Living Freely In the New Creation
1560-1 Newbury Rd #313
Newbury Park, CA 91320
Phone: (805) 498-7774
Fax: (805) 499-5975
It's time to catch another big bird out of Los Angeles. Tomorrow I'm of to Maryland and Virginia for some conversations about this amazing life we have in Christ. I haven't done this in awhile and am looking forward to the people I'm going to meet and the life we'll share together.
Before I go, I thought I'd leave you with an excerpt from the book I'm working on, Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More. One of my hopes with this book is that once again the idea of the church captures our heart, not as the source of pain and legalism, but as a spotless bride Jesus is assembling from around the world. We've been so focused on the church man builds, that many of us miss the one Jesus is building. It is my hope that many of us will come to see that the longing in our heart for real community is the call of God to be part of that bride.
I’m not advocating for an isolated, everyone-is-a-church-to-themselves idea. The church takes her expression in relationships we have with others who are also following him—local friendships as well as international connections as he knits the wider body together. We’ll first see it reflected in conversations where Jesus makes himself known. Some of those conversations will grow into more enduring connections in friendships that become part of the fabric of our lives as we serve, encourage, and grow together. These friendships will lead to others and out of that network of friends and friends of friends, God will have all the resource he needs to invite us to agreement in prayer and collaborative actions to fulfill his purposes around us.
Can it really be that simple? This is perhaps the greatest stumbling block to people seeing the church for what she is. It’s too simple, they think, or too easy. So they put their trust in the vast array of discordant institutions instead of the work of Jesus. As we’ll see connecting is difficult only because it is far easier than we dare to believe. In fact, you probably have those growing connections with people, even in the congregation you attend. I’m only suggesting that your interaction with them expresses more freely the life of the church than sitting in a pew watching the staged activity up front.
So we are going to have to make a distinction in our minds between the church that humanity has attempted to build for two thousand years, and the community of the new creation that Jesus is building. They are not the same, though they can gloriously overlap on occasion. It’s just that our conformity-based structures cannot produce the internal transformation necessary for the church to take shape among us.
Years ago a friend offered me a challenge. “Why don’t we only use the term ‘church” the way Paul talks about her in the Scriptures? Let’s call the church what he calls the church and not be distracted by the institutions that use the term for something less than the reality.” It hasn’t been easy. Common usage trips me up all the time, but I do think the word is worth preserving as a term of endearment so that as we read the Scriptures it will evoke the church Jesus had in mind. I’m going to endeavor to do that here. Rather than use the term for any collection of Christians that meet together in an established system, I’ll use the term church to describe the family of God, which Jesus is putting on display in the world. When I talk about Sunday morning institutions, I’m going to use the word congregations or fellowships. When, because of popular usage, I have no choice but to use the word ‘church’ (such as ‘church split’) for that which is not truly the church, I’ll set it off with quotes.
For the past twenty years I have been privileged to be in a growing conversation with people all over the world who have lost confidence that an institution can provide the environment the church of Jesus Christ needs to flourish in our day. Some of those have already left their congregations in search of a better home. Many others who share the same concerns are still in them, either because they are trying to make the best of a situation for which they see no plausible alternative or because they don’t want to risk separation from family and friends. Many of these are pastors and elders who know better than anyone else the constant struggle between institutional needs and living the priorities of Jesus’ kingdom.
Those of us who’ve already left did so either because we were pushed out for asking the wrong questions or we left because we could no longer continue to serve the demands of an institution that seemed so at odds with the passion growing in our hearts. None of us did so easily, having spent decades serving in local congregations and engaged in multiple efforts to reform them. In the end we left not to abandon our faith, but to explore that faith on a more vibrant journey than our congregations would allow.
I am not writing this book for those who are comfortable in the institutions we’ve inherited in the 21st century, but for those who have the nagging feeling that what we call church today can’t possibly express what Jesus promised. If it doesn’t, how can we recognize and engage the reality of Jesus’ church as she is already growing in the world?
