Desperate and Dying, Without Help

When the gulf coast of the United States was hit by a Category 5 hurricane in 2005, we watched in shock at the devastation of this disaster. Tens of thousands of businesses and homes were beyond repair. Hurricane Katrina was a deadly disaster – the deadliest in the US since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

How do people survive? Over and over again, I heard people saying, “We didn’t imagine it would be that bad.”

As I watched pictures of the rescue effort and I heard the reports of people who were saved from their rooftops, it reminded me of incredible spiritual parallels.

I watched a report on television of Harry Connick, Jr. giving his personal reflections as he walked through the streets of New Orleans where he grew up. He made this simple observation:

“People are desperate and dying, without help. They don’t know that help is out there.”

In Louisiana and Mississippi, people were desperate. They’d lost their homes, their jobs; and some had even lost their families. Many were sick and dying. They needed someone to save them.

As I reflect on their condition then, it reminds me of the spiritual condition of every man, woman and child apart from Jesus Christ. They are “desperate and dying, without help. They don’t know that help is out there.”

In Ephesians 2:12 it says that those who are living life apart from Christ are “without God and without hope.”

Spiritually desperate.

Needing to be rescued.

Matthew records how Jesus traveled through the villages of Galilee. “He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Spiritually desperate.

Needing to be rescued.

This is the spiritual condition of people everywhere around you – right where you live.

Over 20,00 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina were rescued and brought to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. Do you realize that there are thousands and thousands of people around you that need to be rescued by Jesus? They need a Savior. People in your neighborhood are “desperate and dying, without help.” They are “without God and without hope.”

What will it take to join the rescue effort? What will it take to join Christ in His mission?

In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” He came to earth on a rescue mission. And He calls each one of us who have been rescued to join Him in the rescue effort!

Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg, in Becoming a Contagious Christian write,
Deep in every true Christian, there is an awareness that we are on this planet for purposes greater than having a career, paying bills, loving our families, and fulfilling our role as upstanding citizens. Even going to church and worshipping God – as important as these are – sometimes leave us feeling that something is missing. After all, we’ll worship God for eternity in heaven; we don’t have to be here to do that. What is it that’s absent in the lives of so many believers who are crying out for fulfillment? What on earth is God asking us to do? God wants us to be contagious Christians – His agents, who will first catch His love and then urgently and infectiously offer it to all who are willing to consider it. This is His primary plan, the one Jesus modeled so powerfully, to spread God’s grace and truth person to person until there’s an epidemic of changed lives around the world.
Will you join the rescue effort?

Will you bring the message of life and hope that comes only through the gospel of the cross to those who are desperate and dying, without God and without hope right where you live?

Today’s Missional Challenge: Consider the spiritual condition of those around you – they are "desperate and dying, without help." Take steps to join the rescue mission!

Related Posts:
Nobody Drowns in My Water
Missional: It's About the Cross
Restoration Church of Long Beach

Join theMissional Challengeon facebook.


Talking to People about Jesus

Many Christians feel that you need to go out and knock on doors and pass out tracks and preach a message of hell, fire and damnation to get people into heaven. I can't find anywhere in the NT where we are told to knock on doors or scare people out of hell.

But we are told to love our neighbors. And through loving them, they will meet Jesus Christ even though they may not even know that they have met Him. Once they sense the reality of Christ's love through you, they may be open to talk about the reason for the love and acceptance they've experienced.

Talking to people about Jesus starts simply...

Love others like Jesus love you.

Jesus tells us to love people "as I have loved you" - John 13:34.)

Some Christians think - "I haven't been a Christian for very long so I won't know how to talk to someone about Jesus." The fact is:

Your relationship with Jesus is the single most important qualification for talking to others about Jesus.

Your personal experience of coming to have faith in Jesus and follow Jesus is the foundation for talking to somebody you know about Jesus. Start there.

Jesus says in Acts 1:8 that His followers are "witnesses." A witness is someone who is a witness to something. In a courtroom, a witness gives testimony to what they have seen or experienced. As witnesses of Jesus Christ, we communicate the reality of Jesus in our own experience.

Remember the blind man whom Jesus healed that was questioned about Jesus. He answered, "I once was blind, but now I see." He gave testimony of his own personal experience with Jesus.

That's the essence of talking about Jesus to your friends and neighbors. Tell them what Jesus has done in your own life...
  • How Jesus changed your marriage.
  • How Jesus has brought you peace.
  • How God's forgiveness brings joy.
  • How you have a new sense of purpose and meaning.
  • How you've been set free from destructive habits.
When people see a difference in your life, they will want to know about it, and you can tell them about Jesus.

Today's Missional Challenge:
Love others like Jesus loves you. Then tell them how Jesus changed your life.

Related Posts: 

Join the Misisonal Challenge on facebook.


Community Survey

In starting Lake Hills in Castaic, California, one of our first steps to exegete and understand those in our town was do conduct a Community Survey. We chose to go door to door throughout the neighborhoods of Hidden Lake, Bravo, Northbluffs and Sagecrest on two consecutive Sundays (September 9 and 16).

