Seedbed Gathering, connecting, and resourcing the people of God to sow for a great awakening. Sun, 24 Jul 2016 09:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 3 Myths about the Church Debunked Sun, 24 Jul 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Some of the most firmly held beliefs about the church’s history are wrong, according to acclaimed sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark. The things children learn throughout their school years and in college are simply distortions of the truth, claims his new book Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (Templeton Press, 2016). Though serious historians have long known the truth about these issues, popular history and media tend toward sensationalism and narratives that confirm their own worldviews. Here, I want to highlight just three of the most common myths we may have heard throughout our education, which Stark writes up in more detail.

1. The Dark Ages

Many historians no longer use the term Dark Ages to refer to the medieval era of Europe. Rather than being an era characterized by the suppression of reason and progress due to the church’s rise in power, the primary loss, if it may be called that, was Europe’s de-centralized political state. Though the literary accomplishments slowed down after the fall of the Roman empire, considerable progress was made in other areas such as technology, education, and morality. Chiefly, all ancient societies were slave societies, and the spread of the gospel and rise of the church disrupted this structure. The Dark Ages should be rejected as a myth created by intellectuals in the 18th century who supposed their own age was one of “Enlightenment” in contrast to supernaturalist eras before them. Peter Leithart writes about this here.

2. The Aggression of the Crusades

Rather than being a military effort to obtain more land, loot, and converts to Christianity, as is commonly believed, this phenomenon needs to be understood as a nuanced movement that was a reaction to militant Islamic expansion. To be sure, some of the crusades degenerated into immoral war crimes and attempts to secure penance was one of the motivating factors for crusading knights, but the general intent by its commissioning emperors and popes was to liberate the holy land from what they understood to be oppressive Turkish conquerors. Jonathan Riley Smith advises readers to rethink the crusades here.

3. The Spanish Inquisition

Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella are infamous for initiating the attempt to rid Spain of heretics in the late 15th century and 16th centuries. But rather than being the calculated torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of victims, as is sometimes claimed, Stark claims that the Inquisition was an attempt to secure relative justice and order during a time of deep social unrest. To be sure, the motives behind these procedures are lamentable, but recent historians place the total number of deaths spanning over two centuries at about 826 of the 44,674 cases, or 1.8% (p. 121).

The most tragic kind of violence and oppression is that which is done in the name of a God who has revealed himself in the life and death of a self-giving savior. To be sure, this kind of violence occurred during all of these contested eras, and the church should rightly lament this aspect of its history. The victims deserve at least that much. The disputed part is to what extent, and to what measure should these eras be reduced to these realities. Readers will have to engage with the evidence for themselves and come to their own conclusions. What we do know is that the church is called to be a community marked by holy love of God and neighbor, and to this end, he has given us the power of his Spirit.

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Where’s the Beef? Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 July 24, 2016

A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.

Mark 11:12-25

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”


In his bestselling book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey chronicles his slow realization that the Jesus he met in Sunday School was not the same Jesus he met in the pages of the New Testament. Yancey recalls a poster of Jesus displayed on the wall of his Sunday school class, which portrayed Jesus serenely standing in a pastoral setting in the midst of children with a small, sleeping lamb in his arms. I vividly remember that very picture of Jesus, as it must have been displayed on the walls of Sunday Schools across the country.

The Jesus portrayed in Sunday school and children’s sermons are often, Yancey comments, “a Mister Rogers before the age of children’s television.” [1] He was kind, gentle, reassuring, other-worldly and, most of all, very, very nice. However, at some point it dawned on him that no government in the world would execute Mister Rogers. It seems that the crucified and Risen Jesus Christ of history continues to be a foolish scandal and a “stumbling block” to those who find their “nice” or “domesticated” or “stained glass” Jesus contradicted by the vulnerability of the crucifixion, the boldness of His claims, or the divisive and prophetic figure portrayed by the actual eye and ear witnesses of His life and ministry, as recorded in the New Testament.

