What’s next? That’s the question that stared my wife Sharon and me directly in the face in the summer of 2014. Where did we fit? In leaving a ten year church pastorate and a six figure salary, had we just made one of the biggest and most epic fails of our lives OR had we just taken one giant and freeing step of faith?
DALLAS, TEXAS — This week Dr. Kevin Davis the Missionary Residency Director for Forge Dallas, released the dates for their upcoming 2018 missionary residency. This 5-month DFW-Metroplex based training is set for January 13 - May 19, 2018. Forge Dallas is part of the Forge America and Forge International missionary movement founded by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost.
The 2018 cohort of learners will represent the fifth for Forge Dallas. It offers a unique, paradigm shifting and highly hands-on missionary training crafted especially for individuals, couples and churches who want to immerse themselves in missional practices and daily rhythms allowing them to be Jesus in the places God has already placed them.
The Forge Dallas tribe aspires to see the reign of God revealed in the everyday places we live, work, and play. Dallas resident and Forge America Director Ryan Hairston says that, “God is present and active in every place and among every person. Our great privilege as Jesus followers is to pour out our lives in worship of King Jesus and to alert others of his redemptive presence and work in their lives.”
Jim Mustain, Director of Forge Dallas has seen first hand the impact of the residency as a tool in which everyday people are empowered and equipped as Jesus followers to join God in his redemptive mission. Borrowing the words and example of legendary South African missiologist David Bosch, “We join God by announcing and demonstrating the good news of his reign to others. The good news of God’s reign through Christ is meaningfully and powerfully communicated as we befriend, bless, and share stories of life and faith with those in our current contexts.”
As the Missionary Residency Director, Kevin and his wife Holly are bi-vocational missionary practitioners in McKinney, TX. Kevin earned his doctoral degree in missional studies from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University and explains that at its core the missionary residency trains men and women to live as missionaries where they are already doing life.
The main vehicle for the missionary training is the 5-month residency program. Residents are encouraged to continue relationships with their neighbors, co-workers, and communities throughout the residency. A resident’s every day life serves as the context for missionary formation. The Forge Dallas Residency has 5 components…
- CHURCH - residents are encouraged to remain faithful and active in their local church
- COACHING - each resident will be given a coach to walk through the missionary training process with
- CORE TRAINING - residents will learn from other missional practitioners through books, podcasts, videos, and small group teaching and reflection
- COHORT - residents will gather together as a cohort for times of fun and encouragement
- CONTEXT - residents are encouraged to continue their normal rhythms of life in their jobs, neighborhoods, and homes as they seek to understand where they have already been sent on mission
For maximum effectiveness the residency is limited to a learning cohort of 15 residents. If you would like more information about the residency or to attend an upcoming informational gathering you can email Forge Dallas Residency Director Kevin Davis at email@example.com or go to www.forgedallas.org
Have you ever been bored with Jesus? Or maybe you were just bored with your spiritual routine, both personal and corporate?
That was definitely me in the summer of 2015. Who am I kidding? That’s been me for much of my life, but I never knew what I could do to shake myself awake. I’ve been a Christ-follower since I was seven. I went to church, volunteered, and was involved in various groups and studies even when my parents weren’t “making me”. But sometimes I was just faking it until I made it.
I remember one Easter season when I was in college. I was really upset that I was feeling nothing. The resurrection story stirred nothing in me, and even though I tried to read different books and really think about how awful the crucifixion was, I didn’t feel very moved. How is the resurrection story boring?? Four or five years later, I remember being really stuck in some sin, and I wanted to feel God. I wanted him to snap me out of it; I wanted him to be angry with me. I wanted to feel anything, even if it was discipline, just to know he was even there. I tried reading the famous sermon by Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” just so I would realize the gravity of my sin and experience such judgement that I would run back into the Father’s arms like the prodigal daughter I was. But I felt nothing.
My Christian life hasn’t always been that of boredom; I’ve had awesome moments throughout my life as a Believer that help me understand that my salvation is a sanctifying process and I get to renew my commitment as often as I’d like. Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!
