hope and HOPE

I hope that things will get better for me and my family, that we’ll have everything we need and much of what we want….but my HOPE is much more firm than what results from full stomachs, comforting possessions, or our socio-economic standing.  We could lose all that and still possess HOPE.
I hope that the terrors of COVID-19 are behind us, and that no one in my relational sphere will somehow contract the disease and die….but my HOPE is not the result of everyone I know being ok.  HOPE is bigger than that.
I hope that the protests happening everywhere for racial equality will be taken to heart by those in authority, to make real changes in America’s justice and enforcement systems…but my HOPE doesn’t have its footings in the soil of any worldly nation, even my own.
I hope that the world we live in and raise children in will become more civilized and loving and Godly as time goes by…but my HOPE doesn’t depend upon the uncertain future, or the empty utopian promises of mankind.
There are two hopes….hope and HOPE:  
  • hope is preferential, HOPE is providential.
  • hope is what people would like to see happen, HOPE is what God is doing in spite of what we see.
  • hope is like wishing on a falling star for our dreams to come true, HOPE results from trusting in the solid bedrock of God’s goodness and His plans.
Like many others, I often struggle with hope.  I gave my life to Jesus when I was 16 and have been following Him ever since….very imperfectly.  My hope has faltered greatly at different times of my life, and this current season has definitely been one of them.  I’ve lost my sense of hope several times since mid-March, but I keep coming back to the HOPE that is alive and well right beside me, around me, underneath and carrying me in spite of myself.  
I am hoping for a lot of things right now.  Many of my hopes arise out of desire for what is good, and frustration against disease and evil.  But there is a greater and deeper HOPE that is consistently available to pour comfort and peace and trust into my soul whenever I open its floodgates.  The HOPE that only God can bring is available even when this crazy world seems to be pulling apart at the seams….and nothing in the world can touch it.  
If you, like me, have struggled to maintain hope during this time; you won’t find it by looking around you or inside of you.  Real, life-giving HOPE is found only by looking above you. Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  If you would like learn more about how to tap into the LIVING HOPE offered freely to you by Jesus, please email me at [email protected] and I’ll help you find how to drink.
Here are some of the scriptures I’ve been meditating on lately, which bring me back to the HOPE I have in Jesus, I hope they help you as well:

”Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

 ”We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this HOPE we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we HOPE for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:22-25) 

”Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the HOPE of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, HOPE. And HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:1-8)

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no HOPE.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)


Crisis Church

Once upon a time, something terrible happened that scattered all the Christians in a society.  Public worship services were outlawed, and even small gatherings were discouraged.  All the normal operations of church were overturned, and people no longer had access to the leaders and programs they were accustomed to depending on.  This was a very trying time for the Church, which tested their commitment and resolve to continue being the people of God; even though everything they were used to was stripped away.  Some fell away from faith during this time, discouraged and unable to adjust to a lifestyle devoid of religious structures; but others flourished in their faith, embracing the rhythms that emphasize personal-worship and fellowship-of-the-few as the most basic unit of Church.
Times of crisis always bring us back to our foundations.  What’s really important to me?  Who are my people?  What’s worth sacrificing for?  
You might be thinking that I’m talking about today, March 2020, with all of the unprecedented closures and precautions we’re experiencing due to the Coronavirus.  Indeed I am, but I’m also referring to another time in history when something similar happened in the life of the Church….and I think that we should learn from their example.
During the period of time in the First Century that followed the day of Pentecost – 50-days after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – The Church began in Jerusalem.  It was a massive megachurch of thousands of people instantly, probably tens of thousands within a few months.  We don’t have many details about how they organized themselves, took care of money, or trained leadership; but we do know that they met continually in small home groups, congregated somehow in the open courts of the temple, and had a system for using donations to supply aid and food to those who had need.  It was as organized as it needed to be, but was essentially a network of small communities who functioned as individual churches. The impetus for knowing God, living in community, and doing His mission was always being pushed-out and exported like “spiritual DNA” to the individuals and small groups of the Church….which is why they not only survived, but thrived, when catastrophe hit:

“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria [an area about the size of Connecticut]…  But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.” (Acts 8:1-4)

The circumstances which caused that massive disturbance were obviously very different than what we’re experiencing today, but the lasting impact on the heart of America’s Christians will be tested in a similar way.  
  • How are you responding to the news that you can’t go to church for the next month…or possibly longer?  Will you just put your spiritual life on-hold, or use this opportunity to grow in a new way?  
  • What will you do with all this time in societal quarantine?  Will you just resign yourself to two weeks in your jammies on the couch with Netflix & beer, or will you include activities that stimulate healthy gains in body, mind, and spirit? 
  • How will this impact your intimacy with your Heavenly Father?  How will this challenge your identity as part of the Body of Christ?  How will you continue to take initiative with the Holy Spirit in the world?  

