This Christmas Choose Incarnation Rather Than Invitation

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A few years ago while having lunch with a friend my friend asked me, 

“Why is it that Christians are always inviting me to their stuff. They invite me to their services, their events, their programs, their classes, their church buildings, and the list goes on and on. I don’t get it. They always invite me into their world but they never want to step into mine. What’s up with that?”

At this point my stomach sank. I honestly didn't know what to say. The only thing I could initially come up with was an apology.

I went on to confess that we “Christians” somewhere along the way had missed the Jesus of the Gospels. Jesus did not expect us to enter into His world; rather, He did the exact opposite. He came into ours.

 It still makes me cringe  to think that my friend, and probably others who are not yet Christ followers, have this impression of “Christians.” This shouldn't be. 

As followers of Jesus we must embrace the Incarnation, step out of our worlds, and enter into the worlds of those around us. We must incarnate into our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, & other social spaces we inhabit.

In the book Untamed, Deb Hirsch writes,

“God became a man not only in order to identify with us (presence), but also to live with and among us! He was no recluse, keeping a safe distance; he literally immersed himself in people. Much of his time was spent just hanging out and getting to know the people around him. Jesus didn't expect people to come to where he was, as we so often do, but rather went to them. He hung out in their social spaces, markets, and synagogues, and visited their homes. In other words, he came into direct proximity; he was near to them.

Likewise, we need to reflect this in our own lives. Too many Christians "hang out" only with other Christians and in environments frequented by other Christians. If we are to follow Jesus, we need to make intentional choices to move out of our religious zones and be where the people are. It will require that we come into direct social contact with others and become a regular part of the natural rhythms of their community.“ 

The next time you think about inviting someone to your church service stop and ask, “Have I taken the first step to enter into this person’s world?”

In the spirit of Christmas, live as Jesus. Make an intentional decision to enter into the world of those in your neighborhood, and as you do, enter with a posture of humility and love. See those in your neighborhood in the same way Jesus sees them; as people who have been created in His image, who are loved, and who have value to bring to us and the world.

 Here are a few ways you can enter into the world of those in your neighborhood: 

  • Apologize to a neighbor for not really knowing them. 
  • Meet a new neighbor. Share a meal with a family in your neighborhood.
  • Attend a neighborhood Christmas Party.
  • Join a preexisting group in your neighborhood.
  • Ask a neighbor for help with holiday chores.
  • Consider having a Christmas Eve party in your neighborhood and invite your neighbors. Have great wine, wonderful food, and be with those in the places you have been sent.
Posted on December 5, 2014 .

FORGE DALLAS - Empowering the Everyday People of God

God is at work all around us and He invites us to participate with Him in His mission. It’s not just the professionals who get play a part in God’s kingdom, rather God invites all people to join Him in His redeeming work. He uses moms, mechanics, accountants, artists, grandparents, & gamers.

This is a story of how God is using one person to make a significant impact in the lives of those around of him. 

Interested in learning more about the Forge Dallas Residency? Click HERE!

Also, We would love for you to join us at our next Forge Dallas Residency Informational. Details HERE.

Posted on August 28, 2014 .

Embrace Your Sentness

There are two competing postures for the people of God today: a church of consumers, demanding goods and services, and a church of missionaries, sent and sending into the world. These compete for the minds of Christians. Every church functions according to one or the other. Every disciple stands on these two foundations for life, two theological bases for making decisions, two postures that shape all we do: selling or sending.

We must break away from the things that hold us back from living in fullness and sentness. How might we do this? 

On July 17, 2014, Forge Dallas & Waken Ministries will be hosting a 1 Day Event to help individuals and churches find practical ways to break away from the posture of consumerism and embrace the posture of Sentness

Kim Hammond, author of Sentness, will lead our conversation on this day; we hope you can join us.

For more information about this event visit: Embrace Your Sentness

Posted on June 18, 2014 .

Empowered & Equipped

Waken Ministries started the Forge Dallas and Forge Dallas serves as the training arm of Waken Ministries. We train men and women to live as missionaries where they are already doing life. It is in the midst of our everyday lives that God invites us to join Him in His mission. We believe that all men and women, not just the “professionals,” have abundant amounts of potential to impact the communities and neighborhoods they live in.  Our goal as an organization is to come alongside these everyday people and empower and equip them to be the good news to those they rub shoulders with. When ordinary people are empowered, watch out, because this is when movement happens.

Here is the story of an individual who recently completed the Forge Dallas Residency and finished feeling empowered and equipped.

