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Discipleship, Leadership, Threshingfloor, young adults

Six tips for leading a great DNA group

September 16, 2016

 

 

 

Within Threshingfloor we have structured things to call people towards living as disciples of Jesus in all of life. We’ve called this structure the four spaces – the spaces being, 1) day-to-day life, 2) DNA groups, 3) Communities, and 4) All-Community Gatherings. DNA groups play a crucial role in delving into the intensive discipleship that helps us apply the Gospel to the hard parts of our life. By connecting regularly with 3-5 people of the same gender with the intent of learning together, dealing with sin, and growing in faith, DNA feeds into both day-to-day life and strengthens the larger community.

As we move out of summer and into fall there are DNA groups starting up for the first time, picking up after taking the summer off, or renewing their focus. If you’re leading (or thinking about leading) a DNA group, here are six tips for leading it well.

 

Set the expectations

Don’t pass this thing off as casual – set high expectations. If there’s reading or homework, make it clear that people need to do it before showing up. Insist that the DNA group is high priority on the schedule, not just a show-up-when-it’s-convenient event. If you want to go deep with your group everyone needs to be committed and know what’s expected of them.

Worth noting under this heading – a DNA group isn’t just a Bible study. It’s aimed toward multiplication. Make it explicit that you expect the people who are in the group to, at some point within the next year, launch out and start their own DNA group.

 

Keep things simple

If you want to multiply, let your structure be something that anyone can remember. Whether it’s a specific curriculum such as the Gospel DNA, or a study of a book of scripture, build in simple, memorable rhythms that are done each meeting. After several meetings, start passing off leadership of meetings to help others build skills.

 

Ask hard questions

Don’t settle for surface answers. Ask hard question – hard to answer because they require thinking AND hard to answer because they expose emotions/thoughts/faulty operating systems. When someone answers, ask follow-up questions on their answers. If you’re studying a section of scripture and someone answers with a “Well, I think that…” kind of statement, ask them where they see that in text. Doing so will help emphasize that God’s truth is more important than our ideas. There are some great tips for questioning at Michael Hyatt’s blog here.

 

Get at the heart matter

Help people identify what lies they’re believing and what stories they’re telling themselves that don’t align with God’s story. Dealing with the heart matter is what works – not changing actions. Here’s a couple examples of how this might look

  • A girl in the group struggles with anxiety. A surface-level focus tries to get her to stop being anxious. Heart-matter focus digs into what stories she’s telling herself about who God is (or isn’t) and who she is (or isn’t). Those stories feed that anxiety. Help her align the stories she’s telling herself with the true Gospel story of God.
  • A guy is in a relationship that’s leading him towards sin. Surface-focus tries to get him to just cut out the relationship but doesn’t deal with why it was there in the first place. Heart focus delves into the why, working to uncover what he was trying to find in that relationship and what lies he’s believing about God and about himself.

Follow the Spirit’s lead

Pray as you prepare for DNA. Pray as you’re on your way to the DNA meeting. Pray with the DNA group. Not the kind of prayer that’s just talking to God, instead build in space for asking God questions and listening for the answer. When the Spirit speaks, whether it’s through an inner prompting, another person’s words, or the scripture, act accordingly. Sometimes this means stepping outside of your normal groove. It might mean that while you’re praying to start DNA group you feel prompted to stop and talk with people at the table next to you in the restaurant where you’re meeting. It might mean that you’ve spent hours preparing for this week’s discussion and on the drive there God prompts you to change subjects. Go with it. Follow the Spirit’s lead.

Seek obedience, not knowledge

Structure your DNA in a way that it presses people to live out what they’ve learned. Hold people accountable to applying what you’ve discussed. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is to end each meeting by asking the questions, ‘What is God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” Have each person answer the first question, then take a moment to each pray silently and ask God what he wants you to do. Each person should share their action plan – a specific thing or things that they will do before the next meeting to apply what God is teaching them. Start each meeting by asking people to report in 2 minutes or less whether or not they completed their action plans.

 

 

Following these six tips, especially number five, will help you lead a DNA group that leads to powerful discipleship and lives transformed by Jesus. My prayer for this fall is that our DNA groups would become places where people encounter God in ways they never have before, discovering freedom and joy that they thought was impossible. By the grace of God, it will be so.