When we take responsibility for our own spiritual lives…even if we get confined to our homes, we realize that we always have everything we need to experience God through WORSHIP, COMMUNITY, and MISSION.  Individuals in the early Church understood that God was always with them; and they lived like they were always with Him and for Him no matter what happened.  So what can you do during this crazy time to stay engaged with God, His people, and His mission?  This is where our experience of Jesus’ promised “abundant life” is tested…It’s up to us.  Here are some ideas:
  • Read your Bible – at least a few chapters a day
  • Pray a lot – for yourself, for others
  • Watch/listen to online services from your church, or sermons/podcasts
  • Read a book that will stimulate your relationship with God

  • Call/text/video with people about what you’re learning or struggling with
  • Pray together on the phone or computer
  • Get together with 1-2 people for prayer, even if you don’t touch
  • Start a virtual group to discuss a Christian book or movie 

  • Post encouragements on social media about trusting God
  • Look for ways to show Jesus’ compassion to others
  • Look for ways to share Jesus’ truth with others
  • Continue giving to your churches/non-profits

There’s a wonderful little book I would recommend with highest praise, which is all about these simple principles for experiencing Church the way they did in the First Century.  It’s called “Microchurches” by Brian Sanders.  Brian and a bunch of other leaders started the Underground Network in Tampa, Florida, in around 2004 with these basic principles in mind.  I really enjoyed reading the book, and have been learning a lot from the Underground team in recent years. 
Blessings to you and yours, stay safe, and keep looking up!

“Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”(Jesus, in Matthew 18:20)

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home….“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(John 16:32-33)

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:35-39



I was listening this morning to Episode 16 of the Living Wholehearted Podcast, entitled “Why Emotions Matter” with guests Jon & Tristen Collins.  It’s a really great discussion about the importance of paying attention to what’s going on inside us emotionally, in order to make sense of the responses and behaviors we project on the surface.  You can check it out HERE.
I really identified with Jon Collins, co-founder of the The Bible Project.  He talked about being raised in a spiritual culture that valued knowledge & obedience to God; but put a lid put on top of emotions, which were seen as “unwanted & dangerous”.  He talked about growing up with a subconscious paradigm that he was like a “brain on a stick.”  I totally laughed out loud at that picture, as did moderators Jeff & Terra Mattson; but as they continued to talk about it I found myself within their descriptions of knowing “about” God without really “knowing Him.”  
People sometimes refer to having a “personal relationship with God.”  This attempts to break down the barriers of perceived distance between the mortal and the Divine, but it can seem like kind of a weird thing to say about a Being we can’t even see.  It’s one of the great paradoxes of life: We are spiritual beings, caught temporarily in a mortal experience in which we yearn for intimate connection with the eternal nature we were built for.   Not only that, the very Creator Himself beckons to the heirs of the Creation individually; drawing us into a type of union with Him that is pervasive and conforming to His Image, while maintaining and enhancing our unique spiritual identities in the process.  I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to understand and experience this, and am still learning to walk.
I think what we’re trying to convey by using relational terms about God is that we’re intended to experience Him emotionally as well as intellectually.  Our physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual natures all interact to make us who we are; and we were created by Him and for Him.  I like to use the word INTIMACY to describe the relationship we’re meant to have with God.  It’s a very personal, unbroken, and vulnerable word.  I reserve this word for those closest to me, who have my true heart: My wife, children, mom & dad, a few very close friends. 
Scripture paints the love story of a Father seeking out lost children, a Groom wooing His bride, a King subjecting Himself to the punishment of His people in order to save them.  Our intended relationship with God is about reconciliation, redemption.  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).  This is a type of love & commitment that we cannot fabricate, only imitate and perpetuate in connection with its source; and THAT is the birthplace of INTIMACY WITH GOD.  Unfettered, emotional appreciation that gives-up everything in return for His precious gift; because obligatory words and behaviors will always dry up.  Religion does not save us, only our Heavenly Father saves us.
In this emerging network we call “Catalyst,” we value INTIMACY with God – Surrendering whatever sources of security we think we have in favor of the forgiveness, acceptance, value, and unceasing connection we have with the Father.  We affirm that every believer is meant to know God personally, intimately, transformationally.  This type of relationship with God is cultivated both alone and with others.  Intimacy with God grows through personal spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, fasting, and meditation; as well as lifestyle choices that align us with His purposes for us.  It also grows by fellowship with other believers in worship singing, sharing concerns and testimonies, group prayer, caring for one another, and being on-mission together.  These expressions all work together to cultivate intimacy with God.
One of my favorite words in the Bible is the word “worship.”  It’s most often translated from the Greek word: “proskuneo” – “to kiss towards.”   It doesn’t have anything to do with singing, yet singing is definitely a wonderful medium for worship!  When it comes to developing intimacy with God, it can be difficult to wrap our minds around because it’s a value, or a function.  So what’s the form?  What do we DO in order to cultivate intimacy with God?  We worship.  I mean we live our lives as if we are blowing kisses to the Father all day long.  Like when my little girl was playing soccer when she was 7-years-old and she looked over at me on the sideline every 3-minutes to make sure I was watching because she and I were so delighted with each other.  She blew me kisses with her eyes fixed on me…and I blew them back.
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