Our text begins with Jesus making his daily trip into Jerusalem. Just outside of Bethany, as he was making his way into the city, Jesus saw at a distance a fig tree in full leaf. Mark 11:12 says that Jesus was hungry, so he walked over to the fig tree to see if there was any fruit on the tree. But, when he got there, he found nothing but leaves! Interestingly, Mark records that it was not the season for figs. Jesus cursed the fig tree and said, “may no one ever eat fruit from you again!” The disciples heard him say this. Jesus enters into the city, enters the Temple and begins to drive out those who were buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers—an act of judgement against religious enterprising.

The next morning, Jesus gets up and again makes the trip into Jerusalem. But on the way out of Bethany, the disciples see the Fig Tree which Jesus had cursed the day before. It was withered from the roots up, dead and lifeless. This is the same tree which a day earlier had been in full leaf—a tree that was 15-25 feet tall! The disciples are amazed. Peter says to Jesus, “Rabbi, look the fig tree you cursed has withered.” They realize that it is a miracle—a prophetic act by Jesus that means something. This is like a parable which is lived out.

If you read the Old Testament, you will be struck by how many times the fig tree is mentioned. It is mentioned over 40 times in Scripture and becomes a kind of symbol for Israel. It is adopted by the prophets as a kind of national tree in the way that, perhaps, the bald eagle represents the USA. The Old Testament uses the fig tree as a symbol or metaphor for Israel. He is picturing Israel under judgement.

The cursing of the fig tree becomes a highly significant prophetic action. In Palestine, the fig trees show their leaves in March, and by April, they are in full foliage. They don’t bear ripened figs until June—six weeks after the time Jesus sees this tree—which is why Mark points out that it was not the season for figs. But, like all fruit trees, the forerunner of a fully ripened fruit is a knob of some kind and, in the case of fig trees, it was already edible (what we would call a “green fig”). The poor often ate these little knobs, and they can actually be considered tasty. But like with any fruit tree, if the forerunner of the fruit is absent, it means that the tree is barren. If by April, the tree does not have anything, it is not going to bear fruit six weeks later.

However, this tree did not give the appearance of a dead, barren tree, it was in full foliage. Jesus fully expected to see a fruitful tree. When he approached it and saw that it was barren, despite having the appearance of fruitfulness due to the full foliage, it was an irresistible parable waiting to be lived out. To be barren is one thing, but to have the appearance, the outward show of fruitfulness and, upon close examination, no fruit, outward impressiveness and inner barrenness, creates an apt opportunity to make a powerful statement about Israel. This lived-out parable raises the powerful question: Is your life bearing spiritual fruit or just a lot of leaves? Are we merely giving the appearance of godliness, or are we truly bearing fruit for the Master? The “beef” of the Christian faith is found in our fruit, not merely our outward confession.

Daily Text Tennent 07-24-16THE QUESTIONS

1. Once we strip away all of our outward religious acts, are we truly bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?

2. What are the signs of true spiritual fruitfulness in our lives?


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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.

[1] Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1995), 13.

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My Muslim Problem: Video Interview with Omar Rikabi (Part III) Sat, 23 Jul 2016 09:01:00 +0000

His original post on Seedbed, “Sharing Muslim Stories,” inspired another post on his personal blog, “My Muslim Problem.” It has been shared hundreds of thousands of times and continues to inform the way the church imagines its relationship to neighbors. If you’d like to learn more about Islam and Ramadan, consider reading, “Ramadan, Fasting, and the Kingdom of God” by Matt Friedman. The Mission Society has also written “5 Tips for Loving Muslims, from a Missionary to Muslim People.”

Watch Part I of this video here. Watch Part II of this video here.

Watch all of our video interviews here.

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Thomas A’Kempis w/ the Sixth Day Exercise Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:37 +0000 July 23, 2016

John 15:13-15

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Quote of the Week


With Jesus present, all is well, nothing seems difficult. But without Jesus, everything becomes hard. When Jesus does no communicate heart to heart no comfort really reaches us. But when Jesus speaks even a single word, we sense great consolation. Remember what happened to Mary Magdalene? Weeping, she responded immediately when martha said to her, “The Master’s here and He wants you to come.” (John 11:28)

Happy the hour when Jesus calls us from tears of joy! Without Jesus we end up dry and hard. How foolish and proud to desire anything but Jesus! The loss of Jesus cannot compare with the loss of the whole world.” (Excerpt from The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a’Kempis (Translation by Don Demaray). Book II Chapter 8. “Close Friendship with Jesus.”)