 

 

 

Commentary, Culture, Leadership, Threshingfloor, Verge, young adults

8 Things Learned in 8 Years of Young Adult Ministry

October 27, 2015

This fall, perhaps more than any previous, has gotten me thinking over the past. Threshingfloor celebrated five years of ministry to young adults in the Fargo-Moorhead area a couple months ago. In just over a month I turn 27. It was over eight years ago that I started ministering to young adults as we moved our little college-age/young adult Bible study from our church in Baxter to downtown Brainerd and watched it grow to something amazing. Since then I’ve done dorm-room Bible studies, spent countless hours developing leadership teams, discipling all manner of people, and launching disciple-making communities.

A few days ago as I thought back over the years, I noted down a long list of the things I’ve learned that might be helpful for others to know. After an hour or so of sifting and boiling things down, I’ve narrowed it down to 8 things, one for each year I’ve been working among young adults. Here they are.

  1. Deep community beats amazing production. Every time.

I can pull my iPhone out of my pocket and watch any show or movie I want at any time, contact people almost anywhere in the world, or enjoy any of the tens of thousands of incredibly well-produced apps that are available to every other American with a smart phone. Young adults don’t need (or, in many cases, even want) a great production or another event. Our hearts long for deep community where people truly know each other, engage with the hard issues in life, and work together to make the world a better place.

2. Always try new things.

One of the best ways to keep young adults engaged is to try constantly be trying something new. Better yet, let them try something new. Whether it’s a new “experimental” style of Sunday school, launching a new service, starting a new community in a different part of town, or simply a different take on a section of scripture, most young adults are quick to get on board with something that’s new. Take advantage of that.

3. Have high expectations and make them clear.

As you invite young adults to join in and take leadership roles (or any role), make it clear that your expectations for them are high. Make it clear means telling them face-to-face what you expect and repeating it frequently. For those in leadership roles it’s best to have them sign some sort of agreement so that they know what’s expected of them and when. By putting the bar high you’ll inspire many to reach levels they didn’t even know they could. I’ve been consistently impressed with the amount of time, energy, and passion that our leaders – all of whom are volunteers – put into their communities and disciple-making. Having the expectations spelled out explicitly also gives a platform to have the hard conversations when people aren’t meeting them.

4. Prepare to be disappointed but don’t lose hope.

Of course, it doesn’t always go how you want it to. People will inevitably fall short, stumble back into sin for the fortieth time, or act like twelve year olds who aren’t getting their way. Prepare your heart to be disappointed in a way that keeps you from losing hope. It’s ok to be frustrated at people’s slowness (Jesus was!), to be tired of dealing with the same issues, and to long for something more. Just don’t lose hope. God is always working, even in the midst of apparent failure.

5. Trust the Holy Spirit

How do we know God’s working, even in those times of disappointment? Because he’s sent his Holy Spirit. Rather than clamping down and trying to control the difficult situations and people, throw yourself into prayer and trust that the Holy Spirit can work in young adult’s hearts too.

Time and again I’ve been ready to write someone off as too stubborn or just scrap the ministry and start over. The Holy Spirit has always intervened in those moments, working transformation in my heart and the hearts of those around me. Trust him.

6. Teach, demonstrate, and coach.

The postmodern wants no teaching because it’s too authoritarian. The professional wants no demonstration because it’s too time consuming. The attender wants no coaching because it’s too invasive. Jesus, however, clearly demonstrates all three all throughout his discipleship of the twelve.

Take the time to teach your people, but make sure that you’re actually demonstrating what you teach. Don’t teach on evangelism if you’re not going to go out and demonstrate what evangelism looks like. Don’t do a study on prayer if you’re not going to demonstrate prayer in your own life. Then after demonstration, coach your people until they are able to do what you’ve demonstrated. Don’t move on to the next subject until the teaching has become living.

7. Knowledge doesn’t cause change.

Coaching is so important. In a world where information abounds it’s becoming increasingly clear that knowing more about something doesn’t always change you. A six month curriculum on financial responsibility doesn’t guarantee that the attendees will use their money wisely. It’s in the doing – in the developing of new habits and practices – that the life change comes. Focus on and celebrate obedience more than understanding.

