Seasons of learning, seasons of a growing family, seasons of challenges and seasons of being on mission. SEASONS OF BEING ON MISSION? I don’t think so - I believe we are are all sent even when the season changes.
Meet my friend Glen. And after my wife Sharon most mornings Glen is the second person to greet me. Glen is the Club Manager at the local Planet Fitness where I work out. Glen has an AWSOME beard and a wicked sense of humor! He always makes me (and the hundreds of other club members) feel as if we belong.
And that’s the pioneering concept that sociologist Ray Oldenberg introduced in his 1989 book The Great Good Place in which he explains that your “third place” is a hangout spot or “home away from home” that provides an essential zone outside of home and work. In our modern frenetic pace of life and cocooning downtime mentality, many don’t have a third place, which means that most of us are missing out on a crucial space of expression, connection and growth.
So what is a “third place” and how does it differ from other places in your life being defined as “first place” your home, and “second place” being your place of work?
According to Oldenberg a third place “by its design and environment is a welcoming space that cultivates essential social experiences in the company of like-minded people.” It can be a coffee shop with couches and tables (mine is Panera Bread) or a brewhouse that offers stools at the bar (mine is 54th Street Grill & Bar) or a gym like Planet Fitness. And it never feels like a chore to spend time there — well maybe sometimes at the gym it does!
A good third place is also easy to get to and is close to your home or work. You can pop in and out quickly without much stress or planning. The third place is best when it’s free, but it is, at the very least, inexpensive. ($21.95 per month or 73 cents a day at Planet Fitness) The lack of pretense and expense makes this a spot where people of different classes and worlds can mingle. In the third place, people are equals.
I love the Planet Fitness creed prominently displayed on the wall, which sounds a lot like a third place mantra to me!
“We at PF are here to provide a unique environment in which anyone, and we mean anyone, can be comfortable. A diverse, judgment free zone where a lasting, active lifestyle can be built. Our product is a tool, a means to an end, not a brand-name or a mold maker, but a tool that can be used by anyone. In the end, it’s all about you. We evolve and educate ourselves, we will seek to perfect this safe, energetic environment, where everyone feels accepted and respected. We are not here to kiss your butt, only to kick it if that’s what you need. We need you, because face it, our planet wouldn’t be the same without you. You belong!”
And so why is a third place important? No matter how cool your living situation might be, you need to get away from it just like you need to get away from work. A third place exists specifically for the purpose of connecting and being with other people — and I believe God has created all of us with a community DNA gene.
So bottomline is that we ALL need a third place — this much we know. The effect on your social life and psychology will be BIG. And who knows you just might make some new friends — and thanks to my buddy Glen and Planet Fitness, I can get a bad joke and a good workout all in my third place close to home.
Live humbly and kind,
PS - You can join Planet Fitness and meet Glen yourself by emailing lewisville.TX@planetfitness.com
On a recent Friday we had a group of people over from around our community who are interested in blessing their neighbors; we don’t all go to the same church, and some of the folks aren’t followers of Christ. It’s a great group!
There was a knock at my door at 4:30, and I panicked. They were early! It was my neighbor from around the corner who had signed up to bring cheese. She told me she had broken her hand earlier that day and wanted to bring the bag of cheese by in case she wasn’t able to make it. Goodness!
She had her situation handled, and we prayed for her that night. Funny enough, someone else brought cheese, too! I saw her at church two days later, and her hand looked horrible! I told her I’d make her and her husband some macaroni and cheese with the bag she brought, and they said that would be perfect.
My week got away from me (I’m a horrible neighbor!!), and I wasn’t able to make the dish until Saturday. She said it would be fine, so I brought it over to her that afternoon. She invited me in, and I got to chat with her about the weather, kids, and hand injuries. As luck would have it, she had an event to go that night and needed a dish to bring; she asked if I would mind if she took it with her so she wouldn’t have to run to the store and cook something. How perfect! Of course I didn’t mind!
It makes me smile to think that the cheese she signed up to bring last week means that she has something to bring to an event this week, even if it is a little cheesy.