I have so apprecited the vantage point I've had over the past twenty years to watch this flock come together. No, it isn't all that visible for people looking for something splashy, but if you're looking for the transformation that is going on as people are learning to live in his affection, and seeing the relationships he is connecting all over the world, his work is breathtaking. Of course he wouldn't do it like we would do it. His ways are far better. I hope this book will stir people's hearts and open their eyes to a wonderful reality going on in the world.
The book is finally coming together and I hope to be finished with it soon. Right now I'm polishing some of the language, tieing up a few loose ends, and still trying to lose about twelve thousand words so there is less chaff and more wheat! Or so I hope!
I got a phone call a few weeks ago from an old friend asking if I'd be willing to speak at a conference for writers and film makers in Visalia, CA on June 20 and 21. The Tellit Conference is a two-day conference where aspiring professionals who desire to use their media talents and passions to make a difference in the world can meet and learn from professionals with proven track records. It will convene in Visalia, CA June 20-21 and is hosted by Fresno Pacific University. It's not really my deal to speak at conferences like this, but I felt nudged to do it mostly to help people who want to tell their stories learn from the experiences I've had in these ever-changing industries.
I thought I was going to be one of many speakers over the weekend, so imagine my surprise last week when I got the materials and found myself listed as the keynote speaker. I had no idea that's what I was being asked to do and I'm not really sure if they have any idea what they are in for. I'll be sharing from my own experiences in publishing as well as the challenge behind moving The Shack and So You Don't Want to Go To Church Anymore toward feature film adaptations. The conference is open to anyone wanting to find a way to tell their stories in contemporary media, though space is limited to the first 100 registrants to keep it a more intimiate dialog. You're welcome to come and participate if you like. If you can't make it, however, it will also be streamed live on their website during the conference and then remail online thereafter. You can get details at the conference link above. I'll also be reminding people the week of the conference.
I'll be making two presentations during the conference. The first one will be The Fun Side of Creativity: Getting the Story Right. How do you shape your story for the audience you wish to engage with an eye toward finding the audience that shares your passion and more importantly, how do you know your story is ready to share with others?
The second is The Ugly Side of Creativity: Cash, Credit, and Control. How do you interact with agents, publishers, and production companies whose only motive is to make as much money as they can? Navigating those waters will determine whether you and your story can stay true to your passion. We'll also discuss the options of self-publication or indy productions, which can be great alternatives in this age of an increasingly de-centralized media.
I'm looking forward to the opportunity to share what I've learned over 40 years of writing and dealing with the industries that make story available in our culture. If you're an aspiring storyteller, come join us.
Our team in Kenya arrived in the West Pokot region earlier this week to take food, water, and medical assistance to the 615 starving families of that region who have been devastated by the prolonged drought in that area. They had corn, beans, and water to distribute that would provide the sustenance they needed. When they arrived, however, they found another 231 families had arrived from a more remote location. They had heard that people were bringing food and water to help out. These were mostly seniors and young children who had walked over six kilometers even though they were desperately weakened from a lack of food and water. They camped nearby hoping they could get some of the help as well. Our team there was overwhelmed by their courage and gentleness and wanted to help them too.
So yesterday the team wrote and asked if we could come up with another $12,000 to ship in corn, beans, and water to help these families as well. I'm sure few of us can imagine need of this scale. They are now dealing with 846 families, over 120,000 people in that drought-stricken region. Sara and I prayed and discussed the situation and since we didn't have time to raise the money first, we wired the money in trust that God would have others stand with them in this need. So, we're asking yet again to see if there are others whom God is nudging to help in this time of need. This still is about relief to hopefully get them to the next rainy season, but they are also wanting to help the people there drill some wells and learn some other ways to generate provision that is less dependent on the rain, so the work here is not done yet. If you want to hear more about this situation I took a few moments on the current podcast, It Is a Journey, to fill in some details.