8. Vision matters more than rules.

In a back alley near downtown Fargo, in angular, hasty letters someone spray-painted, “I follow dreams, not rules.” That phrase captures the heart of most young adults today. They are ready and willing to leave their job, city, and even their friends and family if their hearts are captured by a vision. They’re willing to change their habits if they catch a glimpse of what life on the other side looks like.

Rather than emphasizing rules and “thou shalt”s, paint pictures of what life will be on the other side. Rather than hammering, “you need to read your Bible more,” declare and demonstrate the joy of connecting daily with the Creator. Instead of bludgeoning people towards purity, give them a vision of the joy and freedom of walking in step with God’s plan.

 

 

Those are eight of the many, many things I’ve learned in my eight plus years working with teens and young adults. Did any of them resonate with you? What have you learned in your time working with millennials? Share it in the comments!

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 06/02/2015

June 2, 2015

It’s been an eventful couple weeks for Kelly and I. Two weeks ago I came home from work to Kelly lying on the bed in some serious pain. After talking for a few minutes we decided to take her to the emergency room. A good thing we did too, since it turned out that she had appendicitis. It made for a late night, but Kelly had surgery that night to remove her appendix before it burst.

We were blessed with a surgeon who knew exactly what he was doing. The operation took barely 30 minutes, and Kelly was back home by 10AM the next day. Sadly, the recovery time meant that we wouldn’t be able to go to the wedding we had been planning on going to in Montana on Memorial Day weekend. But God, in his amazing way, had something better.

As a result of our staying in Fargo we were able to spend Sunday evening with several of our apartment neighbors who we’ve been praying for since moving in. They’re a rough crowd and exactly the kind of people that Jesus love to associated with. We got to spend an evening with them, pray for one of the guys’ back and leg pain, and heard some of their stories. It’s so refreshing to be with people who don’t know Jesus and see just how much he can transform someone’s life.

For the past four months or so God’s been increasing the tension in my spirit about the fact that though Threshingfloor has created some amazing communities and seen people who are believers grow deeper in their faith and a couple people seeking Jesus join us on a regular basis, we haven’t seen significant movement of people encountering Christ and faith for the first time. I’ve been spending significant amounts of time in prayer on this topic. I want to see our communities come to the place where they are packed full of people who aren’t Christians but are getting drawn to Christ by his love displayed through us.

It’s because of that desire and those prayers that I’m excited for the changes coming to Threshingfloor this summer. Our communities are shifting their strategies in order to go deeper and further in disciple making. Our community will be breaking from our normal gatherings and spending the summer hosting a grill out every Wednesday night as a place for people to connect with community and encounter the kingdom of God. The other Threshingfloor community will be spending the summer learning and equipping each other, using the Story of God to go deeper in the Gospel in preparation for making disciples among international students once school starts back up in the fall.

One of our Threshingfloor Communities

One of our Threshingfloor Communities

Things are on the move for Verge as well. This coming weekend we’ll be gathering all the Verge staff from across the country in the Brainerd area for a weekend to pray, play, plan, and learn together. It’s going to be a critical weekend for us, all the more since our team so rarely gets to be together in one place for an extended period.

On top of that we’re preparing to launch a new Leader Community – an awesome space for ministry leaders to connect and equip each other – in the Twin Cities, discussing partnerships with churches in Glyndon and Park Rapids and several other communities in the Midwest, and preparing for the Leader Advance retreat this fall.

There’s a lot happening, and within it all I’m pressing towards completing the process of fundraising for my position with Verge/Threshingfloor. At $950/month of support, we’re practically 1/4 of the way to fully supported, and halfway to the point where I will be able to move into full time ministry. Continue laboring with us in prayer that God would provide full support by the end of July!