  1. How are you blowing kisses to your Heavenly Father?
  2. Would you say that you’re experiencing intimacy with God? Why/why not?
  3. How would you describe your worship in terms of lifestyle?
  4. In what ways do you sense the Father trying to draw you deeper into Him?
  5. What will you do today to align yourself  / develop intimacy with Him?

  1. John 14:15-26
  2. Luke 15:11-32
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Like many of you, New Years is a time when I reflect on the past and set goals for the next year. My primary resolution for 2020 is to grow in my walk with God in the area of Self-Control. This is restorative in nature, cuz I kind of lost it around the waistline…but it’s more than just the mirror or the scale. I want to regain what scripture calls “self mastery” over my mind and body.

I gain a little bit of weight every year around the holidays.  For most of the year, I’m fairly conscious of what I eat and drink, maintaining a high level of physical activity.  I even count calories to ensure that I keep things balanced.  But during the holidays, it seems right to let my guard down and enjoy the qualities and quantities I’ve been avoiding. Relaxing the militant resolve brings laughter and is good for the soul, and I always end up a little bloated & plump afterward.  I’m totally fine with this, I think it’s a good & healthy rhythm…as long as I keep it under control.  I pretty much blew it this year; and today as I begin Day #4 of the Whole30 eating plan, I’m becoming more keenly aware of the effects.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with enjoying rich/sugary foods and drinks, or alcohol for that matter.  We know this through God’s Word.  I won’t take any time to lay that out in detail right now, but the counsel of scripture is that all things are to be enjoyed within the boundaries of self-control.  The Greek word used in scripture is “engkratia”, which means “self-dominion” or “mastery from within.”  When we’re living in Christ, and He holds the reins of our lives, He enables us to maintain mastery over anything that would disrupt our union with Him.  But as we all know, moments of indulgence are a slippery slope.  Indulgence is an interesting word, it speaks of satisfying an inner desire.  So for example, during the holidays I indulge in food & drink in a way that I avoid all year long; satisfying that desire in the process.  Only it doesn’t always satisfy, and what then?  Those are the times when healthy indulgence opens the door for temptation, and when I step through the door of temptation – seeking to satisfy cravings all day every day for weeks (or months) at a time – then I find myself a far distance from contentment in Him, and under the control of something else…caught up in a current that I’m not strong enough to swim against.  

When my kids were little, we had an 18-foot round pop-up pool in the backyard.  It was one of the best purchases we ever made during those years!  My kids would swim almost every day, creating all kinds of games and having friends over to join in the fun.  The pool was about 4-feet deep, and the kids were just tall enough to frolic safely.  My wife & I swam with them all the time on hot Summer days & evenings, and one of our favorite activities was making whirlpools.  I was the best whirlpool maker because I was biggest.  I’d start by yelling “whirlpool!” and then start walking as fast as I could in one direction against the outer-wall of the pool.  The kids would line-up behind me and we would keep charging ahead, ever faster, until all the water in the pool was moving with us in a strong circular current. Then we would float on balls & pool noodles in circles.  Eventually we’d get tired of that, and then it was time to stop the whirlpool.  The kids were never tall or strong enough to do that, so I had to walk against the current alone until the whirlpool stopped…which always required significant effort and several minutes while the kids were virtually helpless.  Have you ever tried to walk against a whirlpool, river current, or ocean rip-tide?  Have you ever found yourself caught-up in a type of self-indulgence that created a spiritual current in your soul that you seemed virtually helpless to withstand?