The first question we asked was: Are you an active member of a church? If they said yes, we did not continue the survey but thanked them for their time and went to the next house. If they said no, we asked them five more questions. The reason that we did not continue the survey with those who attended church was simple - we weren't interested in reaching those who went to church; we were committed to reaching those who didn't go to church.

Here's the rest of the questions:

2. What are the biggest problems or needs in this community?

3. Why do you think most people don't attend church?

      (Note: This is an indirect way of asking "Why don't you attend church?")

4. If you were looking for a church in the area, what kinds of things would you look for?

5. What advice would you give the pastor of a new church?

6. Would you be interested in more information about a new church in your community?

If they said yes, we asked for their name and phone number, and later followed up with information about the church we intended to plant.
  • We visited 618 homes in two Sundays.
  • There were 352 residents home.
  • 62% of them completed the survey.
  • 58% of those surveyed requested more information.
We compiled the answers and printed a brochure with the results. We also included the following conclusions of our survey:

1. A new church is needed and wanted in this community.

2. A new church should address the following needs:
  • FAMILY programs
  • COMMUNITY involvement
  • FLEXIBLE meeting times
  • RELATIONAL approach
  • PRACTICAL life related teaching
  • OPPORTUNITIES for involvement
3. A church should consider people's busy schedules when planning meeting times.

Where do we go from here?
  • Continue to seek input
  • Start Growth Groups
  • Begin a new church
The brochure also included our new logo, the name of the church, contact information, and an invitation to our Opening Celebration on November 4 at Live Oak Elementary School.

Today's Missional Challenge: Discover the needs in your community by asking good questions as you converse with people, or consider taking a survey of the neighborhoods around you.

Related Posts:
Be Missional: Intentionally Exegete Your Culture
Lessons I Learned Planting Lake Hills Church
Missional Strategy #2: Research
Take a Missional Tour of Your City

Join The Missional Challenge on facebook. .


Invitation: Take the Missional Challenge (August 2010)

You are invited to
Take the Missional Challenge:
31 Days to Align with Jesus' Mission! 

Here's a video introduction describing what this project is all about...

The Missional Challenge starts
on August 1, 2010. 

Each day includes specific tasks to help you discover what missional living is all about, and action steps to start "being Jesus" to those around you!

"Take the Missional Challenge" is an opportunity to dive into missional living head first. Your life will never be the same!  You see, following Jesus and aligning your life with His mission is supposed to change your life. And not only yours, but quite possibly the lives of those around you - your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers and associates. 

In fact, if you want to embrace missional living to the fullest extent, why not invite some of your closest friends to join you in the journey. Together you'll discover ways to think and act (believe and behave) that may accelerate the start of a missional movement in your town, your city or your county. (Just send them a link to this post...or share on your facebook page or twitter...or call them and invite them to join you.)

If you'd like to subscribe to the RSS feed - click here.

If you'd like to receive email updates,
insert your email address and click "get email updates":

Today's Missional Challenge: Commit to take The Missional Challenge: 31 Days to Align with Jesus' Mission.


The Missional Challenge: July Newsletter

Each month we make available a complimentary newsletter which is sent directly to your email address. We include the latest updates to our blog, plus a look ahead to the coming month. It's a great way to keep in touch with what's new and some useful tools to align yourself with the mission and message of Jesus!

Our July Newsletter is now available - click here.

To sign up to receive your complimentary copy each month - click here.


Endorsements for Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living (round 2)

More outstanding endorsements for Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living. When I started working on this project, I hoped that it would help church planters and church planting teams to align with Jesus' mission in their neighborhood and community.

As I continued to write and began to share this book with others, it became obvious that this wasn't just about planting churches; it's about every believer aligning with Jesus' mission and message.

But don't just take my word for it -- 
read what others have to say about it!

Here's a quick summary of the book (from the back cover):
Every Christian is sent by Jesus to "be Jesus" to everyone everywhere. That's what Missional Living is all about. It's aligning your heart with Jesus' missionary heart. Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living gives you practical ways to help you incarnationally display the gospel to those around you, make disciples who make disciples, and multiply churches all over the place.

Here's the second round of 7 Endorsements:

Dave DeVries encourages a new generation to take up the mantle of Christian living. In one-hundred brief lessons he defines and envisions what it means to live missionally.
          Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research and co-author of Viral Churches, Planting Missional Churches and Transformational Church

Dave DeVries has written a book for church planters that is practical, direct and clear. There's wisdom here from someone who knows church planting from the inside out.
          Steve Addison, author of Movements that Change the World

Dave DeVries has offered a timely, insightful and valuable gift to church planters and leaders everywhere. His insights have been hammered out on the anvil of personal and life-tested experiences and observations. His methodology is uniquely instructional, “less is more.” His heart and passion to coach leaders and expand Christ’s Kingdom through multiplying churches seeps through the pages. His creativity will help stretch your leadership capacities. His book is a keeper and his commitment to help us grow is a valuable baton to pass on…often!
          Roland Niednagel, G-ANGeL (Global Academy for Next Generation Leaders)

In Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living, Dave DeVries shares with us nuggets of wisdom that we can chew on daily. Wisdom that gives us focus and practical help in making disciples of Jesus out of non-disciples. Wisdom is knowledge applied, and it is evident that Dave is sharing from his applied knowledge.
          JR Woodward, Co-founder of Kairos Los Angeles, Activist, Blogger and editor of ViralHope

If you could find a single piece of advice that could make the difference between good and great, you would eagerly seek for it. This little book by Dave DeVries has not one but several of those pieces of wisdom that, taken to heart and implemented, could launch a church plant in an exceptional rather than mediocre direction. One example: “What is your goal? Is it to start church services or to make disciplemakers?” As Dave says, “Your answer impacts everything you so.” Take this readable book, review it often, and do the exceptional.
          Bob Rasmussen, OC International, Director of US Ministries

Dave knows how to approach you “the church planter” and engage you in asking the right questions! This is what sets him and this book apart from the many how to books and approaches on church planting. You will be personally challenged to think outside the box as a means to develop the box [Ministry] that God is calling you to!
          Sam Gallucci, Sr Pastor of The Harbor and CEO of The Kingdom Center

We seem to be overrun with information these days, so it is refreshing to find a book full of really good stuff in digestible bits that can be pondered and contemplated throughout a demanding day. Church planters will profit from the insights in this book.
          Rick Meigs, Friend of Missional and The Blind Beggar

(You can read round 1 of endorsements here -- including Alan Hirsch, Neil Cole, Steve Ogne, Paul Kaak, Bob Logan, Bill Malick and Doug McClintic.)

Check here for current purchasing information - or read the Foreword by Dr. Paul Kaak.

Join The Missional Challenge on facebook.



Endorsements for Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living (round 1)

Unbelievable endorsements for Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living! I'm very blessed by the friends and associates who have taken the time to write an endorsement for my book. I hope you'll be encouraged to order a copy as soon as it's available.

Check here for current purchasing information - or read the Foreword by Dr. Paul Kaak.

The book contains 100 Six-Word lessons to align every believer with the mission of Jesus. It's great to work through on your own, to discuss with your small group, or to explore with a church planting team. 

Here's a quick summary of the book (from the back cover):

Every Christian is sent by Jesus to "be Jesus" to everyone everywhere. That's what Missional Living is all about. It's aligning your heart with Jesus' missionary heart. Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living gives you practical ways to help you incarnationally display the gospel to those around you, make disciples who make disciples, and multiply churches all over the place. 

Here's the first round of 7 Endorsements:

Dave has been coaching church planters for a long time....He knows what is important and what is strategic. In this book of missional axioms, he passes on some of that wisdom in a memorable way. A good distillation of key ideas.
          Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, and co-author of Untamed, reJesus, and The Shaping of Things to Come

God spoke the world into existence in only 6 days with a few words. Jesus saved the world uttering only a few things. Can we change the world with six words or less? Dave DeVries gives it a try. Learning to speak in a concise and yet meaningful manner is a developing art form. In the day of twitter and facebook we are all learning how to say something important in 140 characters or less. The wisdom shared in this book took a whole lot longer to learn than it takes to read, so take advantage of this book!
          Neil Cole, author of Organic Church, Organic Leadership, and Church 3.0, and Founder and Director of Church Multiplication Associates

My friend Dave DeVries has collected his best learnings after two decades of church planting ministry and boiled them down to a collection of insightful six word statements and quotes. I am using them for inspiration, motivation, and training, as well as starters for a great discussion. You can too!
          Steve Ogne, co-author of The Church Planter’s Toolkit and Transformissional Coaching

Dave’s translation of kingdom principles into missional application is necessary for any disciple or disciplemaker who wants a ministry rooted in theological thinking that matches harvest-oriented practice. In keeping his ideas and format simple, he gives us no excuse but to get to work being “doers of the Word, not merely hearers only.”
          Paul Kaak, Co-founder of The Organic Church Planters’ Greenhouse and Associate Professor of Leadership, Azusa Pacific University

Six-word Lessons by Dave DeVries is a little book with a big message. Each six-word lesson is packed with wisdom for ministry leaders. This book is filled with succinct, easy-to-read, lessons learned from years of ministry experience. The ideas are simple but profound-- principles and practices that every healthy leader should implement. Reflecting on a chapter a day will yield insights that can bring about transformation for your life and ministry.
          Bob Logan, Founder of CoachNet

Church planters need a checklist, a series of quick reminders to keep them on a God directed course. Planting is filled with distractions provoked by the tyranny of the urgent need to "get there". Planters go 100 MPH. At such a pace it doesn't take long to miss the destination. Dave DeVries has erected a series of road signs. This is not a book to merely is a book to keep close by and read again!
          Bill Malick, National Director for Church Multiplication for the Christian & Missionary Alliance and Founder of The Church Multiplication Training Center

Dave DeVries nails it with these pithy six word lessons. They are truths distilled from a life time of ministry and study and easily transferable to any context. Great reminders for keeping the main thing, the main thing in church planting.
          Doug McClintic, Pastor of Mission and Multiplication, Fair Haven Ministries

Join The Missional Challenge on facebook. 


