Living Loved and Relational Community - There's still room in this timeframe if there are other groups in the area who want to plan something. Contact Wayne in the link below.
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1560-1 Newbury Rd #313
Newbury Park, CA 91320
Phone: (805) 498-7774
Fax: (805) 499-5975
Over the past couple of weeks Sara has been sending out donation receipts to those who have given so generously to Lifestream over the past year. Of course, the vast majority of that went to help in Kenya where people were so impacted by drought and disease. In the past twenty years I have continually been amazed at how God has provided for all that we do here, from the books and travel, to the free website resources, and in the last few years to share with our brothers and sisters in Kenya who live in such incredible poverty.
We are not a relief organization, or even a missional one in the sense that our objective is to raise money for overseas needs. But you wouldn't know that from looking at our financial expenditures last year. If you had shown me this chart last year and told me that's what God was going to do in 2014, I would have thought you were crazy. We were simply touched by a need overseas. Dear friends from Kenya had come across a region north of them where over 100,000 peple were being decimated by extreme drought, destroying their food supply and ravaging them with disease. We simply offered to help and invited you to help too. What began with sending a few thousand dollars worth of food and water sort of snowballed—both with the need there, and the generosity of people who read this blog or listen to my podcast at The God Journey.
Honestly this was not in our budget or plans for this year. Who would have thought that we would be able to channel over half a million dollars by simply letting people know about the need? We didn't take out any fees for our expenses or administration in gathering and wiring this money and quickly generosity begat generosity. Well, we certainly look like a missions organization now at least as far as our spending in 2014. Here's what that looked like:
Someone wrote this week to get some more information on Lifestream and how we do what we do. Lifestream is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry. For revenue last year we took in $344,000 in contributions and another $38,000 in book sales and other income. We spent $673,000 last year, with $531,00 of that going to our work in Kenya and $25,000 of that in travel and website expenses. We have two people on our payroll (myself and Sara) and we are free to do whatever God gives us to do to encourage people on this journey, connect them with others, and to share his resource among the corner of his family that we touch. As you can see our business model is unsustainable, spending more than we take in. It only works because of a past endowment we can access.
Almost two-thirds of our spending last year went to our brothers and sisters in Kenya to help relieve the suffering in North Pokot and open a wide door for the Gospel among a people who did not know about Jesus or his life. Over the next week or so our donation receipts will go out to those who helped make all of this possible. You can't imagine how grateful we are and overwhelmed with gratittude that God let us be part of something so incredible. A year ago we didn't even know these people existed or that we could help meet a need more worthy of far larger missions groups. But somehow God saw fit to use this little community in a corner of the web. So if you think this blog posting is bragging on Lifestream, you're a bit confused. This was not about us! This was about fellow human beings being ravaged by need and how a small group of people from all over the world responded. You can read more about that here as this journey continues into 2015.
Love draws you into some pretty crazy space where God can do things beyond anything you would even ask for or imagine.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was an outstanding collegiate and professional basketball player many moons ago and well-known convert to Islam. In a Time article this week he wrote about his reaction to the Paris bombings as a Muslim:
"Ironically, terrorism is an act against the very religion the perpetrators believe in. It’s is an acknowledgement that the religion and its teachings aren’t enough to persuade people to follow it. Any religion that requires coercion is not about community but leaders who want power."
And it is also true of evangelical pastors who berate followers of Jesus with fear and obligation. If your faith is not engaging enough to invite others to embrace it on for its joy and reality, maybe you need to find a richer faith.