In late September of 2015, I e-mailed a few friends of mine, Ryan and Stephanie, who seemed to have been recently in a similar place as I was in: doing the same old thing but kind of done with the same old thing. Here is some of my e-mail to them:
"… God is up to something so huge in my life that I almost can't stand it. Like what the first Christmas Eve must have been like or something (ohhh, that sounded really good!). I'm finally seeing who the Father really is and what he wants, and I'm losing my mind. I've been settling for lukewarm Christianity without even realizing it. That's what so many churches are selling: practice a few of the spiritual disciplines, try not to hate yourself or others, and try to be "reasonably happy in this life" (see Serenity Prayer). But that's so way way way short of the mark, and I never knew it."
"I shrug off all the hard passages in the Bible that I don't know what to do with. Giving everything to follow Christ? Helping the poor? Praying without ceasing? I've been told for so long (either accidentally by the church or deliberately by the Father of Lies or by my own lazy self) that those passages and practices are only for the A+ students, not everyone. Face it, I'm no Mother Theresa."
"Which is complete crap right? We're all called to be A+ students, dang it!! So what's with the lies?? I'm so unbelievably jealous of authors and speakers and the spiritual greats and the relationship they have with God. They freaking get it. And I WANT THAT. And God wants it for all of us but still gives us free will. So I've been settling for pleasing the Elf on the Shelf God who watches me and makes me feel good and makes me feel bad, and that's crazy pants!"
"So yeah. The [group] conversation that Ryan started about when the church drives us nuts... more of those need to happen. Though for me, I'm not upset (at the moment); I'm just starving for the Christian life we're all called to have. Because it looks so awesome, right?? I mean, praying and thinking it matters at all? Knowing God's will (which isn't terribly hard if you focus on the basics) and running after it as if everything depends on it... I want that. More than anything."
"Sad side note: [my current small group] isn't really there. They’re where I've always been, and I like it, I like them, but I need more. And I'm sad because they've been enough for so long. I'm not quitting them at all. But I want to be an A+ student, which is hard when everyone is in so many other places. I don't want to sound ugly, and I don't think I know more than anyone or I'm better than anyone. I'm just... lonely. And I'm looking for ways to be un-lonely and seeking out other believers who are either where I am, want to get there, or have been here before... and are further along!"
After reading these notes, Ryan and Stephanie came over for dinner a few weeks later and they told me about the missional residency program they went through that really rocked their world. It was called Forge Dallas, and their mission statement is “Training men and women to live as missionaries where they’re already doing life.” I went through every page of the website almost drooling over the possibility of getting to know a group of people who were just as eager as I was to be wholeheartedly after God’s will. A few days later, I had signed up for the residency and started reading the first assignment. I was all in!
I did the five-month residency in January of 2016, and I can’t even tell you how much it changed me. I now have a tribe of people that completely understand where I’ve been, and they constantly ask what they can do to help me be a well-equipped missionary in my community.
I could talk for days about how different I am compared to two years ago. I no longer share my faith out of obligation or to make God like me more. I talk about my faith with others because it’s a crazy story of how a bored girl went from being stuck going through the motions to someone who has been redeemed from the pit and crowned with steadfast love and mercy (Psalm 103:4). Who doesn’t love a good story?
We weren’t meant to be alone. Loneliness will murder your faith, and I highly encourage you to check out Forge if any of this resonates with you. Or we can meet up for coffee because I would love to hear your story. We are called to have a big faith in a huge God who has never been boring. And it’s pretty amazing that we get to be a part of the most exciting story ever told.
A couple of weeks ago, I was getting coffee at a local shop that I go to all the time. The barista at the register and I know each other by name, but he hadn’t really seen me yet. He was still punching keys in the tablet register as he greeted me with something like, "Hey, how are you? What can I get started for you today?" He was pleasant, sincere, and lovely, and there was absolutely nothing wrong with his greeting. When he looked up and saw that it was me, he brightened up and said, "Hey, Summer! How is it going?" We had some great small talk, I got an amazing latte, and we said our farewells. What struck me is this: do I say hello to people I don't know with a different brightness than I greet my friends with? If so, why?
Again, I know he was very kind and sincere in his hello, and I don't fault him for anything he did. It just struck me funny and made me wonder if I'm giving other people my best when I don't know them yet. When I walk past someone I don’t know and we meet eyes, I smile and nod, but am I being my most genuine? Are my eyes smiling, too? It reminded me of when I was in marching band in high school and we had just come back to school after we totally messed up at a competition. We had not given our best, and we rode back in silence. We stood outside the band hall, sad, sweaty, and beat, and I'll never forget what one of the drum majors said to us. "Everyone, raise your hands as high in the air as you can." We sighed as we put down our instruments and hat boxes, and we all put our hands in the air. "Now raise them two inches higher." So we did. And we caught an earful for it.
