A few weekends ago, I spoke at a conference titled “Renewing Gender Relations.” It was an honor to be speaking alongside other plenary speakers such as Dr. Mimi Haddad, the president of Christians for Biblical Equality, and Rev. Dr. Grace May, president of Women of Wonder.
I spoke on the synergy of men and women in partnership, and was led to offer a history lesson.
My main question came from the subtitle of Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: how does the obscure, marginal Jesus movement become the dominant religious force in the Western world?
As I was looking for a new role in campus ministry, I asked for something that would require me to exercise my faith muscles. And when we were starting our church, I asked God to build something that wouldn’t be credited to the talents of the people in the room. I wanted God to do something that could only be explained by his presence with us, that would be impossible to do without God.
Mother’s Day often reminds me of sentimentalities like carnations, brunches, and heart-shaped chocolate. But did you know that the day is rooted in faith and justice?
This American holiday is a relatively new one. By 1861, Julia Ward Howe was already famous for her Civil War song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But during the twelve years after writing that song, she witnessed the horrible carnage of that war. And it got to her. She was already an activist who fought for a woman’s right to vote. So she took one more step: she called for a day that would honor peace and motherhood in her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870. Here’s an excerpt:
I just came back from Q Los Angeles, and my brain is full of ideas and thoughts and dreams — it’ll take a month to unpack it all. But I know already what I want to do first.
I want to learn how to tell a better story.
I know the idea of stories has been around the block a few times, even in evangelical neighborhoods. But still, stories have tremendous power. The best stories tell us what the world is like, and point to how the world could be. At Q, Bobette Buster, a creative consultant to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, said that if you tell your story, then it can lead to courage and healing. But if you bottle it up, then they’re liking ticking time bombs, ready to explode in destructive ways in the world around us. We need stories to make sense of our world, and to help us picture a better one. No wonder storytelling, especially in movies, is a multi-billion dollar industry.
From Numbers 10.29-32, Moses is having an interesting conversation with his brother-in-law, Hobab. In the previous chapter, it was clear that God was leading the camp. When His cloud lifted, they would march. When it settled, they would stay. And they would follow the cloud.
What’s clear is that God is guiding them, right?
But when Hobab declares his intent to leave the Israelite community to head back to his family in Midian, Moses begs him to stay. His reason? “You know all the best places to camp in the wilderness. We need your eyes.”
I love our church. We’re small, and we meet in our home. And we’ll often just sit and listen to hear what God might be saying to us. Some will share visions. Others, dreams. Still others will share Bible verses that are apt for the moment. Through it all, it becomes clear that one word from God is worth a thousand sermons.
Isn’t that what prophets do? Figure out what God is saying for the moment? I haven’t seen anything else motivate a community more than a word that everyone knows is from God.
As for practical takeaways from Real Life, it offers generational insights — particularly the differences between Generation Xers, Boomers and Millennials — and how it shapes our disciple-making. It also offers a disciple-making model that attempts to incorporate many values into one helpful flow.
“Real Life turns disciplemaking on its head, fusing together elements that have normally been separate — evangelism, spiritual formation, community and mission — into one great model that could easily be applied and multiplied. To make disciples today, this book is a valuable resource to get us started,” - Alan Hirsch
Others have given similar, positive remarks as well.
It’s been four and a half years since True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In was released, and I’ve been humbled by the immense response to four hand-drawn circles. A huge thanks to everyone who helped to get that book out.
Here is a look at the four circle diagram if you haven’t seen it.
I know that I might risk sounding a bit brazen, but I hope that you hear only my excitement about what God is doing through the book so far. We, in San Diego InterVarsity, created the material to reach Southern California college students, and I’ve been surprised by its international appeal. It’s been used to introduce people to Jesus and His message on every inhabited continent. (I don’t know, nor think it probably, that anyone has taken it to Antarctica.) And so far, it has been translated into Korean, Mongolian, Polish, Thai, Mandarin, German and Spanish.