We all struggle with giving-up self-control in times of temptation – and there are thousands of covert tactics used by the enemy of our souls that lure us away from trusting in the Father’s ways…that what He provides will truly fulfill and satisfy us.  At the moment when we begin to doubt that remaining in God’s ways will truly satisfy us, and that the alternative is actually what we really want…THAT is the moment when the strong current begins churning; and the longer we stay in it, the more difficult and futile our efforts become to free ourselves from its force.  Thankfully, we have a Big Strong Daddy who can come to the rescue and walk against it, restoring control and freedom from the disorder and chaos.  Sometimes this repentance process takes longer, and is more difficult, than others.  It depends upon how strong we allowed the current to become before giving up, and how willing we are to allow the Father complete control to make it right.  He alone is strong enough to restore the balance, self-control, and purpose that He created us for; and He waits in eager expectation to do so.

1 Peter 5:6-10
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Galatians 5:22-23
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and SELF-CONTROL.”

A New Kind Of Church

What would it look like if a church organization and its leaders believed that their primary responsibility was to get behind the unique callings of every single believer in their fellowship…helping each one develop intimacy with the Father, understand his/her unique identity as part of the Body Christ, and equipping teams of servants eager to join the Holy Spirit’s initiative to reach out to every sector of society?  

I think that most church leaders want to see this happen, but the centralized traditions and structures that we’ve inherited tend to work against it.  I believe that the traditional congregational church expression, while important, exists to serve the smaller micro-expressions of individuals and groups; and not the other way around.  This is the vision I’ve been chasing now for 13-years since starting Catalyst, with various groups and ministries along the way; and some new things are taking shape that I’m very excited about for the coming year!

As you may know, I’ve been in a course of study and coaching for the past 2 years with Underground Network in Tampa to re-ignite greater Kingdom effectiveness in our work.  This year our Board of Directors, Sean Thome’ from NW Christian Evangelistic Assoc., and Renee Boucher from 24/7 Prayer have been working on creating new descriptions & pathways for ministry based upon the successes of the Catalyst model.  This includes the creation of an “onramp” for individuals and groups to launch new “Micro-Expressions” of Church according to their own callings.  We acquired the name “Catalyst Network” to refer to the new network of Mircro-Initiatives and Micro-Churches that we envision.  

I’m not sure if you’ll be interested in reading all this, but I’ve been working hard on it and am super-stoked for what God is doing!  Here’s a sneak peak at our restated FOUNDATIONS for moving forward with the “re-launch” of the Church Side of Catalyst in 2020.  

If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them….but if the “comments” function doesn’t work for you, as I’ve been told by some, feel free to email me at [email protected]


Catalyst is a different kind of Church; an experimental community pursuing change in the church and its mission, designed to re-contextualize the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach people in the Post-Christian Pacific Northwest.  Rather than adopting traditional models that emphasize professional leaders, costly resources and centralized programs; our passion lies in equipping ordinary individuals and small groups to incarnate the Church’s mission in the world – impacting every sphere of influence, confronting every form of evil and injustice, reaching every kind of person, in a way that unlocks the genius of the Body of Christ to effectively reach the world with the Good News.


We envision a reality where followers of Jesus are valued for their kindness and generosity toward people in their communities; demonstrating God’s presence in ways that transform neighborhoods, equip ordinary people to become His heroes, and draw new people into His family.


Catalyze God’s people to serve together as the Body of Christ in their communities.


1. INTIMACY WITH THE FATHER – We pursue unceasing connection with the Father.  
We affirm that every believer is meant to know God personally, intimately, transformationally.  This type of relationship with God is cultivated both alone and with others.  Intimacy with God grows through personal spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, fasting, and meditation; as well as lifestyle choices that align us with His purposes for us.  It also grows by fellowship with other believers in worship singing, sharing concerns and testimonies, group prayer, caring for one another, and being on-mission together. 

2. IDENTITY WITH JESUS – The way of Jesus is our way. 
Before and in all things we value Jesus as the image of the invisible God. We long to worship Jesus by imitating his life, ministry, and connection with others. Both our theology and praxis are relentlessly Christological. He is our model, mentor, hero, mediator, savior, judge, king and ruler of all. All of our values flow from what we understand about his character, concerns, and the practices of his ministry. We recognize that we, His followers, are His Body in the world today, and commit to partnering together to manifest His character and mission.

3. INITIATIVE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT – The Holy Spirit empowers us to serve and save the lost.
God’s personal favor, calling and revelation is available to every follower of Jesus by His Spirit; according to his/her specific gifts and measure of faith. We encourage use of all of the gifts shown in scripture, with appropriate order and purpose.  By walking in the Spirit – individually and corporately – we are enabled to experience His desires and plans for us, and to join Him in His work all around us.  He grants each of us supernatural abilities and relationships to carry-out His initiatives in the Church and world.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to carry Jesus’ mission into the world; including Social Justice, Evangelism, and Discipleship.