Follow Jesus (not on Twitter)

I found this picture today on my friend Paul Madson's facebook page. I love it! I hope you enjoy it too. 

A missional life is all about following Jesus, and helping others to follow Jesus, and helping others to help others follow Jesus. 

In my book Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living, I start with this concept: 

Lesson One: Follow Jesus. Help others to follow Jesus.

Jesus said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." He didn't say, "Follow Me and I'll give you a happy life" or "Follow Me and I'll take you to heaven when you die." 

If we follow Jesus, He will make us fishers of men. So, if we aren't fishing for men, are we really following Jesus?

Today's Missional Challenge: Follow Jesus. Help others to follow Jesus.

Related Posts: 
Free twitter badgeImage via Wikipedia

Follow me on Twitter: @ocdavedv

Some of those I follow on Twitter

Join The Missional Challenge on facebook.
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You ARE the Salt of the Earth

Guest post by Caleb Bagdanov, 
Westmont college student 
and provocative thinker

Please Apply Directly

A worrying amount of talent, effort and money is wasted everyday to create “Christian” music and apparel. As a Christian community we have become obsessed with taking parts of our American culture and making Christian (and many times subpar) versions of them. We have radio stations that exclusively play Christian music; we have Christian clothing stores filled with Christian versions of every popular style; we have Christian bookstores whose shelves are filled with Christian books of every genre. We have created a subculture for Christian musicians, artists and authors to exist in, and in doing so, have effectively prohibited many talented artists from reaching and affecting the broader culture.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” This is not a command to his disciples but a description of them. He does not say be the salt of the earth but “You are the salt of the earth.” This may seem like a small distinction but it makes a big difference in determining our role in the society at large. Consider the properties of salt. For salt to flavor, preserve or in any way affect food, it must be applied directly to the food. The same is true of Christians. The idea of being the salt of the world may seem elementary to many, but I think its implications are often overlooked when considering the production of exclusively Christian products.

Take for example Christian music radio. Christian radio stations provide a market for Christian bands, singers and rappers, and as a result Christian pop music is being produced more than ever before. This seems like a great success; it might be intuitive to many to think that a higher volume of Christian
music would equal a higher volume of positive influence in our society. My discomfort with this can be seen in the illustration of Christians being called the salt of the earth. The volume of salt produced makes no difference if it is not properly applied to anything, but instead kept safe in its salt shaker.

Don’t get me wrong; I grew up on DC Talk and the Newsboys and I played in a self-proclaimed Christian band all throughout high school. As Christians, the things we put our energy into are and should in some ways be influenced by the fact that we are sons and daughters of the one true God. My worry is that many Christian artists have severed themselves from the rest of the music industry and have forfeited their potential for impacting a significant portion of our society. Instead of attempting to positively affect what is played on major radio stations, we have created a way to ignore it. Instead of applying ourselves directly to the world of music, we have pulled away from it. In essence, we have made one pile of salt, contained and too overwhelming to be tasteful to anyone coming from the outside.

I am not advocating a complete abolishment of Christian music or Christian radio, but rather an examination of the difference between distinguishing ourselves from “the world” and separating ourselves from it completely. I do not wish to accuse or belittle the efforts, which I believe to be in good heart, of those producing Christian versions of popular culture; instead, I challenge Christians to critically assess the ways in which we flavor our own culture. For as I see it now, we have a Christian subculture that is overwhelmingly salty while leaving our popular culture flavorless and bland.

Visit Caleb's blog.

Today's Missional Challenge: Assess the ways that you flavor the culture around you. Pursue one way to be salty today!

Related Posts:
People. Places. Passions.
Intentionally Exegete Your Culture (Part I) (Part II) (Part III)
Engaging Those in the Culture Around You

Join The Missional Challenge on facebook.


The Missional Challenge on Facebook

As of this morning, Facebook now has 500 Million users!

According to the Facebook blog,  
"500 million people all around the world are actively using Facebook to stay connected with their friends and the people around them. This is an important milestone for all of you who have helped spread Facebook around the world. Now a lot more people have the opportunity to stay connected with the people they care about."

That's 1/2 a BILLION people!

That makes me ONE in 1/2 a BILLION! Wow!

According to co-founder Mark Zuckerberg - Facebook is a "worldwide movement." And as far as I can tell, Facebook is here to stay. It has changed the way we communicate and share with one another. It's a great way to share what you think, comment on someone's status and connect through chatting, posting and messaging.