Note to Readers. For the next season of Saturdays ahead I will be sharing excerpts from this book, one of the most significant writings in Christian history, and likely the second best selling book of all time next to the Bible itself.


In case you are just joining us, each week we share in an exercise called “The Sixth Day Exercise.” As Genesis 1 has it, God created human beings in his own image on the sixth day. Genesis 3 shows us the desecration of the image of God in our race which has only compounded itself across the centuries. It’s why the Image Bearer himself, Jesus Christ, came. His life, death, resurrection and ascension reversed the curse of sin and death and created a pathway whereby our broken race could be made gloriously whole again; restored to the Creator’s intent. Paul put it this way:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22. 

Given we were made on the Sixth Day, it makes sense that we might stop and assess how it’s going on the long journey of being “remade” on each successive sixth day.
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J.D. Walt serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief.

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The Curse and the Cure: The Problem of Ethnic Injustice Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:01:00 +0000 As our nation mourns the loss of lives due to violent circumstances over the past few weeks, I can’t help but to be broken-hearted about the state of humanity. I look at my children and wonder just what the world will look like when they are old enough to navigate it alone, without the protective guiding presence of me or my wife.

Is it surprising? No. What is a world, where everything in it has been touched by sin, supposed to look like? (Romans 8:19-22) So what do I teach them? What can I tell my children in times like these? As Christians, we know that hate is the result of sin and hate breeds violence. Who is subjected to sin? We all are. Who is subjected to hate? All of us are and neither your economic class, your ethnic background, your education, your upbringing, your job, your career, nor your circumstances exempt you.

If we are not careful—if we do not guard our hearts with the word of God—we are at risk for allowing sin to enter. And sin manifests itself in a myriad of ways. Are we guarding our hearts? Our tongues? Being salt and light? We are one race of people, descendants of our earthly father Adam and mother Eve, but we have adapted or subscribed to prejudices that distort our views of one another so much so that we are unable to even grieve with our brothers and sisters (Romans 12:15-16, Galatians 6:2).

As Christians we ought to be praying fervently for the hearts of everyone affected by this violence. We need to pray that hearts be broken for Christ’s sake. Only broken hearts need healing, and who can bring the healing we need but Jesus?

We live in a world void of the gospel, and we cannot afford to sit back and place blame. Each of us, as Christians, has a commission and a command to spread the gospel. The threat to society lies more with the non-evangelistic Christian than with the non-voting American citizen. It is the gospel that changes person’s hearts, not political rhetoric or passionate speeches.

This is not the first calamity of a fallen world and it will not be the last. Our objective should remain unchanged. God is not silent concerning these events and issues, and if He speaks, the church, the body of Christ, cannot yield an ecclesiastical silence. The church should rise as a resounding chorus speaking to all injustices, barring bias, and providing the remedy who has always been and will always be Jesus Christ.

So I will tell my children to keep their eyes focused on the true redeemer and not to allow Satan to detour them from the true battle. I will tell them not to be swayed by hate nor prejudice but to be guided and governed by God’s word. I will tell them to love, regardless of how the world sees them.

In the words of Booker T. Washington, “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” I will tell my children to trust in the one true God. I will tell them to spread the gospel, to reach the world. In a time filled with seemingly unanswered questions, what is our hope? Our help? What can wash away our sin? Hymnist Robert Lowry answered so sweetly and I’d have to agree, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

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Confirmation (Episode 12) Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:00:30 +0000 Jeremy Steele sits down to talk with Phil Tallon about Confirmation.

Subscribe to the New Room Podcast on iTunes!

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The Weekly Breather: St. Francis Fri, 22 Jul 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Francis of Assisi was a patron saint who lived from 1182-1226. In creation, Francis saw the beauty of God. In doing so, he felt at one with creation. Legend tells us that one day he was traveling through the countryside when all of a sudden, Francis noticed a flock of birds of various kinds. Francis bolted after the birds. They waited for him to get close by, but they did not fly away.

Fascinated by their behavior, Francis preached to them, “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him. He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”

The birds then allowed Francis to touch them with his tunic. He blessed them by making the sign of the cross. After this incident, Francis called many animals to praise God.