“When my wife and I started the Forge residency we were burnt out and frustrated with our experience of church. There seemed to be such a large gap between what I read in scripture and what I saw lived out in our church community. I was tired of coming to the same realization week after week that we were not engaging our world like Jesus did. I felt like there was a great divorce between what we said we believed as a faith community and the way we lived. I was tired of just talking about engaging the world. I wanted more but felt stuck. My church, it seemed was still trying to convince me that Jesus was worth following and what prayer to say to “sign up”. In our bible studies we seemed to do little more than acknowledge that we weren’t living the way we ought to be living. It was like collectively we knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to move past it, or for some reason seem to care. It was from this spot that we connected with Forge.

The people of Forge put flesh on what were only ideas. By that I mean to say that I found a group of people that were willing to follow Jesus into the world. They were willing to bring the Gospel of Christ to those who may never enter through the doors of a church building. They were willing to seek out the broken and engage them right where they were, whether in the neighborhood, the pub or the work place. What I found through the Forge residency was a group of Christ followers who had left the status quo of the American Church and stepped into the world with all of it’s mess. I found a tribe that was willing to admit their shortcomings and imperfections. A tribe that was ok with hard questions. The Forge residency has expanded my view of the Gospel. It has allowed me to see people as worth pursuing and equipped me with a gospel fluency that allows me engage the lost and broken. We started the Forge residency feeling frustrated and burnt out. We graduated a few weeks ago feeling equipped, empowered, renewed, and a part of tribe that despite it’s imperfections was willing to follow Jesus in his mission to seek and save the lost.”

Interested in learning more about Forge Dallas or the Forge Dallas Residency? 

Visit FORGEDALLAS.ORG  and/or CONTACT US.

Posted on June 18, 2014 .

Stories From Our Forge Dallas Training - John

Forge Dallas is the training are of Waken Ministries. Forge Dallas recently finished its 2013-2014 residency. in this blog, John Reece, a residency graduate, writes about his experience as a resident.

Reflection on My Forge Residency

John Reece

The most recent chapter in my journey of faith has been significantly impacted by my participation in the Forge Residency that has just concluded. A few of these observations of influence are noted below, while the full impact has yet to be realized.

Some anchor points of background as I entered the residency include:

  • I have been on a quest of integrating my faith in all aspects of my life, and have made significant strides over the past ten years;
  • I have a heart for discipling and mentoring others; and
  • My wife and I desired to learn how to further express our faith on a daily basis.

The Forge Residency has expanded my vocabulary and understanding of what it means to live on mission, or missionally. There is a shift in perspective that I have come to understand. Instead of intentionally being focused on kingdom-minded activities in all areas of my life (e.g., marriage, parenting, work, and recreation), I now view all of my activities through the lens of realizing that I am participating in God’s kingdom.

My attention is focused on how I might demonstrate the gospel – God’s reign over his kingdom through Christ – embodied in my activities of life. With this adjustment of perspective, I am learning to stop trying to identify distinctly kingdom-minded activities. In other words, every activity is to become kingdom-minded, without a hierarchical distinction of value. There is no difference in value within God’s kingdom, for instance, between my coaching a little league baseball team or feeding the hungry. We are to look for ways to announce and demonstrate the gospel in every moment of life, and to go deeper in the relationships we have with others.

It has been very freeing for me to more fully understand that the gospel is God’s reign over his kingdom through Jesus Christ. My spiritual background focused on the salvation aspect of the gospel. With a broader view of the gospel, I am now free to establish relationships with and love others that have not yet started to follow Christ without an agenda of attempting to nudge them across the line of faith. My heart breaks for those who are missing out on God’s grace, and I am sent to love others in a way that offers a foretaste of God’s kingdom, to share God’s grace. I do not have to attempt to sell salvation.

I am more aware of the opportunities to announce and demonstrate the gospel in every aspect of my life, to those around me from different backgrounds and perspectives of faith.

I am focused on sharing with other followers of Jesus their general call of being sent by God to live out the mission of announcing and demonstrating the gospel, and to help them discover what that may look like in their life

The Forge Residency has influenced my journey and I am grateful for the experience.

Posted on May 25, 2014 .

Lessons from the Journey

About 4 years ago, my husband, Ryan and I heard the term ‘missional’ for the first time. For us, it was a completely new concept learning to live as missionaries in the places God had already placed us. Also, hearing of the 60% who would never walk through the doors of the church on our best Sunday where we were on staff. And, hey, I grew up a southern Baptist girl in Texas - all of this rocked my world, as I am sure you can imagine.

