To revisit this week’s conversation centered on the idea of the church flowing out of the mission (rather than the mission from the church), I would like to draw from a book I have been reading at the beach titled, “Building a Discipling Culture” (co-written by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram).

The authors suggest, “As we look around as Christendom is crumbling and the landscape of the church is forever changed, a stark revelation emerges: Most of us have been trained and educated for a world that no longer exists…If you make disciples, you always get the church, but if you make a church, you rarely get disciples…Effective discipleship builds the church, not the other way around. We need to understand the church as the effect of discipleship, and not the cause” (85-86).

They go on to propose, “We don’t have a “missional” problem. We have a discipleship problem…Jesus has not called you to build his church…Our job, our only job and the last instructions he gave us, was to make disciples” (114).

Breen and Cockram write, “Fundamentally, effective leadership is based upon an invitation to relationship and a challenge to change. A gifted discipler is someone who invites people into a covenantal relationship with him or her, but challenges that person to live into his or her true identity in very direct yet graceful ways” (197).

The Bible reads, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul. For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-25, ESV).

Jesus was all about high invitation (grace) and high challenge (transformation). He wanted everyone to follow him – but following him was not easy. Does that sound like your church? Or are your small groups more “cozy” (high invitation but low challenge)? Or does your discipleship methods foster an apathetic culture (low in challenge AND invitation)? Or worse yet, do you find your church in a discouraged state (high challenge but low invitation)?

What does it mean to REALLY learn? Discipleship must include all three of the following elements:

1) Information: I will tell you how to do it

2) Imitation: I will show you how to do it

3) Innovation: I will trust you in doing it

Finally, consider that “teaching and theology were ways of describing reality, and then [Christ] showed his disciples how to live in that reality” (451). Does that describe your leadership style? Your church? The mission?



Dr. Kevin Leman, an internationally known psychologist, radio and television personality, and speaker, has a new message to tell you…It’s your kid not a gerbil!

Do you sometimes feel like a gerbil running on a wheel inside a cage as you scurry from place to place, chauffeuring your children from one endless activity to another? What if, for one moment, you could just step off of the wheel . . . and relax? How would you feel then? And what if that single moment could stretch into an hour, or even a whole day? In his new book, It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil, Kevin Leman will provide practical solutions and helpful insight to get off the activity wheel so that you can put your time and energies where they really count: in establishing strong character and a love for home and family that will serve your kids well for a lifetime.

Want to help promote this idea to your friends and family and possibly win something for it?

Here’s how you can help:

– Visit the It’s Your Kid Not A Gerbil Facebook page and become a fan at

– Invite at least 10 friends to become a fan of the It’s Your Kid Not A Gerbil Facebook page.

– Share a link to this contest page on your own Facebook page or on Twitter.

– Write a blog post linking to this contest page.

Each task you complete counts as an entry into our giveaway. We’ll draw names at random from all the entries, here’s what you can win:

3 Random people will win a prize pack of Kevin Leman books

5 Random people will win a copy of It’s Your Kid, Not A Gerbil

1 Random person will win an iPod Touch

Just go to the Tyndale House Publishers for more details at



Continuing (and clarifying) the conversation begun by last night’s blog…I am by no means saying that church attendance is a bad thing (or not necessary to one’s Christian life). All I am proposing is that the church must flow out of the mission rather than the mission flow out of the church. For example, preaching should never be an ends to itself – but rather a means to an end. The message should be communicated with the conviction and intent that the Scripture is alive and active – that the Bible changes us in order to bring about change in others. Preaching, like anything else in life, should flow out of God’s mission.

I was reminded by this as I visited a church on vacation. The pastor, Dr. David Martin, asked the question, “Why do we preach?” What is our greatest motivation and focus in sharing a sermon? Facilitating a Bible study? Reading our daily devotions? Is it for the money? The ego? The entertainment? The influence?

The Apostle Paul writes, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, ESV). Hearing the word – an active listening – should bring about a pure heart, a good conscious, a sincere faith, and ultimately result in love. The Word aligns our hearts with God’s heart. We love what he loves. Our heart breaks for what his heart breaks for. We know what is right and what is wrong based on his rule reign rather than our wants and needs. We do what he does. We don’t do what he doesn’t do.