I highly value citing my sources, but I can't remember for the life of me who introduced this next concept to me; if you know, please tell me so I can reread their book! The concept I ponder is this: how do I view groups of people I don't know? Examples are folks in line at the store, other parents at a school event, fellow diners at a restaurant, people stuck in the same traffic I am, etc. Do I view them as one insurmountable thing in my way? Are they on my side? Am I on theirs? Are they too loud? Do I think of them as people who are trying to break the rules and get ahead of me? These are terrifying and humbling thoughts, and it has really changed how I treat other people I don't know. Sure, we smile at cashiers, open doors for others, and apologize when we bump into someone, but do I feel like they're on the same team with me? Are we in this together or are they the enemy in my day?
To put it all together, am I giving my best to everyone who bears the image of God or do I play favorites? Does the employee at the store feel that my Thank You is genuine, or is it just a line I use to tell them they can go back to what they were doing? Do I take the time to look the server in the eye when I ask for something? When someone lets me go down the cereal aisle first, do I just nod? Gosh, do I even do that because I think I deserved to be first?
When I hear how the Gospel-writers describe Jesus and when I hear pastors and speakers describe him, I know he was a charismatic and loving person who naturally drew others to himself. He seemed like such a magnet for people; no one with a need seemed turned off by him. I feel like he had Resting Compassion Face, you know? In movie portrayals of Jesus, I love it when he is shown as someone who seems so full of joy that he's almost laughing through many of his lines.
So when I come across strangers throughout my day, I try to remember to smile at them just as I would to a dear friend of mine. I want them to feel valued, loved, and seen merely by how I look into their eyes, say hi, or thank them. We are all human beings who bear the image of God. There is a piece of God's beauty in every face we see; every single one. There is a trait of God that they can show us, and shame on me for dismissing anyone because I just don't know them. As CS Lewis said in The Weight of Glory,
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
Human souls are eternal, and I need to have this on the top of my mind with every individual I encounter. I want to be someone who makes others feel seen and valued even though we don't stop and talk. I want my eyes to smile when my mouth smiles, and I want people to suspect that I have a secret to joy they should know. Except it isn't a secret I plan to keep.
Summer Cromartie is wife, mother, yarn whisperer, residency graduate, and Forge Dallas Storyteller.
The movie The Book of Eli is a graphic and plausible representation of a post-apocalyptic world in which earth’s survivors are desperate for the absolute necessities that make life possible. The story unapologetically brings awareness to American abundance and challenges the tendency to over-indulge or take excess for granted. Its characters do not have the choice to hoard, but must depend on one another’s resources for the privilege to survive and rebuild society.
The gas shortage in Texas forced my family and I to depend on our neighbors this week for what has become a necessity of our society: gasoline. I was on my way home from the high school one afternoon last week when I concurrently realized the gas light was on in my 2010, baby blue, Hyundai Accent, and that the gas stations in the area were out of gas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Admittedly, this is a minor inconvenience compared to the devastation many are experiencing on the Texas coastline, yet, it taught me something about my efforts to be a good neighbor.
I pulled up to the house that afternoon and just sat in the car a few minutes, thinking, and realizing that I had no immediate way to solve this problem on my own. So, I texted Tanya and John. I have had the privilege of offering free math tutoring to their 12 year-old daughter Sadie for the past year as a way of following Jesus’ teaching to love my neighbors. Now, I was reaching out to Tanya and John to meet a need in my life, namely, a couple of gallons of gas to last for a few days. (For whatever the Accent lacks in masculinity, it makes up for in fuel efficiency.) They gladly shared what they had available to them and I was blessed.
A valuable part of being a good neighbor is inviting and allowing my neighbors to be blessing in my own life. This process is helping to transform the people around me from targets of mission, beneficiaries of my charity, or anonymous neighbors, to real friends.
Kevin Davis, Director of Missionary Residency Program - FORGE DALLAS
I am so excited to introduce Dr. Kevin Davis as the new Director of the Forge Dallas Missionary Residency program. I have personally known Kevin & Holly over the past three years in the context of a friendship and mentorship. Sharon and I coached Kevin and Holly as missionary residents. Kevin then took the next logical step of becoming a coach in the missionary residency program this past year. Now Kevin will take the reigns of leading the residency.
