On the Verge - Part 4

*The last of my series of posts on Verge. See Pt 1, 2, 3.


I've been struggling. Personally, spiritually, pastorally, physically. I was talking with my wife on Saturday night about some of the stuff I've dealt with in the last year and beyond, and it blew me away when I realized the issues that have I've dealt with in my life. I know that's vague, but I want to give at least a little context for what I'm going to say and what I've experienced. I know we all go through difficult, dryer times. We all have detractors. And I've talked to a number of young pastors in the last months and years who have had many of the same issues. I know I'm not alone or unique.

In the few months prior to Verge God was really working on me. I've been doing a lot of repenting of the idols in my heart. I've been preaching the gospel to myself. Molly and I have been thinking through a lot together. She has been going through much of the same through a study that just rocked her world a couple of months back. 

When I got to Verge I connected with friends and settled in for a good time. What I didn't expect that God would use this conference as a spiritual pivot-point. Practical, sure. Theological, maybe. Not spiritual. During the conference, through a number of sessions and conversations and events, the Holy Spirit haunted me with God's goodness and faithful love in Christ.

Let me briefly describe how the Holy Spirit worked in me at Verge.

First, I was blessed and challenged by the video lead-ins by Alan Hirsch. Each session started with Hirsch detailing an idea that the upcoming speakers would speak on. One-by-one these videos deepened my love for Christ and the Church. I ended up looking forward to the next video more than the next speaker. It was a great thread tying together the conference, and through them the Spirit was stirring that old fire in my belly to see God's local church vibrant and alive.

Second, as detailed in my previous post, Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski's breakout on Soma Communities took Hirsch and gave it legs, concreteness. They took the hunger I was gaining for biblical, misisonal community encouraged by Hirsch and made it seem possible. God was renewing my view of community, my calling to shepherd our church toward it, and my love for the Church despite her flaws.

Third, the two sessions with Francis Chan were remarkable. Nothing flashy. Quite the opposite, really. Just real. The dude was real. He was honest about his own struggles and our struggles as pastors to want what God wants and to want them through the means God provides.

Both sessions were on the Holy Spirit. I don't care what the titles or topics were. The Holy Spirit was the point for me. Why are we functioning on any power other than the Holy Spirit? Chan said...

You will try and fail to start movements. Movements come from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit. If you try to go surfing and there are no waves, you send your buddy out to start splashing and try to make waves. We can't do it.

Think about the book of Acts, and how unstoppable they were. This is Holy Spirit powered.

I want to ride the wave. I'm spending way too much energy splashing in the ocean to make my own waves when if I look for the Spirit's waves, they will be unstoppable. How can we think our tactics and strategies and plans and efforts will go anywhere without God?

Chan's honest and sobering message inspired me to dream again about being the church we saw in Acts. I used to dream about the exciting, messy movement of God in the world. I want to want that again. Most preaching makes me want to believe I can do something. Chan made me want to believe and pray that God would do something.

In his second message Chan said something like this...

If you are not suffering, there is a problem. Imagine how close you’d be with Jesus and how safe you would feel had you suffered alongside Him. Then you would know this is real.

This was the message I can quote the least because I was so tunnel-visioned into what God was saying. I didn't hear the sermon, I experienced it. You can get a lot of the message from Jonathan McIntosh's post. He echoes much of what I thought about Chan and the work of the Holy Spirit at Verge.

Allow me to quote JMac here for my fourth and final point.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit showed up. Jonathan writes...

The best part of the weekend was a worship session on Saturday afternoon that never seemed to stop. It was time for the singing to be done and for all of us to move on to the next deal on the schedule – except that God had something else on His schedule.

Matt Carter got up and acknowledged that something was going on. Breakouts were going to start soon and that if people needed to go they could, but he opened the door for others to stick around if they felt so led. And we did. People just stood there. Or knelt. Or bowed.

And then one by one, people spontaneously started calling out to God. In a group of thousands, people started calling on the name of Jesus.

It’s hard to describe what happened, and I really don’t want to dishonor that moment by trying to make it seem more dramatic than it was. I’ll just say that for me it was an intense moment of sensing God’s hugeness and my own smallness and yet feeling accepted in that instead of alienated. It’s the first time I’ve seen something like that happen in a group that large since my charismatic revival days.

