When I thought of how I could serve my community and get to know the people that bear God’s image, I never dreamed it would be this perfect. God wires us to have a variety of strengths and loves, and there’s nothing that he asks for that he didn’t create.
"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.”