Summer Cromartie - Missional Practitioner & Good Neighbor
The Forge Dallas Missionary Residency Program is a 5-month journey that equips women and men to live as missionaries where they live, work, and play. And DON’T let that word missionary scare you!
Missio is the latin root where we get our word “missionary” and it simply means “sent ones.” Jesus tells his followers then and now, “… as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”~ John 20:21
What that means is that we are ALL “sent ones!” And as “sent ones” or missionaries we adopt rhythms of life that reorient our daily lives around the mission of God in the various places (contexts) he has placed us. In this series we will take a glimpse at B.E.L.L.S. (a set of missionary practices as introduced by Michael Frost, Forge Co-founder in his book Surprise the World) and discover how a few simple practices can be life changing for us and others!
One way our family has adopted the missionary practices of B.E.L.L.S. is by committing to bless three people per week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church. Here is just one recent example of our life on mission:
Have you ever eaten so much you were uncomfortably full? My wife, Holly, and I recently took a blissful trip to Chili’s Restaurant where we had a terrible time deciding on one of their many delectable appetizers. Our solution, let’s get four! I’m not exaggerating, we dug into parmesan sprinkled fried cheese curds, fajita chicken nachos, perfectly grilled cheeseburger sliders, and savory skillet cheese fries. Our waitress looked at us with crazy eyes, but we persisted. I’m not afraid of a challenge! As you might imagine, I lost this one. I gave those appetizers my best shot, but sadly, stumbled out of Chili’s way too full and with a to-go box.
Naturally, Holly had to drive because I was nearly incapacitated. We definitely had our fill of Chili’s for the time being, yet, we still had a to-go box full of good food. I reclined way back in the passenger side seat of the car as we drove home, thinking about what we were going to do with all this food, and then Holly and I remembered B.E.L.L.S. and our commitment to bless those God has sent us to.
We had the privilege of stopping by a neighbor’s house on the way home, a beautiful couple with custody of eight of their elementary school age grand-kids. They gladly accepted the late night snacks for the kids and welcomed us into their home to catch up on life. Holly and I were so blessed by their company, friendship, and gratitude, and I think they were blessed to have a night where they did not have to come up with food for eight kids on an extremely tight budget. God was in that living room and it was so rejuvenating to join Him.
I tell you this story to give you a very small glimpse into the way we are living on mission. Our eyes were opened to the opportunities all around us after we went through the Forge Dallas Residency. In the residency, we learned to see and act differently. We learned to be counter-cultural and step well into the places we live, work, and play.
To learn more missional practices and about Forge Dallas' Residency Program, contact me, Kevin Davis, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next Residency Program kicks off in January 2019!
Stored in my guest bath and dinning room hutch are more than 30 brand new candles I have received from my very loving, gift giving students. So I ask myself, “What on earth am I going to do with all these candles?” Two people can only burn so many, and truth be told, more will come my way from my little lovelies this next school year.
While enjoying some time with one of my dearest friends, Jill, I shared the story about the surplus supply of candles. Jill shared from her heart, “Why don’t you pay it forward to the families in your neighborhood?” That was it! The light bulb moment! “Brilliant idea, Jilly!” So that is exactly what I have done this year. When a new neighbor moves into our community of 153 townhomes, and guess what I bring them? That’s right, a candle from my collection.
Recently, when a friend from a nearby block stopped by my house as she was walking her dog, she shared that she had been laid off. The next day, I packaged up one of the candles and wrote a note to her reminding her that I care, and I will join her in her prayers as she waits on God to meet her needs. One of the ladies in Forge Dallas said to me, “Sharon, I think that candle will remind your neighbor that Jesus is a light shining in the darkness of her life, and she will also remember that she has a friend who cares for her!”
I love what Lance Ford and Brad Briscoe say in their book, Next Door As I t Is In Heaven: “They challenge us just to be the neighbors who extend compassion and care, who bring the neighborhood together, to see shared spaces as venues for common grace, and who notice the kingdom of God in our midst.”
Thank you God for all these beautiful symbols of your love that I can share with those in our community. A simple, thoughtful, faithful presence that has the power to transform our world one neighbor at a time.