I agree. I've had a lot of "aha" moments from God through His Word. I've had a sacred few moments when He was noticeably present in a special way. I've had even fewer like Verge when He moved in unity among many and was, apparently, sensed by nearly all of us.

Truthfully, I'm all too skeptical of these things. So much junk is said to be the work of the Spirit, and that's when eye-rolling and tongue-clucking commences. But I can't deny the experience I (we) had at Verge. It was the culmination of many things happening in my life. It was sparked by truth and Christology and ecclesiology and evangelistic/missional fervor at Verge. But the crescendo for me, and it seems for all of us, was when a "rock star pastor" (Chan) laid himself bare, talked about struggles instead of displaying his flapping cap, and talked about Jesus and the Spirit instead of strategies. It was a moment I can't forget, and that drives me NOT to pursue a new ministry plan BUT rather power that can only come from the haunting of the Holy Ghost.

May our churches find ourselves on our knees far more than we sketch out plans. May the interruptions that God puts in our lives be seen as more important than our intentions. May we be willing to suffer as missionaries for our great God. And may He be glorified.

On the Verge - Part 3

*I'm running a series of posts on attending & experiencing Verge. Pt1, Pt2*


One of my guilty pleasure movies is Far and Away. Two young people (with terribly inaccurate accents) come to America in hope for freedom and land. My favorite character is the girl's father who is in constant despair as a powerful and rich landowner in Ireland. He wants freedom and adventure. He's bored with money and business compromises. 

After much adventure and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, the boy and girl finally make it to the race for land in America. Along the way the girl's father and mother have come to America in search for their daughter, find her, and join in the race for land on which to live out the rest of their lives. Likely too old to win land in this race, they sneak to a beautiful piece of land in the night, which was dangerous and illegal. The man boasts to his wife with a jolly and satisfied grin on his face just before their , "We're breaking the law, Norah."

On arrival at Verge 2010 the announcements made it clear that every attender should only attend the workshop they signed up for. We were strongly urged not to attend a workshop we didn't sign up for. As a member of the social media team I had my sections chosen for me, and they didn't include the two Soma Communities workshop with Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski. So I broke the law...with a grin on my face. Yeah I sat in the back on the floor, but that's closer to the outlets anyway. I'm so glad I disobeyed Verge.

During these two workshop sessions, which they admitted were only a hint at what happens at Soma School, I had about 25 brain explosions. It was very hard to keep tracking with them, distracted by every "aha" moment. I have been hoping it all would sink in since Verge, but I'm still in the learning phase of what Soma does. It's not complicated. But it is profound and challenging. It's taking a lot of work to undo these evangelical Southern Baptist knots in my brain.

All Soma has really done is to focus on local mission and community without driving everything through programs. They were telling practical stories about things they are doing that I've only scratched the surface of in my life. For me they are ideals. For Soma they are in practice and alive. Missional Communities may have no better friend than Soma. Very convincing. Let me pull out a couple of threads here, to show you how God was working on my heart at Verge. I hope to represent what they were teaching accurately. 

Let me give you 2 words that are reforming my approach to community. You can also check out the notes I took during Jeff & Caesar's workshop.


We need to see everyone as family. The church, our missional community, etc.

From Soma School PDF...

Think about it in Familial terms…Do we define a family based only upon what they do? “We are a family because we sleep in the same house, eat together, do dishes, share a budget, etc…” (Defined by activity). By who they are? “We are a family because we have the same parents, the same last name, belong to one another, etc…” (Defined by being). Or because of how we came into being? “We are a family because our parents gave birth to us or adopted us” (Defined by Origin). A Healthy family would be defined in all three ways: 1) Our parents birthed us or adopted us – so we belong to them. 2) We are all related and share identity – so we belong to each other. And, 3) We do what families do together – life lived together defined by love.

Jeff and Caesar also encouraged us to think beyond the Family to the world, extending to all people. We are commanded to love our neighbors, to treat them like members of our family (even if we think of them as estranged family members). 

What if we treated the older couple across the street as parents, the very old woman next door as our grandmother, the kids around the block as our kids? How life changing would it be in our neighborhoods? What if our home was open and our hospitality that relational and loving?


Speaking of hospitality, I found the discussion on using the everyday rhythms of life for mission refreshing and helpful. 

In order to lead our people to see all of life as ministry and mission we must equip them to live out the gospel in everyday activities – everyday rhythms.