4. THE BIBLE – The Bible alone is our source of faith and practice.  
We implicitly believe in, trust, and endeavor to obey, the teachings and practices set forth in the Holy Bible. We believe that it contains the written Word of God.  It records the “salvation history” of God’s work with humankind, and details His intentions for our beliefs & practices.  We understand that there are misperceptions of the Bible, but we affirm that it is meant to be understood and championed by every follower of Jesus.  It is imperative to us that every believer be well-read in scripture, and trained in Gospel-fluency.

5. THE MISSION – The Church is a “sent people” to carry-out Jesus’ mission.  
The Church’s mission is not to perpetuate or serve itself, nor to promote comfort and prosperity for her people; but to reconcile every person in the world to the Father.  We follow Jesus’ example by seeking, sacrificing for, and saving what is lost.  Jesus’ purpose is to bring about justice for the poor, hope for the marginalized, and regeneration for the lost.  This worldwide mission is advancing, and we are part of His story – to impact every sphere of influence, confront every form of evil/injustice, to reach every person with the Gospel of Jesus.  This includes both service and salvation, works and words, all of which lead to Jesus.

6. ONE CHURCH – We work toward unity with all followers of Christ. 
We affirm that the Church is the method of God’s mission.  There is one universal Church (with a Big “C”), comprised of all followers of Jesus everywhere.  Jesus is the Head of His Church, His people who manifest His presence in the world today.  There are countless denominations, congregations, and groups who gather together for worship, discipleship, and service; but we are all members of Jesus’ diverse, worldwide Body.  We recognize that disagreements of theology and practice will arise between brothers and sisters in Christ, and that this is unavoidable; but we pledge to avoid division and work toward unity, that we may truly be “one” in heart and purpose.

7. MISSIONARIES – Every believer is an agent of God’s mission. 
All followers of Jesus have a unique calling to walk with Him in this life and to serve as His representatives in their spheres of influence. Therefore, we work towards empowering people to understand and contextualize God’s mission through them.  While we appreciate the role of clergy in the Church, we emphasize the ministry of laypeople in relation to God’s mission.  Leadership in the Church exists to equip the “priesthood of all believers” for the work of ministry. 

8. MICRO – The small, missional group is the essential unit of Church.  
We believe that the traditional congregational church expression exists to serve the smaller, micro-expression…and not the other way around.  Our ecclesiology is simple: When a group of people band together to build Intimacy with the Father, Identity as the Body of Christ, to accomplish the Initiative of the Holy Spirit in the world, they are the Church.  Intimacy, Identity and Initiative then are the ecclesial minimum.  God calls us into his mission together, in small missional groups. These groups, no matter their name or size, are the basic unit of Church; and every follower of Jesus needs to be part of at least one. Our model of Church is to affirm, empower, and release a network of Micro-Initiatives and Micro-Churches.  

9. COMPASSIONATE – We serve others in need with no strings attached.  
We affirm that compassion is the posture of God’s mission in a hurting world.  Compassion literally means to “suffer together,” and no character trait exemplifies Jesus’ interactions with people better. We’re called to constantly give ourselves away, individually and corporately caring for the needs of others.  The Work of the Gospel is to serve to the poor, marginalized, and lost; the Words of the Gospel follow.  In this way, evangelism is secondary to service.  This applies to miraculous works of the Spirit, as well as seemingly mundane acts of kindness.  

10. RELATIONAL – We prioritize healthy and caring relationships.  
We recognize that although we live in a fragmented culture characterized by broken relationships, all people need and deserve to belong – to know and be known, to care and be cared for, to love and be loved. Our goals, strategies, and endeavors are fashioned to nurture healthy and caring relationships. This begins with marriage and family, moves outward to friends and associates, and extends to society. In this way, we extend Jesus’ love to a world in need of Godly models of relationship.

11. HUMBLE – We seek humility in relation to God and others.  
We voluntarily surrender control of our decisions, aspirations, and affections to God; believing that He can be trusted with our destinies.  We also submit to one another, understanding that none of us is an island unto ourselves but that we need each other.  By pursuing humility we are able to experience God’s contentment, rest and peace in the midst of a complex, corrupt, and competitive world.  Individually and corporately, we pledge to remain open and flexible to concerns from others, new learning, and discipline from the Lord; ever seeking to refine our commitments and expand our understanding and revelation of God and His call upon us. 

