stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. [exploring the endless connections between faith in Jesus and everything else]

Scott McKnight on “Mission” #kingdom #church

“Kingdom mission is church mission, church mission is kingdom mission, and there is no kingdom mission that is not church mission…

Many see kingdom exclusively in utopian terms and the church in all its rugged messiness, so they toss dust in the eyes of anyone who gets the two too close. But this fails at the most basic level of exegesis. The kingdom in the New Testament is not just a future glory but a present rugged reality struggling toward that glorious future. That is, the kingdom is only partly realized; it is only inaugurated in the here and now. So the kingdom today is a rugged mess no less than the church is also a utopia…

It is easier to do [good deeds like build a well than get involved in a church] because it feels good, it resolves some social shame for all that we have, it creates a bonded and encapsulated experience, it is a momentary and at times condescending invasion of resources and energy, and it is all ramped up into ultimate legitimation by calling it kingdom work.

Not only that, it is good and right and noble and just. It is more glamorous to do social activism because building a local church is hard.

It [building the church] involves people who struggle with one another, it involves persuading others of the desires of your heart to help the homeless, it means caring for people where they are and not where you want them to be, it involves daily routines, and it only rarely leads to the highs of ‘short-term’ experiences.

But local church is what Jesus came to build, so the local church’s mission shapes kingdom mission.

from Kingdom Conspiracy (p. 96-97)

Trust In the Slow Work

I have a list somewhere of posts waiting to be written, but my list has been sorely neglected in recent times.

In part, this is due to the glorious fact that life is very full right now.
Not overly busy or hectic, but full.

My productivity in the everyday world of work and family has left little margin for musings in the digital realm.

The other part of this writer’s block, though, is due to grief.
There’s been some stuff to grieve on our end.
Personal stuff like grandpa and transitions and the hard work of letting go.

But there’s also been a lot to grieve on a larger scale as well.
Shootings and division in the church (globally) and all sorts of variations of darkness.

I don’t often know how to respond to many of these things in my own daily life, let alone in this space.

So, I’ve sabbaticaled from blogging and really from engaging on-line in anything other than the Warriors and our family adventures. Like Job I felt the need to “proceed no further.”

Which has been quite refreshing actually.

I think the great, evil, seduction of the digital age, and of blogging in particular, is you craft something and you put it out there and there’s an implicit hope/desire/belief in an immediate response.

Whether examining my own life, and my own failings, or lamenting the unceasing darkness pervading our world, I am easily seduced by this immediacy. By action and results.

Things should change. Now!

The Jesuit philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.”

To do this, I think, means being connected
(not in the online sense, but in the everyday sense),
to actual work in the real world.

I feel the pressure and the pull, especially as a church leader, to do or say something incredible.

Chardin reminds me that incredible things happen when I eat dinner with my family.
And discipline my kids.
And read the Scriptures on a daily basis.
And listen to and pray with and for hurting people.
And slog through the difficult work of creating a different kind of community.

In the last week or two I’ve seen some pretty amazing glimpses of light,
cracking through these dark times,
and it’s those beautiful,
flickering beams of light that help me keep trusting in the slow work.

Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

I’ve been around church(es) for a long time now, so I’ve heard my fair share of references and reflections on Romans 12:15.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

The vast majority, if not all, of the references/reflections/sermons I’ve heard on this verse have to do with the second part, the mourning part.

Usually when something bad happens we like to say this as a reminder of our duty.

Mourning with people is extremely important.

Mourning with people exemplifies empathy, sympathy, and emotional intelligence, not to mention spiritual maturity and the sacrificial love of Jesus.

But, why haven’t I heard as many (if any) references/reflections/sermons on “rejoice with those who rejoice?”

And what does it even mean to rejoice with someone? Does that mean giving them a high-five, or a pat on the back when they are pumped about something good in their life? Or is it something deeper than that?

I think it is easier for us to mourn with those mourn.

Positively, pain binds us all together, so I think it can be easier to access those emotions and connect with someone experiencing pain.

Negatively, I think we get a sort of “hit” from coming alongside someone and walking with them through their pain. This is not necessarily bad, but I think mourning with someone puts us in a helping role, and we tend to feel good about ourselves when we help someone.

Sharing someone’s joy doesn’t give us quite the same sort of ego hit that mourning does.

I’ve found rejoicing with others to be really hard to do personally, and I’ve felt its absence, in my own experiences, in some pretty profound ways.