Sharon Mustain is a missional practitioner and Forge Dallas' First Lady
"Influence doesn’t happen by extracting ourselves from the world for the sake of our values, but by bringing our values into the culture." - Hugh Halter author of Tangible Kingdom
“We will never be faithful in the biblical sense if we never move from home base.” - Alan Hirsch author of the Forgotten Ways
It was words like these...and hundreds of others from the likes of Hugh Halter, Alan & Deb Hirsch, and Michael Frost that affirmed us in one of the most risky and dangerous God adventures my wife Sharon and I had ever made.
In 2014 after pastoring for 30 plus years in wonderful churches we took the plunge into the deep waters of missional. We made the “move from home base” and began seeing our neighborhood and community with new eyes, recognizing that most of our neighbors first step toward Jesus would not be through the doors of a church, but through friendship and sitting on the front lawn of our home.
And though it’s not all been a straight arrow up and to the right, four years later I am happy to report that it has been the most fruitful four year run of ministry ever!
We are grateful for the dozens of people who now follow Jesus, the discipling relationships we are in, the neighbors we now do life with, the churches we have helped on their missional journey, and the hundreds of volunteers who now serve our community via our non-profit Loving Community www.loving-community.net. And the list could go on!
The missional movement made up of spiritual entrepreneurs -- surely isn’t perfect! At times it zigs and zags. It has its ups and downs. The aforementioned leaders aren’t perfect (and neither our we)! But for us we feel it’s the closest we’ve come to authentically following Jesus throughout our Christian experience.
It’s for this reason that we continue to beat the drum of the missional movement and the Forge Dallas tribe as a conduit of helping the church that we love move from home base and training church “members” to become “missionaries” in the places they live, work, and play!
We’d love for you to be a part!
Hugh Halter has been referred to as the “heart” of the missional movement. He is coming to town one week from today on Thursday April 12th for an all day event (9 am- 3pm) at Irving Bible Church. This is the registration info for the event which is a deal for $39 for the day.
It’s called Purgatory Sessions - Church Caught Between Heaven and Hell. These are the six session topics:
*Look Into the Future. 7 FOR SURE’s that you must adjust ministry around
*Best Practices. Unearthing the best church stories I’ve seen to date
*Dead Bones. The Structure of mission. Family Tree vs. Old Boys Club
*The Art of Suffering…Leaders living above cynicism.
*The New Mammon: Money in a pure mission field
*The Discipleship Myth: Defining it & Doing it
Hit me up if you want more information and I hope you’ll join us for this day of missional conversation!
Live humbly and kind,
Forge Dallas - Hub Director
It is hard for us, in our North American-Southern-21st century-Dallas Fort Worth context to grasp the idea of a pilgrim. We don’t really do pilgrimages. Some may, but the majority, probably not. We talk about pilgrims coming to Plymouth Rock around Thanksgiving. But the posture of even those pilgrims is lost in a different narrative.
My first encounter with the idea of a modern-day pilgrim was in Ukraine 1993. As we travelled down narrow roads into villages, we would see small, one room what I called “chapels” along the road. There was only enough room to fit maybe 1-3 people inside, to get out of the sun, or rain, or snow. Each one was near a shade tree and mineral water source. Inside, there was a bible, candles, some fresh bread, and a pitcher of water. It was a holy place to stop, pray, restore, and then to continue on the journey. These little roadside buildings so simple and yet symbolic, a beautiful gesture. It was a place of generosity, hospitality, even if no one was there to greet the traveler. Someone had been there in anticipation of an arrival.
Over the next twenty five years in my travels around the world, I encountered many more pilgrims on a variety of pilgrimages. No matter which journey and destination, which faith or country, there was indeed a posture that was recognizable. A people taking care of each other, encouraging each other to stay on the path, on this journey to find and encounter something holy. In my youthful haste, I didn’t stop to interact. I was on a different journey, a different path.
