#Community: New Wine Podcast #005

This is the fifth New Wine podcast and here’s what we’ll do this time: We’ll chat about what community has to do with being sent – that is, are we sent alone or with others and why does this matter?


I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!



Also, here are a list of links that you may find helpful after having listened to the podcast:



The Watching World

The World Is Watching

People are watching folks who follow Jesus.  They see what we are doing.  They’re watching how we live.  They notice us.

Why does this simple fact — that the world is watching — matter?

Well, it matters because our words communicate some but our lives speak much more.  Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, has studied this matter a lot and has determined that 93% of communication is nonverbal (body language, nonverbal vocal cues, etc.).  That’s crazy!

Think about that for a minute.  What we do and how we do it communicates a ton, way more than our actual words do!

So what does this mean?  Well, this is not a call to legalism.  You may be thinking, “But if what we do matters to people, then shouldn’t we always behave uber-properly, so that they get a good view of Jesus?

Here’s my short answer: “No” and “Yes.”

Here’s the longer answer: “No” because if we get focused on the details of doing what we think is right (or what we’re told is right) people see that too.  They’ll pick up really quickly that we care more about doing what’s proper than we do about people.  And “Yes” because behaving ethically and in ways that promote justice are centrally important.  Ethics and the pursuit of justice are different than following rules out of obligation.  Why?  Because ethics and seeking justice have to do with making sure that other people in the world are taken care of (Phil 2.3-4), whereas legalistic behavior is inherently self-centered.

People will see the difference.  They’ll notice if we’re following rules because doing so is right or if we’re seeking the best for others despite whatever personal cost there may be.

An Example of Living While the World Is Watching

Who can serve as a good example of living an others-centered life well while the world is watching?  None other than Jesus!

Check this out: “During the Passover feast in Jerusalem, the crowds were watching Jesus closely; and many began to believe in Him because of the signs He was doing” (John 2.23 in The Voice**).

Did you see that?  People were watching Jesus too.  They saw his life.  They observed the signs he performed.  They saw his love for his close friends.  They witnessed his miracles and concern for the marginalized.  And, of course, they heard his teaching.

And what did people see Jesus do in John 2?  They saw him turn water into wine, thus preventing a wedding party from being lame and bringing shame on the groom and his family, and they saw him exercise his passion for proper worship and justice when he cleared out the temple.

They saw Jesus’ actions, actions which were for the benefit of others.  John also says that people saw other signs he was doing, and if these unspecified signs were anything like all of Jesus’ other signs, then they too were done for the benefit of others.

Here’s the crux: People saw what Jesus was doing, and when the watching world looked at him they saw him living for the benefit of others.

What Does the Watching World See in Us?

The answer to this question has been studied quite a bit.  Here’s what researchers have found: When people are asked to describe Christians they saw we are judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%).

The fairness of the criticisms may be unfair.  But what is not up for debate is that these descriptors are what people see in us.  This is how the watching world describes us.

This situation is sad, of course.  But all hope is not lost.

One relationship at a time with people who are watching us, we can change people’s opinions.  We can be accepting the way that Jesus was.  We can be less judgmental and more loving.  We can learn to be shockproof when we encounter messed up stuff in the world.  We can be more open and honest about our own sinfulness.  We can stop pretending we have it all together and that we have all the answers.

In short, we can live others-focused lives the way Jesus did.  To paraphrase a theme from one of my favorite books, Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, by one of my favorite authors, Hugh Halter: A follower of Jesus is a person who lives Jesus’ human life in his or her human life.

How do we live Jesus’ human life?  Well, we need to find out how Jesus lived by reading about his life in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Then we need to gather some friends around us who also want to live Jesus’ life in their lives and start doing the things we see Jesus doing.  We need to pray for each other, celebrate together, hold each other accountable, and encourage one another.

I can’t emphasize this enough: DON’T TRY THIS ALONE.  Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, didn’t even try this alone!  What makes you or me think that we can do it?  Here’s a good place for you and your friends to start together: The Tangible Kingdom Primer, by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay.

So, the watching world is watching us closely.  What are they seeing?  And what can we do about it?


** The Voice is a newer translation of the Bible that I highly recommend.  It was put together by a team of biblical scholars and artists, so it is faithful to the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) but it is written in very easy-to-read English.  This is a perfect Bible to give as a gift to someone who is part of the watching world who gets interested in Jesus!


