & Forge America

To the Forge Family

As most of you are hearing or have heard, I have agreed to jump in with FORGE and lend a hand.  Many of you are friends and know me well, but others barely know me and I’m sure there are some questions about who I am, why I’ve decided to make this move, and what is on my heart for FORGE. So I want to take a moment and share a bit of my heart with you all and specifically address the big ‘why?’ of all this.

First, I’m getting older! As I approach the big 50, I’ve found that my personal ambitions are falling by the wayside and all I’ve been thinking about is how to have the most influence with the leaders for God’s future church.  As my 21 year old daughter Alli is getting married in a month and my 19 year old daughter McKenna finishes her last two years of college, they have both shared how impossible it has been to find a community on mission that makes sense for them and the friends they hope find Jesus some day. This kills me! Even though I am tired of 25 years of church planting life, I’m now begging God to give me new energy for the harvest and for leaders who will be able to pave a new path for fresh, vibrant, culturally relevant expressions of kingdom community.  So this is my ultimate motivation for why I’m jumping in with FORGE.

Second, Cheryl and I want to be with a ‘tribe’ this next 20 years and the people in FORGE are the ones I love being with and am inspired by. As the missional movement has taken the national conversation, it has given me many opportunities to be with Alan & Deb Hirsch, Mike Frost, Kimmo (Kim Hammond), Brad Brisco, Lance Ford, Ryan & Laura Hairston, and many more who have been serving the FORGE mission. Whereas we have simply bounced off of each other, I can’t wait to call this movement my family and friends. Cheryl and I don’t just need a new mission. We need a tribe to live life with and work with.

Third, when I am asked if the missional movement will make it, I constantly hear people asking, and begging for real life stories that will give early, middle and late adopters courage to press beyond present paradigms of church. So strategically, I feel I want to give my time to FORGE because I think it is the closest network that can re-org around DANGEROUS STORIES that will move the missional conversation beyond the conversation. As we roll out some new vision, you will notice that we are going to move FORGE beyond a missions training community to a family that sets the foundation for missional movement.

All movements need four things: Training, Resources, A Network to hold people together, but the first and most important element of movements, is to have “STORIES.” Stories that people can be inspired by, find hope in, and practical hand holds that allow them to become true missionary practitioners.

As such, we believe the best thing FORGE can do is make our primary metric to facilitate, train, capture, share, and propel dangerous stories around the world. We are setting the calendar to now bring back an idea that the Australian FORGE tribe launched years ago. A national convocation for the FORGE tribe called Dangerous Stories.  This annual tribal gathering will be the launching point to capture, and share new stories with the church at large and it will guide us into how we use the FORGE hubs, the learning communities, the apprenticeship environments, and consulting to help dangerous stories increase. Each year we will launch another ‘ledger’ of dangerous mega churches who made a significant shift, dangerous church plant efforts, dangerous neighborhood incarnational communities, dangerous missional initiatives that serve the least and lost, dangerous life renovations by business leaders, BiVO leaders, Bivo house moms and plumbers who are creating amazing kingdom impact.

My desire is that when anyone asks, “Does any of this missional stuff ever work or turn into something?” all we have to do is point them to what will be a massive catalog of real, doable dangerous stories.

So what does this mean for all of us? All of us who silently found ourselves drawn into and dancing together in the FORGE tribe? I think it is a call back to the streets. A call back to examine our own lives and push beyond all the reasons we may have softened our local leaderships or commitment to new wineskins and true incarnational life and community. We must all have our own dangerous stories. Not stories from the past but stories we are flipping the pages of now.

When I knew that God was asking me to help guide this new season of FORGE, the first lump in my chest was about how I would lead from my life. The Tangible Kingdom was the story of my last 12 years, but it isn’t going to be the story of the next 10 years. So Cheryl and I, have been for months talking about, planning and praying about filling our home again and allowing God to build his church. What will this one look like? Will it work? Who cares!  The mission of God is not something that waits for success to begin. The mission of God is a call for us all, at all times, and in all places to simply Go and Go the way Jesus would Go.  This will be our next dangerous story that I can now roll the dice with and I can’t wait to see what God does. 