It’s also spread to the evangelism curricula for denominations and national campus ministries, and has been reported on by Christian media outlets such as Christianity Today, Leadership Journal and JCTV. It’s been shared with seminary students in New England, lakeside villagers in Malawi, college students in Texas, house churches in China, youth in Australia, megachurches in Orange County, inmates in Fresno, slum dwellers in Thailand, and gang-bangers in Boston — one even tattooed the fourth circle on his bicep! One chaplain of a county jail thought it would help reduce the recidivism rate, giving inmates not only a vision of what they’re forgiven from, but what they’re forgiven for.
I’m thankful to God. It’s been His doing.
Now, four and a half years later, Real Life is finally out. From this vantage point, I see that both books are about disciple-making: if True Story communicated a vision of faith for people who don’t yet follow Jesus, then Real Life does the same with those who have already started. Real Life seeks to help people become like Jesus, as I learned from folks at 3DM,
“to do the things he did for the reasons he did them.”
True Story and Real Life actually share a common lineage: they are popularized versions of first and second halves of my dissertation on postmodern leadership development. True Story gave the theological ground for Real Life’s disciple-making model. So Real Life is a true follow-up, and I’m glad it’s finally in print!
It’s available for pre-order at Amazon — both in paperback and Kindle formats — but you can get it shipped to you immediately from InterVarsity Press if you can’t wait. And if you liked it, please consider offering a short review at Amazon. It might not seem like much, but every review was is enormously helpful in persuading others to see what this book is all about.
I hope that you enjoy reading Real Life, and that it gives you the tools necessary to help empower others to do what Jesus did for the reasons he did them.
That might normally be weird. But I find myself going back to this European believer from the 18th century. For one, he was a premier evangelist, and would take his message to the mines to make sure the miners, who wouldn’t normally step into a church, would hear about the message of Jesus. In a time when it was often considered wrong to preach outside of a church building, it was a courageous step.
At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, he thought preaching alone wasn’t enough. Here’s a quote that I took from James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful God:
In one stark entry in Wesley’s journal, he commented on a time when he failed to establish societies and classes in a region where he had preached. He returned twenty years after a great revival in a region called Pembrokeshire and was grieved to see that no evidence of their evangelistic success remained. He concluded:
“I was more convinced than ever that the preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection. And the consequence is that nine in ten of those once awakened are now faster asleep than ever.”
It’s clearly a cautionary tale. But it’s also amazing that he learned from it, and became unwilling to preach unless structures were put in place to help the new believers continue to mature. It wasn’t either/or for him:
he called people to make decisions for faith, and still wanted to create the structures that would encourage relationships and a growing faith within the community.
[This is a series designed to bring you into the the unique A.P.E stories of each writer on this blog. We hope each one of you can find a little of your A.P.E story inside of one of us. Read the other stories]
I’m supposed to tell a coming-of-age story. Not about becoming a man, though. (There’s actually not too much to tell there, anyway.) Or even about becoming an apprentice of Jesus. (I do have a little more to tell on that one.) But instead, I’m supposed to write about when I knew I was an Apostle, Prophet or Evangelist.
It’s not an easy assignment.
First of all, any story I might write will sound self-congratulatory. Imagine me in an ornate robe, curved pipe in hand, slinking back into a velvet armchair, and I start to speak in a slow, cultivated accent: “In a time when boys sought to be men, and men dared to dream, I looked down at my already gnarled hands, pondering the futility of life. That is, until a voice from heaven cracked through my thoughts like a thunderclap: ‘James, from this day forward, you shall be called … Apostle!’” It assails against my Korean upbringing to crown myself like that. Even Lebron received much derision for tattooing “Chosen1” on his back, even though, whether you like him or not, he can play ball. How much less have I accomplished?
Plus, these titles represent a new language to me. I’m still not comfortable with any of them. Perhaps my Gen X sensibilities doesn’t want to get labeled. Or sometimes people who carry labels like these are, well, freaky. I imagine people in white suits, cock-strutting on stage, wiping the sweat off their brow with a handkerchief, screaming into their microphones. Or I envision people who wear sandwich boards picturing silhouettes of bodies falling into flames, proclaiming that the end is near. If these titles don’t feel antiquated, they seem to be, at least, on the fringe of religious excess.