In a competitive world it can be hard when someone else achieves something, or reaches a new stage of life, or is just simply celebrating a level of success that we haven’t reached yet. Seeing someone else succeed might make us insecure about our state of life, or disappointed in what we haven’t accomplished.

In other words, rejoicing with others seems like a bigger test of character than mourning.

Rejoicing with others requires a true sense of humility. To truly share in someone else’s joy means that we are totally focused on the other. So focused that their joy becomes our joy.

And that’s hard to do.

But, this is one of my new life goals. To revel in their success and fun and excitement as much as I would my own.

I want to be great at rejoicing with those who rejoice.

The Gift of Good Words

I am absolutely convinced, as an avid reader, that books find me more than I find them. They find me in all sorts of ways (Amazon’s crazy algorithms, word of mouth, browsing a good bookstore), but they are finding me a lot, these days, through the recommendations of my wife.

A book she shared with me that has been speaking to us in this time of moving and transition is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. The book is a meditation on change: change that comes through loss and pain and gaining and growing.

Her words have been a good gift to us.

Here’s some fun words about California:

I have a thing for California, possibly because the four years I lived there during college were the wildest and most disorienting years, punctuated by some of the sweetest moments in all my life. Possibly because California, both in its geography and its personality, is so many worlds away from the Midwest that just being there makes the world feel bigger. I love California for its otherness…


Many of the life events she reflects on, miscarriage, parenting, leaving a church/church job, finding new community, moving “home,” are very similar to the big things we’ve been through in the last 3 years.

Sometimes there’s only so much processing you can do on your own, and you need someone else’s words to express what you’ve been through. Or, you just need to read and know that someone else has been through the same thing and felt the same things you’ve felt.

Anne Lamott says the best sermon is: “Me too.”

And in all the truthiness of that thought, Bittersweet has been the best kind of sermon for us at this season of life. I resonate deeply with this:

I wanted for this bittersweet season to be over. I felt so strongly…I’d be free to move into another season, one of life and celebration. But this is what I know: they’re the same thing, and that’s all there is. The most bittersweet season of my life so far is still life, still beautiful, still sparkling with celebration. There is no one or the other, as desperately as I want that to be true. This season wasn’t bittersweet. Life itself is bittersweet. There’s always life and death, always beauty and blood…Life after death…I’ll celebrate the resurrection of Christ with everything in me this year, pleading for a resurrection inside my own battered heart as well.

Some New Thoughts on Sabbath

I once had a ministry supervisor say to me: “Sabbath’s are encouraged, just don’t let your sabbath interfere with your work.”

When I came back at that comment with: “I think that’s actually the point of a sabbath: to interfere with and interrupt our work,” there was some back tracking, but the point was clear. You are here to work, don’t let anything get in the way of that!

Amy and I have tried to sabbath throughout our life together to varying degrees of success.
To be honest, we haven’t been that good at it.
We haven’t let sabbathing interfere with our work.

One of our commitments in this new chapter was to start practicing some good habits right out of the gate.

Monday is our sabbath. So, far we’ve done a good job of it. No work, ministry, or prep takes place on Mondays. Just family stuff.

Sometimes we go to Costco.
Sometimes we explore Oakland.
Sometimes we just stay home and make pancakes.
Sometimes we go to the park and then to a great family cafe for lunch (this is our favorite).

We don’t check much email (I don’t check my work email at all).
We don’t do too many chores.
We do try to have fun.
We are absolutely with each other.

I titled this post “new thoughts,” but really there are no new thoughts, just a better, more disciplined practice.

And it really is making a difference.

We all recover from Sunday.
It reorders and prioritizes the week.
It is renewing and refreshing and all the things sabbath is supposed to be.

I know this will grow more challenging and more disruptive as we move into future phases: Amy returning to work, the kids going to school, sports and activities, more ministry opportunities and pressures.

 But I’m also beginning to see that we can’t give this up. The day may have to change, but the day off never should.

My new thought on sabbath is that this is yet another area of life that requires discipline. And discipline is hard, but rewarding. We are reaping the benefits.

Please, friends, let sabbath interrupt your work.

It’s worth it.

Some New Thoughts on Fundraising

One of the questions I get asked most often these days, usually right after “aren’t you glad you moved and miss than winter in Boston,” is something to the effect of: “how does it feel to not have to fundraise anymore?”

Actually it isn’t as much of a question as an indirect way of saying: “You’re life must be so much better now that you don’t have to fundraise.”

I really dislike this comment.