They tried to send us some pictures of the outreach there, but for some reason they didn't come through the email. I will include some of them in a subsequent posting when they come in. We are grateful for so many people who have carried these brothers and sisters on their heart and have shared in ligthtening their load with your gifts.
Your prayers are most welcome for the people in need and the IGEM people who are in West Pokot right now. If you can and want to help financially you can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the US. As always, every dollar you send goes to the need in Kenya. We do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.
Many of you have heard me speak of Jenny Rowbury before. She's a young woman in England, who in her first year at university became ill with a virus that caused severe M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: inflammation of the brain and spinal cord). She has been bed-bound ever since and unable to sit up because of strain on her cardiovascular system. This incredibly creative woman wrote a book of poetry called Rainbows In My Eyes, that we've made available through Lifestream. You can read more and order her book of poetry here. If you've not read them, you might want to. She is playful and poignant as she wrestles with the reality of her condition and her disappointment in her unanswered prayers for healing. She offers a gut-wrenching, but ultimately hopeful portrayal of her journey inside the love of a Father that she gets to know better with each passing day.
My heart has been touched by her poetry and her story. I pray for her often and hear from her occasionally, mostly through her parents. Yesterday they sent me her latest poem entitled Gethsemane. This is the week a lot of believers celebrate the story of Jesus' sacrifice and his resurrection and that time in the Garden is where Jesus turned the anguish in his soul into a confidence in Father's hand that could take him through the trial and tortures that were to come. Having just been in the garden myself a couple of months ago, I was touched by the poem an the thought that as we pray in our extremeties we are in him as well and his prayer counts for us all.
You can read Gethsemane here and check out other parts of Jenny's website. She's am amazing woman, enduring an excruciating illness and would be blessed by your love and prayers.
"May God's grace flood your being today, Jenny! May the fullness of his love course through your veins with healing and hope until you experience the fullness of his salvation in the freedom of your heart and in the full redemption of your body! You are dearly loved. May you know joy, freedom, and delight in his wonder. Always!"
*Artwork above courtesy of A Man LIke No Other.
I haven't known him long, but I've treasured the opportunities we've had to crash hearts and minds on this incredible journey. Tom is an older brother in every sense of the word, one who has traveled many miles on his spiritual journey through all kinds of twists and turns and has come to this season of his life with a passion for Jesus and his kingdom and demonstrates a life steeped in grace and transformation. At the request of many, he has written a book detailing a very fascinating life. I was asked the write the foreward a few months ago and the book has finally been published. If you're looking for a book that will encourage you to follow God as he draws you into greater freedom and truth, this book will do it for you.
I wrote the best stuff I have on this book in the Foreward, so I'll include it here. Consider giving this a read. You won't regret it.
You hold in your hands a treasure, though you may not know that if you don’t know Tom Mohn. As I writer, I know it is all but impossible to get someone to read a memoir written by a person they don’t know. That’s why celebrities can get away with it, but real people rarely do.
So before you are tempted to put this book down let me introduce you to Tom, a man who over the last ten years has become a trusted and valued friend. I’ve lived in his home, watched how he relates to his wife and children, and have had many rich conversations about the life of Jesus with him. He is deeply loved and appreciated by friends and family, which says a lot. He’s lived his life with wit and humor that disarms people with joy and blesses them with his wisdom.
I can easily say that Tom is one of the most genuine and authentic men I’ve ever known. And that’s no small compliment. I’ve met many who talk about God but whose lives in no way reflect the truths they pretend to espouse. One honestly admitted to me that he wasn’t even trying to live the things he wrote about, but was simply marketing a book to the Christian audience. This book is an honest reflection of a life well lived from someone who has over the course of decades learned how to walk with God through the triumphs and tragedies of life. Through it all a passionate and tender grace is shaped in him that exudes from his life to help others discover how they, too, can live in a growing fullness of God’s love.
