Bread Crumbs, Cookie Crumbs

When I wrote about our Jurassic Journey, I talked about following the crumbs.  Following the crumbs is the way my wife and I describe how we go through life.  We believe that the Holy Spirit leaves little trails of cookie crumbs for us to follow.  We enjoy the taste along the way and find some pretty neat places in the process.

We felt we were on a different crumb trail than the one that we had been on for quite a while.  Who knows, perhaps it was the same trail, just a different type of cookie.  We felt it when we began to plan for our first real breaking away, a vacation from our home network and our two businesses.  At first we thought we were going to look at an old motel we could have possibly purchased in the desert.  On the way there it didn’t feel like it, but it did before and it got us moving and solidified our resolve to explore.

We went along the trip, looking for those thin places where you could actually be in heaven and on earth at the same time.  We found a few and we found clarity in the lack of definition.  We were on a journey, not a trip.  A trip has a starting point, an apex point, and a return.  A journey leads you wherever, and the point is not in the points but in the serendipity of the path.  We didn’t get the motel.

If you have followed along on Facebook you will know that the last few months have been, interesting.

Usually I have visions.  They aren’t all inspired.  In fact most of them are not.  I like seeing them and running them to ground.  Often they are more ghost like, or like a mirage in the desert.  I am energized by them, nonetheless.

In our recent case, the reality is unfolding long before the vision.  Oh, my brain keeps trying to catch up.  Usually it is the other way around.  First you see the vision then you shape the reality.  Oh no! That would be too normal.  Right now it seems that we are seeing the reality and it is shaping the vision.  The reality is changing, and I mean changing really quickly.  The vision thing is just catching up.

I don’t really know what was going through the minds of the early Christ Followers.  You know, Jesus said all that stuff about going in all the world and to share this good news of God’s kingdom, then with a puff of smoke they saw him head up into the clouds.  Dramatic. What did they do?  They stayed in Jerusalem and shared the good news of God’s kingdom.  Half right.

When things got really tough in Jerusalem and the church was being persecuted, I kind of doubt they thought of that as a commissioning service. You know, the cool church thing where we pray for our missionaries and send them off with our blessings.  I think that reality happened.  It happened quick and the vision of the missionary call sort of caught up  with them along the way.

Long story, short version, within a few short weeks we visited a community in another part of the state, felt that we were supposed to become a part of that community, got financed for a house in that community and began packing.  Actually it only took 3 weeks.  In the mean time we are living, doing, and going about what we have been for almost a decade.

We carry with us some cool good news.  It is that the Kingdom of God is here!  Jesus grants us access to a great way of living, heavenly, you might say.  We also carry with us some stuff that we have learned about how we as a family do that best.  We do it best through hospitality, love, and acceptance.  How simple is that?

Our mission, in our current community or the one that we are moving to, is to create sustainable rhythms of hospitality that reflect the same love, acceptance and forgiveness that Christ offers us.  I’ve been trying this for a few years.  I have failed at it more times than I can count, but I am doing better.

I live my life out open.  If you happen to come close you will get to see me in all my un-glory.  I get some of it right, some of it not so much, but it is out there.  I put it out there because I am trying to be real.  I was good at a contrived version of who I thought I should be.  Too good, actually.  I don’t want to be anything other than what I am, each version an improvement on the last.

If you are interested, I would love for you to follow along.  If you aren’t, you can always follow along anyway just to do a guy a solid.  The more people who follow the better my blog looks and the more people who will follow.  OK, so that may be too much to ask.  Well, at least pray for me, ok?  I need the blessing and we all need the practice.

What Makes it a Missional Outpost

Our little corner of the world, Yondersea Men’s Grooming and our cozy little apartment above we call the Sea Loft are more than just spaces for living and working.  To us they are an expression of our faith as Christ Followers and extensions of our desire to live life ‘on mission.’  We call them Missional Outposts.  I sort of stole the term and modified it from denominational history.  ;;

Since I hung that title and displayed it for everyone who cares to look, I thought I should explain what I think a missional outpost is or should be.  I am not an authority and this isn’t the ultimate truth. This is just what we experience.  The one thing I have to make perfectly clear; I did not plan this out.  It happened.  Maybe more believer stuff should just happen. Maybe it does.  That is the sort of stuff I like to be around.  Its cozy, warm, and human.  I have tried to do stuff in the past.  Good stuff motivated by good intentions.  Never really worked for me, so this organic, home grown type of believer stuff will have to do anyway.

To Be Missional meant we had to have a mission

Well duh?  OK, ours started out with a personal mission of being fiercely committed to loving God and loving folks (Mark 12:30-31) Believing that I was disqualified from ever serving in “a ministry” I was still committed to granting God full access to my life to use “in ministering” however He would choose.  Since recent events had eliminated all distractions like a house, a car, or a job, it was easy to change things up.  I chose to align my work life in such a way as it would allow maximum availability.  I chose a career path that was accessible, scalable, and portable. The training and licensing requirements were accessible.  It was something that I reasonable thought that I could do, and there was a universal demand for those services.