And then there was Oviedo. Walking through the Asturian capital, I was mesmerized by the architecture from pre-Romanesque to Calatrava, the lush dark green trees, the long hum of bagpipes, the random Woody Allen statue, and then suddenly I stumbled across a brass seashell embedded in the cobble stone.
I stopped in my tracks. It was one of the Santiago de Compostela shells. I had heard about these for years but never saw one. It was pointing. It was directing to the Camino de Santiago. I bent down to touch it…to place my hand upon it. It was the size of the palm of my hand. This ancient symbol has been guiding pilgrims since 812 A.D. I polished it a bit and looked up to see if anyone was going that way.
On my last visit last year, I combed the streets one late afternoon looking to find that shell again. At last, I turned a corner and a few steps beyond, there it was. A little girl ran by me and jumped over it as I was snapping a photo. I look at that photo today to see a whole story that I couldn’t see at the moment. There were two pieces of black gum, the girl’s feet running another direction, and the lines in the pavers led the eyes to yet another direction.
As we prepare for our first Forge Dallas Missional Conversation on Pilgrim Ways with Dr. Michael Stroope, I am looking forward to learning more about the posture of a pilgrim. As the photo suggests, in a world with so many directions to go and life so emphatically pulling on us, we need many strong, faithful pilgrims. Some to open a door, have bread, a pitcher of water, a bible, and a box of candles ready for us. Some to walk alongside, to discover the journey together, and help guide each other to follow the right signs, on the right path for a season or for a lifetime.
Join us January 24th 8:30-11:00 Missional Conversation with Dr. Michael Stroope at Valley Ranch Baptist Church 1501 E. Beltline Road, Coppell, TX 75019.
R.S.V.P. at https://www.facebook.com/events/106952666771041/
“Forge ruined me for good.”
That’s what I told Ryan Hairston during one of our early gatherings when he asked about how we were doing with all the information and Forge so far. When I first heard about Forge, I was at a place in my faith where I felt like a compressed spring; I absolutely couldn’t wait to be with other excited Believers who were seeking God whole-heartedly and longed to be obedient to the Great Commission. I needed that community of people to help me stay the course, especially since I was a little new to literally and tangibly loving my neighbors. Months and years before that, I had been spiritually drowsy, and God began to slowly and gently wake me up like a kind Father would when it’s time for school. It was definitely time for me to learn more from my Rabbi, that is for sure!
It’s always entertaining to go back to old journal entries and see how I have come out of the situations I was in before. For funzies, I flipped back through the pages of my journals over the past two years, and I can’t help but thank God for being so unbelievably gracious and patient in how he constantly draws me back to him and helps me become more like his Son. It is absolutely astounding to see where I struggled before, what I thought was impossible, and what I didn’t even realize I had backwards. As a result of going through the Forge residency, the biggest change in my life is that I have become more deliberate with my interactions with those in my community. The Spirit has chipped away at my heart of judgement and has been replacing it with one of compassion and empathy. I see people not as projects but as allies; sharing my faith isn’t about a conversion but about building deep and vulnerable relationships with others.
Forge has also helped me better understand my spiritual gifts and how to use them for the Kingdom and not just for the church. I’ve also become more outspoken with other Christians and less concerned about what people will think if I talk about the chasm between how we act and what Christ asks us to do.
Over the past two years, my husband and I have slowly reshaped our schedules to be less busy and more careful about how we spend our time. Something Forge taught us is that we can help answer prayer requests; if there is something we know we can do to help, we ask if it is okay to help in that way. It’s awful to admit, but in the past, we would merely pray like the person had asked us to and never give much thought to the idea that perhaps God wants us to help answer that request. Our society can lean toward not wanting to impose, which means people don’t ask for help, and we don’t offer. This isn’t how I understand the Kingdom now. We see far more opportunities than we used to, and I’m ashamed at how selfish I have been.
Praise God that he doesn’t give up on us. He wants every bit of me and will stop at nothing until he has it. George MacDonald puts it this way, “He who will not let us out until we have paid the uttermost farthing, rejoices over the offer of the first golden grain in payment. Easy to please is he - hard indeed to satisfy.” Thanks be to God!