If you haven't followed this blog, over the last nine months, through the generosity of many of you were were able to send over half a million dollars to help rescue over 120,000 tribal people in West Pokot, whose sparse economy had collapsed under the weight of a three-year drought. We were able to bring food, water, and emergency medical care to relieve the most pressing needs last April. We then financed four wells to provide water and built a school and a field clinic to help the people in so desperate a condition. Disease is rampant because they have no toilets or the most rudimentary hygene. We also financed an enterprise whose profits will go to pay the ongoing expenses at the school. A year ago we didn't even know these people existed and we'd never have conceived of trying to raise that much money for anyone. But as the needs continued to unfold, God continued to send us people who had extra to help rescue these people. It has opened a wide door for the Gospel to penetrate these people who had previously only prayed to their ancestors. The reports I get continue to amaze me at all that God did through people who read this blog and listen to my podcast at The God Journey. If you want to read a more detailed report of what has gone there, please click here.
It has been inconceivable to me that such a huge need could exist in our modern world and be so far beyond the reach of any governmental aid, or help from large nonprofit organizations that help feed and drill wells in places of great need. I never thought our little group of people could long continue to manage this need on our own, but government support has been nonexistent and the ongoing need is still causing death and starvation. As God would have it, this week I had a friend visit and stay overnight with us. Traveling with him was an African man who is part of a ministry that develops schools in Africa and this man was the director for that ministry in Rwanda. He was very interested in our Kenya story and what we’d been able to do there for you and what we’ve done in the past year for the people of West Pokot. First, he couldn’t believe that such need would exist among 120,000 people and the government, UN, or NGOs wouldn’t be involved to help in such a crisis. But he has a good friend who is well-connected politically in Nairobi and so we placed a call to him and he was able to confirm not only the desperate crisis in Pokot, but also that the government is only now making efforts to create a government presence there and see how these needs can be addressed. He did not know of the work we had done there, but was excited to hear of it. He said he would be willing to travel up there to meet with our representatives and introduce them to government officials who can help spur economic development. This was an amazing answer to prayer. He was just what we needed and he offered to assess the situation and recommend a strategic plan for the future utilizing government services and help from other nonprofit groups.
Both the director from Rwanda and the man in Kenya were able to school us on the problem too much with relief that destroys the existing sharing of food and resources among the people themsevles to help generate a new economy and it can destroy people's initiative and make the dependent on perpetual aid. This has been a concern and prayer of mine all along. We want to help, but we want to help wisely. I was blessed that this man is there and is willing to help the people of Pokot sort out a way to move forward beyond their need. This is an important piece of our puzzle.
What we have already been able to do here through your generosity completely astounds me and I am more grateful than I could ever convey on this blog, as are our brothers and sisters in Kenya. That said, there are some immediate needs for which the Kenyans have asked for our help and I am asking for yours. The two doctors and nurses that staff the dispensary in West Pokot have had no support and may have to leave to go back to help meet their family expenses at home. They are needing about $1800.00 per month for the next three years to keep doctors and nurses on site. The car needed for transportation between Kitale and West Pokot needs some significant repairs due to the difficult road conditions in that part of the country and the dispensary staff needs a motorcycle to get supplies and to get to those who cannot get to the clinic themselves. Total cost for those two is about $10,000. The medical people are also begging for latrines to be built in the communities to stop the proliferation of disease that results from people coming into contact with human waste. These are large facilities that can service hundres of people but cost about $1700 each for the supplies needed to build them. The men are willing to do the labor.
In addition there are many elderly and small children that do not have enough money to get food, which adds to their proclivity toward disease. The need here is about $3800 per month, but at this point we're not sure this is the best way to meet that need. Surely some short-term relief will be needed here, but we also have to help the community care for the neediest among them as well.
These are all huge challenges, and I'm always blessed by the Kenyan people we know in Kitale who are spending of their time and resource to help these impoverished people. If any of these needs interest you and you'd like to underwrite it, please let me know. If you'd like to help with offerings that we can share, that would be great blessing as well. Our best guess now is that we'll be putting about $40,000 into Kenya over the next few months as God provides. If you have extra to pass along for the people of West Pokot 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.
Digging latrines in West Pokot
I got this email the other day and it really touched me. It was from someone I first met traveling in Pennsylvania some time ago, but we have stayed in contact and become good friends over that time. "As I continue to see the never-ending "church"/"christian" debates, promotions, and controversies scroll down my Facebook news feed, I couldn't be happier that Father saw fit to connect us over ten years ago! You have truly shown me a better way, a better relationship, a better Father!"