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The Ghost of Church Present: Part Three (A Missional Response)

My wife, parents, and I recently watched a stage production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  As I watched it I couldn’t help but imagine what the ghosts of church past, present, and future might say to those of us who follow Jesus.  Last week I looked into the revelations from the ghost of church past (Part OnePart Two, and Part Three).  And this week we’ll hear from the ghost of church present (here’s Part One and Part Two).

A Missional Response

So the ghost of Christmas present showed us that the US is a mission field in need of fresh encounters with the gospel and that many of our churches are not responding to this reality all that well.  There are some, however, who are.

Here’s one such example: Adullam in Denver, Colorado.

A missional congregation in Denver

From Adullam’s Website

Adullam’s lead pastor is Hugh Halter, the author of Tangible Kingdom.  In his book Hugh tells the story of how God helped reignite the missional fire in him and how he and his ministry partner Matt Smay, along with their families, reluctantly planted a church in Denver.  In this post I want to explore how Hugh and Matt have led Adullam to be a community with a missional impulse.  (The source for all the material below is either my memory of reading Tangible Kingdom or the “About Adullam” page on their site.)

  • Missional Vision — Here’s Adullam’s vision statement: “Adullam is a congregational network of incarnational communities that are apprenticing kingdom people” (form the “About Adullam” page).  So, their centering values all lean toward being missional and away from being attractional.
  • Discipleship is the Engine — Did you note the word “apprenticing” in Adullam’s vision statement?  This is their code word for “discipleship.”  The purpose in shying away from the word “discipleship” is, in my estimation, because it is too churchy and has come to mean something (classroom-style, cognitive learning) that it doesn’t mean in the New Testament (learning from a respected person by living life together).  Thus, Adullam is saying that apprenticeship is the engine that drives them into their mission field.  Without it, there’s no evangelism, no growth, no conversions, no leadership development, etc.
  • Focus on Being the Church — You probably also noted that Adullam’s vision statement doesn’t use the word “church.”  This had to be intentional!  Instead we find the words “congregation” and “incarnational communities” and “people.”  Their focus is clearly not to become a place for people to come and receive spiritual goods and services (which is how I define our attractional understanding of “church”) and is instead on being the church.
  • Praxis, Praxis, Praxis! — Adullam also says that their explicit goal is to make the kingdom of God tangible.  By this, as you can read in Tangible Kingdom, Hugh means living out the good news in the lives of people.  This means serving, having fun, and, yes, talking about God too.  But it means all those things, not just the last one!  Thus, the people at Adullam are trained to and expected to express their love for God and their neighbors in real-life, real-world ways.
  • Symptoms of an Apprentice — Furthermore, Adullam spells out very clearly what the life of an apprentice of the kingdom looks like: 1) They’ll be involved in inclusive community; 2) They’ll experience communion with God (together, in smaller communities, and as individuals); and 3) They’ll be on mission for God in Denver.
  • Incarnation – You may have also noticed how much Adullam uses the word “incarnation.”  Their informed belief is that “the best environment for the kingdom to appear tangible is in the context of an incarnational community” (form the “About Adullam” page).  By “incarnation” they mean being Jesus in their own communities — in essence, enfleshing the gospel of the kingdom of God where the live, work, and play.  This is a missional way of thinking that stands in direct opposition to the attractional mindset that says “If we build it, then they will come.”
  • Discouraging Consumerism — Being a consumer Christian (meaning a follower of Jesus who just wants to be fed with as little effort as possible, whether on purpose or subconsciously) would be really hard at Adullam.  They don’t always meet together.  The purpose of their times of gathering is to be a blessing to the kids and for their various missional communities to connect.  In fact, Adullam is so serious about discouraging consumerism that they provide links to other churches in the Denver area where folks might find a better fit.  That is revolutionary!

Adullam is just one example among many that are out there.  Now, in fact, there are even missional networks that help congregation figure out how to get on mission together.  A few of these networks are Missio Alliance, Verge, Forge America, and Acts 29.  Now is a great time to start being more missional!  What are we waiting for?!?

Do you know of some more missional responses the reality of the American mission field?  Let me know in the comments!