Gently, through each season of his life, God keeps inviting Tom into a deeper journey, away from the artificiality of manmade religion and into a transforming relationship with an ever-present God. This is quite a journey from husband and father to reluctant pastor, civil rights supporter, radio personality, and Bible teacher. One man called him the “Forrest Gump of Christianity” as his life intersects with the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Oral Roberts, Derek Prince, and Gene Edwards.
You will be enriched by the humorous and honest stories he tells and the lessons he has learned along the way. Some are stunningly supernatural, while others rise out very normal experiences. He’s refreshingly honest with his mistakes and failures and the persistent unanswered questions that have risen out of his journey.
In the end it is a story of transformation and grace and how learning to follow Jesus is a bit of trial and error as you navigate whatever comes your way with an ear cocked in his direction. Miles down the journey you’ll sense Tom’s contentment in God’s unfolding work and hopefully hunger for it as well.
And after you’ve finished his story, stay tuned for the appendix, where you’ll find even more treasure in the articles Tom has written about the most important life lessons that influenced his journey. They alone are worth whatever you might pay for this book.
I enjoy Tom as a friend and older brother in the faith. If you already know him, you won’t need this forward. If you don’t know him yet, this book is a great place to start.
Good Morning Brother Pilgrim
(Softcover and e-book editions, 200 pages, $14.99)
Tom has been on a few podcasts with me, and always brings a rich passion for the life of Jesus. Here's a list of those shows if you want to hear his voice. The last one is one of our most listened to podcasts year after year.
- The Keeper and the Kept (4/11/2013)
- The Gospel Jesus Preached (8/04/2005)
- The Things God Uses (4/21/2005)
Honestly, I don't know what to say. This morning I asked Sara to check on how much we had received for hunger and medical relief in West Pokot where over 600 families are starving to death as their rural economy has come unraveled by severe and prolonged drought. The estimated need was for $50,000 to get a team in their with water, food, and medical supplies and that is with all volunteer labor. I hoped we could get half of that and try to make a dent in it. Sara just gave me the total as of this morning: $49,610.00. (Yes, we're rounding it up and sending the money off today!)
Shocked?!?!?! To say the least. I was undone this morning in such an incredible way. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for all who were able to respond and participate with us. If you haven't sent money in and still want to, please feel free. The needs here are ongoing and I'm sure they can put it to good use. But I am amazed that God would let us be a conduit for such incredible generosity to people none of you know. I know they will be overwhelmed in Kenya as they can now put the rest of the supplies together. Amazingly, I just received this from Michalel, our coordinator in Kenya this morning:
Dear Brother Wayne, we have worked out all areas of the missions, the exact number of families in those areas is 615. We have also collected the information regarding the treatment and the doctors and nurses were now aware, they are just waiting to purchase the medicine concerning the geographical disease.
We have also worked out and plan the team, ready for mission, regarding transportation we have got the track which will be carrying the food, more than 4 times, although is a bit expensive due to the road and far but we will manage.
The work of repacking is still taking place and we have booked the rest of the maize and beans if God will provide toward our estimated budget we send to you, so now this week as God provides the funds we need to make sure that we have purchased all requirement as we prepared to depart next week 14th , we will give you more updates soon as we complete the mission, because those areas the internet connection is not available, last week we received the all parcels for the bibles and we shall be getting few to add for Pokot language.
May the Lord bless you so much as we look forward to hear from you, some of the pictures are from Living Loved care centre demonstrating the songs, poems and concert, Sammy and Thomas and youth group will be having entertainment for all surrounding fellowship for equipping youths to effective
Here are some of the pictures he sent of the preparation as well as the children at the Living Loved Care Centre.
Bagging the maize
Inspecting the maize
Children dancing before the freshly painted buildings many of you helped with a few months ago.
Your prayers are most welcome for the IGEM people who will be going to West Pokot. The needs in there and at the orphanage are continuing. It's not too late to help out if anything is on your heart. You can direct it through Lifestream as contributions are tax-deductible in the US. As always, every dollar you send goes to the students themselves, we do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.