My preference in sermon series is to go the textual route rather than the topical one. Going through a book of the Bible forces us to read and respond to difficult teachings – not just the parts of the Bible that we prefer. There is room for discomfort rather than just another sermon that confirms what we already hold to be near and dear. As communicators, we must also balance the tightrope of placing the text in it’s historical context while still avoiding the temptation of drowning people with a wave of information. We must model how to properly interpret and apply the Bible…and in the words of Andy Stanley, “communicate for a change.” This is yet another reason I prefer the “one-point message” format…keeping the main thing the main thing (communicating the key idea in multiple ways).

Dr. Martin suggested, “We don’t go through the Word. We allow the Word to go through us.”



I would highly recommend a book by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch titled, “The Faith of the Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure, and Courage.” I was fortunate enough to be provided two copies in a special pre-release directly from Baker Books for review purposes (I am going to give the second copy to my lead pastor). You can purchase a paperback copy for under $12 at ( or directly from the publisher at

My favorite chapter was titled “Mission Catalysis.” Frost and Hirsch propose, “For way too long now the church has been satisfied to allow worship to act as the organizing principle of the rest. This most evident in the way that the Sunday/weekend worship services have become the epicenter of a church’s life…Most of the staff’s effort, and most of the budget, goes into producing the weekend worship experiences focused on and around various demographic groups…” (167).

They go on to say, “So much is the worship seen as catalyst that in most cases planting a new church is perceived as being synonymous with launching a new worship service!” The assumption is that if we start a new worship meeting, a church will emerge from that regular meeting” (169).

Think about it. What seems to be the primary way we gauge if someone is doing “okay” spiritually? In most cases, it is if they are attending a worship gathering on a regular basis. As long as they stay involved then everything seems to be just alright. But we become concerned if and when they go missing a week or two. Are we ever as equally concerned if they are not serving somewhere in their community? Or if they have not been sharing their faith with a neighbor? If they have not been loving towards their spouse? How do we measure someone’s spiritual health? By “faithfulness”? By obedience? Or by love?

Jesus taught, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, ESV).

This is one reason why I love the systems of Imago Dei of Portland, OR. As I understand it, they do not keep great stock in (or any stock at all, as I have heard) in their Sunday morning number. Instead, they only count the number of people actively involved in something outside of the church and in their own community. Big brother, neighborhood watches, pregnancy resource centers, community centers, etc. This is when they are considered a part of the faith community – when they begin on the mission. Not just when they “attend.” I guess what we “count” is what matters most to us.

The authors suggest, “So, we feel that we need to develop a mission-shaped view of the church, not a church-shaped view of mission” (171). Said another way, “We may wonder about what kind of mission God has for ‘my church,’ when we should be asking what kind of church God wants for his mission” (178).

Official Book Description: Put the adventure back in the venture. So much of our lives is caught up in the development and maintenance of security and control. But as Helen Keller observed, “Security is mostly a superstition. . . . Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” And when our only experience of Christianity is safe and controlled, we miss the simple fact that faith involves risk.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch challenge you to leave the idol of security behind and courageously live the adventure that is inherent in our God and in our calling. Their corrective to the dull, adventureless, risk-free phenomenon that describes so much of contemporary Christianity explores the nature of adventure, risk, and courage and the implications for church, discipleship, spirituality, and leadership.

Official Author Descriptions: Alan Hirsch is founding director of Forge Mission Training Network and cofounder of, an international forum for engaging with world-transforming ideas. Currently he leads an innovative learning program called Future Travelers which helps megachurches become missional movements. He is the author of numerous books, including “The Forgotten Ways”, and coauthor of “Untamed” and “Right Here, Right Now.” Hirsch lives in the Los Angeles area.

Michael Frost is vice principal of Morling College; founding director of the Tinsley Institute at Morling college in Sydney, Australia; and a Baptist minister. He is the author of Jesus the Fool, Seeing God in the Ordinary, and Exiles, and the coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come. He lives in Australia.



Here is a pet-peeve of mine…when a preacher opens his or her message with words such as, “Today’s message is an anointed one” or “There is something special about what I have to share today. God’s hand is all over it.” I know that the great majority of these men and women mean well. I just think comments such as these are dangerous and breed dependency and dysfunction in the life of a congregation. Who are we to say when a sermon is anointed? Is it our words or the Word in which we are to submit to?