To begin with, I actually liked fundraising. It kept me in touch with a lot of people who I otherwise might not have stayed in contact with. It forced me to ask for help, which is not something I enjoy doing naturally. We experienced grace and generosity in ways we would never have otherwise. Fundraising created a community with friends near and far, a sustaining community, a community that also helped us find our new role.

Furthermore, just because I am not fundraising doesn’t mean we are free of financial risk. That’s the subtext for a lot of people: fundraising is crazy and risky, working at a church is safe and secure (and in many people’s minds lucrative).

I object to this line of thinking greatly. Yes, the realities of fundraising are quite different from the realities of a salary. But, a church salary, especially at an urban, inner city church, is no sure thing. This community took a risk in hiring me, and any small church pastor will tell you about weekly anxiety and uncertainty.

This is not to say that I don’t have critiques of fundraising or that there aren’t aspects of the process that I am glad to be free of. It’s just not quite what most people might expect.

A couple of critiques:

1) First, fundraising is exhausting. It is a never-ending process. But, while it is a grind, that’s not actually what I am referring to.

I had a supporter who is a professor at Fuller Seminary in the psychology department, and she’s been working on a big project on Young Life, looking into the effects of camp ministry on discipleship. In the process she met and talked at a lot of Young Life staff, hearing their stories and getting to know what their life is like.

She drew a conclusion: Young Life staff are stressed out and working well beyond their capacity.

You might assume this is because they work too many hours, play too many silly games, and spend several weeks of the year at camp. But, that’s not actually what is wearing them out.

According to the research my friend was doing, the stress came through the balancing of too many communities. A Young Life staff has the community of student’s they are investing in (usually at a school). Then they have their co-workers and other area staff. They are building relationships with the school administrators. They have their church circles and their neighbors. They have other friends. If they are married, they are also balancing those “worlds.”

And then they have this group of people called “supporters,” 100-300 people they are regularly in contact with about prayer requests and financial support.

Now, as I mentioned earlier this is a beautiful thing, to have so many people supporting you. But, it is exhausting too.

In Boston we had our Sojourn team, our campus groups, our church groups, our friends in Boston, Amy’s work, our neighbors, our extended family around the country, other friends around the country, and then our support team. Some of those overlapped, but many did not. It’s no wonder we struggled with getting to know our neighbors.

One thing we already appreciate about this new chapter is that there are fewer circles to manage and we are freer to interact in each circle. We are more present than we ever were in Boston.

2) Second, I struggle with the unfortunate reality that fundraising is far too often used as THE vetting tool for mission work. In other words, if you can fundraise, you can do the work.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of great missionaries, campus ministers, young life leaders, etc, who never get to do what they were clearly created to do because they don’t have the network for fundraising.

Now, for some people this is a real obedience issue: there are some folks who are lazy, undisciplined, afraid or unwilling to ask, or  who lack the training to hit their fundraising goals. These folks squander the opportunity and gift in front of them.

But, for every one of those folks, there are two great missionaries who walk away because, for whatever reason, they can’t fundraise enough money. I think in particular of the college graduate who has to pay off student loans, or the first-generation immigrant student who simply doesn’t have the resources in their networks, or the new Christian who doesn’t have the church experience/community.

We make it very difficult for these people to participate if fundraising is the vetting issue.

Furthermore, there are some people who are great at fundraising who have no business being campus ministers or missionaries because of character issues or gifting.

3) My final thought is that fundraising can make the relationship between the organization and its employees difficult at times. If funds are not properly accounted for and kept track of fastidiously, it can breed resentment. Especially if some people are essentially forced into carrying the load for a time (or indefinitely).

I won’t go into details, but when I started fundraising I kept very detailed records of what I brought in and took out (no one else was doing this for me when I started and I am grateful we brought someone in to do this for us about two years into my time with the organization).

That decision turned out to be prescient, because there came a day when a significant chunk of money of that money disappeared. If not for my records I’m not sure what we would have done. For the record, this story is less about losing money and more of an example of one way that fundraising can lead to resentment and frustration.

This is an interesting phenomenon because one of the benefits of fundraising is the regular experience of grace and miraculous provision. It is amazing how quickly that turns when there is “miraculous” disappearing of funds. It tested my understanding of grace to be sure.

Having said all that I did enjoy fundraising. I got choked up writing my final thank you notes and I miss the connection and bonding that fundraising brings.

But I also feel free in a lot ways that seem healthy.

To my friends that continue to fundraise: keep on it faithful friends!

To the organizations that require fundraising: may you be full of integrity and serve the best interests of your employees.