Bio: Beau loves starting new things for God in difficult places.
He currently is the Greater Los Angeles Director for Greek InterVarsity and in charge of specifically seeing new Greek InterVarsity chapters start on college campuses. The vision of Greek InterVarsity in Southern California is to see a "witnessing community in every fraternity and sorority in SoCal."
He has been on staff for 9 years and previously oversaw the ministry at San Diego State. Beau is married to Kristina and they have two kids: Noah (4) and Sophia (2). Beau became a Christian in college at the University of San Diego where he played golf. He has a passion for helping students connect with Jesus, and right behind that is his passion for the Seahawks!.
Bio: Alexia is currently the Special Assistant to the Bishop for Welcoming Congregations for the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She also serves as a consultant to many major organizations and just released a new book, “Faith-Rooted Organizing. See her full bio, and book her to speak, train, or consult your group at www.alexiasalvatierra.com.
Bio: James Choung seeks to empower rising generations of Kingdom world-changers. To this end, he currently serves as national director of Evangelism for InterVarsity, and is a licensed pastor with Vineyard USA.
Bio: Tracey is a graduate of Fuller's Global Leadership program. Ever since encountering Jesus as a freshman at UCLA, she has been passionate about seeing God transform students and campuses and for that transformation to spread to the world. Unto that end she is a speaker, author, and currently serves on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a Senior Area Director. She leads a diverse staff team in LA toward seeing thriving witnessing communities on all 70 of the campuses in the Greater Los Angeles area. She lives in Culver City with her husband and two young boys. When she's not busy running around with them, she enjoys tasting new food (either by cooking or visiting some of the many great restaurants in LA) and daydreaming about traveling the world.
Bio: Brad is currently the Church Planting Strategist for a network of churches in Kansas City; where he recruits, trains and coaches church planters. He holds a doctorate in the area of missional ecclesiology; his doctoral thesis was on assisting existing congregations in transitioning in a missional direction. Brad blogs regularly at missionalchurchnetwork.com He serves on the National Leadership team for Forge America Mission Training Network and is co-founder of the Sentralized Conference.
Bio:JR Woodward (M.A., Global Leadership, Fuller Theological Seminary) desires to awaken people to join God in the renewal of all things. He is a church planter, activist, missiologist and author of Creating a Missional Culture(IVP 2012). He founded [nlcf] and cofounded Kairos LA as well as the Ecclesia Network. Starting in February of 2013 he will be serving as the coordinator for the V3 Tribe, a missional church planting movement in the United States. He serves locally with the District Church in Washington D.C, and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Manchester (UK). He enjoys blogging and you can find him tweeting here. He loves to surf, travel, read, skateboard, and meet new people. He enjoys photography and film and tries to attend the Sundance Film Festival whenever he can.
Bio:Jon works with InterVarsity/USA as the Regional Director for the Central US where the vision is to see "a movement of missional communities planted in our 'Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth': 500 Cells, 50 Chapters, and 1 overseas student movement".
Jon and his wife Steph have been married for 10 years and have two children, Elijah (6) and Abigail (4).
Bio:Dave Ferguson is the Lead Pastor of COMMUNITY, an innovative multi-site missional community who is passionate about “helping people find their way back to God”.
CCC has grown from a few college friends to thousands every weekend meeting at thirteen locations throughout Chicago and was recognized as one of the most influential churches in America. Dave provides visionary leadership for NewThing (www.newthing.org) whose dream is to be a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches. He is the author of The BIG IDEA (2007) and Exponential (2010) and On The Verge (2011). Next to Jesus, Dave loves his wife Sue immensely and his three terrific kids Amy, Joshua and Caleb.
Linson Daniel serves as Area Director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in North Texas and Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Mesquite, TX and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) with a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering.