I know that we as communicators take our roles very seriously. Most of us have a high view of Scripture and are passionate in our presentation. Who would blame us for being excited to share what we have worked so hard on to put together. We have “lived in it” for days (maybe weeks) and the Bible has probably done something special within us. This is how it should be. No one wants to hear from someone who does not want to hear from themselves. And no one wants something from someone who has not yet applied what they have to their own lives.

But statements such as these can exalt our teaching over the Truth. Statements such as these give unfair weight to our authority and not enough focus on the authority of Scripture itself. Statements such as these communicate to the listener that we have access to truth that they themselves cannot grasp. It cheapens “the priesthood of all believers.”

Above all else, such statements do not reflect the humility of Christlike leadership. Just look at Paul. If anyone could have pushed his authority upon others, it was this missionary of all missionaries. The greatest church planter and developer of leader to probably walk the earth. You want to talk about “revelation” – after all, he wrote nearly half of the New Testament. And we think that we have something new to say?

The Apostle Paul writes, “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (2 Corinthians 1:1-6, ESV).

Why can’t we just open our messages by being honest? We could say something like, “This passage of Scripture has really changed my life and I hope it does the same for you” or “I could not wait to share this message with you. The Bible is a gift of God. Though i can’t add anything new to it, I know that God speaks to us today just as he did the day he inspired these authors to write it.”

We don’t need to project our own authority. We should empower others to understand that God reveals himself to them just as he does to us. And they often do not need to be dependent upon us in the process.



Bill Hybels is a visionary and a servant-leader. Where some Christians choose to boycott, Willow Creek becomes a blessing. Watch his presentation at this year’s Global Leadership Summit.

What can we learn from this situation between Howard Schultz and Bill Hybels? First of all, what does the homosexual community think of your church? More importantly, do you personally know of and relate with anyone who claims to be gay? What do they say about you and the Christ you claim to represent? What is your response to (and responsibility with) them?

What would you have done if you had been in Hybels’ position? Would you have demanded to be “made whole” for your loss? Or would you have heaped on blessing after blessing as he did?

You can’t blame Howard Schultz for his actions. He does not know better. He is not (yet) a disciple of Jesus. His sole responsibility and interest as the CEO of Starbucks is to protect the company. But what about us who are committed to the mission of God? We are accountable for our actions.

And how would you have responded to the criticism? Jesus warned, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV). Hybels does not see one speech as the end of his responsibilities. He is now actively seeking out the very ones who started the boycott. And he wants to have a conversation. Where he can talk as well as listen. Where he can show these individuals that he is anything but what they claim that he is.

Hybels is showing us (and the world) how upside-down and rightside up the gospel really is. He is doing everything that his opponents are not doing and he is doing them with grace and purpose. True leadership.



My brother showed me Dennis Rodman’s NBA Hall of Fame speech.

I can’t stop thinking about it. Here is what stands out the most to me…Phil Jackson. He stood by Rodman the entire time. Rodman mentioned him several times. He said that Jackson was like a father to him. Nothing against Jackson, a basketball coach and zen buddhist, but where were the Christ followers in Rodman’s life? How many of us, who can remember when Rodman played the game, where turned-off by his constant antics? We were sick and tired of his appearance, behavior, language, attitude? And then contrast that with the number of of people whose hearts actually broke for the man?

Jackson gets it. He stood their the entire speech. He has probably stood by Rodman when no one would and will do so when everyone has left. And he stands with Rodman even while he still does not largely “get it.” He does not stand with Rodman only if he does everything he is told to do. He stands with him because he genuinely cares. Rodman has not played for him for years. Jackson has nothing to gain professionally. But there he stands.

Jeremiah wept for people. He stood with communities. He stayed in a city that he knew had gotten all that she deserved. But he stayed. And he cried for a city that had largely forgotten how to cry for herself. The Bible reads, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him'” (Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV).

Standing beside Rodman is not enough. After all, who would not want to be seen helping a man like him? He is a celebrity. Everyone would know what you have done. Who you are. What about the person in your life who considers themselves lucky solely because they are still alive? What about the person you knows they have been successful in their careers but have failed in every other area of their lives? What about that person who has been abandoned and abused by their father? What about those who want to change the way they parent? The way they treat their own parents? They just don’t know how. All they ask for is a hug. Will you search them out? Will you look past the way they look and act and choose to stand by them? With them. Talk to them each and every time they need to talk?

Will you be that coach?