We have found some transferable patterns or rhythms of life that we see throughout The Story of God and in every culture in every part of the world. Through each of these rhythms people have the opportunity to walk by faith – walking in line with the truth of the Gospel – or walk in fear or prideful rebellion to God – walking in unbelief.

When we come to understand and believe the Gospel we realize that we are saved by faith not works AND we are being saved by faith not works. We know that the righteous live by faith and every moment is pregnant with the opportunity to walk by faith and therefore in line with the truth of the Gospel. Training up ourselves and others to walk in line with the truth of the Gospel is really all about learning to walk by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave up his life for us in every part of life.

These everyday rhythms that we have identified can be easily observed in the very beginning of The Story before the Fall of Man and through The Story we can see how they can be lived out in faith or in fear or prideful rebellion…

What everyday rhythms of life do you observe in the Garden including the Fall of Man that are also present in every culture in the world?

Soma has identified 6 everyday rhythms...

  • Story-Formed
  • Listen
  • Celebrate
  • Bless
  • Eat
  • Recreate

For more on understanding each rhythm check out the Soma School PDF starting on page 10. For now let me say that it's nice to think about life as mission rather than stopping life for mission. It's not a new idea, and it's all over the missional conversation of the past few years. But these guys are not just thinking about doing it. They are doing it and leading others to do it well.

The heart of rhythms is that we don't need to add more to our lives. Just do what you do with gospel intentionality. It's been my approach here in Woodstock for the past few years, but I'm still learning. Soma may be the "go to" guys on this stuff now. We are talking in my house about how to think about the rhythms of culture, our lives, and how to see them intersect. We are working on having our door of hospitality open a lot more and having a more "open door" sort of policy to our home. We are thinking about how to invite others to the family meals we already have together every week. We are planning to celebrate more and accept more invitations to celebrate with others. Christians should be the most celebratory people in the world! Good stuff.

This was easily the best teaching I got at Verge. I hope you will look into it more. Check out the Soma Communities website, in their 31 page PDF of Soma School Notes. You may want to look into attending a Soma School this year in May or October. 

On The Verge - Part 2

*I'm running a series of short posts on attending & experiencing Verge.*

Verge_logo (1)

Being a part of the Verge Social Media Team made the conference a unique experience. You pay attention in a different way when you have to write about it, tweet it, etc.

One thing I seem to always talk about when it comes to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and so on is the value of the relationships formed through them. I've yet to find it very valuable for the people around me. Honestly, where I pastor there are number of folks on Facebook but the other stuff is another language. Most of my church doesn't read nor do that care about my blog. No one else tweets. But Reformissionary, Twitter and other social connections have been some of the most valuable resources of my life as they have connected me to a huge network around the globe of pastors, missionaries, planters, and missional Christians.

If not for my many followers I wouldn't have gone to Verge. It was on my radar, just not my budget. But my social network helped to make my attendance valuable for Verge as I could spread their message to my network. I hope the Verge posts and tweets were/are a blessing to you. I'm so thankful Stew and the other Verge folks invited me there.

Having my network helped me to connect to many people at Verge. Some I knew by name or photo. Others I've never met. It's kinda funny how often folks recognize me at conferences from Reformissionary or Twitter, or how often I recognize them. It opens doors and leads to conversations far down the road. If not for my network I wouldn't have had Brent Thomas driving me everywhere with his rental Escalade (or whatever it was). It's only the second time I've seen him face-to-face and he's already a great friend and encouragement. Then there were the other Twitters and bloggers and Facebook friends. They were all over. What a cool thing. 

For all that's said about social networking as a detriment, it's been one of the great blessings of my life in ministry.

Being specifically on the social media team wasn't all that big of a deal (other than them picking up the tab!). I didn't get access to apple slices and caramel dip or anything. I'm sure I could have had more access to speakers if I asked. But I wanted to soak, and experience, and that was just my role. I'm glad it was because too much would have put noise around the voice of God, and I needed it a little quieter.

By the way, almost no one is as cool as they seem on the web. You've realized that, right? DJ Chuang and I were sharing our Tim Keller stories. I was geeking out because I met Kent Shaffer and Charlie Wear and Milfred Minatrea and others. But you quickly realize they are just other dudes who love Jesus and work for His Church. They are just guys. I'm glad to be one of them.