Over the past several years, I've posted about Christian movements. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on "Fueling Missional Movements to Transform America." I've read books, dialogued with friends, written blog posts, coached leaders, trained church planters, and dreamed of seeing a powerful disciplemaking movement transform our nation.
  • Missional movements require that every believer join in.
  • Missional movements are enhanced by peer networking.
  • Missional movements spread through reproducible systems.
  • Missional movements take the gospel message everywhere.
 As I reflect on 500 Million users since February 2004, it makes me curious what we can learn from this "worldwide movement." How can Christians use Facebook in better ways to advance the gospel message? How can Facebook accelerate the multiplication of disciples worldwide?

The Missional Challenge has established a Facebook page to advance the conversation of advancing the mission of Jesus. Daily posts to this blog are fed to this page. Our aim is to use this blog and facebook and other means to align every believer with the mission of Jesus!

Click here to access The Missional Challenge Facebook page. When you arrive, this is the new landing page:

Click the Like Button to join!

Personal Change: Since I enjoy sharing my blog posts with others, I had linked my RSS feed to my personal facebook page and to The Missional Challenge facebook page. As of this morning, I've stopped sending the feed to my personal page. I felt that it was overwhelming in that space. Of course, while I think that everything I write or post is interesting to all my fb friends, I realize that I don't need to fill my page with these posts.

So, if you want to connect with me and interact with The Missional Challenge on facebook, please go to The Missional Challenge Facebook page and join the conversation. 

Related Facebook Pages:

Today's Missional Challenge: Pray for a missional movement to take off here in America!

At the bottom of each post, you'll find a LIKE Button. If you like what you read, click the button and it will post it on your fb page for others to read. This is a great way to share and expand the missional conversation. Click LIKE frequently!


Pastors Don't Know HOW to Make Disciples

One of the reasons that many pastors don't personally disciple anyone is that they don't know HOW to make disciples. That's what one of my friends suggested to me in a recent email.

He writes,
One of my concerns is that pastors are not personally and intentionally involved in making disciples.

One reason I believe is because they were never discipled themselves and they just don’t know how to do it.

I have heard some say they are fearful and thus never try. It’s not that they can’t preach a sermon or lead a small group, but they do not know the steps to take with someone who they lead to the Lord (or who is a new believer) and the process to take them through in one on one discipleship encounter.

For example how do they start? What do they do and cover in the first time they meet, the second time etc? what resources to use, what books to recommend for them.

Disciplemaking starts with non-disciples. The process begins in the context of relationship with non-Christians. When a person starts to follow Jesus, a Christian friend should help them learn and understand how to follow Jesus fully and become a disciplemaker. Pastors need to not only be doing this, but helping everyone in their church family to be doing this!

Robert Coleman in The Master Plan of Evangelism emphasizes this need for a Christian friend to "stay with the new believer as much as possible, studying the Bible and praying together, all the while answering questions, clarifying truth, and seeking together to help others....The only way they can be trained is by giving them a leader to follow." Pastors need to lead the way by doing this first!

What do you think?
Do you agree that pastors don't know HOW to make disciples?
What process do you use to make disciples who make disciples?

Today's Missional Challenge:
Consider where you will start in helping a new follower of Jesus to embrace the cross, experience community, and engage the culture with the gospel.

Related Posts:
What is Your Missional Orientation?
Disciplemaking Starts with Non-Disciples


Paul Kaak on Missional Living

Dr. Paul Kaak is an associate professor of leadership at Azusa Pacific University and someone who has taught me a lot about living out the mission of Jesus. I'm so grateful that we've been close friends for over 30 years. We've shared great memories together - Jim Club, Dave & Paul ~ Christian Illusionists, football, "Who's On First?", concerts, conversations, and our love for Jesus, the gospel, the Church and disciplemaking.

Paul inspires me. He makes me think. He encourages me. He gives me hope. His practical approach is built on a depth of spiritual wisdom that has matured through hours and hours of time with and learning from Jesus.

He fully comprehends organic church and organic movements. He is truly a missional thinker. But more than that, he's found joy in living a missional life.

I am so thrilled that Paul wrote the foreword to my book Six-Word Lessons to Discover Missional Living.  I'm including it here for two reasons: 1) He had so much to say that it didn't all fit in the book, and 2) More people need to read this and think about what he says than just those who read my book. His insights will challenge you. Read this slowly...

This Forward Is More Than Six Words
(Expanded Version)

Dave DeVries’ book is full – overflowing – with gospel wisdom. Its lessons – and the contemplative space surrounding around each one – are inspired skills for living and leading with missional intention. The ideas here are not techniques, at least not in their final manifestation. In fact, they won’t work if they aren’t organic, authentic, life-embedded. In other words, these lessons are for people who choose to do them – will do them – even if they don’t “work.” They are spiritual convictions, not ways to automatically grow a ministry destined for the speaking circuit.