First off, I won't take credit for all of that, but reading his words made me grateful for every human being God has led across my path in my most transformative days who helped me see a better way into a relationship with Father that increasingly bears the fruit of kindness, generosity, and graciousness to others, even those who don't share my views of God, his church, or the world. Those people who reflected Jesus' priorities to me were an incredible encouragement on this journey.
Secondly, reading his email expressed well for me what I feel reading down my Facebook feed most days. There is still way too much angst between those who either want to defend congregational attendance as the only measure of someone's walk with Jesus or passion for real community, and those who want to reject anyone who does as being embedded in legalism or religion. Congregational meetings are simply collections of Christians who get together regularly for some singing and a Bible lecture. That can be helpful on some people's journey or it can be destructive depending on the content and the structure behind it.
But the real journey is not about church, no church, going to church, not going to church, accusing others of being too religious or lone wolves. The real journey is about embraching the reality of Father's love and letting that spill out of us in ways that brings his redemptive influence into the world, rather than tearing others down.
By all means do what God gives you to do, but don't think you have to either convince others to do it too, or justify yourself by tearing down what may be a significant part of somone else's journey. Here are some excerpts from Romans 14 in THE MESSAGE that always challenge me:
- Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
- So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.
- Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others.
If we can only see how well-loved we are we would love well in the world, and his kingdom would unfurl before us like a meadow full of wildflowers. And I really do think that's a better way than getting caught up in the side roads of comparing ourselves to others.
The last few weeks have been filled with family and friends during this end-of-the-year season and I was able to complete my latest book. But more on that below. This last week has been a refreshing and restful time. I had a three-hour drive with my 89-year old dad just after Christmas getting him back to his home and we got to talking about his childhood, my childhood, any regrets about his journey, and how God has been faithful through the years. It encompassed the span of both of our lives and was one of those conversations I will remember for the rest of my life. I think many people would love to have that kind of time with their parents before they go, but never seem to find the time or the questions to let it open up. Trust me, find the time! Ask the simple questions of "What were your parents like?" "What do you remember most from grade school years?" "Any regrets?" We fell into a very natural conversation when my dad was especially talkative. I am blessed with a rich heritage of faith for sure, but I also Dad and I see things quite differently at times. It was great to see God and the world through his eyes for those three hours and I learned an awful lot I didn't know about my dad and his life.
On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day we connected with two couples that we've been close to for almost 40 years, meeting at a congregation where I had my first vocational "ministry" position. They were also part of my time in Visalia. We had almost 24 hours together to share our friendship and catching up on each other's lives—both the struggles and joys of being on this journey. There is a rich heritage, too, of relationships that we have cultivated over many years and through many twists in the road. The fellowship was rich an the conversation filled with life. What a graet mini-retreat!
I've also had much more opportunity for personal encounters with people at propitious moments in their journey. I find my heart leaning more away from "group" meetings and more toward pro-longed conversations with people engaged in a transformative journey with Jesus. There are an increasing number of people that just want to stop by Newbuyr Park over lunch or a beverage to share this journey and I find when I'm on the road that the personal conversations have been so fruitful. So I don't know what the year holds there. As I move into this stage of our my journey I much more appreciate the honesty, open conversation with a few rather than trying to facilitate it with a large group. I'm sure I will still do both, but excited that the shift seems to be moving more toward personal engagements where more transformative topics seem to come up and deep friendships often result. This week while Sara and I were visiting in Central California two people heavily engaged with a congregation nearby wanted to meet with me. We spent a couple of hours together over coffee first and then some pizza. Great conversation. I love what one of them wrote about their conversation back home:
Thank you again Wayne for spending time with us today! As we got into the car after lunch, I asked my friend, "So, what'd you think?" He said that you are the same in person as you are in your books & emails—authentic & friendly! I'd say it doesn't get much better than that! Thanks again for all of your hard work, and all of your writings! The "Jake" book totally grabbed me & authenticated my Journey... "He Loves Me" reiterated what I already knew, but even more. "Finding Church" has really left me at peace.