If I could go back and talk to pre- and during-Forge me, I would tell her, “Hang in there, because tangibly loving your community will go from being overwhelming to being the most fun you’ve ever had in your life.”
“What I believe is not what I say I believe, what I believe is what I do!” I’ve always loved this quote by Donald Miller author of Blue Like Jazz. And for me living missional HAD TO become more than just a trendy phrase in sprucing up my church’s mission statement.
But how? Sure I’d read most of the missional books. I’d gone to my share of conferences. I’d preached on it and done 6-week series on the art of neighboring. A spike on the radar screen, but then settling back into the familiar.
But then things changed for me. And it all began with with engaging with an organization called Forge America www.forgeamereica.com and their local hub Forge Dallas www.forgedallas.org. Their five-month missionary residency gave me the hands on tools, coaching, and a cohort of other missional practitioners who too were living as missionaries in the places where they were already doing life. My life changed!
For me missional living has now become more than a fad or a short lived sermon series. And four years later, I’ve not looked back. Along with my wife Sharon, we are now living out the calling of Jesus, “as the Father has sent me, so send I you”.
The Forge Dallas 2018 Missionary Residency kicks off on January 20, 2018. I’d like to invite you to consider becoming a missionary resident. A series of meet and greets over coffee to answer questions and talk about the residency are happening on Tuesday evening, December 19th and Sunday afternoon, January 7th. More information can be found at this link - Meet and Greets
If God is speaking to you, I’d love to talk!
Director - Forge Dallas
Winter and Dallas are doing a pretty good job of teaming up to signal the Christmas season. Sunny warm days contradict the street ornaments and glorious door wreaths everywhere. Night time feels a bit more like it with blustery winds and chilly air flowing through the streets, swaying giant puffy inflatable snowmen glowing under the warm Christmas lights. Yes, Christmas approaches and we are all doing our part to make it feel like Christmas.
This evening, the light has changed even more, signaling the darkest and longest nights will soon arrive. Tonight, as I was driving home in that dimming dusk light, one church bulletin board caught my eye. “Are you in the Inn crowd?” There were more letters after it but I stopped reading there.
Immediately, my mind went to that sweet, weary couple so long ago, who looked and looked, knocked and knocked, hoping to just find a warm place to rest and dwell, a safe place to give birth, to carry on their mission.
The Inn. A place of warmth. A place of nourishment, of rest, of community, if only for a day, a week, or more… A place to refuel so that the journey may continue. A place of hospitality.
Am I part of the Inn crowd? I have to say no. No, I’ve been too distracted outside the Inn with work, and the hustle, with loud distractions and christmasing that the Inn is, indeed, quite empty these days.
Today, all around us, there are people who are looking for that Inn on a street full of no vacancy signs. They are looking - we are looking - for The Inn where deep friendships can grow, where hope is shared, and good news is lived. We live in shallow, fast times. How do we create a place to live slowly, invite many, to connect, to be human, to nourish, to refuel, to go deep and disciple long? Forge taught me how to do this. Today, I needed that billboard to refocus my attention.
Innkeepers, there is no better time of the year to turn your signs around and signal the arrival of the good news. Turn on your lights and open your doors.
Yes, the Inn is open. Yes, there is room.
#advent #ostia #philoxenia #Emmanuel
Lue Kraltchev is a Forge residency graduate. She lives in McKinney with her husband and a few well-behaved dogs.
Photo Credit: Ostia Antica by jessi https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1730258
“We shape our cities; thereafter they shape us.” – Winston Churchill
Have you ever uttered the phrase “I was made for this!”? Sometimes we use it casually, sometimes euphorically. Whatever the case, you felt in your gut that that particular moment in time and space was especially predestined.
We learn a lot about ourselves as the settings and seasons of life change. Our context is a mirror, a window to ourselves - our strengths, our weaknesses, and to whom God made us to be. Changes in familial role (single, married, kids), career, where we live (urban, rural, international) help us to see our role in God’s ongoing work in the world.
A few years back I made a career change. After attending architecture school I’d worked for a few architects and reached an inflection point where I’d wanted to seek a more open-ended career path. Rather than a traditional path as a licensed architect, I wondered if there was a more embedded and subversive (possibly missional) path in which God could use what he’s given me.
