What’s the New Normal?

What’s the New Normal?

Somebody asked me how we know when we are operating in the “new normal”.  The first thought that comes into my head is, “How the heck should I know?!” But, here’s a shot at it anyway.

1) We are called to do things and accountable to God for doing them that I have neither the financial resources nor the institutional support/authority to do. The needs are real and tremendous. You just have to figure it out because the book on this stuff hasn’t been written yet, and won’t be for a long time to come. There will never be a point where you have “enough” to do what you’re called to do. Forget that.

2) We get on the ground and find the indigenous person there who will lead us into the mission – who has the tacit information and informal networks and street cred necessary to develop the mission. Strategic planning went out the window the minute our community actually engaged the mission field. Forget about titles and degrees and institutional accreditation. The people who will lead you into the mission are people from the “tribes and nations” you’re trying to find the Kingdom in the midst of. Think “Lewis and Clark” and prepare for what might happen, rather than trying to plan what WILL happen.

3) Fail. A lot. Learn from those failures. Get better. Try again…and again. Pick up the pieces and move forward.

4) Seek the Kingdom of God where it is emerging far outside our walls and comfort zones, not people to fill up pews.

5) Forget about a forty-hour work week and a neat little ten percent tithe to the church. It’s all-in and everything you have.

6) Get comfortable in chaos. Nothing is neat or pretty or easy. Few things that bear fruit in the mission are really institutionally measurable.

7) At least a third of the people you invite to do mission with you and who you are solid friends with are not believers in any of this yet. Yet. Resources have to come from secular sources.

8) Put on a whole bucketful of perseverance because this stuff takes patience and stick-with-it-ness. Do not quit. There is no going back. While you’re at it, put on some seriously thick skin, too. Because this stuff isn’t going to make you popular, either. If everybody loves you, you’re not making real decisions.

9) It’s not about processes or programs anymore. Forget those. Pray like crazy. Fast. Beg for a blessing. It’s about the Holy Spirit. And it’s about individual relationships that become webs of relationships that become communities that defy measurement or conventional models. The next step deeper into the Kingdom is always one miracle away. This is dreams and visions and crazy super-natural stuff.

10) Accept the fact that there will be casualties. The first will be your institutional career. Next, for sure, will be people who you never thought would bail on you, but who bail on you. You will lose people. You will see people die and suffer horribly. Some people you try to reach will hate you with a passion. And you will reach some. “Some” is my new normal word.

11) If you aren’t doing something that scares the hell out of you at least once a week, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but you’re probably not living the same normal I am. Scared is definitely part of my new normal. You know that feeling you have when you tip too far back in a chair…right before it goes over? THAT is my new normal.

12) It’s not what you know anymore. It’s how fast you can learn and adapt what you know to a mission field that is constantly changing. We are all little children in this .

13) If you’re hoarding information and resources and using them for personal gain, then you are part of the OLD normal. What difference does it make to a dead man who gets the credit? Us not mattering is the new normal…and the Good News.

14) If your disciples aren’t making disciples who make disciples, something is wrong.

15) Our communities are structured for spiritual warfare, not for Christmas pageants and Vacation Bible School. Accountability and responsibility are intentionally linked to authority in the community.  We place great emphasis on personal responsibility. We have come to expect spiritual attacks…and we know they are real.  If we aren’t being attacked, we probably aren’t threatening hell. And plundering hell is what we seek to do…normally.

16) We struggle to be authentic and vulnerable.  Yes, we normally get hurt. It is what it is. The bush burns, but it is not consumed.

17) Unity of purpose, not uniformity of thought.

18) Urgent. Immediate. Unsafe. Exciting. A little sketchy. Slightly out of control. Broke. Totally dependent upon God and God’s Grace, for real, not just as a cool theological construct. That’s my new normal.

What’s your new normal?



  1. Jeff Said:

    New normal? I don’t know what that means or why you would be interested in adhering to it. I am new to this type of stuff but from what I have seen, normal doesn’t seem to be something that applies. Normal is a relative concept. In my world, consuming 80 or more ounces of coffee a day is normal. To most people, that’s raises eyebrows. In some neighborhoods, bullets flying is normal. That would raise my eyebrows.
    I think normal in this type of thing would be to expect something different all the time. What worked once may or may not work again. I learned that the hard way working with young people in the summers.
    Maybe normal is expect to work crazy, stoopid hard. Expect people more interested in going to church than following Jesus to not make things any easier.
    I don’t know. Maybe it’s my newness to this but I think the idea of normal, new or otherwise, doesn’t apply here. The need to know when you are operating within normality? I don’t about that either. Maybe be more concerned about results and following Christ’s lead.

    • Something I definitely get about the “new normal” is that it is hard to find anything resembling a homogeneity or routine. Every day is different. Everything can change in a day, and you might have to start over again with the realization that all you’ve learned is no longer relevant. You just have to suck it up and drive on or the mission will pass you by. Adaption, improvisation, innovation are all part of the new normal. So is “suck it up and drive on”.

  2. Ivan Said:

    A very well-articulated description of the mission that really hits the nail on the head. The mission can be a trying at times; but when you see hope on the face of the hopeless, joy on the face of the distraught, and lives change in the amount of time it takes to flick a lightswitch on, there is nothing on earth that can replace that feeling.

    • Ivan, you bet! And by the way, changed lives is also a part of the new normal.. So is hope. And so is joy. Those were definitely NOT part of the old normal. Those things are infectious…and infectiousness is part of the new normal, too. Really good points, my friend!

    • Jeff Said:

      Ivan, I liked your description of the look on people’s faces who once had no hope.

  3. Ivan Said:

    Thanks Jeff, I like your point about normal being a relative term. (my normal is 80 oz of Mountain Dew) Perhaps we should start referring to it as Christ’s normal?

    • Jeff Said:

      I like that Ivan. Christ didn’t have a normal in the way we think of today or at least I do. His normal was try to be kind and loving and patient and teaching. How? Ohh…who knows. Maybe cast a few demons before lunch oh yeah and about lunch, let’s have some faith in God and we’ll feed thousands. Maybe go for a boat ride and settle down a storm. Oh yeah…got that stoning to stop this afternoon. All different situations but Jesus was showing his love and compassion in all of them.

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