No, it doesn't get any better than that. "Authentic and friendly," is what I hope people see in my life however they engage me. I've met many an author or speaker who seemed to be in private the exact opposite of the personna they cultivated for the public. I've never wanted to be that guy and that brief note blew me away. I am so grateful at Father's love has shaped in my life. So grateful. Believe me, such things have not always been said of me.
My Christmas project this year was to put together over 850 pictures that our photographers took on our trip to Israel last February. What a daunting task to cull through the pictures and chose those that could capture the trip and the people who joines us there. If you want to have a peak, you can view it here. It has amazed me how much that group of 40 people has stayed connected in the months since. They have visited each other even across countries and continents, and stayed in contact through a private Facebook page as they continue to cheer each other on in the amazing journey of life. We really did come to Israel as strangers and left having become a part of a larger family. Many people have bugged me about going back at some point and I probably will when my daughter's kids get old enough so that she can go. That may be three to four years out, but nonetheless a possibility. And if some of you want to join us for that, I'll go through all of this again!
Finally, lots of incredible doors are opening up with Finding Church, that I'll be more free to talk about in the weeks ahead as we try to sort out which way the Spirit is blowing us. The emails I get about the book have been much appreciated as are the thirty-one people have posted reviews on Amazon.com, even the guy who only thought it deserved two stars. He seemed to have missed the point but he took a chance to read the book, which I think is awesome.
As I look forward to 2015, I don't start with a lot of personal goals, but I have an expectancy that God and I will continue this incredible journey and that he'll allow me to help some others along it as well. At this point I have little scheduled and even less planned, but I couldn't be more excited about what might unfold. I pray you too will have a fruitful year ahead and that we'll all be a bit more free of our own hopes and dreamss to see his unfolding right in front of us!
Sara and I receive lots of Christmas cards and greetings from people all over the world and they overwhelm us with the joy of our connection to a vast and rich pool of friends who share many of our passions. I'm deeply blessed by all the people I know and love in the world. We havent sent out our own cards or family newsletter in years. For one, most of my life is already public and two, it only adds to a to-do list that is already too long at year's end.
But I enjoy reading the ones that are sent to us as long as you remember that Christmas newsletters like Facebook postings only include the highlights, as perhaps they should. But real life goes on beneath the milestones in our children's lives, the birth and growth of grandchildren, and new opportunities at work. I've read many a newsletter, celebrating the high moments, but knowing that life was much more difficult for them than any would think reading it. Life is filled with challenge and pain for all of us. While they may not be appropriate in a newsletter, I am concerned that as others read them they thing others' lives are awesome, while theirs is difficult and painful. Don't forget, everyone knows pain, times of doubt, rear, and struggles that at times push them to their limits. They are not going to put that in a newsletter so don't think the newsletter defines their lives.
In this last year Sara and I have known absolute bliss and times of searing pain. We've known God's wisdom, and we've stood amidst perplexing circumstances horribly uncertain of what's next. We've laughed hard with good friends and we've cried as people we love endure excruciating pain. We got to go to Israel with forty people who became an expression of God's family not just for those ten days, but in growing friendships since. We came back to be with my parents through challenges to my mom's health, then her passing, then to help Dad in his life now in the valley of the shadow of her death.
I blew up Finding Church in February and had to rewrite it past summer. And now Sara has been busy shipping them all over the world. The response has been overwhelming, both with those who love it and those who consider it a grave threat to what they think is the "real church."