12. BELONGING AND BELIEVING – We both accept and admonish each other.
We understand that every person is journeying through life, and that discovering/following Jesus is a lifelong learning process.  Therefore, we welcome all people to explore God and community with us, without excluding them based upon areas of their lives that are not yet consistent with the way of Jesus.  That being said, it is also essential that we carefully and lovingly hold each other accountable to His character and teachings.  So we live within the tension between grace and truth, acceptance and conviction; in our pursuit of loving God and loving others as Jesus modeled.

13. DIVERSE – We embrace diversity and uniqueness in the Church.  

We affirm that every ethnicity culture, and individual – while imperfect – reflects the mosaic of God’s own image and together we better glorify and serve the God of creation.  The Church is made-up of individuals and groups from countless backgrounds, beliefs, and callings.  As we all journey toward maturity in Christ together, we will naturally experience and express this in a variety of ways.  Therefore we do not reject people we disagree with, and avoid division over debatable matters.  We minimize conformity, but emphasize freedom of preference and creativity within the boundaries of God’s mission. 


Discover Your Serve

Something wonderful has been happening ever since we started prioritizing compassion for others in our approach to loving God.  Serving the poor and marginalized has always accompanied genuine expressions of the good news of Jesus, serving as a bellwether for the people of God.  Not that we never thought of being generous before leaving conventional church ministry, but it was always kind of an afterthought.  There was just always so much going on in the church to prepare for, that there wasn’t much time or energy or money left for giving-away to people who wouldn’t have the ability to bring it back in. Just being honest.  When we shifted our approach, turning the tables upside-down by spending the bulk of our time and energy and money to meet the unmet needs of others; we started seeing stories of transformation popping-up all around us…and within us.  It changed our paradigm.
In my experience, there’s no expression of the Gospel more potent than serving others in non-religious settings.  By donning Carhartts and doing dirty jobs on behalf of the poor for the past 12+ years, we’ve seen countless stories of redemption, revival, and regeneration out in the community.  Working your butt off for people who can never repay you has a way of tearing-down walls of doubt and skepticism – in them, their neighbors, family members, and people who will hear about it that we will never meet.  Those ripples are part of the current of hope that God uses to call every person back into Him.
A few weeks ago, I was among the honored guests in Shara’s small mobile home.  We had mobilized volunteers and resources for a big, free renovation earlier this year – 3-days of significant, critical repairs that changed their lives.  Shara’s family of 3, along with about 7-8 of her extended family, hosted 6 of us with appetizers and drinks to watch a new video we had made about the project.  We shared hugs, laughter, and tears as the video replayed the transformation of her home at the hands of a group of church people being the Church.  She and her little family have a faith background, but had been fairly distant from God and church in recent years….until the project catalyzed change.  After the video, several family members expressed thanks to us and to God for sending us.  Shara’s mother, the matriarch of the family, expressed through tears how thankful she was for the loving people who did the work, because they renewed her daughter’s faith in God…  
Yeah, we were all crying…we recognized that we were conduits in a story that was bigger than ourselves!  We didn’t go in there with a Gospel-presentation, but with tools and sweat for the WORK of the Gospel….the WORDS and the WORSHIP followed.  Too often, in our eagerness to share our love for Jesus with others, we rush-in with the words of the Gospel without first earning right to be heard. This is the Methodology of the Gospel.
As Christians in America today, I think we often have it backward.  There’s nothing wrong with big buildings, centralized resources, or hired clergy; but this is not how Jesus and the Early Church reached their known world with the Gospel….and it’s not how we will either. These are not the Church; they are useful tools and voices meant to encourage, equip, and scatter the Church!  Constantly loving & serving others, leading upright lives by the Spirit in a corrupted world, experiencing miracles, shining the light of Jesus into all of the world’s dark places.  When Christian individuals and institutions leverage everything we have to embody the Gospel in the world, then the fruit of the Gospel is the natural by-product.  
So we’re going to keep doing a lot of free construction projects.  It’s not for everybody, but it’s our thing…our vehicle for serving the poor & marginalized.  What’s yours?  When you and some friends invest your time and energy and money in an endeavor that God calls you to, you will unlock that part of God’s story that He has been waiting to open through you.

