Archive for the ‘Discussion Group’ Category

Chapter 18: A Different Kind of Leadership

Posted on: August 23rd, 2017 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

Our book discussion on Finding Church continues with chapter 18: Equipping Without Subduing. For the last two centuries the view of leadership in Christianity is remarkable similar to the world’s view with command and control at the heart of leadership. How does that work in a kingdom where leaders don’t “lord over” and where we are all brothers and sisters before anything else?

Not. Very. Well. If Jesus is going to be the head of his church then we need  different kind of leadership–not those who can manage crowds with their charisma and humor, but those who can equip people to know, listen to, and follow the Head himself.  In fact, “leadership” isn’t a great translation for anything in the New Testament. The words and application would be far better translated “catalyst” or “facilitators,’ and the challenge isn’t to get people to follow you, it’s to get them to follow Jesus without making them dependent on you or your program.

It seems both Old Testament history and 2000 years of Christianity would prove that people would rather follow a human leader than to learn to follow Christ. Why do you think that is?  Why are people so afraid to listen to Jesus lead and direct them, and why do so many men and women seek to replace Jesus in people’s hearts by telling them what to do, rather than equipping them to know him.

Excerpt from Chapter 18:

That’s why the term leadership is difficult to use inside the new creation. People see it as a management role instead of a gift to help others. So when Paul wrote about elders, overseers, or ministry gifts, he’s talking about those who help others mature, not those who manage institutions. And when we take the words of Hebrews to “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority,” (13:17) and apply them to old creation constructs, we get distorted views of leadership and end up seeking out the wrong people to lead. How often has this Scripture been used by so-called leaders to great harm as a divine sanction for whatever power they wanted to hold over others? Rather than demanding unquestioned submission, the writer was simply appealing to the younger ones to not make it difficult for their older brothers and sisters to help them grow.

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 18.

Book Discussion Continues with Chapter 17

Posted on: July 25th, 2017 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

Our book discussion on Finding Church continues with chapter 17: Unity Without Conformity. This is one of my favorite chapters, because most people cannot imagine a unity of the church that does not come from manipulating political and institutional structures to get people to do what is right. But conformity will never produce the wholehearted unity that Jesus prayed for his Father to give us. That kind of unity only comes out of transformed hearts and lives where the glory of God has come to in habits a human vessel, and that vessel connects with others so that the temple rises across the whole planet showing the principalities and powers that God is able to take selfish humans and knit them into a powerful demonstration of his splendor.

Doesn’t that make obvious the sad legacy of factionalism that our multiple denominations in the world creates? That’s all institutions can do, unfortunately, but Jesus has a much better plan. He’s not trying to bring about a unity of structure, but a unity borne of love that crosses all our human boundaries.

This chapter looks at how unity can only appear through transformation, and how Father and Son accomplish that in his Church by a work of the Spirit.

Excerpt from Chapter 1:

The power of the church lies in the unity they find together—men and women loving and working together wholeheartedly because they have found their life and joy in him instead of their own preferences and ideas. How could any conformity-based system produce this unity when people are following the expectations of others rather than living out of an ever-expanding heart?   Without that, real unity cannot exist. (p. 154)

Jesus didn’t pray for conformity, but a unity that can only arise out of lives transformed by his glory. The answer to this prayer fulfills God’s passion in the earth and by it the world will know that the Father loves us as much as he loves his Jesus. When people out of diverse backgrounds come to complete unity of heart, purpose, and focus, God is unveiled in a way nothing else can accomplish. (p. 155)

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 17.

Chapter 15: Authority Without Hierarchy

Posted on: May 29th, 2017 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

Nothing begs us to comprehend the difference between human effort and the way God works in the kingdom more than in our perception of authority. Humans establish authority by titles, and hierarchical flow charts. Jesus establishes authority on the power of someone’s character and the truth of what they are saying. It is possible for people to have institutional authority and have little or no spiritual authority. Likewise, someone may have absolutely no authority in earthly terms but carry great weight spiritually. Separating these two will help you know who carries the kind of authority that truly matters to God.

One of the important factor in this chapter is learning to recognize spiritual authority when it is near your life. Humans create authority through power by hierarchies or degrees that put people above others, able to tell them what to do. Spiritual authority, however, is found in the power of someone’s character, the depth of their love, and the truthfulness of their insight. Real authority never demands submission because it isn’t about power, but transformation. Conversely, just becomes someone has authority within a religious system doesn’t mean they have authority from God.

Can you describe some characteristics that help you discern false authority from real authority? Think through the life of Jesus who had no earthly authority, and yet the people recognized that he spoke as one having great authority. What accounted for the difference between him and the Pharisees? How has this played out in your own life?