While at UT, Linson helped plant the first-ever South Asian-specific chapter for InterVarsity named OneWay Christian Fellowship. OneWay is celebrating over 12 years of ministry in Texas, and has produced three other South Asian-specific chapters within the region.
Linson worked as an engineer in the corporate world for six years before taking the plunge into full-time ministry. In the past 3 years of ministry, Linson has helped plant 7+ new InterVarsity chapters in the Red River Region and also helped plant a new church in Dallas, TX.
He is married to his wonderful wife, Betina, and they have a talkative 2 year old daughter named, Sophia. Linson loves teaching, leading worship, playing music, and making people laugh. His newest hobby is writing/blogging and you can find him at www.linsondaniel.com.
Bio:Eric and Stacy Rafferty are passionate about helping college students get to know Jesus. They fell in love with missional community, evangelism, and discipleship as students at the University of Redlands in Southern California.
They’ve since moved to Omaha, Nebraska to work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship planting multi-ethnic communities that bring the love of God to every corner of Nebraska college and university campuses. Eric and Stacy long to see Jesus break down “dividing walls of hostility” in the city of Omaha and for the gospel to break into every culture of the city. They have two awesome kids: Memo (2 years) and Elena (5 months).
Bio:Sarah is passionate about raising up apostolic leaders that unleash the Kingdom of God in neighborhoods and communities around the world.
She is currently part of two church-planting movements, one in Southeast San Diego, and one in Southeast Asia. She went back to school to get her MBA through Bakke Graduate University, specifically to figure out how business and mission can intersect and bring transformation to our cities and neighborhoods through jobs, small businesses, and entrepreneurship. She is excited to use this training to create job opportunities for urban youth and families in Southeast San Diego. Sarah and BJ live on an urban farm with another family, where they raise goats, chickens, cats, dogs, and various other living things.
Bio:As the first National Director of Chapter Planting for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA, Shawn leads the organization's efforts to establish new campus ministries at colleges and universities.
He was one of the original architects of InterVarsity's successful Planting Cohort, which has launched 115 new chapters nationwide over the last 6 years. Shawn also leads a group of "thought-leaders" (a.k.a. mad scientists) who continue to create, innovate and experiment with the latest ideas for starting missional communities.
Bio: Luke Cawley is the Director of Chrysolis, which exists to help you relate the story of Jesus to all of life, so that you can help others become convinced of his truth, beauty and relevance.
Luke has spent most of his adult life founding and developing missional communities on university campuses in Europe. During this time, he has overseen the establishment of thriving Christian communities on six university campuses which previously lacked any public Christian witness. He was also previously in charge of the bible teaching ministry of a small church plant in the UK.
He has an MA in Evangelism & Leadership from Wheaton College in Illinois, and is currently studying Christian Apologetics at Oxford University.
Luke is a regular speaker at conferences and outreach events in various countries. He is also a former newspaper columnist who now writes primarily on issues of Christian mission. You can read more of Luke's writing at www.chrysolis.org and InterVarsity Evangelism
Bio:Chris has been developing apostolic ministry among students for 33 years, first in CA and now in New England. As Regional Director for IVCF New England he is responsible for calling out and developing gifts for ministry that advance the gospel. He's married to Ellen and father to Nate and David.
Bio: Steve has served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since 1971. His first thirty years were spent in pioneering and developing the work of InterVarsity in Central and Southern California. That effort involved identifying, positioning, and resourcing catalytic leaders. Since 2004 he has served as a spiritual director and retreat leader for current and former IVCF staff, helping them to abide in Christ and be rooted in his love. His website www.stevenstuckey.com has additional resources. Steve and his wife Nancy have three grown children and five grandchildren.
Bio: Laura is a wife, mom & practitioner. She serves on the National Leadership team for Forge America Mission Training Network and is co-founder of Waken Ministries, both organizations helping with missionary formation & discipleship. She lives in the North Dallas suburbs where she mentors teenage girls in her home as well as longs to see her neighborhood look more like the kingdom of God each day. Her heartbeat is for every follower of Jesus to see themselves as missionaries in their every day lives.