To be missional meant we needed to position ourselves on the frontier

One thing I struggled with for years is the thought that the best place for me to exercise my ministry gifts is inside the church, both the organization and the building.  Since that no longer seemed a possibility I took my gifts to the edge of the world of unbelief.  I applied my trade and allowed my gifts to flow through that to the people that trade brought into my presence.  I like the mission statement of Christ The King Community Church; To create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out to unchurched people with love, acceptance and forgiveness so that they may experience the joy of salvation and a purposeful life of discipleship.  They do that by attracting the unchurched to their place of doing ministry, and it is working.  We do that by going out into the marketplace and going to them and that seems to be working as well.

To be missional meant we needed to be self sustaining

Our mission is not something done in addition to our trade, our mission is the reason behind it.  No one was particularly interested in hiring a failed and divorced pastor to work in their church, nor was there any great clamor to throw money at the idea of being a missionary to America.  Not that I asked, I just assumed. Still, it worked out just fine being self supporting.  The results often take a long time to bring about.  All the while we still want to continue eating semi regular meals and sleeping indoors.    Our trade supports those habits and allows us to continue using our lives in service to Christ and leaves us to try whatever means we come up with to accomplish mission.

To be missional means we keep everything on the ground level.

Even in the most welcoming of churches there is a visible hierarchy.  Even the unchurched can see that pastors seem to occupy the higher seats, progressing down through the various servants, the regular to casual members, with the unchurched visitor being on the bottom.  Some churches do such a great job of hospitality and negate the negative perception of the hierarchy, but it is still there and obvious.  I think being missional takes away the hierarchy. Everyone who enters our missional outpost is on equal footing with those of us who provide our services. It feels safer that way.

Being missional means being committed to community.

Community is both relational as well as geographical.  Community consists of people in relationship, doing life together.  Being missional requires relationship.  It is not optional.  Access to lives is not assumed, it is earned.  Relationship grants us access to speak into hearts when the time is right.  We don;;t ever feel like we have to check off the “witnessing” box.  Relationship allows the time for hearts to open and allows events to unfold to speak Spirit words into.

Being missional, living life on mission and surrendering your life completely to mission is a hard choice in most cases. Like I  said, I had nothing left to loose.  It took that much for me to give myself over to this thing.  Like the Children of Israel in the wilderness we looked to God’s pillar of fire or smoke to lead us and we looked outside our tent and gathered enough manna just for the day. The flaps of our tents are open and welcoming to the wanderer. Our model is hospitality and our guiding principles are loving God and loving people.  It is working.

Lost in Mega Landia

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I’m a small church kind of guy.  Really I am.  I know that I drive past dozens of small churches on my way to the 2,000 plus attendee church I attend each Sunday or Saturday night.  I look at them as I go past and wonder what is happening behind those walls.  I am drawn like a bug to a lamp. Walk toward the light… no! I resist.

Still I drive to our church, park in the lot and walk more than 50 feet to the front door. Once inside I go to one of the five check in kiosks for children’s ministry and touch the screen with my secret code.  It spits out a sticker for my son’s shirt and two corresponding stickers for mom and dad.  We walk past the custom espresso shop in the commons and the wall of free drip coffee, caff and decaf, hot water and teas with custom branded cups and lids.  We take our son to one of several rooms colorfully decorated and staffed with several conscientious volunteers who will teach my son about Jesus.  They will keep him safe and secure until we produce our little sticker at the end of service in order to redeem our child.  I often wonder if they would give him back if we said we lost our sticker.  I suppose they would if we left him with them long enough.  He can be a difficult child if he doesn’t get his lunch!

I used to always attend smaller churches, 200 or less.  Sometimes 50 or so.  When I attended them I was important specifically.  At the large church I am important generally.  If I quit giving at the large church it doesn’t even make a percentage point move to the left or to the right.  If I didn’t give at the small church there was an immediate call for a meeting of the budgeting committee. The youth pastor’s job usually hanging in the balance.

In the small church I was always needed.  I sing, play guitar, am a decent teacher, preacher, and sound technician.  I write (surprised?) and connect and can do better secretarial work than most paid executive assistants.  If I didn’t volunteer things didn’t get done.  Now in the big church there are at least fifteen people who can do everything I can do and do it better.  It isn’t a matter of simply volunteering.  It is a matte of whether or not I am the best qualified of the dozens of other volunteers or not.

In the big church I cannot charm, skill, volunteer, or donate enough to boost my importance.  If I don’t show up no one notices.  If I don’t give no one gets fired.  Suddenly I have nothing of value to offer that God hasn’t already placed there, and it is just me and God.  Perhaps we are on to something here.  Perhaps its not about what I can do but rather what I can be.  If I am to lead or to do, perhaps having God make the way for that to happen, rather than for me to rely upon my own sense of razzle-dazzle to make a way for me to feel important is a far better option.  And finally perhaps it is the best thing of all for me to realize that my importance to God has absolutely nothing to do with what I can produce or give.  Even my relationships within the big church are reduced to that same denominator.  I have nothing special to offer other than my willingness.

Small churches are amazing places where dedicated people work hard to make things happen.  I guess big churches are amazing for the same reasons.  Maybe I’m not a small church kind of guy after all. Maybe I’m not a big church guy either.  Perhaps I just love God and love people and can be wherever God wants me to be and be content.