Pastoring a Church without walls

Almost 20 years ago now, I made a conscience decision to fire myself vocationally from ministry.  I had an instinct, a calling and a drive to create a response of the church to it’s present and emerging culture. It was clear to me that the word on the street was a growing distrust in the structures known as church.  What could church look like for people who would never step foot in a church?  I had a dream of a ‘missional’ church, a church without walls, where the posture was not asking people to come to church, but the church being ‘sent’ to where people were living/working/playing etc.   Reframing the church from being perceived as a building  or special event once a week to a community on mission doing all of life together.  I believe fundamentally that church is not someplace you go, but a people you belong to.

I’m still a pastor, I just don’t get paid for it.  I am sent into my world to care, love, inspire, teach, educate, inform, protect, marry, bury, baptize, pray for, pray with, pray behind their backs, create, build, enact mercy, stand for justice . . . all the things pastors should do in their culture.  I have no walls to keep me in, in the words of John Wesley, ‘the world is my parish’.  I don’t know about you, but I pastor a REALLY BIG church.   I’m sent to the 7.8 billion people that God has put on earth that I may come into contact with.  I work under the assumption that if we come into contact then the Creator wanted it to be and I’m available for the assignment he has in mind.  Pastoral ministry is not a job, it’s a way of life.  It’s a set of gifts given to you by your Creator and he gets to decide how they are used.  We are characters in a divine story being written one chapter at a time.

I don’t really buy the categories for faith I grew up in.  Churched or unchurched, saved or lost, believer or unbeliever, christian or nonchristian,  religious or secular etc.  I think we are all made up of the same substances of sinners and saints.  To me, church is more like an AA meeting, you participate and belong because you need it.  You start with the fact you have need, not because you’ve arrived at any great end.  I share this need with all my neighbors, all of them.  God isn’t mad, he just misses us.  He wants us to know the unyielding affection he has for us, all of us.  He wants to meet us at our place of need and do the mystical work of transformation together that is available to any of us through the Spirit of Christ.  That’s my job, to walk around my community and culture and give away the Spirit of Christ, I don’t have anything more important to do.  It’s the entire deal in pure form.

A church without walls.  Missional church is sent to bars, pubs, coffee houses, marketplaces, stadiums, fields, parks, libraries, entertainment centers, neighborhoods, schools, famers markets, festivals, concerts, parties, parades, online forums, places of work, etc. etc. where all the saints and sinners hang out.  There is no place where Christ’s extravagant love is not, therefore there is no condemnation or judgment.  Leave your self-righteousness and judgment at home, God is love.  We are a community invited to participate in the love and affection of the one who made us and doesn’t want to be without us.  He isn’t mad, he misses us.  All of us and everywhere.

 

Lighten up, 2016

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In 2016, I had a major job transition.  As of July 1, I had no guaranteed income, no health insurance for my family and no real idea what provision would look like moving forward.  Now, to know me, is to know I’m a bit of a controller and a planner.  Perhaps more than ‘a bit’.  I’m most of the time too intense for most others in my drive to push ahead and plan strategically.  I’m a doer and a planner, a starter, a leader, a ‘make things happen’ kinda guy.  I was left with all the big questions of a Father of 3, husband to 1 and the responsibility of the majority of our income for 23 years of marriage.

I was faced with all the familiar voices to listen to:  fear, anxiety, depression, anger, heaviness, despair, control, urgency, scarcity, shame, guilt etc.

Then in my raw and honest moments of genuine prayer, I began to hear a different voice.  It was gentle, at peace, sure, confident, full, light, generous, gracious, hopeful, fun, creative, joyful, bold and . . . sustainable.  It was a mindset I could grow to live into and let it sustain me regardless of my circumstances.  I could choose to ‘lighten up’ and have zero changes to my circumstances and yet experientially live them differently.  As I chose to listen to that voice and give it my attention, energy and opportunity started sparking up all around me.  Even though I still do not have a traditional ‘job’ per se, my family’s needs have been completely taken care of.  I’m working hard at freelancing and provision has come in a myriad of ways.

I have no ‘job’, no guaranteed income and yet I’ve never been more excited about the future.  Creativity is a constant companion.  Every day has been full of new opportunity and potentials are in every conversation.  Instead of a heavy slave-master of having to control it all myself, I’m trusting in a Provider who has never left me without.  I’m learning to ‘lighten up’ and enjoy the ride, no matter the circumstances.  Even in difficult scenarios, I’m more present, more alive in the situation, fear hasn’t sucked the life out of my presence.

By no longer trying to strong-arm my life; I became truly powerful.  Confidence is rising and expectations for goodness are the norm.  In this mindset, my freedom and my creativity are more dangerous.  I’m choosing what I want to pick a fight with and I’m enjoying every punch I get to throw along the way at life’s bullies.  When darkness and doubt come to my doorstep, I War with words of thankfulness and gratefulness.  In this discipline, I ‘lighten up’ and the clouds begin to dissipate and the sun rises again on my hope.

Forever the cynic, I’ve become a bit of Mr. Positivity and it’s incredibly more healthy for me.  I am eager to see where it all takes me in 2017.  But I’m thankful for the lesson in 2016 to ‘lighten up’.

Residing with Mortals?

“‘But will God indeed reside with mortals on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!” -2 Chron. 6:18-19 (King Solomon)

Friends, do not be fooled by the cooing baby in the manger or the swaddling clothes. Though physically an infant, in reality he was not vulnerable, he was the creator and sustainer of the entire universe come for a visit. Immanuel . . . God with us.
The reality is he doesn’t need us, rather we need him. If we did not bring ourselves into being then we are on a great search for the truth about who we are, why we are here and what we are to do. Not unlike the shepherds and wise men, we travel afar for the answers to life’s great questions.


The beauty of Christmas is not that God needed us but it is that he WANTED us. God does not need to reside with mortals on earth . . . but he did. He chose to. He chose you. He chose us. Our choice is to come humbly to that manger and bow low, the King has come and his gift is pure Love. In that Love, we find who we really are both now and forever. The proper response is a primal shout of Hope. Immanuel, God with us. #hallelujah

Shepherds and the Ghetto

The 1st century Shepherd, no longer the esteemed wealth acquiring job producer of 1k years previous, now the lowest rung of the Palestinian caste ladder; the dirty labor class. They weren’t considered cute and adorable as our Christmas pageants parade them in burlap, they were detestable, high in stench, assumingly deeply sinful and dirty. Having no social status it is they who receive the esteemed invitation to a Manger. Why not the religious leaders? Why not the powerful elite? Why not the educated do-gooders?

From it’s infancy, the life and teachings of Jesus have had a prejudice towards the marginalized, the outsider, the looked down upon, the lost, the broken, the poor, the laborers, the dirty, the deeply sinful . . . the shepherd-types. If this is you, know that the Jesus of the Manger has an unyielding affection for you despite the prejudices of this world. If this isn’t you, the Manger tells you to humble yourself and remember you used to be. No one is immune to the unquenchable affection of the Creator when He enters into His Creation and starts making announcements.


The Manger is a ghetto, we are taught to go around them, not to them or in them. But nowhere, nobody and nothing is forgotten at the Manger. It all matters in a beautiful Creation. Find your ghetto, and love their today. It is the love of the Manger that announces hope and brings peace on earth. The invitation is open . . .