We've seen people we love find new dimensions of grace, we've watched others nearly give up in the struggle. We've enjoyed our children, grandchildren, extended family, and friends in the passages of life. We've celebrated when new layers of revelation open up a wider vista for a friend, groaned in prayer as others go through deeper pain and challenge. We've deepened old friendships and began new ones. We have been with people in the pain of coming away from abusive religious systems, who struggle to believe their is a God who loves them, even at their most broken. We've sat in dark moments with those overwhelmed by disappointment or fear.
As a complete surprise to us we got involved with a 120,000 people straving to death in the upper reaches of Kenya and through your generosity were able to send over half a million dollars for relief, provision, medical needs, education, and to drill four wells to provide life-giving water. Half a million dollars! I can't even imagine how God was able to put that kind of resource in our hands just by making a few invitations on my blog or podcast! We sent it all to Kenya, even more thatn we took in and have listened to the stories as those we helped have been opening to Jesus because their gods had failed them. We've seen our Kenyan friends rush to their aid out of their own poverty and heard how blessed they were that we entrusted the money to them without sending a white guy over to administrate the funds because we didn't trust them. They don't think that has ever been done before. They have grown tremendously in their capacity to live beyond themselves and be a blessing to others when their needs are great as well.
But mostly this year has been like every other year, another opportunity for grace to unfold in our lives and the challenge to keep embracing his reality when life beckons you so many different directions. We've grown in love and gratefulness for a Father who is with us through whatever comes our way and has the words that lead us to life. Our prayer is that this season you will know the reality of "God with you!" You are not alone, not matter what circumstances argue to the contrary and no matter how dark the night feels. You are deeply loved by the creator of the universe, and in that increadle truth Sara and I pray that you will have a blessed Christmas season, and the fullest of joys in the year ahead. Thank you for all the love and friendship you've extended towards us in large ways and small ones. Thanks for being on the journey of Life and by doing so give encouragement to ours.
I've met a lot of people on this journey who distort the Scriptures, most unwittingly of course. Some make it a legalistic rule book to bask others over the head with a disfigured view of God-as-bully, demanding people satisfy his demand or crushing them in his anger. Others dismiss the Bible as irrelevant, thinking God's Spirit in us supplants any value to the wisdom of revelation the Scripture offers. A few years ago I recorded The Jesus Lens to help people have a view of Scripture that fits into a wider relational journey, allowing both the Spirit and the Scriptures to speak in tandem to our lives as we not only grow in the Father's love but in his light as well.
I have loved the Scriptures from my youth and still do as the greatest revelation of Father's affection and purpose in the world ever written. Reading them is not an obligation, but a window in to the ways God thinks and how he responds, albeit written by people who often misunderstood him and his ways. Admittedly I've come to see them very differently than I did in my younger days. I no longer read it religiously but seeing how the totality of Scripture's story unfolds a God of immense love and wisdom, and invites us on an adventure of joining God's purpose in the world. If you haven't cultivated a view of the Bible that allows you to see one consistent God throughout, winning humanity out of it's fear of God, you've missed the most incredible story ever told.
The Jesus Lens is a nine-hour video series I did a couple of years ago to help people recapture the beauty of Scripture and interpret it in a way that will help their growing relationship with him. You can stream it in audio or video for free. If you'd like to own the DVDs we've reduced them by 30% to $25.00 per copy.
I got this email the other day and it made my heart soar. This is why I recorded that series and make it available free of charge, so people like Ron can find great joy in the Scripture: I met Ron a few months ago on one of my trips. Since then he discovered The Jesus Lens, and I got this email from him this weekend:
I thought I had it all when you came to visit us. I have been going through The Jesus Lens. I just HAVE to say how FRUSTRATINGLY wonderful this series is to an old pharisee like me. It is challenging me with EVERY lesson and the best/worst of it is - I end up seeing exactly what you are pointing out and AGREEING with it. I have not been so thoroughly challenged and changed since the Shack. God has nailed me at every turn. I really can't believe (it's sinking in but still amazes me) that God has used one man to so turn my life upside down in so MUCH. I have NEVER heard the things taught before that I hear God revealing to me through you. I know you well enough to know that you are giving him all of the credit. And while that is awesomely true, I can't help but be thankful that Abba drew me to this connection.