The Forge Motto makes all the sense in the world for me, and for the whole world. 

“TRAINING MEN AND WOMEN TO LIVE AS MISSIONARIES WHERE THEY ARE ALREADY DOING LIFE.” Love it!

As I end this message, I want to say a huge thanks to Kim and Maria Hammond for taking a ‘faith of leap’ to come to the US at Alan’s beckoning and faithfully forging out FORGE. We all know what it cost them, how extensive their struggle was not only in creating FORGE America but with all their health issues literally fighting off death. As many of you were, I was not only upholding them in prayer but I was personally inspired by the relentless and yet relational way they gathered the tribe together. Kim and Maria, we, and countless thousands who will someday be moved by FORGE America owe you a debt of friendship and faithfulness on our own part. You led well. You led without knowing how you would pay the bills and we will not forget what you did in pioneering this great work.

Also, to the original founders of Deb and Alan Hirsch, & Michael and Carolyn Frost, we hope this new season will bring a smile to your beautiful faces.  To the mostly volunteer servant team of Brad & Mischele Brisco, Ryan & Laura Hairston, Lance and Sherri Ford, John and Jeri Taylor, and many others I’m just getting to know, thanks for supporting the Hammonds and FORGE with your time, your skills, your passion, and your vision. I know how much you all worked and most of your work was without pay and without a job description or business card. You literally gave because you felt called to the tribe! To all the FORGE Hub leaders I can’t wait to meet, thanks for all the work you are doing on the ground to create viable apostolic centers where missionaries are trained and sent. You have all laid an amazing foundation.

To all of you who may see this letter but who haven’t found a tribe. I invite you to FORGE. A movement of missionaries, who hold the hand of the crazy pioneer but also the hand of the church looking to move forward. An environment for the mega and micro leaders, the priest and plumber, the soccer mom or dad who simply want to reach their neighborhood.  No need coming to us if you’re pissed off and still pointing the finger at the church. We’re not interested. 

But come if you’ve still got a little wind in your sails, a little passion, a heart for the poor, the broken, the dis-engaged and disenfranchised.  Come if you’re trying to find your dangerous story and a tribe to share it with.

I can’t wait to have you meet my lady Cheryl and get working together. Viva le FORGE! Time to get dangerous!

Hugh Halter

Redeeming Sex

We are so excited that Debra Hirsch's new book,Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations about Sexuality and Spirituality, is finally here! This long awaited project has been a labor of love for Deb, and we are so grateful that she has chosen to bare her soul to us and to the world through her writing. She is a truth teller, and we know that this content is incredibly important and timely—not only in the missional conversation, but in the larger cultural conversation around sexuality in our day. 

In her opening chapter, Deb frames her work this way: 

Throughout the book you will find me pointing us toward a much more redemptive understanding of sexuality than the one we ordinarily have. By this I mean that we need to move beyond the largely moralistic, disgraced, traditional dualistic suppression of the body (and the soul, for that matter) that has marked Christianity in the Western tradition. We need to (re)apply to our sexualities the radical grace and salvation that we all must find in Jesus. We must apply this to ourselves and also to our neighbors and society at large. And while I tend to hang out on the more traditional side of Christian sexual ethics, you might be surprised at just how “unconventional” this can look when one follows in the radical way of Jesus.

I want to assure you of my deep, personal participation in the material I humbly lay before you. It is never my intention to overwhelm you or even to necessarily convince you of the rightness of my theological opinion. This book is about the posture one takes, not the position one holds. I do however want to be your conversation partner. So converse with me. Please give me space and grace to be myself—an all-too-human woman who is trying to work this all out on behalf of my Lord and my friends and the mission of the church. I do love God and his people, and want us all to get this right.

Ready to start reading yourself? Click over to IVP and purchase today

Need a little more convincing? This video provides a great sneak peek: 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION 

Order Today
Like Deb's page on Facebook!