Later this month I'll be off to the east coast to spend a few days in Maryland and Virginia. I'll be in Knoxville, MD the weekend of April 24-27 with Dan and Joyce, You can contact them here if you'd like details for the weekend. On May 1 I'll be moving down to Richmond and hang out there until the afternoon of May 3. If you want more details there contact Richard or Allen. Then, I'll be heading up to Haymarket, VA for a special one-day discussion, I'll discuss more below.
My time in Knoxville and Richmond will be open conversations about learning to live loved and thinking through how God invites us into more authentic, community-based relationships as the expression of his church, rather than into meetings and structures that don't often provide the depth of connection people are looking for. You're welcome to either of these locations, though space is limited since we're meeting in homes, so please let the hosts know as soon as you know that you'll want to attend. The people hosting the event in Knoxville have recently come out of a oppressive congregational structure and will be similar to my November time in Ft. Worth, TX.
As for our Sunday, May 4 meeting in Haymarket, this is not an open-meeting, simply because we want to keep it small and keep it focused on those who have a desire to be catalysts to help others learn to live loved and facilitate connections in more authentic expressions of church life. If you'd like to come, write me a brief email, explaining why you'd like to come and what your journey is like at the moments in terms of learning to live in a Father's love and breaking free of religious ways of trying to accomplish God's work. If you're new to this living loved journey, we will not be talking about things that will be the most helpful for you. I am looking for people who have already spent a few years learning to live loved and are enjoying greater freedom and who also have the desire to help others on this journey. I held one retreat like this (Seeding Community) in North Carolina this past summer, and hope to have more of them in the coming year so that those who have a passion to help others grow in Christ will have other options than resorting to the old institutional forms that had less to do with transformation in a new creation, but conformity in an old one. If you're interested in helping host something like this in your area in the future, please let me know.
Life has been incredibly crazy of late and many of you have noticed I haven't done with my blog lately. Sorry! I'm gone again this week helping my parents continue to sort out the best choices for dealing with their new circumstances. So let me give you some quick updates:
FINIDNG CHURCH: I am writing tons, and when I get some time I'll post some excerpts from the new book. I couldn't be more excited about what is going on there. The new arrangement is falling together well. I can't wait to be in a broad conversation about the church as it exists on the new creation, not the old creation models we humans keep deivsing. But in the interim, let me give you some quick updates.
KENYA: We've taken in almost $20,000 of the $50,000 hope to have for them by early April when their team goes into West Pokot to help with the starving people there. You can read the full story here. If you have some resource to share and these people are on your heart, now would be a good time. If you need the details, check here.
JAKE MOVIE: The first eight minutes of the podcast I loaded today will give you an update on the progress of the movie adaptation of So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. It is very much a work in progress, but something has happened in the last couple of weeks to up the excitement meter significantly. We'll have to see how it works out. Listen to the first part of the podcast if you want the full story.
EAST COAST TRAVEL: More details on this will come out soon, but I'm headed to Maryland for the last weekend of Aprill, then to Virginia for the first weekend in May. We may be able to put together a "Seeding Community" conversation that second weekend like we had in North Carolina this summer. I'm still trying to work out those details. The first weekend will be open to everyone who wants to come, the second may be structured for a smaller group of folks who are learning to live loved but want to discuss how to help others live the life of Jesus' church in the new creation. If you are in the Virginia area and have an interest, please let me know. For now, I just want you to have the dates if you want to keep your schedule open.
I hear the question all the time, and actually I'm really grateful to know that others are carrying this process on their heart and are anxious to read it. For those that don't know, I'm working on a new book called Finding Church: What if There Really Is Something More? I want it to help people find the realitly of Jesus' church in the world, especially for those who have grown disillusioned with the traditional forms of it that have failed to live up to Paul's incredible language about the life and power of Jesus' church in the earth. My thesis is that the church is a reality inside the new creation Jesus launched on the earth, and as long as we try to build it with old creation realities, we will only end up with the church humanity builds, not the one Jesus is building. Having spent the last twenty years tasting of the church Jesus is building all over the world, it is far more wondrous than anything humanity can replicate even with his best efforts and schemes.