I felt like the Verge social media team experiment was a good one. One I was blessed by far more than they (or you) were blessed by my involvement. I learned by my Verge experience that the Spirit is infinitely greater than "the buzz." If "the buzz" doesn't come by the Spirit, it isn't good enough. There was a lot of social network buzz coming out of Verge. That was/is a good thing. But it doesn't compare with what God did to my heart at Verge. I hope through this and other blogs that "the buzz" will ultimately be about God and His goodness and glory through Jesus Christ. It should be because He was there. 

That's what the next two posts will be about. Post 3 will be about the impact Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski's workshop on Soma Communities had on me. Post 4, the haunting of the Ghost.

On The Verge - Part 1

*I'm running a series of short posts on attending & experiencing Verge.*



I'm not a big conference-goer. I tend to get more excited about the idea of conferences more than enjoy the experience of them. I don't like leaving my family. Yeah, I know. Neither do you. But I've realized that I'm quite the homebody. I hate to leave home for a couple of days without the family with me. Home and family and privacy energizes and encourages me. Travel and itineraries and going through security and all that does not make me happy. So when invited to join the Verge Social Media Team and fly to Texas I wanted to say "no." Wisely my wife urged me to go. And, you know, Verge sounded cool and fun and interesting. Plus I love going to the "weird" cities (Boulder, Madison & Louisville are 3 of my fav places in the world). And Austin is not only a "weird" city but also a key part of the music world, the kind of music I love. So I decided to go.

Honestly, I'm a bit of a cynic at big events. Going to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting will do that to a guy. I'm especially skeptical of big events with lots of flash. I easily cluck my tongue and roll my eyes at the slightest twinge of showiness, celebrity, and self-importance at big conferences. Yeah, I'm a jerk like that. And that worried me even more because as a Verge Social Media Team guy I wanted to be generous and kind and to expect the best from the conference speakers and experience. I'm sure I left for Verge a bit guarded, but I would try my best to be open.

What I know now is that God was working on me for months prior to Verge, to hear from Him. I didn't know Verge would have anything to do with the struggles and sufferings and sins God has been pointing out in my life. I didn't know the things I've been reading and thinking would come together at the conference. I didn't see my family devotions, current sermon series, and Verge merging. I thought Verge would be a conference full of practical how-to's with a bunch of look-how-amazing-we're-doing-it's. And while I love the idea of missional communities and want them at Doxa and I knew I needed the practical stuff, I didn't think these three days of my life would amount to much. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

Lots-o-Links 2.9.10

Brief Molly Update: Molly has been having some rough symptoms from her Chiari I Malformation the last 2 weeks. Day to day she doesn't know how she is going to feel. For the most part she keeps living and enjoying life and serving others as much as she usually does. In lots of ways she is looking to do more. What a lady! We are hoping the symptoms will just go away, and we believe they will in time. Thanks for praying for her.

I'm reviewing Gospel-Centred Life this week, Lord-willing. Already reviewed Gospel-Centred Family and Gospel-Centred Church.

Jonathan Dodson: 10 Tips for Missional Community Leaders

Jonathan McIntosh introduces us to the vision of Christ City Church in Memphis, his new plant. Maybe you or your church could help support this plant by my friend.

Christ City Church Vision Video from Rethink Mission on Vimeo.

Verge-alicious Stuff...

Francis Chan's animated video played at Verge: The Big Red Tractor...

The Big Red Tractor from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

Verge: Day Two

*Updated as WiFi holds out. 

    Main Session II

Neil Cole

Gospel is...the kingdom has come.

*Sorry, having a rough run with WiFi here at Verge. Hard to find the connection to keep this up. 

    Breakout Session 1

Jeff Vanderstelt & Caesar Kalinowski of Soma Communities 

(*break out stuff below will be more quotes and content than my thoughts on them)

Notes at Soma School - here's the PDF.

Missional Community (MC) is a gospel community - being formed by the gospel, living life by the gospel. 

The shift needed is to start thinking of people as family.

MC sent by missionaries to a people group by demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms. and then declaring the gospel to others both to those who believe and those who don't believe. 

   MC - Not primarily a small group, not primarily a Bible study. 

We do one Bible study then another, but what was the last one? Are we living what we are learning or just moving on to another study. We need to be faithful to what we've learned.