To the rest of us: may we be generous to those who ask for our partnership.

Experts, Critical Thinking, and Naps

“The immediate access to information that Wikipedia, Google, Bing, and other Internet tools provide has created a new problem that few of us are trained to solve, and this has to be our collective mission in training the next generation of citizens. This has to be what we teach our children: how to evaluate the hordes of information that are out there, to discern what is true and what is not, to identify biases and half-truths, and to know how to be critical, independent thinkers. In short, the primary mission of teachers must shift from the dissemination of raw information to training a cluster of mental skills that revolve around critical thinking. And one of the first and most important lessons that should accompany this shift is an understanding that there exist in the world experts in many domains who know more than we do. They should not be trusted blindly, but their knowledge and opinions, if they pass certain tests of face validity and bias, should be held in higher regard than those who lack specialized training. The need for education and the development of expertise has never been greater. One of the things that experts spend a great deal of time doing is figuring out which sources of information are credible and which are not, and figuring out what they know versus what they don’t know. And these two skills are perhaps the most important things we can teach our children in this post-Wikipedia, post-Google world. What else? To be conscientious and agreeable. To be tolerant of others. To help those less fortunate than they. To take naps.”

– Daniel J. Levitan The Organized Mind  

It Does Happen

One of M’s new lines is “it does happen.”

As in, Daddy is walking through the kitchen and drops his cookie on the ground and begins to grumble under his breath. At which point, M swoops in, pats me on the back, and says:

It does happen.”

This weekend as we’ve reflected on Good Friday I was reminded in many ways that “it does happen.”
Sin, death, heartbreak, tragedy, dysfunction, deterioration, on and on it goes.
It does happen.

Yesterday morning, Easter Sunday, I was reminded that even while “it does happen,” something else is happening too.


Sometimes blindingly, amazingly, obviously.
Most of the time, though, in a million tiny, mundane ways.
In the sacrificial hands of a good servant,
in the kind words of a wise friend,
in bread and wine,
in rain on Easter morning.

You can see it if you have the eyes: new life bursting forth right here and right now.

That’s the next step for M as she grows in wisdom.

Step one: recognize that it does happen.
Step two: develop the eyes to see another reality.
To hold Good Friday and Easter Sunday in a healthy tension.
And to know and believe in resurrection.

What I Get To Do

One of the weirder parts of our transition to California is that while we had at least three opportunities to share about what we were going to do in a public setting, we never got the chance to actually do it.*

So, I thought I’d take a post to share a little bit about what I/we get to do here in Oakland.


I get to help our new church build a culture of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly in our neighborhood and city.
I get to pastor and shepherd and teach.
I get to learn and serve alongside a diverse group of people. I mean crazy diverse. In every possible way. Google employees and homeless folks, old and young, parents and kids and single folks, and on and it goes.


Amy and I are facilitating/teaching a class for 8 engaged/recently married couples and we are having a blast preparing for and interacting with this group.
I’ve been able to preach three times already.
I’m getting to build needed systems and structures.
I’m meeting with and coaching small group leaders.
I’m helping coach our Pais interns.
I get to have conversations with people who have serious questions about God.
I get to disciple.
I get to lead.


I get to be home 5 or 6 times a week to help put our kids to bed.
I get to ride my bike to work every day.
I get a sabbath.
I get to live in the most diverse city in the country, wear shorts most of the time, and hug Buster Posey (ok, that last part is a lie, but IT COULD HAPPEN).

I don’t have words to express the gratitude I feel on a daily basis.

Thank you Jesus.

*I’ve written about some personal lesson I’ve learned about transitions, but I hope to write a post soon on the leadership lessons I learned during this season. 

Jen Hatmaker on Transitions

“Leaving is hard, even when a great adventure awaits you.

We knew were leaving. To go where? We didn’t have the first inkling. That was somewhere out there, yet to be determined. What lay in front of us was the telling, the transition, leaving the platform. After seven years, there was no doubt: This would be tough.

I hardly know what to say except that this season was terribly hard. I wish I had some of those weeks back to rethink this conversation or better word that piece of correspondence. We navigated with pure intentions and a fierce desire to do this well.

But things like leaving, new ideas, and perception–further complicated by no details about where we were going–made for a difficult transition. No one wanted the particulars more than us, but part of our task was going without knowing. Those were hard, difficult days. Sometimes following God is the worst. I can say with some confidence: if you go wherever God says and when, expect to be misunderstood.

And go anyway.

-Jen Hatmaker Interrupted


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 589 other followers