You can also join us in praying:

  • The God would lead me (Ben) to a couple new guys to disciple deeply
  • Opportunities to demonstrate God’s love and grace to our apartment neighbors
  • That our community’s summer grill outs would draw 20 new people to Christ
  • That Threshingfloor would multiply to three communities this fall
  • Opportunities for Verge to serve disciple-makers in Iowa and the western Dakotas
  • Connections for Verge to help increase disciple-making at Community College and noncollege cities and towns in the Midwest.
  • Wisdom and skill for leading a ministry team that’s spread across multiple states

Kelly and I can’t express our gratitude enough to each of you who are helping make it possible for us to move forward in making disciples among young adults in the Midwest. We literally wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without your spiritual and financial support. Such a huge blessing to have friends and family who are willing to invest in us! We want to stay deeply connected to each one of you. If you want to chat, hear more stories about what God is doing, visit us here in Fargo, or have us come and visit you, let us know! In case you don’t have it, my contact information is;

ben@verge28.org
@thefallout

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 5/04/15

May 4, 2015

A lot has happened in the last week within Verge and Threshingfloor, so I wanted to give you all a brief update. Here’s what’s been going on.

Verge

Last week was a huge step towards accomplishing Verge’s Phase 2 vision. We’ve officially established a presence in the Twin Cities with a new networking partner and a new ministry partner. We’ll release specific details soon, but that means that we’re now working towards launching a Leader Community – one of our key vehicles for networking, educating, and equipping ministry leaders – in the Twin Cities area by end of summer.

One of the things that has me most excited about some of these new connections and conversations that are currently taking place with churches and ministry leaders around the region is the amazing variety of denominational, theological, and even racial backgrounds that we’re getting to talk with. They each have a huge passion for young adults. Regardless of differences, they’re all asking the same questions, expressing the same desires, and all eagerly desiring to see young adults discipled to and in Jesus in powerful ways.

Threshingfloor

After the exciting news of two new ministries partnering with Verge, I got to spend a great weekend with several of the Threshingfloor community leaders in a cabin in the woods, praying and seeking what God has for our communities for the rest of 2015.

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Part of the TF leader crew

We had some great conversation, got to relax together, and laid out specific action plans for our communities to accomplish in the next six months or so. A sampling of the things that our different communities will be doing includes;

  • 2 days of fasting and prayer each month
  • Increase the practice of hospitality by inviting international students into homes
  • Change the schedule of community gatherings so that the people in the community have time to go out and do ministry
  • Identify new apprentice leaders

To name just a few.

I love that we’re not stuck in the way we’ve been doing things, and that our leaders are more than ready to make any changes that will make us more effective at developing a network of disciples and discipling communities. That flexibility is critical in reaching the ever-shifting reality of culture.

 

 

All in all it’s been an encouraging week or so. As I sit here on this Monday morning and look out over the fast-approaching summer and dream about what God will do, I believe it’s going to be amazing.

We’re praying that God would continue to increase the movement that he’s beginning. I truly believe the last five years of Verge ministry is just the start, and I feel the same way about the last 4 1/2 years of Threshingfloor. There’s massive things that are coming in the next 6 months. I want to be ready for it. Join me in praying toward all that God has for us, both in Fargo and in the larger Midwest Region!

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 4/14/2015

April 14, 2015

Let’s call this a level-set of what’s currently going on in Kelly and I’s lives and ministries. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’m going to start incorporating ministry updates into my regular mix of musings and devotional material here on the blog. Since there’s quite a bit currently taking place it made sense to me to start with a post that runs down the list and will hopefully give each of you some insight into what we’re devoting our days and nights to.

Threshingfloor Communities

This coming August will be the five year anniversary of Threshingfloor Communities. Crazy. We’ve gone from five college students meeting in a freezing basement to two communities totally about 40 people. I lead one community here at our apartment working to jump-start our network of disciples and discipling communities, and Nate and Paul (both awesome dudes) lead the other community that’s reaching international students at NDSU.

Our leadership team is sitting right around 10 people, counting community leaders and apprentice leaders. We’ll all be taking a weekend at the end of April to get away to hang out, pray, and brainstorm as a team. We’ve set out a few goals to pray and work towards this spring and summer – 10+ people coming to Christ for the first time directly through the ministry of people within TF and connecting with a discipling community, two additional communities, and 75% of the people presently in our communities getting deeper connected by taking part in DNA groups.