The Starting Place For Mission

The missional conversation must not begin with the mission of our church but with God and His mission. Brad Brisco beautifully expounds on this in his book, Missional Quest. He writes, 

When we think of the attributes of God, we most often think of characteristics such as holiness, sovereignty, wisdom, justice, love and so on. Rarely do we think of God’s missionary nature. But Scripture teaches that God is a missionary God—a sending God. What’s more, the Bible is a missionary book. Scripture is generated by and is all about God’s mission activity. The word mission is derived from the Latin missio, meaning “sending.” And it is the central theme describing God’s activity throughout all of history to restore creation. While often overlooked, one remarkable illustration in Scripture of God’s missionary nature is found in the “sending language” that is prominent throughout the Bible. From God’s sending of Abram in Genesis 12 to the sending of his angel in Revelation 22, there are literally hundreds of examples that portray God as a missionary, sending God. In the Old Testament God is presented as the sovereign Lord who sends in order to express and complete his redemptive mission. The Hebrew verb “to send,” shelach, is found nearly eight hundred times. While it is most often used in a variety of nontheological sayings and phrases, it is employed more than two hundred times with God as the subject of the verb. In other words, it is God who commissions and it is God who sends.

In the New Testament, sending language is found not only in the Gospels but also throughout the book of Acts and each of the Epistles. The most comprehensive collection of sending language, however, is found in the Gospel of John, where the word send or sent is used nearly sixty times. The majority of uses refers to the title of God as “one who sends” and of Jesus as the “one who is sent.” All the way through John’s Gospel we see God the Father sending the Son. God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit. And God the Father, Son and Spirit sending the church. In the final climactic sending passage in John’s Gospel, Jesus makes clear that he is not only sent by the Father, but now he is the sender, as he sends the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). With this sentence Jesus is doing much more than drawing a vague parallel between his mission and ours. Deliberately and precisely he is making his mission the model for ours. Our understanding of the church’s mission must flow from our understanding of Jesus’ mission as reflected in the Gospels.

The sending language in Scripture not only emphasizes the missionary nature of God, but it also stresses the importance of understanding the church as a sent, missionary body. God is a missionary God who sends a missionary church. As Jesus was sent into the world, we too are sent into the world.
— Ford, Lance; Brisco, Brad. The Missional Quest: Becoming a Church of the Long Run (p. 26). InterVarsity Press.

God is a sending God and we, His people, have been sent. Just as God’s missionary nature is core to who He is, our missionary identity or our “sentness” is core to who we are. Sometimes this means that we are sent to a new place or people but more often than not we have already been sent to the everyday spaces and places of our lives. Where are the everyday spaces and places you spend your time? What would change if you saw these places as your mission field?

Begin praying that God would give you clarity & discernment so that you might answer this question, “To whom have you been sent?” This could be a people group or place. Some examples of this might be:

  • Families of my child’s sports team
  • My school
  • My workplace
  • My neighborhood, or more specifically my street or block
  • My apartment complex
  • The PTA I am involved in
  • The coffee shop I go to do my work
  • My gym, crossfit, or bootcamp
  • Economic or Cultural group
  • Etc.

 

 

Easter

As you and your families celebrate during this Easter season, I pray that your celebrations will be filled with meaning, joy, hope, and life.

I heard someone once say, “That Jesus is alive so live in fact like you are alive.” I absolutely love this. Jesus is alive and because he rose from the grave we have the promise that He has conquered death and we too will also conquer death and live. In the world to come the there will be no more death, pain, fear, hate, evil, or injustice. Jesus made this possible.

I love this passage from the book of Revelations, Chapter 20, verses 3-7;

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

This is our hope. All of this made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. So what now? I would say, live into the future. Be a foretaste or a trailer of the world to come for this world to see.  Here is one last quote in regards to this,

What you do in the present – by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself – will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether …. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God.
— N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope

This Easter may we in fact live and live with hope. 

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!