Excerpt from Chapter 15:

A cursory view of history makes it clear that a hierarchy of human leadership does more to disfigure the church than it does to protect it. Perhaps the severest price we’ve paid for doing so is that we no longer see authority resting in Jesus but in the institutions we have created by our own hand—perhaps not so dissimilar from the idols crafted in ancient Israel to replace the God they could not see.

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 15.

Chapter 14: Gatherings Without Meetings

Posted on: April 12th, 2017 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

Let’s move on to chapter 14 in our book discussion of Finding Church: Gatherings Without Meetings. Most of our engagements with other Christians have come in meetings, regulated from the front with an agenda or ritual that must be served. No wonder our focus is on accomplishing tasks more than it is to grow in Jesus-centered friendships with other people.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus never organized or held any kind of routine meeting? Instead he spent time with people wherever he engaged them, on a street, in a home, on the beach, in a boat, or on a walk.  Those environments gave him all he needed to help them discover the life of the kingdom and to engage the relationships that would best encourage them.  That’s not to say meetings are evil, but that the community of church life is best discovered in more relational settings.  This chapter takes a look at switching our focus from meetings controlled from the front, to growing friendships that share the life and priority of Jesus.

Excerpt from Chapter 14:

The signal of church life is not easily found in large meetings of like-minded people, but in the engagements of growing friendships. Success is measured not by the size of the group but by the quality of relationships. Instead of complicating people’s time with meetings and commitments, real church life is more readily experienced with authentic friendships in informal settings that don’t require large resources to drive centralized programs.

You can’t share life with hundreds of people sitting in a managed group. You can share a cause, a task even, but relationships won’t grow for the lack of time and energy to explore them. Isn’t that why people feel so disconnected in large congregations and complain that the relationships they do have remain superficial?

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 14.

 

 

Chapter 12: Not Made With Hands

Posted on: January 21st, 2017 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

The book discussion of Finding Church continues on our discussion forum with Chapter 12: Not Made With Hands. I’m getting ready to leave for Israel, but let’s start this chapter and see what we can discover over the next couple of weeks. This is one of my favorite chapters. How do we learn to trust God’s efforts more than our own. This is the key to being fruitful and fulfilled in his kingdom. It won’t make us couch potatoes, because we’ll be more active than ever, but not with our own futile efforts, but cooperating with the way he is making himself known to us and people around us.

Here’s Paul’s story in Philippians 3:3-9 (emphasis mine): For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh — though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

How do you think God accomplished that in Paul? Is it something he learned at a seminar or in the school of hard knocks, where is own best effort could not work the works of God? God has often in my life led me to the end of my own efforts and because I’m a fairly capable person that took a while. I finally gave up trying to make anything happen and instead follow the simple nudging he puts on my heart. The difference has been amazing.

How is this happening in you? How are you losing confidence in your abilities and finding more joy cooperating with this?

Excerpt from Chapter 12:

But his temple keeps rising. Each added person only reflects his multifaceted glory with more accuracy and will confound the wisdom of the world by the power of its love and the simplicity of its life. Wherever people are learning to live in his love and love others, the temple rises. Whenever people learn to listen to him instead of the manipulative voices of religious leaders, the temple rises. However people find ways to work together by laying their lives down in kindness and generosity, the temple rises.

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 12.

Chapter 11: In First Place…

Posted on: January 5th, 2017 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

Before I had to have surgery and the holidays came upon us, we had just completed Chapter 10 in our discussion of Finding Church. I’m sorry that my surgery and the holidays interrupted our flow here and hopefully we can now finish the book over the next few months. We’ll start the new year with Chapter 11, _In First Place._

The church of Jesus thrives where people are relating to and focused on him. Most of us have learned to negotiate human relationships based on our competing desires and affections and who has the power to get their way and who is forced to go along. The church Jesus is building doesn’t play that game. As people engage a growing relationship with Jesus their conversation begins to reflect his presence in their life and his character begins to shape the way they respond to people.

Religion gets us focused on our performance, our failures, our identity, our group’s identity, and how to get our needs met. Everything about God is a tool to make our lives easier. Jesus had something better in mind, those who would embrace him, not a religion about him, and by doing that find their lives changing within.

In this chapter let’s sort out how it is that our lives begin to orbit around his priorities and character, rather than getting him to meet our expectations. What has helped you become more preoccupied with Jesus over the course of your life. What distracts you from that reality and what draws you into it with ever-more passion?