Isaiah 58 (excerpts) “Loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free, share your food with the hungry, provide the poor wanderer with shelter, clothe the naked…Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” James 1:27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
 John 4:35“Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

For more info about Catalyst’s projects, visit 

Hope Amid Corruption

An acquaintance forwarded me a recent article, written by a former Catholic priest, which chronicled his journey out of the priesthood as a result of the sex-scandal corruption that has been exposed in the Church’s hierarchy over the past several years. It deeply troubled me, yet it also invigorated a sense of hope.  Those two emotions interlocked in a weaving circle of thoughts and reactions swimming in my mind…
The guy who sent it to me is not a believer in Christ.  I think he’s an agnostic or atheist…which makes it more interesting that he enjoyed the article and thought about sending it my way.  I thanked him for forwarding it to me, and asked him what he thought about it. We’ll see what he has to say.  Perhaps he’s representative of many people today who would seem to have a favorable view of Jesus if not for some of His so-called followers.  There’s a lot of talk today about people being “spiritual but not religious,” and I suppose in all honesty that I would put myself in that camp.  I’m not against organized religion (another popular claim these days), understanding that the opposite end of that spectrum is merely self-centered ecclesiastical chaos.  Besides, Jesus and His apostles certainly prescribed the basic functions of organization.  My wife and I are active members in a semi-large congregational church, but we hold no illusion that its organized forms are sacred in and of themselves.  Function and Form / Ordained and Manmade.
So what happens when the Church/churches cease to look like, sound like, and feel like Jesus?  Many thinking individuals today have trouble believing in a message that has historically been associated with corrupted messengers – the latest example being altar boys and nuns sexually abused by deranged wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Of course, for every story like this, there are thousands of faithful Catholic priests and laypeople who are serving the hungry & sick, living holy lives of true worship, deeply beloved and blessed by their Heavenly Father.  I know and love some of them.  But those aren’t the stories that we tend to see on the news or in the headlines.
The article ended with a few pages of the author’s dreams; which was encouraging because often when people complain, they don’t offer any alternatives.  This is where the hope came in.  He talked about wonderful examples of true faith.  He also talked a lot about how things once were, in the Church that Jesus and His original followers started.  It was EGALITARIAN…the author used that word.  I forgot what it meant, so I Googled it…”The principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.”  That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?  It’s the way that Jesus believed and taught and commanded us to live our lives.  His enemies were the power-brokers who wanted to protect their turf, and didn’t have room for His new message.  It’s ironic how the tables sometimes turn when power and greed and a host of other sins are allowed to grow in a vacuum of vested interest.
I do wonder, if “Church” was to take on a radically different form more akin to its humble beginnings, how that might impact people’s views about the original teachings and ways of Jesus. Could we see a resurgence of faith and hope and love in our day?  Could we see a greater reliance on the words of scripture than on manmade traditions that cover it over? Could we see more humility and transparency in a world of deceit?  The author thought so, and so do I. 
My favorite quotes from the article came from the final few paragraphs…some of his final parting shots:

“I want to be part of what brings about the liberation of the Church from the imperium that took it captive 1,700 years ago”

“The Church, whatever else it may be, is not the organizational apparatus. It is a community of memory, keeping alive the story of Jesus Christ. The Church is an in-the-flesh connection to him – or it is nothing.”

As long as there are people like that, who refuse to accept anything short of the way of Jesus, relying on God’s ongoing intervention to bring about “His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven,” then I would say that our hope is secure.

I’d be interested in your thoughts about this.  Also, if you’re interested in reading the article, let me know and I’ll get it to you.  
I’ll close with this passage, 2 Timothy 3:

“In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.  

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings…yet from them all the Lord rescued me.Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned itand how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work.” 


Walking By Faith

Although I live and do ministry in what may be considered the “least religious city in America,” I think that most people here have a favorable view of Jesus.  Historical records and Biblical accounts reveal Him as a relentlessly selfless and compassionate individual.  He healed people from diseases, did miracles, and spent time with social outcasts; and we admire Him for it to this day.  Unfortunately, admiration doesn’t translate well.

The warm-fuzzies usually end here, because the model He actually demonstrated and coached for His followers always led to leaps of faith on the part of those He encountered. This doesn’t go well with the narrative of today’s popular opinion; which would much rather have a Jesus who celebrates every alternative idea & action with no need for any of us to conform to a higher set of values.  In our desire to be open and tolerant, we have practically denounced the existence of sin and it’s corrupting influence in our lives. 
It is absolutely, undeniably true that the love of God and mercy of Jesus pierce through into the hearts of every single individual human, regardless of belief or persuasion or morality; but there is an undeniable, inexorable pull for each one of us to cast away those aspects of ourselves that mar the “Image of God” He desires to manufacture in us.  He beckons us to follow Him along unfamiliar paths in faith, for the purpose of building intimacy with Him and coming into alignment with His unique design for us. Do you understand this?  Scripture calls this WALKING BY FAITH.
We are creatures…which means we are created BY the Creator and with the PURPOSE of the Creator.  It is abundantly clear in the revealed-will of God (aka The Scriptures, the Holy Bible) that He did not design us for autonomy from Him, but for partnership with Him.  What is His purpose for you?  Does it line up with your purposes for yourself?  Which of these are you more interested in pursuing for your happiness? The manner in which we answer this question, moment by moment of every day, determines our posture toward our Heavenly Father every step of the way…and His blessing on us follows.
I’m convinced that the primary reason that so many of us struggle to experience the peace & joy & power of God in our lives is that we’re so obsessed by our own agendas that we’re oblivious, or even obstinate, to His.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (excerpts from the Biblical book of “Hebrews”)