I had the opportunity to work closely with Neil Colein the early developments of what many have come to know as the organic church. As Neil and I were sorting out the agrarian metaphor that – along with the Scriptures – was informing our thought, we learned a lot about good farming and good farmers. One such person is Michael Ableman who for many years was the director of Fairview Gardens in Goleta, CA. He wrote about his experiences in the book On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm (1998). Of his entreĆ© into farming, Ableman explains:
I came to farming without training, academic credentials, books, or expectations. My grandparents had farmed but not my parents. I thought technique was important. I thought I should become masterful. Over time I discovered it was more important to learn how to see…. By trial and error I learned and relearned until the technique I aspired to was internalized and forgotten, as technique should be… (p. 32)
As you read Dave’s lessons (and as you submit to the white spaces, wandering them prayerfully), as you come to understand and practice them (“trial and error / learn and relearn”) your intention is not to become masterful. Rather, we must be present to moments – with God and people – not just bursting with “vision.” You must internalize them as missional disciplines and then forget them… The goal is to become like the apostle Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), lovingly obedient to the one who sends us.

In 1998 I left professional ministry after 14 years. The adjustment was a significant one for me, although not for my wife. Institutional Christian life – aligned with its own expectations and myths – was oppressive to her faith, deeper and more authentic, than mine. I had become masterful at Christian activities and especially Christian leadership. All along, she knew…she saw…something I couldn’t and didn’t see till after my transition. Once I began detoxing from a faith that had been rooted in performance, effectiveness, and success (I don’t know if I’m ever going to be fully cleansed) my ministry really got real. There was joy in living a missional life, whether I could count the results or not! I could engage my family, my neighbors, my land, and my community to see “his kingdom come, his will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

What Dave sets out to teach us here is essential for leaders. Not so they can produce fruit. That’s God’s job. The job of leaders, and all disciples, is to bear fruit, to be a gallery for Jesus the Vine displaying the fruits of His life-surging energy. In fact, there will be some who put these ideas to work establishing churches and launching movements and others (just across town, perhaps) who come to the end and can’t point to anything quite so tangible.

But herein is the mystery of the gospel and the gospel life. For one disciplemaker, gospel seeds will produce seedlings, which disrupt the soil, mature, and produce a harvest of organized faith communities. (A harvest, by the way, is a field full of thriving, fruitful plants. A farmer wouldn’t call just one plant a “harvest.” Neither should church planters!)

For another disciplemaker, more like salt and light, the result is seen in the discipleship of nations wherein the way of King Jesus permeates the culture, is diffused into the fabric of social life, and produces a fundamental transformation of values, heart, behavior, and social well-being.

We have to remember this: Jesus didn’t say to plant churches. Neither did Paul, nor any of the other disciples. What Jesus said, and what his followers did, was disciple peoples. They went into the ethne (nations) and discipled them. How did they do this? They made disciples of peoples by making disciples of persons. Of course their work was not without flaw. (Although we know that “he who began a good work will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”) We also know they didn’t finish. (Yet the work goes on “to the end of the age.”) What Dave hopes to teach us – what he hopes we will internalize – is that discipling nations starts with disciples who make disciples, that those disciples understand their identity as disciplemakers, and that leaders see their main work as making disciples, disciplemakers, and more disciplemaking leaders.

That last statement should quell any question of whether I share Dave’s passion for church planting. I do. Jesus may not have said to plant churches, but that is just what he equipped and sent his disciples to do. In Luke 9 and 10, for example, I can’t imagine any logical conclusion to the mission of the 12 and the 70 than new churches! Acts 1-28 and the 2000 years of Acts 29 tell the same story.

But the questions: (1) “what is a church?” and (2) “who can plant a church?” become important considerations.

I believe we must release our need to complicate our understanding of church. The more complicated the structure, the less we will be able to respect its inherent complexity. If a group of 3 people exists as a church then already you’ve got multiple relational-spiritual dynamics that exist between these people, their friends, and Holy God. To be sensitive stewards of all the dynamics that exist between a small group of Christ-followers doesn’t need the further complication of schedules, budgets, boards, visions, events, carpet cleaning, sound systems, hiring, firing, punch and cookies.

Neil and I have said that church is “the presence of Christ, among his people called out as a spiritual family, to pursue his mission on this planet” (Organic Church, p. 53). When looked at with a missional microscope, there is much complexity in this simplicity. It turns out to have Hobbit-like qualities amidst the battles here in postmodern middle earth.

Please understand that I’m not saying you shouldn’t have carpets, calendars, and cookies. It’s not my preference, but if that’s what the Spirit of God leads you to do, do it. Dave’s lessons will give you both warnings and freedom in regard to the work of church planting. The warnings challenge us to avoid anything that will hinder momentum in the main work. The freedom comes in recognition that God works in unique and special ways in cultures, communities, and historic seasons.

And so by now, the answer to the 2nd question should be clear. Anyone – new Christian, old Christian, even non-Christian seekers – can gather people together in the name of Jesus. (“…Peter and John…were unschooled, ordinary men… these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13) The global church is coming to understand that the ordinary are just as truly ordained (those given marching orders) as anyone with formal education, pre-name titles, or post-name credentials.