Excerpt from Chapter 11:

God never intended for us to live in such conflict and isolation. His desire has always been for a world where genuine affection and concern for others replace our selfish ambition. From the beginning it has been his purpose to bring everything that sin separated, including heaven and earth, into one glorious, new whole. He wasn’t the author of conflict or violence, but the one seeking to rescue the creation from its brokenness. His plan was to bring “everything together under Jesus himself.” (Ephesians 1:9-10) Where does that begin? Inside each and every human heart that allows him to begin to untwist the powers of self and shame so that we no longer fall victim to our insecurities. Where we trust his unfolding purpose we will no longer fight for our own, and when his desires become ours we’ll find a growing unity with others who are also living in that new creation. This is the community our hearts long for, a society that lives outside the human need to manage power. (p. 103)

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 11.

Chapter 8: Won Into Love

Posted on: September 19th, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen No Comments

As our FINDING CHURCH discussion continues, we’re turning to Chapter 8: Won Into Love. As best I could when I wrote it, this chapter is designed to get people to think through their own journey of living in the Father’s affection. We can’t even begin to share it until we first experience it from him. Loved people love well. If we don’t know we’re loved then we end up treating people out of our own needs, insecurities, jealousies, and fears, which makes our relationships manipulative.

Learning to live in his affection is a personal journey and I believe the essence of discipleship. If we want to experience the church of the new creation, we have to live in it ourselves and help other people discover it too.

You can join the discussion of Chapter 8: Won Into Love. Our first question is here: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” That’s how Jesus presented the Gospel in the world. The relationship with God they thought was reserved for a future place, had invaded the world and was with them now. The kingdom is where God’s will intrudes into the brokenness of this world. If we used those words today, however, people would look at us crazy. Those words don’t have meaning in our culture. The last sentence of the first paragraph of chapter 8 is how I find myself often sharing the Gospel. “The God of the universe loves you more than anyone on this planet ever has or ever will.” Everything begins there. How he accomplished that on the cross and how he wins us out of brokenness is secondary to the hope that we are not damaged goods at that our Creator has come to rescue us with his love. I hope this simple phrase does what Jesus’ statement did, open people’s eyes to the hope that a greater redemption is near. We are not just victims of our past or the broken world. Does that express the Gospel for you? If not, how do you find yourself talking about it with other people? How do you see God sharing his life through you with others?

Excerpt from Chapter 8:

This is his to win, not ours to find. I have been winning my granddaughter into my love for nine years now. I didn’t expect her to figure it out on her own or to trust me because I told her so. I convince her by how I treat her. It may be God’s greatest joy to win people into his affection, no less for you than a woman at a well, a greedy tax collector in a tree, or a terrified fisherman who had betrayed him. Love reaches out to the beloved and seeks to win them into a relationship. That’s what courtship is about and hopefully marriage, too. Every day presents more opportunity to win a heart, even if it takes a lifetime.

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 8.

Discussion Moves on to Chapter 7

Posted on: September 1st, 2016 by Wayne Jacobsen 1 Comment

While most people look for a new “church” structure to emerge that will guarantee a better community, it will not work. Management systems are from the old creation and not one has ever been devised that cannot be exploited by selfish people for their own gain. If we’re going to experience the life of the new community we have to think different people who live in his love, not different structures that will protect us. And rather than looking for that in others, the challenged is to let Jesus create that in us first.

You can join the discussion of Chapter 7: A New Kind of Person here. The first question we’re wrestling with is this one: “This is one of my favorite chapters because it begins to move the discussion from our congregational systems and how we change them, to what kind of person do I need to be to find my way into the church Jesus is building. It never has been a place to go, his church is the reality of relationships people share in the new creation. Instead of looking for a way to manage competing interests for control, personal gain, or approval from others, the new creation invites us into a lifestyle of sharing and caring about others. Only by a growing trust in Father’s love for us will we find ourselves able to engage others in a way that is more focused on them and what they need, rather than on us and what we need. I would love to hear how you see a growing trust in God’s love setting you free to treat others differently? How is that being shaped in you?”

You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 7.

Excerpts:

Can you imagine the kind of community that would be unleashed on the world if the people in it were more preoccupied with the realities of Jesus’ kingdom—faith, hope, and love—than they were with their own provision, significance, and power? It would be amazing but it is not something human effort can produce. Our response to the appetites of the flesh and our passion for his kingdom are more visceral. Healing does not come by knowing better and trying harder.

Those growing in a relationship with Jesus, however, don’t share the same angst. They realize the structures of this world cannot accomplish the work of the kingdom and that Jesus’ reality supersedes the things that are valued in this age. Trusting God for their resource, they don’t have to manipulate people for money. Resting in God’s acceptance of their lives, they don’t look for their validation by what others think or say. And, knowing that Jesus gets the last word on everything, they see no need to claim power over others.