We’re on track to reach the two additional communities by the end of summer and we’ve seen some awesome stuff happen as people have gone deeper in their faith through DNA groups. Honestly though, I feel like we’re struggling in getting traction on seeing people come to Christ. Maybe it’s that we’re too inward focused, or maybe it’s that the structures and systems we’ve defaulted to due to mostly being people raised in churches aren’t attractive to non-believers. Whatever the case is, we’re going to shift whatever we need to in order to see people encounter the glorious grace of our savior!

Verge Ministries

Verge ministries does awesome work, and, to my knowledge, a ministry that no one else in America is doing. Headed up by Andy Abramson since their inception 5 year ago (several months before Threshingfloor began it’s infancy stages) they’ve worked to serve and equip churches, communities, and campuses in discipling young adults and college students. Verge comes alongside existing ministries to help them build, deepen, and multiply; helps new ministries launch and sustain; sets up networks so that people leading ministries can connect and work together; and works to educate people on the needs and opportunities among young adults for the Gospel.

Andy approached me about 8 months ago and asked if I would come on staff as their Midwest Regional Director to oversee the 10+ ministries they’re currently working with in the region. After a few months of prayer, discussion, and seeking the opinion of many people both Kelly and I respect, it became clear that going on staff with Verge was the next step God was calling us to take.

My job will be to help coach current ministry partners and sites, develop a deeper network of relationships, and basically do whatever I can to help see the young adults and college students across ND, SD, MN, and IA encounter Jesus in ever-deeper ways. I’ll be travelling throughout the region to meet with ministry leaders, hosting Leader Communities (there’s one coming up this weekend in the Brainerd area), and working with the Verge national team to do the annual Leader Advance conference.

There’s a huge need for the church to press into discipling young adults. The majority I encounter are, at best, indifferent towards their faith. Many think of Christianity as hateful and judgmental (though most of them are interested in Jesus in some way).

My day-to-day work with Verge at the moment consists of meeting our existing ministry leaders, working to raise the $4000/mo of funding that will enable me to provide for Kelly and I while doing full-time ministry (you can donate at the Verge website), and working to identify where Verge can serve and help lift up more ministries to young adults. We’re particularly targeting non-college and community-college cities and towns, as well as the western Dakotas and Iowa.

Personally

On a personal level and beyond “official” ministry stuff, I’m working part time at arvato as an Execution Readiness Project Manager (that means I train new employees and plan for new product/system launches and policy changes) three days a week. Kelly is working full time at Old Lutheran doing graphic design. We’re living in a three bedroom apartment in southern Fargo. Andrew, one of the guys I’ve been discipling for a few years now, is living with us.

Life is full and time races by, but we love what we do. It’s so awesome to get to see people grow in their depth of love for Jesus, break free from sins, anxieties, depression, and other bondages that have held them for years; to see lonely people become part of the Jesus family; and to have a marriage that is truly a partnership in doing Christ’s work.

It gets to be a lot on some days though, and we greatly appreciate the prayers of those of you who are praying for us. We would be honored if you would consider joining our official intercessory prayer team and want to receive email and text updates on urgent prayer issues. Please only sign up if you’re actually going to commit to serious prayer.

A couple specific things that we’d appreciate prayer for at this moment are:

  • The Threshingfloor goals mentioned earlier – 10+ people coming to Christ, 2 new communities by the end of summer.
  • $2,000 of funding raised by the end of April, $4000 by the end of June.
  • Energy, joy, and satisfaction in life for Kelly and I
  • A couple people that Kelly and I can connect with on a deep relational level who will encourage and inspire us in life, marriage, and ministry
  • The Verge Leader Community taking place this coming Saturday. Pray for unity, an environment of love and honesty, and huge encouragement for every leader who attends

Thank You

Thanks for reading this lengthy update! Things are moving forward and I’m so glad to have you along for the journey.

Grace and Peace,

Ben

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 4/13/15

April 13, 2015

As of a little over a month ago I officially came on board as the Midwest Regional Director with Verge Ministries, working to help a bunch of awesome ministries reach the tens of thousands of young adults and college students that are scattered across ND, SD, MN, and IA. Both Kelly and I are hugely excited about this new season in our lives and how God is going to use it to grow both us and Verge, a ministry that we’ve been closely connected with for several years now through Threshingfloor and our friendship with Andy and Jenn Abramson.

