We need friends from other tribes

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, someone I highly value and am thankful for his friendship. But it has been a long time since we discussed things of theology and the church.

Now we are both Christians, trusting in Jesus for salvation, but my writing, teaching, and church experience lands me within what some would call the Reformed tradition.

To this I found my friend sharing a view of “reformed” theology that was foreign to me. Almost as if it would be a perspective shaped by someone antagonistic rather than inquisitive. But the banter was light-hearted and no one was harmed!

I did conclude the conversation however by encouraging my friend that he needed more “reformed” friends. Given the more you know they less likely you are to have a mistaken view.

This goes for all of us. Certainly outside but especially inside the church. For whatever reason God has allowed us to have a varying set of doctrines and views all within the realm of orthodox. And it is important to know we are all kingdom citizens with faith in Jesus. We don’t need to always agree or give up our biblically-formed beliefs but we probably need more friends outside of our tribe so we at least understand each other better.

There is much to learn from many movements but we will never learn it if we are cloistered with our brand exclusively. So the Reformed guy hangs with some Arminians, Charismatics dine with the Lutherans, Presbyterians drink a beer with Baptists (wait that would never work!). You get the point.

Branch out. Get some friends from another tribe, people you love that think differently. Because Jesus can handle it. And you will be better for it.

A Visual of Multiplication by Subtraction

Last week I shared a post from Alan Frow on his forthcoming book on church multiplication. I also shared the post on our church site with longer quotes from the book. Because of the drama involved in a church with a multiplication DNA it has stirred up some conversation.

One of my ministry partners that thought it an important call, we shall call him Gopher Benji given his line of work, shared the following visual illustration of church multiplication.

Your post this week about subtraction and its pain reminded me of an analogy of church planting I observed over the past six months in propagating my succulents.  Here it is in a nutshell, with my amateur photographic journal:

1. Plant 1, well-rooted (sorry for the algae…)

2. Plant 1, now under duress, as half of it was broken off to be re-planted.

3. Plant 2 — formerly the top of Plant 1 — growing, putting down roots — notice the roots don’t have to be huge, just need to be present.

4. Plant 2 gets lopped off — now much smaller and under stress.

5. Lopped off plants (one or two from Plant 1 also) to plant… some won’t make it, but some do!

6. Plants 3 and 4 planted — from Plant 2 — now growing!

7. Meanwhile Plant 2 struggles but starts growing again.

8. Meanwhile Plant 1 has also been growing.

9. Now Plant 1 is ready to potentially plant 3 more new plants! Ready for another ouch?

It’s intense! Plant 1 has turned into 4 plants (potentially 7)… each with the potential to keep multiplying. The plants have scars. They’re not symmetrical or textbook anymore. But they are alive and making more life.

Intense indeed, but a great visual to remind us that life goes on in multiplication, especially when the vinedresser is as skilled as our Lord is! Be encouraged friends, keep going.

Pastoring Spiritual Refugees

As I have been praying for the people I pastor this week I was struck by the realization of just how many of them have been harmed or carry scars from difficult church experiences. Now it is to be expected when you replant a church after leadership failure and abandoning of the church but even those new since my arrival have similar stories.

Thankfully we do have a few that are new to the faith and learning “church” as we worship together but the vast majority came seeking something different than their previous experience, a better polity, deeper theology, smaller numbers, quieter music. Even just a place to lay low and heal after a hard church break-up.

Truth be told I am okay with this. Of course I, and the people in our church, would like to have growth with new believers. But when we took this assignment Stacy and I knew we were going to be used by the Lord to help bring people to health. And I think I am learning to see what that health looks like, but there are challenges I didn’t expect pastoring spiritual refugees.

Patterns are hard to unlearn

Repeat “offenders” in church experiences are common. Why some left their last church might very well be why they leave yours or more likely, the way they left will be the way they make the next exit. Personalities are slow to change the things most traumatizing about church (except actual abuse) are quick to have an effect on those personalities prone to it.

Even the way in which people engage and the expectations they have cling tightly. For some, the patterns won’t break (but by prayer and fasting.)

It can be a challenge to understand the hurt

Because stories and experiences are all so varied in nature and you usually only have a narrow view of the reality, it can be hard to be empathetic. On top of that, those still healing can’t always articulate their pain or how to avoid it again.