But then comes the important work of leaders. Leaders show the way by “going first.” They are leaders because they are the most
Leaders show the way by "going first."

practiced and committed to following Jesus. They go where he went in the Gospels (to prostitutes, those carrying disease and demons, and governmental officials) and they go wherever he calls them on the globe today. They say, as Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ” and usually, that’s a call into the darkness, where light is most needed. If church planting leaders have “vision” its still dim. They enter places – literal, relational, social, economic, institutional – that are scary, but receptive. They go into abandoned, forgotten, sad, and scandalous places and they talk to people in honest, hopeful, and loving ways. That’s what leaders do. And that’s what Christian leaders, missional leaders, church planters, ALWAYS do. They don’t stop doing this – and inviting others to join them – once the church is established and they have to start “running the business”! Although mission takes different forms in different seasons, missional engagement – for the leader whose hope is for a vital missional community – is ongoing. Carrying the cross is the work that we leaders do, for the joy set before us, although we despise the shame, until we sit down for the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Let me close my comments with a final thought. Lately I’ve been reading The Jesus Way (2007) by Eugene Peterson. In that book, Peterson provides some significant challenges for the modern church and all those who make disciples. (Forgive the long quote. Its worthy, however, of reading twice.)
I am interested in ways Jesus leads because they are necessarily the ways by which I follow. I cannot follow Jesus any which way I like. My following must be consonant with his leading. The way Jesus leads and the way that I follow Jesus are symbiotic. And this symbiosis is not treated with sufficient seriousness and depth in the Christian community of North America….

Those of us who understand ourselves as followers of Jesus seem to be particularly at risk of discarding Jesus’ ways and adopting the world’s ways when we are given a job to do or mission to accomplish, when we are supposed to get something done “in Jesus’ name.” Getting things done is something that the world is very good at doing. We hardly notice that these ways and means have been worked out by men and women whose ambitions and values and strategies for getting things done in this world routinely fail the “in Jesus’ name” test. Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ ways, it doesn’t take long to realize that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else….

My concern is with the responsibility of Christians, every Christian, to develop awareness and facility in the ways of Jesus as we go about our daily lives following Jesus in home and workplace, neighborhood and congregation, so that our following is consonant with his leading. I want to develop discernments that say an unapologetic “no” to ways that violate the gospel of Jesus Christ. (pp. 8-10)
As you work through Dave’s lessons, give them each a 3-part “in Jesus’ name” test: Ask yourself:

1. “Did Jesus do this in his life and ministry?”
    If the answer is "yes," then move to part three of the test.
2. Ask yourself, “Can I reasonably imagine that Jesus probably would have practiced the discipline embedded in this lesson? Is this lesson consistent with his way and his mission and his intention as the First Ambassador of the Father-King?”
    If you answered questions #1 or #2 “no” then abandon that lesson. If you answered either one “yes,” then ask:
3. “Is the Spirit of Jesus directing me to apply this lesson to the work I am doing today?”
    In asking these questions, Dave’s suggestions won’t be understood as “techniques,” or formulas for a ministry whose goal is financial self-sustainability. Rather, they will be gospel-wisdom, seeds planted in your heart as a disciplemaker, and which God – who causes the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6) – will germinate at the proper time.
Perhaps, as I finish my not-so-short lesson, you are now realizing something that my friend Thom Wolf understood when he served as pastor of The Church on Brady in East Los Angeles. Missionary training – which, at its heart, is what Dave offers us – is not just for those who fly away to work in another language group. Missionary training (and its ensuing results of missionary-living and missionary-leading) is for all believers. Jesus knew this (Mark 3:13-18) the people at churches like Church on Brady discovered this, and now you will too.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned that Dave DeVries and I have been friends, co-seekers/students of God and his truth, and colleagues in ministry for more than 30 years. The history of our relationship is another reason why I think Dave’s book is worthy of your attention and application.

Paul Kaak, St. Patrick’s Day, 2010 
Co-founder with Neil Cole, The Organic Church Planters’ Greenhouse 
Associate Professor of Leadership, Azusa Pacific University

Today's Missional Challenge: Commit yourself to make disciples of peoples by making disciples of persons. Go into abandoned, forgotten, sad, and scandalous places and talk to people in honest, hopeful, and loving ways.

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Living Out the GOSPEL in Community

Guest Post by Russ Johnson,
lead pastor of Northview Church in Asheville, NC

It is often stated that Americans have lost their sense of community as more and more people live busy, fragmented lives. For the church, this loss of relational connection results in a loss of cultural connection. It strikes at the heart of our faith: it hinders our ability to know our neighbors, to serve our cities, and to share the gospel in relational ways.


To understand this dilemma let’s first consider the loss of social capital in general throughout society. Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone, defines social capital:
…those tangible substances [that] count most in the daily lives of people: namely good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social (connection) among the individuals and families who make up a social unit…The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself…If he comes into contact with his neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to improvement of living conditions in the whole community.

