Archive for November, 2012

The Long Ramp to Multiplication of Mission

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The Long Ramp to Multiplication of Mission

I went to a conference down in Kansas City recently, though I don’t usually go to those.  Neil Cole was there and I went to his small group session. Something he said made a ton of sense, and phenomenologically, fit our experience of mission multiplication.  He was actually talking about disciple-making, but multiplication of disciples is directly related to the multiplication of mission. Disciples are made in the mission, so disciples engage in the Mission of God…or they are not disciples at all.  Neil Cole pointed out that there is a long ramp up to multiplication. Once that multiplication begins, however, it becomes exponential rather quickly. The key to it is in the DNA of new disciples.

After thirteen years in my current context, I still don’t know whether it is possible to alter the discipleship DNA of people who were born into the faith in an institutional paradigm.  That isn’t my business. That is the business of the Holy Spirit.  But I do know this, and it is something Neil Cole was exactly right about and that is reflected in the Gospels: disciples will imprint on their first experience of Jesus and Jesus’ Kingdom.  If their first experience of Jesus and Jesus’ Kingdom is in engagement with the Kingdom in the mission, then that place and activity will be the center of their faith experience going forward. Jesus invited his disciples to follow him into the mission, and his identity was revealed to them by the Holy Spirit in the mission with Jesus. Not the other way around.

Likewise, if new disciples were brought into the Kingdom by the Spirit through a disciple who is not professional clergy in the mission, then they almost instinctively know that a disciple (clergy or not) engages in the mission, and through the working of the Spirit works to bring others into the Kingdom through missional engagement. More importantly, disciples born again in the mission are not imprinting on a copy of Jesus (i.e. cool clergy person, church on Sunday, etc.).  They are imprinting on the real-deal Jesus who is among the least of these just as Jesus said he would be. Further, if the disciple who helped the Spirit open that person’s eyes tells that new disciple right from the start that everyone has one teacher – Jesus, then that new disciple understands that they are co-leaners with disciples, not students of theirs. They are not born into the hierarchy of institution…”prostrate to the higher mind” (sorry, Indigo Girls). They are born into the wildness and empowerment of every disciple in the Missio Dei.  They engage in the mission, and in the mission, Jesus’ presence and identity is revealed to them by a combination of demonstration of the Kingdom and proclamation. They imprint on that…they copy that…they instinctively are fed and grown in that.

But…THAT takes time.  For us, it took about ten years to develop an “algorithm”…a simple, transferable, practical method…for missional engagement that mirrored the Gospels authentically enough that the Holy Spirit could use it to do what the Holy Spirit has always done…open people’s eyes to the Kingdom of God and the living presence of the Messiah. Ten years.  Let me say that again…TEN YEARS.  And then it took another year for the first disciples born in this paradigm to come to maturity, claim their calling, and to begin to make disciples themselves through mission planting.  Now it is happening. We have Generation 3 street missions that are now becoming communities of faith designed to plant new missions through the use of the algorithm that the Holy Spirit has been teaching us through lumps and scrapes and hours of study and discernment. Now it is happening on its own through the work of the Holy Spirit among disciples who have this Way in their DNA. Is this way, Jesus’ Way? I don’t know…it would be arrogant to say so for sure.  We see through a glass dimply.  But there is evidence of Christ’s presence because the missions are now bearing fruit that bears fruit for the Kingdom.

We don’t write books.  We don’t sell knowledge.  We do everything we can to reduce the friction in the flow of information among others engaged in the Missio Dei. We don’t do conferences.  We do “share-ware”. We post what we learn as soon as we learn it, and we live in the hope that other learners will, too.  Nothing we have learned is ours.  It is all Christ’s.  Ten years is a long time to spend learning something if we aren’t going to share it.  So…it’s all yours…and the Holy Spirit’s.  Using this method might shorten your “ramp up” significantly.  You’ll find the method simplified down to 12 steps two posts before this one. And you’ll find a pretty good example of spontaneous mission and disciple multiplication in the post just before this one.  Our prayer is that you will see the Kingdom unfold before you as you engage with Christ in the messianic mission.  And that you will soon have stories to tell of signs and wonders and the mighty works of God in the midst of your mission. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” And have fun!!! Christ will be with you just as Christ promised to be.


For Unto You A Child is Born, and a Community of Faith


For Unto You A Child is Born, and a Community of Faith

God has blessed me with the amazing honor of seeing signs and wonders in this world.  The Holy Spirit has allowed me to see heaven come to earth just a handful of times in my life.  But I have seen it, and I don’t have the words to express the awe that I feel in my heart at having seen God’s own heart be born on the streets and in the alleyways of this city.  Last Saturday, I had such an opportunity.  I saw a third-generation street mission that began with a handful of people and handful of dollars move from being a street mission to be being a community of faith.  Rachel, and Kylie, and Jack (not one of them older than 20) had poured their hearts out in prayer for this mission.  Then they sought out the person on the ground that would help them plant this mission. The Holy Spirit revealed that person in the person of Harold, a man who had been homeless and drunk on these streets for years but had been absorbed by the Kingdom of God only months before.  Each invited others…and they wrapped their bodies around the Holy Spirit…and they ventured way out beyond the edges of their comfort…risked their lives to plant this mission.  And so it began…as it has begun so many times before. I knew this was moving from mission to community because of what I heard from the mouths of people who were once the object of the mission and who had become the subject of it.

A giant of a man who goes by the name of “Country” said as we reflected on the ministry of the day, “You all are my family.” And a man named Phil said, “I came here thinking I’d get a hotdog, but I realized I was part of something today much bigger than that.”  Yami and April who were once the objects of just such a mission were praying with “Dallas”, a man who had come with all his possessions in trash bags and yet whose face shown with the glory of the Lord. And Dallas, then, began to witness to the work that the Kingdom was doing in his life. “Bull” was pouring out prayers…having once been the object of just such a mission and having had prayers poured out on him. Roosevelt, who probably doesn’t even know what drew him to this gathering was hanging out and having a great time and enjoying the place of sanctuary.  People who had lost hope found hope there that day. People who were just walking by found themselves pulled aside to see this sight and were forever changed by it. The Grace of God was falling like a rainstorm all around us…or as we say in our community, like a “ReignStorm”.

There was peace in our midst on these angry and deadly streets…not just in our midst…there was peace in our bones.  These disciples of Christ who were discipled by disciples at work on the streets here made disciples by simply inviting them into the Kingdom of God that they were living out in their midst. I could see the edges of a manger here in the slums of Galilee…the slums and shelters and projects here on the wrong side of the tracks on the Northside of Milwaukee. It was as if an angel of the Lord had somehow come into our midst to declare what the Christ has always declared:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  These were no longer strangers.  They were partners.  They were the brothers and sisters of Christ…indeed, they were the body of Christ alive on the concrete patio of the King Center among the trash and empty malt liquor cans and gang grafitti.

I don’t know what God is going to do with this little community of faith born around the manger…around the Weber grill…around the broken and yet resurrected heart of Christ.  But I know this: the whole Gospel was revealed to me, and to many, in the breaking of bread (hot dogs and chips) and the passing of Dixie cups…the whole of the Good News was poured out upon everyone who witnessed this birth. The infant body of Christ wrapped in rags and tatters and filthy coats…swaddling clothes…was born that day.  Or, more correctly, it was…born again that day…from above.

As we enter into the Christmas season, let us ponder these things in our hearts: “While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

Witnessing this miracle of God is greater than any blessing that could ever be found in a box under even the grandest of Christmas trees.  THIS, indeed, is Christmas come to life…again and again…mission to new mission…generation to generation to generation.