We’re stepping out as missionaries to our own generation, and I truly believe God has some huge stuff awaiting in the future. Because of our move to operating as missionaries and my step into “vocational” ministry I’ll be transitioning this blog, which has historically been mostly poetry, devotional, and theological content to be more of a ministry journal so that those who are a part of Kelly and I’s support team can track along with us, Verge, and Threshingfloor. For those of you who have been following the blog for awhile, don’t worry too much – I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to resist continuing with the devotional and theological goods.

I’ll be posting at least twice a week, so check back regularly if you want to follow along on our ministry journey of following Jesus wherever he leads. In a day or two I’ll be posting a longer update on the specifics of what’s going on in our lives now and where we’re headed in the next couple months. There’s some big plans for Threshingfloor, some exciting meetings for Verge, and all sorts of craziness that I can’t wait to share!

Christian Life, Evangelism, Threshingfloor

How to Eat With Sinners

October 3, 2013

In a previous post I wrote about the need for Christians to follow Jesus’ example of befriending and spending time with the “sinners” of our society. For my Threshingfloor friends here in Fargo and for others in similar contexts, I wanted to point out four practical things you can do to begin walking in Jesus’ steps here.

  1. Make space in your life. This may mean stopping your Bible study or quitting your church softball league. It may mean you need to cut back work hours or classes. It will definitely mean you give up some free time, TV time, and maybe even some sleep. If we want to live like Jesus we need to make significant space in our lives for encounters with people. Just like Jesus re-oriented his schedule and context from the heavens to the earth, we are called to sacrifice our own lives for his mission. (Phil. 2:4-10)
  2. Get out into the world. Use the space you make in life to get into the world. Hang out with some friends at a bar and talk to others there. Go to an open mic night. Become a regular at a local establishment and make friends. Join a city sport league. Hang out with co-workers after the work day is done. Spend time in your yard and talk with your neighbors. Go into the sinners’ world and engage in their context. We are called to be missionaries. Missionaries cross cultural boundaries. Don’t demand that the people you’re trying to reach come to the Christian world to hear about Jesus. Bring the Gospel into their world. (John 4:1-43)
  3. Invite others into your world. As you meet people in their context, invite them into yours. Sinners were drawn to Jesus, but Jesus didn’t just leave it at that. He chose to sit and eat with them, inviting them further into his life. As you get to know the guys on your city softball league, invite a few of them over to your house for dinner. Invite a co-worker to join you and a few other believers for a game night or a movie. As disciples of Christ our lives are to be open and welcoming. We should be known as people who invite. (Matthew 22:8-10)
  4. Flaunt your failures. Most people know Christians as either judgmental hypocrites or holier-than-thou righteous freaks. If sinners were drawn to Jesus clearly they saw him as neither of these. Like the Apostle Paul we need to be people who boast in our weaknesses. Make it clear to the people you interact with that you’re a sinner and that the good things in your life are Jesus, not you. Our failures are beautiful mirrors for reflecting the Gospel’s glory. As Louie Giglio said at Passion 2013, our healed wounds are proof of God’s power. Let sinners see your redeemed past. How else will they know they can be redeemed in the same way? (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Go, therefore, eat with sinners. Our king humbled himself to the point that sinners sought him out and he took time to know them, eat with them, and minister to them. Pray for those who don’t know Christ in your life and be the missionary to them that Jesus has created you to be. As you do it amazing things will happen.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Evangelism, Threshingfloor

Eating With Sinners

September 26, 2013

 

 

 

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

(Luke 15:1-2, ESV)

 

Who we hang out with says everything about our priorities, and the type of people who want to hang out with us says everything about our character. Our natural motion is toward relationships with people who are like us. Similarities become the common ground on which our relationships are built.