To be honest, it has taken a bit longer to write than I had hoped. Some of that has to do with situations around my life that is curtailing writing time, and some of that has to do with trying to find the way to say what I want to say so that it is clear, conscise, and compelling. I've also invited others into this process and their insights, while incredibly helpful, also sent me back to the drawing board at times.
So how is it going? I've got good news and bad news there. The good news is that I pretty much finished it last week. The bad news is that I blew it up this week, on some wonderful advice I got from a former editor of mine. Hopefully that will be good news in the long run, because it will make it a better book with a better flow. So for those of you who listened to the first chapter and/or the second chapter on The God Journey, they are no longer the first and second chapter. That material will still be there, just arranged quite differently, and not all the content will be in the same chapter. So, it's a bit of a mess right now, but all the pieces are there waiting to find their place. Maybe that's a metaphor for the church itself.
So my best guess now is to try and finish it in the next couple of months and have it available after a couple of months of production. Early summer may be a best-case, and late summer more likely. I'm sorry for the delay, but I'm really excited at how it is taking shape—again!
My friend, Michael, Wafula, who is also the director of IGEM, has been our man in Kenya to help in the post-election violence that devastated so many people in the region and left a trail of orphans and widows in its wake. I was just with him as he was our guest for the Israel tour for his own education and to give him a chance to meet other people in the world who are learning to live loved. I am convinced that God has given us this corner of the world so that people who resonate with Lifestream or The God Journey will have an opportunity to share with other brothers and sisters who live in such need. We are blessed to know Michael and many others there who have a passion for Jesus and his kingdom, and love to share with others in the area who have even less than they do.
Michael returned home to firsthand reports of a crowing crisis in the lands to the north of where he lives. The West Pokot region is a primitive area in the northeast corner of Kenya and is suffering an intense drought. Many of already starved to death and six hundred more families are at risk if they can’t get water and food quickly.
I won’t even show you some of the pictures I received from that region because they are so shocking. The people look like skeletons with flesh barely draping off their bones. The only economy in that region is cattle and they have almost all died off because of the drought. This is a difficult area to reach because they are in the rural interior with no good roads to bring people or resources in.
Michael’s network in Kenya has already mobilized to intervene and to bring help to these people. They will be taking a team of thirteen people, including two doctors and three nurses to help with the malnutrition and pandemic diseases that are spreading there. They will be ministering the life of Jesus, pouring out their love, treating the sick, and distributing Bibles for those who can read in ecither Swahili or Pokot language. They will be visiting three different villages—Konyao, Amakurriat, and Nawuyabong. These are the villages that are most affected and encompass about 2500 people.
The immediate need is for food, drugs, and water. Two hundred pounds of corn costs $35.00, for beans it is $67.00. Five thousand liters of water costs $500.00. It is difficult to put a price on the drugs at this point.
These people are often nomadic in their search for sustenance, wearing only skins or sheets, and are in unreached areas where the word of God has not yet arrived. They believe in shrines, mountain and ancestors spirits. Catholics have done limited work in this area and only a few NGO workers are present to help with development. IGEM wants to get a drilling machine to drill for water, because once they get water there is life.
IGEM also want to start education centers to build a sustainable economy. They want to teach the adults how to sew, bake goods, and grow crops so they won’t be dependent on cattle alone. They also want to help educate the children, which do not receive any schooling now.
Your prayers are most welcome for the IGEM people who will be going to that area, and if you have some extra resource to help the people there, you can direct it through Lifestream. As always, every dollar you send goes to the students themselves, we do not (nor do they) take out any administrative or money transfer fees. If you would like to be part of this to support these brothers and sisters and see the gospel grow in this part of Africa, please see our Sharing With the World page at Lifestream. You can either donate with a credit card there, or you can mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1 • Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.