Settle Yourself and Release

Find a quiet place outdoors. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Close your eyes. Notice your breathing. Listen intently to the sounds of nature. Then open your eyes and look around for a bird to watch. Observe it as if you had never seen this creature before.

Encounter: Reflect on the Word

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6: 25-27


Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
alleluia, alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, Three in One:
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
(Verse 6 from the hymn by Francis of Assisi, “All Creatures of Our God and King”)

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The Problem with Premature Weeding Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:39 +0000

July 22, 2016

Matthew 13:24-30

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”


As you may be aware, I was blessed to grow up around the farm and in a multi-generational farming family. There’s little I treasure more. I learned all kinds of things through doing all kinds of jobs. One of the worst jobs I was ever had was assigned to me by my grandfather (aka “Peepaw”). It was a day in late May, just about the time the weather was heating up. It was days before the wheat harvest would begin.

The year before, they planted a crop called Vetch in several of our wheat fields. Vetch is what is known as a “cover crop.” It is grown primarily as a type of enrichment nutrient for the soil. Vetch is not harvested, rather at a certain point in the growing season the vetch is disced into the ground. Following this, wheat gets planted in the field. There’s a small problem. They are called “volunteers.” Some of the seed from the disced in vetch decides to come up again. It mixes in nicely with the wheat throughout different places across a given field. Because Vetch appears green like the wheat in the early growth stage, it can be difficult to spot it from any distance away. Given it could be distinguished from the wheat it is next to impossible to extract it from the field without also uprooting the wheat around it. So the vetch grows up somewhat indistinguishable right alongside the wheat.

At harvest time, though, the Vetch can be spotted from a mile away. Scattered throughout the midst of the golden brown fully headed wheat are beautiful purple flowering heads rising up to a foot higher than the surrounding crop. At harvest time, the small problem of the volunteer Vetch is a big problem of foreign seed. In other words, if the combine threshes the vetch alongside the wheat it results in the wheat harvest being tainted with the seeds of the Vetch. This leads to virtually every truckload being “docked” a certain percentage per bushel of wheat harvested (or something like that).  Bottom line, because of this foreign seed the farmer’s income is cut.

Back to the dirty job. On the eve of the wheat harvest my grandfather Peepaw pulled my cousin, Lee, and I aside and handed each of us a pair of scissors. He then instructed us to walk through this 150 acre field and cut the flowering heads of Vetch off at the level of the height of the wheat. Did I mention the dense thickness of the chest high stalks of wheat and how hard they were to even walk through? And did I mention the afternoon sweltering heat? And did I mention just how many and how scattered these Vetch plants were throughout the field? Sure, the job was simple enough—just cut the heads off the stalks of Vetch which could be spotted from a mile away. We lasted about thirty minutes before we sheepishly turned in our scissors.

O.K., I know that’s not exactly bible commentary, but then again, it wasn’t bible commentary when Jesus first told it either. The point, however, is obvious. The Kingdom of God—on Earth as it is in Heaven—is an extraordinarily grace filled place. Yes, there will be judgment, but not before a lifetime of extended mercy.

In the parable of the sower, what turned out to be thorn infested soil in one growing season could become “good soil” in another season. One is not predestined to be bad ground for their whole life. In today’s parable we witness the mercy of God in allowing the coexistence of the wheat with the weeds until the very Judgment itself. All of our pre-judgments of people are not only worthless, they do great damage. We are not the judges. Our assessment of who are the wheat and who are the weeds is of no consequence. And because the wheat and the weeds are virtually indistinguishable from each other in the growing season, this parable also provides a sign of just how wrong we can actually be about people.

One more thing. While the parable might not bear this meaning out, the Gospel clearly does. In the natural state of plants, wheat is wheat and weeds are weeds. Weeds cannot become wheat nor can wheat become weeds. In the glorious Gospel of the Kingdom of God, a weed can become wheat. Conversion is not only possible, it’s the whole point. People can change. Because of the incredible grace of God in Jesus Christ, a person can go from the waste of a weed to the wonder of wheat.

No, fellow gospel farmers, we don’t prejudge people. That’s not our job. Our job is to never, ever, ever give up on them. And isn’t that how the extraordinary King of this extravagant Kingdom deals with us? As long as there is breath in our lungs, he never gives up.