That’s our natural motion, at least on a human level. But disciples of Christ are called to far more than the natural, human ways of life. Born again through water and Spirit, we have moved from the kingdom of the natural into the Kingdom of the supernatural. Jesus is the one who purchases our entrance into that kingdom and the example of how to live a Kingdom life. As his people we become students of his ways, striving with all the Spirit’s power that moves within us to walk like our master walked. As the Apostle John wrote, “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:5-6, ESV)

If we are in Christ’s Kingdom then we “walk in the same way in which he walked,” right? If so, then when we read in Luke  15 that “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him,” we should search our own lives and ask whether or not this is true of us. Are sinners drawing near to us? Is there room in our lives for them? Would we welcome them, befriend them, eat with them, and love them, or would we avoid their uncleanliness?

As I examine my life I see a wide gap between the types of people Jesus spent time with and the people I spend time with. First and foremost, Jesus had a small core of followers who he was intensely close with. His disciples were constantly in his presence, observing, learning, and practicing what he taught them day-by-day as they lived out the mission together. Jesus also ministered to the masses. He fed the 5000 who came to hear his teaching, healed all who he came in contact with, and generally ministered to everyone who he came in contact with. Lastly, as is noted in Luke 15, Jesus welcomed and ate with the sinful and outcasts of society.

Contrast this with our general, natural network of relationships. For most people in modern day America we swim in a large but shallow pool of acquaintances with none who are truly “in” our lives as disciples. Unlike Jesus, who made his whole of life ministry, our ministry is generally kept to scheduled hours of service and volunteering. The vast majority of us give little thought to the needy masses within our society. And of course, most people in the church today (particularly those raised in church contexts) are neither welcoming nor eating with those who society sees as sinners.

Do people in your religious contexts say of you “he/she welcomes sinners and eats with them”? If not, there’s a problem. Our savior welcomed us while we were still in sin. How much more ought we to be people who drunkards, drug addicts, the sexually immoral, the homeless, the liberal politician, and all who religion declares as wicked be welcomed by us?

If we want to see God work mightily in and through us then we need to be following his Spirit’s leading, and his Spirit will always lead us to follow the Son. When Jesus leaves the religious establishment and enters the bars, slums, and back alleys we should follow him. It’s there in those dark, sin-coated places that the brilliant light of the King will draw men and women to repentance and faith. It is, after all, the kindness of God that leads to repentance.

We who are far from the sinners of the world need to repent of our pride and fear and move outward in faith, trusting that our God will go with us like he went with Jesus. Remember, Jesus holds you secure in his hand. Get out of your safe, Christian, churched bubble. Quit your Bible study. Go out into the world where those who are sick and dying live. Go with the massive power of the Gospel, both in word and deed, to befriend, love, serve, and minister to sinners. If people in your church look at you and gossip under their breath about how you’re spending too much time downtown near the bars, that you’re hanging with people that “decent” people don’t spend time with, that you’re not at the church building as much as you should be, just smile. Know that they said the same thing about Jesus. You’re in good company when religious people look down on you.

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary, Theology, Threshingfloor

God’s Workmanship

September 20, 2013

 

 

 

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

– Ephesians 2:10, ESV

 

Last night in our community gathering we were digging into Ephesians 2:1-10. The group I was a part of drew some great truths out of the verse quoted above. The implications of us being “God’s workmanship” are huge, and I wanted to note down several things that stood out to me as we talked. Huge thanks to all who encouraged me with these truths last night!

If we are God’s workmanship…

  • There’s a plan: No artist or craftsman makes something without intending to. If God took the time to craft and create us then we can be confident that he has a plan for us, just like the rest of Ephesians 2:10 makes clear when it says that God had things “prepared beforehand” for us.
  • We have a purpose: If there’s a plan for your life you have purpose. You’re not just wandering around wasting time or existing just because. God has a purpose for you in Christ that you were created to fulfill. Keep your eyes open for it. There’s something God created you for every day, otherwise you wouldn’t be there.
  • We have work to do: Workmanship here implies usefulness, as is made clear by the phrase “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We are to be tools in the hands of our King and Creator, not just pretty paintings on the wall. While God is the one who creates and empowers us for good works we do play a part in acting out the works. The Spirit-applied revelation that we were created for a purpose doesn’t lead to passiveness. It leads to labor.
  • We have what we need: Lest we get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of us, remember, you were created for this. God, in Christ and through the Spirit, has placed in you everything you need for what he created you for. A master carpenter doesn’t craft a table and forget a leg. God has given you access to all that you need to accomplish the works he’s called you to.
  • We have value: I put this last because it’s so important, but don’t get the idea that it is in any way dependent on the other points here. Our value doesn’t come from the work we do. Our value comes from the fact that we were created by God himself. With any work of art, functional or aesthetic, the value is intricately tied with the renown of the person creating it. A painting by Rembrandt is far more valuable than a master copy by an art student. The all-glorious God of the universe was hands-on in your creation and he said you were good. You have amazing value!