I moved to Oak Cliff in 2014 and developed a love for a Dallas that I never knew. Proximity and rootedness had become important spiritual values to me in “seeking the welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7) of the city. As we seek to reflect Jesus, have you ever considered why He is often called Jesus of (a place) Nazareth?
In early 2015 an opportunity opened to serve and eventually lead an Americorps program through Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office focused on community development and neighborhood organizing with Southern Dallas neighborhoods. My wife Stephanie, whose support often overwhelms me, encouraged me to go for it. I learned a lot over those two years about God and myself. Being closer to home it allowed me to embed myself and my work deeply in my own neighborhood and part of town. Dallas historically is a very divided city - economically, racially and generationally. Serving with Americorps, and the change in context, allowed me to experience being a minority (in several ways) and to learn and be led by others quite different from me; things I would not have experienced in my prior office setting.
Since finishing my Americorps assignment, context has continued to evolve for me. In the past 8 months I became a foster parent in Dallas County and began practicing commercial real estate within the same neighborhoods in which I served, working with entrepreneurs and investors to grow their communities. The experience continues to alter how I see my context.
The journey is rough and our context (“to whom we’ve been sent”) can evolve and change, but sometimes it is in those changes that we begin to see our role in God’s ongoing work in the world.
I was a little dubious at first. Fruity Pebbles and vanilla icing on donuts?! Fresh, diced bacon and maple icing on an eclair?! Is this actually going to be a good idea, or what seems like a good idea gone terribly wrong?
Let me back up a bit. My first experience with Momo’s Donuts was a few years ago during my time as a teacher at Howe High School. Howe is a small town north of Dallas on Highway 75 and Momo’s is just north of Howe in Sherman. It may be a stretch to say Momo’s is in Dallas, but their donuts are so delicious, we are going to have to adopt them as part of the metroplex. April, one of my co-workers at HHS, lived down the street from this little, unassuming donut shop that was nestled tightly in between a cleaners and a gas station with little fanfare or signage. April brought Momo’s to the teacher’s lounge once a week. She even texted me when Momo's was on the way so I could prepare myself to stop by her room for glazed and chocolate donuts. These were not the specialty donuts you can enjoy on the weekends at Momo’s, just their light, soft, perfectly sweetened originals. It was at this moment that my fickle donut heart shifted. Goodbye Krispy Kreme, move aside Dunkin, down the list Shipleys…I have found the best donuts in Dallas!
I could go on and on about traveling to Momo’s and eating their fantastic donuts, and that is kind of my point. I have told friends, family, church members, acquaintances, and strangers about my experiences with Momo’s. Donut stories just seem to flow out of me naturally, spontaneously, and with a great deal of passion.
As silly as it sounds, there have been many times in the past when telling stories about donuts was easier for me than telling stories about following Jesus. Following Jesus out of habit, obligation, or boring rituals did not provoke me to share my experiences with passion and spontaneity. The Forge Dallas tribe has shown me that following Jesus is about experiencing God’s reign in my life and then extending the good news of his reconciliation, beauty, justice, and wholeness to others. Now, I have experiences I am excited to share with others and a story I am passionate about telling.
Dr. Kevin Davis, Director of Missionary Residency - Forge Dallas
Forge Dallas Leaders will be hosting three Meet and Greet's in the DFW area to share information about the upcoming 2018 Residency program. Come and enjoy coffee, a bagel, and a gift from Forge Dallas as we spend time together and discuss the Forge residency experience.
Here are the dates and locations:
- Saturday, December 2 10:00-11:00am Panera Bread E. Round Grove Rd., Lewisville, TX 75067
- Tuesday, December 19 7:00-8:00pm Panera Bread 3050 South Central Expressway, McKinney, TX 75070
- Sunday, January 7 3:00-4:00pm Irving Bible Church Commons 2435 Kinwest Pkwy #100, Irving, TX 75063
We look forward to seeing you at one of these sessions!
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 20 - 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