I so want to be as brave as you. As I am continuing to grow in living life loved it is just so AMAZING how much better EVERYTHING else is. Sorry for my caps but I just can hardly express my excitement. Anyway - thank you, THANK you, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!
I hope it inspires many more people to see beyond the distortion of the Bible by those who want to make it a religious rule book and let it breathe as the story of God's unfolding revelation in the world.
I get a lot of these kinds of email from people wanting to know God's will for their life, and despite many prayers and hours contemplating what that might be, they don't think they are gtting any closer to an answer. Maybe we are asking God for information he can't really give, or at least if he does we will misunderstand that. In my younger years, I was in that situation a lot, looking for answers God didn't seem to want to give. It was frustrating and made me doubt whether I could listen to him at all. Now as I look back on my life with the gift of age I see how impossible it would have been for God to answer a prayer like that. What would he have said back then given the arc my life has taken. I've done lots of things in lots of different seasons, and in the end I think it was far important important that I become a free person in his love than that I
I got this from Jim just this morning:
I have been reading and listening to many of your resource) at Life Stream for two years now. My relationship is getting closer with Him on a daily basis but I still am seeking some answers to unknown questions. I have held the questions in front of Him for almost two years but no certain answer has fallen into my heart. Questions like, what is my next step Lord?
What do you want me to do as a career? Also, what do you have for me today Lord? I am totally open to Him and His direction. Am I missing something?
Here's how I responded: I’m glad some of our resources have been helpful to your journey and grateful you’d take the time to let me know. As to your question, I’m not sure what you are looking for? Are you looking for God to tell you to go be an airplane pilot, or university professor, or a carpenter? Honestly, I don’t know that it works that way. If he had something to tell you about any of that, I suspect he would in a way you’d understand. Otherwise he wants to live your life with you? His will is mostly about shaping you with is love and making you a better lover in the world, wherever you are doing whatever you do.
What does your skill set, desires, or opportunities draw you toward? Can you make a living at it? When I ask God for these things, I don’t expect an answer out of the blue, but I anticipate that he will direct my paths as I go through my day, living inside my godly desires, with an eye on him if he has something to nudge me toward. It’s a process, where we mostly stumble into the things God has for us, rather than he tells us what to do and we go about trying to make it happen. If that makes sense… In other word we don’t live our lives from a divine strategy he gives us, but by our growing ability to live inside his love as we navigate the life that is before us one day at a time. That's the adventure of it. We don't have to know where he's leading, only that we're following him as best we see him. .
I don’t know what his next steps in me are, or what he wants me doing next month. I simply follow his nudges each day. Some of the best things I’m involved in today, I didn’t set out to do. One small decision, led to another door, and a decision there led to a different opportunity and his will just unfolded as I lived alongisde him. Now I look back and see more clearly what he was doing in my life through all those things, but at those times I was mostly clueless, except to follow my passion and my conscience as I best understood them. You, too, may be looking for something that he doesn’t give. He doesn’t want to control every detail of your life, but to be include alongside you as you learn to live in his love…
Imagine you laying back in your easier chair or being caught in an exasperating commute to work and me sitting right beside you reading to you from http://www.lifestream.org/content/finding-church. OK, that doesn't even sound fun to me. I wouldn't sit next to you and read, we would get to talk. But the audio version of Finding Church is now available for download, so you can listen to me read it even though I won't be right there beside you. Maybe we'll get that chance up the road sometime.
If you'd like to listen to a sample, you will find Chapter 17 below: "Unity Without Conformity". This is the high point of the book, in my view. It demonstrates not only the answer to Jesus' prayer, but also why our attempts to produce unity through conformity are destined to fail.