Below is a biographical sketch of Kevin who I warmly welcome as our new Missionary Residency Director.
Kevin Davis is the Forge Dallas Director of Missionary Residency Program. He works alongside the Forge Dallas team to develop, lead, and manage the missionary residency program with the goal of training men and women to live as missionaries where they’re already doing life. He and his family are passionate about living as missionaries in all the places they live, work, and play by demonstrating and announcing the good news of God’s reign as revealed and embodied by Jesus Christ. Kevin and his wife, Holly, value communicating this good news through friendship, blessing, and sharing stories of life and faith.
Kevin met Holly while pursuing an undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Both are originally from Dallas, but did not meet and fall in love until Kevin asked Holly to dance one Thursday night at a quaint dance hall in central Texas. Upon graduating UMHB, Kevin attended Truett Seminary at Baylor University and completed a M.Div. degree. Kevin and Holly married and took on a bi-vocational lead pastor role at a wonderful little church in north Texas during this season of life. While pastoring, Kevin and Holly were blessed with their two kids, Blair and Braylon, and the opportunity for Kevin to complete a Doctor of Ministry degree at Baylor.
God used Kevin’s experiences as a pastor and graduate student to show him the biblical, theological, and practical basis for he and his family to reorient their life and ministry around engaging their world as missionaries. This journey has brought Kevin and his family to McKinney where they are putting down roots and learning to live as a family on mission in their neighborhood, through their work as a high school math teacher and social worker, and through their local gym where they enjoy exercise and community.
Live Humbly & Kind,
Jim Mustain, Director - Forge Dallas
It was displayed in plain sight. I’m sure I must have seen it before. However on this particular evening while waiting on my next appointment, it caught both my attention and curiosity. Three short phrases carefully crafted together. One empowering mantra displayed in over 21,000 community gathering places worldwide— one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
What corporate citizen aspires to the lofty dreams of, “… inspiring and nurturing the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Starbucks of course! (check out their really cool mission video https://vimeo.com/62275792)
In the #1 New York Times bestselling book Onward: How Starbucks Fought For It’s Life Without Losing Its Soul, Howard Schultz the CEO of Starbucks recounts the story and leadership lessons behind the global coffee company’s comeback.
In 2008, Schultz decided to return as the CEO of Starbucks to help restore its financial health and bring the company back to its core values. In Onward, he shares this remarkable story, revealing how, during one of the most tumultuous economic periods in American history, Starbucks again achieved profitability and sustainability without sacrificing humanity.
Living out the below core values, the Starbucks green and white logo is known worldwide.
- Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
- Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
- Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
- Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
- We are performance driven, through the lens of humanity.
My reflections are two — Wow and Whoa!
Wow! — Regardless of person or product, I love dreamers and doers and those determined to develop something of value and worth. Way to go Starbucks! I will gladly continue to leverage your free space and great coffee and welcoming environment as I strategize kingdom plans, disciple followers of Jesus, and engage in gospel conversations. Really, thanks!
Whoa! — As in “let’s stop or slow down” for a minute to get our bearings. IS THIS NOT what the church is supposed to be about? Swap out a few words, church for company, and people for performance, and I could easily adopt Starbucks values for my own.
I love, and believe Jesus loves words like, warmth and welcoming, and connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
Could it be that Jesus was the original barista? Get that picture in your mind next time you walk up to a Starbucks counter!
But seriously, was it not Jesus who modeled offering a “cup” of cold water in His name? (Mark 9:41) Was is not Jesus who showed “dignity and respect” for the woman at the well? (John 4) Was it not Jesus who moved into (and loved) His “neighborhood”. (John 1:14)
In an unprecedented era of downturn in church engagement, in an effort to move “Onward: fighting for its life, without loosing its soul” — perhaps the church could reflect, repent, and return to the model of Jesus. Thanks Starbucks for the reminder. I think “I’ll see you and raise you” (and keep using your free wifi)!
Jim Mustain, Director - Forge Dallas
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
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!
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
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.
Every Jesus follower has been already been sent to the places they live, work, and play. It is in those places that God invites us to join Him in His redeeming work. In the video below, Ryan Hairston speaks on this topic at Frisco Bible Church in Frisco, TX.
Incarnational Evangelism by Forge America Director, Hugh Halter
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.
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!
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:
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:
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,
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
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;
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,
This Easter may we in fact live and live with hope.
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.”
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.
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.