I need to be reminded of these truths often. As a disciple of Jesus I often forget the simple things and get caught up in figuring out what I’ve decided are the hard questions. But answering questions isn’t what being a Christian is about. It’s about resting in Christ, the one who saved us by grace through faith, not because of our works, but because of the great love with which he loved us. Walk in that today, oh workmanship of God. He has good things for you because he loves you!

 

 

 

TF Basics, Threshingfloor

Threshingfloor Basics – Part 5 – Our Passion

August 29, 2013

This is the fifth and final post in the Threshingfloor Basics series. Read the rest here:

  1. The Mission
  2. The Disciple
  3. Discipleship
  4. The Four Spaces
  5. Our Passion

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With Jesus at the core of what we do as we balance the Up/In/Out movements of the Christian life there are several things that get us pumped up. These aren’t things that every Christian or ministry is called to emphasize, but because they’re embedded in our DNA and we feel like the Lord has positioned us to focus on them, we’ve established them as core values. That means these things guide our decisions, are means of measurement, and get talked about a lot. If you’re a part of a Threshingfloor community you’ll hear these things mentioned regularly and acted out constantly.

The Core Values:

  • Passion for Jesus: We value passion more than professionalism and programs. Our vision is to raise up a generation who love Jesus with their hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and live out their love zealously.  (Psalm 69:9, Romans 12:11, Philippians 3:7-11)

  • Everyone on the front-line: Every believer is called to be on the front lines of the kingdom’s forward movement. Jesus says that anyone who isn’t willing to take up their cross and follow him isn’t worthy to be called his disciple. Our communities are structured to push people to the front lines of ministry and evangelism. We want to make people who simply “attend” Christian events to be pushed toward the joy and fulfillment that’s found in following Christ. (Matthew 10:38, John 14:15)

  • Relational Gravity: Rather than depending on events, marketing, or buildings we have chosen to leverage our “relational gravity” to connect others to Jesus. Jesus said that when he is raised up he will draw all people to himself, so we raise Jesus up within our communal and individual lives and act in faith that the gravity of his glory is more than powerful enough to draw the lost to salvation. This means that the Gospel is primarily proclaimed through words in the context of relationships. (John 12:32, Acts 5:12-14, Acts 16:14-15, 28-33)

  • The local church: Christ’s mission is accomplished through the building up of the church, so we are passionate about our local churches. We commit to, invest in, and serve the local expressions of Christ’s body. (Matthew 16:18, Acts, Ephesians 1:21-23)

  • Communities of grace: Following Jesus is a community project, and we believe this happens best in communities where the grace of the Gospel is a reality, therefore we gather regularly in communities of 6-20 people. Every one of our communities strive to be places where God’s power and love are displayed in and through people. (John 13:34-35, Ephesians 2:13-22)

  • Every-day discipleship: Following Jesus isn’t a series of events; it’s a new way of life. We are native missionaries to our culture who live out every-day discipleship in everyday contexts. At work, at school, over dinner, while shopping, and anywhere else that we are, we are there to make disciples.   (Deuteronomy 11:18-22, Psalm 1:1-2, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts, 1 Corinthians 11:31-33)

  • Outward focus: Just like God the Father sent Jesus out into the world to save sinners, we go out to reach and disciple the lost. Our gatherings are not the end goal – they are the spaces where we are empowered to go out into the world and bear witness to Christ and the Kingdom. We do this by actively seeking to draw others into the Gospel Community, through serving others selflessly, and through praying for others constantly. (Genesis 22:17-18, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 20:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21)