A few months ago I was asked to contribute a chapter to a book being written by a number of authors about their passion for Jesus' church. Unfortunately it was at a time when I was too busy to meet the deadlines. As it came to publication, though, I was approached about writing the Foreword and was happy to do so. The book just released this week. It is called Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity. I'm not crazy about the title, but titles are never easy. I hope people don't confuse it with a technique for "doing church" that some call "simple church" and see it instead as those who embrace a simpler way of seeing Jesus' church in the world, becasue that's what the book is about. This book was published by a friend of mine and brings together twenty-four different writers who are living, loving, and serving outside the institutional model. I enjoyed reading it and having some of these same passions rekindled in my own heart.
I also love what it represents—people from diverse backgrounds coming together to share their piece of God's gift in their lives. We need far more of this as Jesus brings the pieces of his church together to share life, not to create another overarching institution or movement. I wrote about this crowing connection and unity in Finding Church and I love it when people find more identity in Jesus than they do a particular theological point of view or way of "doing church." We need more of this, and not just by writers, but by every member of his body learning to love people around them knowing they are only a piece of a greater revelation God is giving to the world. We don't have to agree on all the details, when we hold Jesus in common. I'm grateful this book is broadening the conversation in the world.
I don't know what more to say about it than I already wrote in the Foreword, so I'll let you have a look at it here:
You hold in your hands a unique compilation of the insights of twenty-four different individuals chosen from across the world sharing what makes them passionate about the church of Jesus in the world. While each of these articles is unique and fascinating in its own way they harmonize in a glorious symphony of the ways Jesus wants to make his multifaceted-wisdom known in the world.
I love to read what makes someone’s heart beat faster when they contemplate the reality of the Father’s family taking shape in the world. By focusing on the positive side of church life, instead of where its broken, many common themes emerge such as the supremacy of Christ, laying down our lives for others, handling Truth lightly so others can access him even in their brokenness, and each of us learning to follow him as we support and encourage each other.
Each of these contributors was chosen because they practice something called simple church. While definitions of that term may vary as does the way each of them lives it out, at its core simple church refers to people who are no longer engaged in institutional congregations that gather weekly. Though many of them did so for multiple decades, each of them came to discover greater reality and freedom away from those structures and embrace the church as a family sharing his life together in homes, coffee shops, and anywhere else people naturally get together.
But even if you see the church differently than they do, you will find their heartbeat transcends simple church itself and strikes to the core of what it means to be God’s children in the earth. You will find many people in more institutional settings that long for these same priorities and seek a church that reflects God as an endearing presence in the universe, inviting people everywhere into the reality of his life and truth.
I hope these themes become the fodder for conversations among his church, however they happen to gather. We need more conversation about these things, not less. And we need it not just with those who are like-minded, but even those who see things differently than we do but have the same heart for God and his kingdom.
This book is like a very long and very full buffet table as the contributors wrestle with the implications of doctrine, holiness, unity, giving and sharing. You’ll want to devour it all, but you’ll soon realize that there isn’t enough time in the day or enough energy in the mind to live out all that’s here. Just keep in mind that they are not talking about the church as an institution having to do all these things, or even as one individual doing them all.
They consider the church as a communion of persons, each part responding joyfully to the Head. It is enough to embrace the part he’s given us as we encourage others around us to do the same. How he uniquely he takes shape in each of us will make the glory of the whole far greater than the sum of its parts. We may not be able to do them all, but these don’t dwell in the world of obligation. This is not how we have to live for him, but how we get to live in his unfolding glory.
So take care not to reduce the table of contents into a list of objectives we have to achieve by our own effort. We couldn’t even on our best day. What is described here is how Jesus takes shape in his church as each of us learns to live at his pleasure in this broken world. There will be strength enough, grace enough, courage enough and wisdom enough for these priorities to shape the way we live. It is in learning to live in his love that we will be free enough to revel in his priorities and demonstrate his glory in the world.
This is his church to build and he does it well, often in mostly unseen ways. But she is taking shape in the world as he draws people together that share many of the passions outlined in these pages. May this book encourage your own journey and stimulate your passion to experience his life and share it freely with others.