Where does this social capital come from? It is the overflow of 3 things in our lives:

1. Our Networks: these are the people whose lives overlap with ours (neighbors, classmates, soccer moms, etc…)

2. Our Norms: this is the flow and rhythm of our lives (where we work, shop, exercise, eat, go to school, etc…)

3. Our Values: these are the things that matter most to us (what we long for, fight for, spend our money on, organize our time around)

We all have networks, norms, and values. The problem is that the interactions of these things are simply disappearing from our lives. For example, there is a discernable loss of participation in official, organized communities. People are regularly changing employers and residences, working longer hours, spending more time commuting, and running one child here and the other there. In the end our networks, norms, and values have no time to interact. The result is the loss of social capital.


Let’s switch our focus now from society in general to the church. In the midst of the cultural fragmentation we looked at, the church has worked tirelessly in calling people to a new vision of community. This is a great challenge in light of the cultural forces that are working against it: the greatest force often times coming from within the church itself. At large, Christians in America seem to live lives that are barely different from those outside the faith—they too are busy, driven, individualistic and disconnected.

Many church leaders have come to recognize this problem, but the attempts to create more programs to foster community based on demographics and life stage often feels more like a small group version of eHarmony than true Christian community. These groups often struggle because people fail to see how to integrate them into their daily norms and networks. Being that the very nature of these groups is self-serving—they struggle taking into consideration the kingdom of God at large.

For example, programmed community is limited because this approach fails to address at least two of the deeper realities at work in our world (Jon Tyson, Renewing Cities Through Missional Tribes):

           1) Time: how can we get people to care about the greater good when we don’t have a shared commitment to anything greater than our own careers and shrinking leisure time? In an economy that is calling people to longer hours at work, personal time becomes of the utmost importance. People simply struggle at centering their lives around church programs anymore.

           2) Trust: with cynicism and secularism being the framing narrative of culture, getting people to center their lives on officially established programs under official church authority is increasingly hard. They simply don’t believe the church knows best, not to mention—calling them to deep involvement in an institution that is so disconnected from the world means pulling them away from where they’re already connected.

If community within the church does not address these two things people within the church will struggle connecting with the mission of Jesus in the real world. If people only have social networks, norms and values that interact inside the church, then we cannot connect meaningfully with culture at large. Anna, a new believer striving to live out the gospel in NYC states it well,
“We simply cannot love one another as Jesus commanded, if our lives only overlap in 15-minute segments before and after programmed Christian events. And we cannot reach out to those far from God if the normal flow of our lives is disconnected from theirs and channeled into church programs. It’s like God calls us to life together, to the weaving of the fabric and moments of our lives, so the expression of the kingdom becomes a reality in our midst, rather than a idea in our heads.”


Sociologist Rodney Stark notes that one of the major reasons that the early Christian movement was able to spread so quickly through the vast expanses of the Roman Empire was its decentralized, relational networks that enabled the gospel to spread organically from one group to another in natural, holistic, and integrated ways. In other words, when the early followers of Jesus came to faith they often did so through their daily networks, norms and values—therefore—spreading the good news to others through the same avenue was easy, unofficial, and natural.

So here’s the question, “How do you start and organize a community to live out the gospel that by its nature is to be organic?”

Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, presents a great case. Godin says, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea…A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Consequently, one of the easiest ways to form groups or tribes in the church is by organizing people around causes and common interests.

If the church can take notice of the current trends and organize community around causes and common interests the gospel can spread naturally in circles where people naturally connect. Those who need help and those who come out to help are both blessed, connected, and experiencing the gospel in word and deed.


Using causes and common interests the need today is to organize community around the mission of Jesus rather than a particular Bible study or life stage. In doing so the spread of the kingdom of God becomes the heart of the group, not just an afterthought.

Here’s how it works:
  • Connections exist in the body of Christ. Because these connections are often based in like-minded causes or common interests they have the potential to develop naturally and grow accordingly.
  • These connections, if cultivated appropriately, offer what the church misses most, genuine opportunity to leverage those connections for discipleship, care, fellowship, and outreach to others. It also provides opportunity to connect in the already existing world around them. By interacting with others outside of the church that are dedicated to the same causes or passions they create relationships. Relationships that bring more opportunity.
  1. Identify groups of believers - look for passion in common interests or causes.
  2. Identify a leader within each group who follows Jesus.
  3. Each group decides on the place and time to meet for discipleship and prayer, for celebrating what God is doing, planning efforts, and carrying them out.
  4. Members of the group invite others who are like-minded to join them.

Goals :: We have 4 Goals we strive to meet in each group…

1) Lead members of the group to their next step; baptism, membership, serving in a ministry, giving financially to the mission, etc…
2) Develop an apprentice and let them lead
3) Create opportunities to connect/or serve those outside the group
4) Create space for new people by multiplying the group as needed

Russ Johnson planted Northview Church in Asheville, NC and is sold out to Jesus Christ. He's passionate about the gospel and seeing that every man, woman and child in his community has the repeated opportunity to see, hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today's Missional Challenge: Consider how to organize community around the mission of Jesus!

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