So, we made a huge paradigm shift and life change. We are forever grateful God opened our eyes to the amazing neighbors, now great friends, around us and the value they have brought to our lives. Many great stories have birthed and God is helping transform our neighborhood into more of what the kingdom is about. Truly living out our faith has brought so much life to us. We are not just taking in material and sitting on our butts, but, we are actively engaged in making disciples of Jesus and that is an exciting journey.

But, I would say we have definitely learned some things along the way, and are continuing to do so.

1.  Build relationships not projects.

At times in our efforts to start living missionally in our neighborhoods, the first step is often meeting our neighbors, but, I have heard people talk as if ‘checked that off the list’ instead of wanting to build genuine relationships. Be willing to learn something from someone that may not be a Christ follower. Just because they are not church attendees or followers of Jesus does not mean they don’t have value to offer you. Be a learner and a friend. Build relationships not projects.

2.  Be authentic. 

As Christ followers, we are in the process daily of hopefully becoming more like Jesus, but there is a reality – we are human and imperfect people. Just because we choose to follow Jesus does not mean we immediately stop sinning! On the contrary, it almost becomes harder because of the desire to live one-way but our flesh does the other (something Paul knew a lot about!).

TED talk I heard by Dr. Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability completely turned me upside down. We need to learn the art of vulnerability. After six years of stories, interviews and focus groups, here is what she found:

These folks (whole-hearted people) had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

Is that not how we want people to feel when they come in contact with us? If we want friends to walk in authenticity with us, then we must be willing to do the same. Jesus came and died so that we did not have to live under the bondage of perfection. Walk in his grace and allow others to do the same. Be authentic.

3.  Know when to stop.

Do you ever feel the need to be all things to all people for the sake of the gospel? Do you feel that their wholeness is dependent upon you? If so, stop it! I have heard that referred to as a savior complex. Remember, Jesus is the saving one and through him is ultimate hope, healing and restoration. Now, I believe we are to serve, love and walk alongside the least of these, but with a healthy reality that God is in control; we are his hands and feet. We have to know when to release what is not ours to own.

Also, learn to set rhythms of rest for your family and yourself to be renewed, re-energized and to reflect on what God has done and allow him to prepare you for the future. Know when to stop.

4.  Don’t judge too quickly.

The past few years, I have noticed judgment on the established churches from different organizations and/or individuals. Now, I’m not saying prophets and others are not to speak into the system, but let us remember we were all their at one point, going through the motions and becoming wrapped up only in what happens on Sunday morning, all the while forgetting our city and neighborhood. In their book, Sentness, Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw say,

It is easy, in a consumerist age, to judge quickly and critique loudly. But we have been learning to celebrate mission and sentness where we see it, and to learn what we can from one another across all different styles of church.
— Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw

At Forge, we want to hold the hand of the local church as well as the mom, mechanic, artist, accountant and those on the fringes because we believe all are important in the kingdom of God, and we want to celebrate where change is taking place. If you have friends attending a local church and their minds cannot even fathom what missional or incarnational looks like, then disciple them too. Bring them alongside you in the journey. I heard Alan Hirsch once say, “Let the critique of the old, be the practice or fruit of the better.” If you want to speak into the church consumerism and lack of disciple making, then live it out and have stories to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

Take some time this week to mull over some of these questions.

  1. Am I building genuine friendships with those who are not yet Christ followers? Do I humbly want to learn from them or are they a means to an end (be honest)?
  2. Am I being authentic with others and myself about my weaknesses? Am I allowing others to do the same?
  3. Am I taking adequate times of rest? Is my family taking time to rest?
  4. Am I helping those who have not yet identified themselves as sent ones live out their true calling or am I judging them because they are not?

Posted on April 11, 2014 .

Staying is the New Going

"The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14, Message)"

We are living in a day where far too many people are on the move. Many people fear putting down roots, committing to a place, and the idea of missing out on a better offer that might be right around the corner.

How could our world, our communities, and our neighborhoods change if we fought against this fear and committed ourselves to the very place we live now?

For those who follow Jesus, this is our call. To incarnate, to move into, to put down roots, and care deeply about the place God has sent us. Mike Frost writes,

“Incarnational mission means moving into the lives of those to whom we believe we’ve been sent. Living in one neighborhood, working in another, playing in another, and churching in yet another doesn’t model to people that Jesus is willing to move into their neighborhoods. It says that if Jesus’ followers don’t want to live here, neither would Jesus.”

What if the commitment to place became the norm for those who follow Jesus? How would this change the communities we live in?

What if staying became the new going?

"Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made. Put the interests of your community first. Love your neighbors – not the neighbors you pick out but the ones you have." ~ Wendell Berry

Posted on March 19, 2014 .