I suppose if you have had a difficult experience yourself you might have a leg up in understanding the pain. Personally, however, I have never been so close to church difficulty as to be traumatized by it. There have certainly been difficult moments but none that forced me to leave. So I often feel disadvantaged in leading those most hurt from their history.

Even with these challenges, the remedy remains the same.

The gospel is the only remedy

It is grace we are all in need of and honestly if we each recognized that we are still “sick” we can get a long way on. Even when we come out the other side of church difficulty we can think our way is best, but the first inclination should be to see our sin and the greater grace of Jesus. That also goes for those leading the hurting. We have to be so passionate about the gospel that we respond to each challenge with grace and a willingness to listen and learn alongside each other.

Shared vision, direction, and unity are only found in that which brings us together, the good news of Jesus. So we endeavor to know nothing else but Christ and him crucified. He took on the cross to deal not only with my sin but also your bad church experience and by his grace we can get through it.

The gospel must be applied with gentleness

I am just learning this truth. While I have a litany of solutions to any situation and desire to run ahead as I lead, it is the gospel applied with patience and gentleness that is the salve for the burned and broken.

I am sure I will miss the mark on this and need to come back to the well myself and recognize Jesus’ gentleness toward me.

We are all refugees

While I have categorized spiritual refugees here, truth is that in the church we are all refugees in need of renewal and redemption. Far from home and waiting on our ultimate deliverance in Christ. So brothers and sisters, keep going. Preach the gospel to yourself and each other. Mine its depths for resolution and the fuel to keep going. And know that even when it feels like it, you are never alone.

“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:17–18 (ESV)

Worthwhile: May 24, 2019

Long weekend ahead. Which means either you will have more time for delighting in great reading or you will be busy with burgers and hotdogs on the grill. Either way, breathe deep, find some people you like, and enjoy the gifts we have been given.

Four nuggets of good if you missed them earlier in the week. Grace, devices, discipleship and a place for all of us. Cheers!


First up, Sam Storms in a surprisingly short post for him, helps us think through ways we don’t fully embrace or understand the grace of God. It is a helpful list to think through and not meant as a guilt trip but an invitation into the true grace of Jesus.

I even found myself on the list, needing more embrace and understanding of grace. Help Lord!

Check the list for yourself, find grace and be free!


Are you reading this on your phone? Well, don’t put it down just yet… John Thomas has a review of Competing Spectacles on Christianity Today. Tony Reinke wrote the book encouraging discipline in our media age and seeing Christ as our treasure.

If you are hesitant to tackle the whole thing perhaps the review is a good place to start and be stirred to something less screen driven.

When we seek out glory in the passing spectacles of this world rather than in Christ, the culprit isn’t an ever-expanding buffet of shallow entertainments; our own sinful hearts are to blame. Adam and Eve didn’t have an endless selection of forbidden fruits tempting them to reject their Maker; they only needed one. And our spectacle-craving eyes have been looking elsewhere ever since.

Read the review, think it through, look to Jesus.


Next up, how should we approach the church, as consumers or as disciples? Matt Chandler punches our expectations in the face and calls for an end of consumeristic Christianity. Don’t go to church to be entertained or coddled, go to be equipped for ministry!

This is an important perspective from a large church pastor and it is helpful for all believers as we envision the future of the church in increasingly more hostile environments. The gimmicks won’t work, mission will.

Faithwire essentially unpacks Chandler’s sermon, which you can also watch. It is worth hearing and strategizing through. Check it for yourself.


Coming in last this week, among the least… is an encounter with neighbors we don’t always expect. Earlier this week I tweeted that I wanted to be a pastor for those that eat at McDonald’s and drink cheap coffee wherever they find it. Mostly because I want to pastor myself!

We live in a far too stylized world and the mess of artisan hipness has a stranglehold on the church. But it is the church that is the remedy to the mess.

David Zahl shares stories from Chris Arnade’s upcoming book chronicling his journey to highlight the back bench and back roads of America.

But he went further than mere surprise. “Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.” Woah! I couldn’t believe his guts then, and I can’t believe them now. In a world in which ‘de-conversion’ narratives seem to grow sexier with each passing day (just peruse latest issue of the New Yorker if you don’t, er, believe me), no one wants to surface the privilege component—to say nothing of social class. But it’s getting harder and harder to ignore.

How can we be more accepting and welcoming of the least? How can we recognize the effort to keep up the facade isn’t worth it? Take up and read. Be encouraged.


That’s it folks. Have a splendid weekend.