"I'm not going to prep up another deep study of the word to disobey." -Caesar

Study the Bible in proximity of relationship, and live it out together.

   MC - not primarily a support group.

We aren't just mummys all wrapped up.

   MC - not primarily a social activist group.

If we become about one particular cause, we miss the mission.  

MC - must have a people group they are sent to, called to.

Be the peculiar people.

   MC - not primarily a weekly meeting

You may well get together weekly, but you don't define your family that way. People are prone to dualistic thinking in the church. When I'm at the church, I'm the church. When I'm at home, I'm at home. 

Sunday morning: If you came to church this morning, we're glad you're here. You're never going to get to do that again. -- (because this isn't the church, we are the church)

We don't go to missional community, we meet with the community. Reorganize our lives around the gospel in community.

Always training on the gospel, who we are in Christ, and how to live with gospel intentionality.

*I know my notes are sketchy and hard to follow. Sorry. Doing my best to get as much of it down as possible without misstating what's being said. 

-- Caesar jumps in with some Prophet, Priest, King perspectives on shared leadership (bit of a semi-reluctant rabbit trail)

Every missional community is under the leadership of an elder. Start with 6-8 people. Typically kingly types are your leaders. Starts to cap out at about 20. 

*Lots of questions now. I think the specifics and dynamics of what MC's do/should look like are hard to imagine. Folks are trying to see more concretely. 

We invite people into our lives.

Story-formed - Only answer from where you are in the story

    Breakout Session II (part 2 with Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski)

What We Do - these are all rhythms, not events

  • Story-formed - story of people/culture around me and story of God. Help people find place where their story intersects with God
  • Listen - Listen to people. Listen to one another.
  • Bless - Who are 3 ppl a week you could bless. Bless in rhythm. 
  • Eat - Rhythms of eating in culture. Parties. Lord's Supper. Eat 3 meals a week with others. 
  • Celebrate - If we're going to be good missionaries, bring the best wine to the party. If you are a Baptist, clean up afterwards. :) We get to live forever. Let's be a celebrating people. We should be the most celebratory people in our city.
  • ReCreate - Rest and create. Rhythm of sabbath. 

Don't add more to your life. Just do what you do with gospel intentionality.

We have no programming at Soma. What Missional Communities do we are doing.

Identity: Family, Missionaries, Servants, Learners

Recommended: You Can Change by Tim Chester

I don't invite people to things because they are already a part of my life. An open door policy in our houses. We teach people constantly to understand relationships by how they are invited in and when they are told we are busy. 

Stop trying to get everybody. Get one.

*Lots of questions coming now. Honestly, the ideas from these breakouts have stirred me up. It's hard to concentrate on the questions while I'm stewing on my own, and my context, and our need to BE the church.

Realign your life around the mission. Radically reorient your life around the mission. As leaders, every pushback with Christians is an opportunity for discipleship. We will not stop calling you to what you were created to be.

Reactive Mission - Proactive Mission

  • Reactive - The Good Samaritan, I come across them, along my way
  • Proactive - plan, strategize, pray over, ask God to lead us in

Be on mission in such a way that if God doesn't show up we are ruined. We need to be overwhelmed.

Great QnA time during this session. I feel like it's all possible. Biblical, gospel community. Check out more at the Soma links above. Dinner time.

Verge: Day One

My post for the day. For quotes and such go to Twitter #verge10. Updated regularly here are my personal thoughts, reflections, etc. 

    Main Session I

Matt Carter - Pastor, The Austin Stone

Carter challenged us to not be about the mission, but about Jesus. Comes from Revelation 2. If we are about Jesus we will properly be about mission. If we are about mission (primarily, or ultimately) we will lose track of Jesus. 

Francis Chan - Pastor, Cornerstone Church

Chan does theology. His style is engaging and winsome. He's funny. But he drops bombs. Simple lit fuses leading to truth and theology and mission. Good stuff.

We meet on the Lord's Day. He is risen indeed. Why aren't we living like people who know the radical resurrection of our Savior?

You will try and fail to start movements. Movements come from Jesus, from the Holy Spirit. If you try to go surfing and there are no waves, you send your buddy out to start splashing and try to make waves. We can't do it.

Think about the book of Acts, and how unstoppable they were. This is Holy Spirit powered.