1. Have you ever written people off? Have you ever or are you in the process of giving up on someone?

2. Do you have a tendency to judge people for who they are and/or what they have done?

3. How does this parable challenge you? How does it encourage you? It’s one thing to weed your own garden, but quite another to weed someone else’s?


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Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.

J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Called Out Ones Thu, 21 Jul 2016 09:10:16 +0000 Editor’s Note: This article was co-authored with Jeremy Summers, the Director of Spiritual Formation for The Wesleyan Church and architect of missional discipleship in local churches across the country. He is co-creator and host of the Groundswell podcast ( He is married to Andrea and Dad to Macy, Ava, Ty and Micah.

The Greek term in the New Testament that we often translate as ‘church’ is ‘ekklesia.’ It’s a powerful little word that holds so much potential for helping us rediscover our calling and design. Locked inside this term is the DNA of who the Church can be in the world again.

For starters, ekklesia doesn’t exactly mean ‘church.’ After the Church was launched in power on the day of Pentecost, the first believers didn’t create a new term to describe who they were. They borrowed an existing term from the common vernacular, already invested with meaning and understanding. Ekklesia means ‘assembly’ or ‘gathering’ or ‘congregation.’ As you can see, the word refers to a body of people, not to a building. Interestingly, our English word for church is derived from the German ‘kirche,’ which generally refers to the building itself. Do you see the difference? One is a place and the other is people. One is brick and mortar and the other is flesh and blood.

But this dynamic little term holds another layer of meaning, as well. Digging deeper we find that ekklesia comes from two words that mean “to summon” and “out.” Perhaps “called out ones” provides insight into the nature of this congregation, assembly, or gathering. And in this we find the DNA of the Church—we are the called out ones.

What does that mean for us? How does that set our direction and reorient us in our purpose? Let’s look at each of those three defining words and find out…

Called: How does this entire movement begin? Jesus calls disciples. And that continues with us. We are called by Jesus to follow Jesus wherever he leads, whatever that costs. This represents the DNA strand of Discipleship.

“Come, follow me” is a simple invitation. But hidden in these words is the power to rewrite and reroute the trajectory of our lives. When the first disciples heard it they immediately dropped their nets on the shore, stepped into the future, and reshaped the world. Across the generations this invitation has not changed but it continues to change everything. Modern day disciples still answer the call to follow Jesus into the new life that he pioneers, leaving a trail of transformation in his wake.

But let’s be real about something here. The stakes are high and the cost is steep. Jesus offers no map, no framework, no turn by turn description of where this might take us. Just a challenge to follow wherever he chooses to lead. There is no sales pitch about an easier life. No guarantees of greatness. Just a call to surrender and a warning that this will cost you everything.

So, the call goes out. The cost is clear. But the question remains. Are you in? Will you trust Jesus and risk it all? Will you follow him into a life of discipleship?

Out: This simple word sets our direction. We are called out. But where exactly is out? Well that depends on where God is. If God is located in one sacred space that we visit on one sacred day of the week, then we are called to where he is— out of the world and into a building. And in that case, the Church will simply escape from culture and effectively serve itself in the name of personal holiness and fidelity. But if God is actually out in the world, at work in every corner of creation, alive in every need and bringing redemption to the broken places of our communities and beyond, then we are called to where he is— called out to join him in his mission of reconciling all things and all people to himself. This represents the DNA strand of Mission.

After the victory of his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples and commissions them. As he prepares to ascend in glory to take his place on the throne at the right hand of the Father, he casts the vision for their future with a clear command. Jesus has conquered sin and death, possesses all authority of heaven and earth, and what does he want them to do? Go. He wants his disciples to go and make more disciples. He sends them out on mission. Sending is natural, even intrinsic in Christianity because it is a part of a pattern in the character of God.

God sends Moses.
God sends prophets.
God sends John the Baptist.
God sends his Son.
Jesus sends the disciples.
God sends the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit sends the Church.
Mission is encoded in our DNA because we inherited it from our Father.

Ones: This last word reminds us that ekklesia is a collective venture. This faith is a shared journey. The book of Acts was marked by their passionate worship of God, their shocking compassion toward strangers, and the awe-inspiring power of the Holy Spirit unleashed. But they were also known for the way they loved one another. Authentic community was a pillar of their existence and irresistible beauty. “All of the believers were together, and had everything in common. They all gave to anyone as they had need.” This description (and prescription) in Acts 2 captured the imagination of their culture then and has intrigued dreamers in every generation since.

My good friend and fellow dreamer Joe Sircar observed, “History is littered with attempts to create utopian societies. Governments, non-profits, churches. But all of those dreams fail when we don’t surrender our community to the Holy Spirit. And we don’t get to pick our point of surrender.”

There it is. The mystery of this community was in their all out surrender to the Holy Spirit. They were not communists. Communism is a failed form of human government. And every form of human government falls short of this ideal. That means they weren’t a capitalist democracy either, by the way. In their submission to God and each other they were empowered and governed by the Holy Spirit. And a stunning form of community took root, answering Jesus’ prayer that they would be one.

The DNA of Ekklesia is discipleship (called) and mission (out) in the context of community (ones). In discipleship, Jesus and the Holy Spirit lead us into the heart of the Father. In mission, the heart of the Father sends us out in the power of the Spirit and the love of Jesus. And both must happen together in community. Our churches do not need separate programs for discipleship and mission. We need them intertwined and crossing together, like a double helix bound by beads of community.

Matt LeRoy and Jeremy Summers are co-authors of the new book Paradox: Embracing the Tensions in Christianity (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2016). This series of posts are adapted from the chapter, ‘Church & Culture.’

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Tips for Preaching at Camps and Conferences Thu, 21 Jul 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Editor’s note: This article was co-written by Guy Williams and Jonathan Andersen.

For the bulk of a pastor’s career, the phrase “It’s Monday but Sunday’s coming” describes the preaching ministry. The weekly rhythm of preparing and presenting sermons can be daunting, but it also provides a familiar structure to one’s work.

Sometimes, however, we are invited to step out of our typical pattern and preach in a retreat, camp, or conference setting. Here are a few things to keep in mind for those opportunities.

Background Information and Expectations

In our congregation, we have built a relationship with people over time and we have a basic idea of who they are. This cannot always be assumed when invited to speak for a special event. Willingness to ask basic questions is helpful. What is the occasion? Who is this group? What is their focus at this particular event? How many people will be attending?

Also, covering expectations up front is important. How many messages are you being asked to give? How long are you expected to speak? What time of day will you be speaking? Is there a theme or scripture passage/s you will be expected to work from?

Expectations also include the subject of compensation. This can be sensitive, so it’s all the more important to deal with early. If you expect a certain compensation, bring that up before any plans are finalized. You may have no compensation expectations but would like travel expenses covered. That is helpful to state simply and graciously.

If you are willing to speak to this group whether or not you are compensated, don’t bother. But if you do have expectations, bringing this up at the beginning is the most professional and respectful way to handle it.

Preparation and Delivery

Preaching multiple times per day or for several days consecutively is a different rhythm than the weekly pattern we are used to. Assuming one is dealing with a theme for the event, we are essentially preparing a series rather than a sermon. Keeping this in mind can help since one is readying several sermons for a few days’ time instead of just one for the upcoming Sunday.

Don’t be reticent to use material from your sermon file, provided that you review and/or rework it to authentically fit the theme, audience, and setting for which you are now preparing. Pay attention to potentially dated illustrations and update as needed. A question worth asking here is what sort of closing your host is looking for. Do they want you to lead a response moment or not?

Another difference between a special event and our weekly Sunday sermon to have in mind is the time of day that we speak. If you are speaking in the evening, ask yourself how that will affect your mental preparation just prior to delivery time. Discuss with your host what kind of time you might need to do the sort of review and mental prep you need to be effective.

Finally, a delivery-related detail to consider is the room, media capabilities (or not), and sound. A conference room for 30-50 is much different than an auditorium of 500 or 1000. And if you are used to a hands-free microphone while their system only has a hand-held, you can be effective, but you’ll appreciate not being surprised.

An invitation to speak for a retreat, camp, or conference is a tremendous privilege. Being prepared to field invitations in a professional manner allows us to serve our hosts and hearers effectively and with grace.

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