What do you really know about Jesus?  When was the last time you picked-up your Bible and read His words & deeds? What place does He have in your life today?  If it’s been awhile….start reading and praying through the Gospel of John, 1 chapter per day.


I used to believe that once I learned something, I had it.  That the acquisition of knowledge or some specific skill, once taken into my mind & body, would somehow remain there indefinitely…ever ready thereafter to be called upon to inform my intellect or empower my actions.  What I’ve come to reluctantly realize, along with many others, is the truth that my psyche and ability have holes in them.  Stuff gets lost all the time.

As a petulant and somewhat proud young man watching my father mature many years ago, I just thought there were deficiencies about him when he forgot stuff or couldn’t do what he used to do.  You know how we do that to our parents, right?  “I’m not going to be like that,” we confidently predict.  I started realizing the immaturity of that position when I was in my late-thirties.  I was deep in my career, married with two little terrors, trying to make my way in a confusing & challenging world.  The relentless stress was much more than I had anticipated.  I began noticing that the veneers that lay over my ego started melting away due to forgetfulness, a layer of fat around my midsection, and a crisis of confidence.  It was around that time that dad and I started getting much closer as friends and confidants. It’s funny how life has a way of teaching us humility.

What I mean by “crisis of confidence” is not that I lost my hope, but that my limited version of “hope” started getting cracks in it.  As a follower of Jesus, I was deeply comforted by the eternal hope I have for the afterlife because of my connection with Him.  I also had a lot of hopes for my earthly future that were based on pictures in my mind that I had adopted from the world around me…things, relationships, and experiences I wished for and asked God for.  Some of these hopes were more noble than others: 
“I want to be a good husband and father”
“I want to be well liked and successful”
“I want to have good friends”
“I want to be healthy and athletic”
“I want to have a nice looking yard”
 “I want to be close to God”

Interesting that all of those start with “I want.”  As I matured during this season, I began to realize that my hopes required work.  They weren’t free, like salvation in Christ is free.  He is pleased to give us the Kingdom, and to fulfill our desires with good things…but they are not cheap.  When I ask God to bless my future with a hope that I have, He always give me challenges in order to obtain it.  The way I handle those challenges determines the outcome…not of my ultimate hope, but the individual one.  I also learned during this phase that I no longer had enough time to invest in all of my hopes simultaneously in order to experience their fruition all at once….so there was always something that wasn’t living-up to the picture in my mind.  In those times, I had to be content with that aspect of hope that involves waiting.  I began to see glimpses of a hope that is not connected with my circumstances and abilities.

The Biblical word for “hope” can also be translated as “expectation, trust, confidence.”  It’s not some elusive, childish dream that’s meant to put pretty pictures of our preferred self just beyond our reach…urging us to strain to better ourselves.  It’s the realistic result of the practical, real and daily efforts we put into trusting that God’s way is right…and that He can be trusted with the results, whether they look like our vision or not.  I haven’t experienced anything truly good in my life by wishing that I would; but by praying, working, investing, and trusting my way into whatever outcome He has for me.  It’s not really about my projected destination; it’s about the Hand I’m holding, and trusting Him to lead me.  Whenever I stray off that path, hope eludes me and dreams crumble.  When I repent, redirect my affections toward Him, and turn my aspirations toward the goals that line-up with Him, hope wells up in me anew.

So,to me, hope is not a lazy wish-upon-a-star; it’s a heat-seeking missile.


Significance Through Service

As followers of Jesus in Post-Christian America, it’s essential that we dedicate ourselves – and our beloved church cultures – to imitating His actual example. There are myriad reasons why the spiritual narrative of America has become so highly toxic to the cause of Christ in recent years, many of which we cannot control; but what we can control is our posture and focus!
As Christian individuals and institutions are being squeezed by our increasingly secular society, it’s more important than ever that we believe and act like Jesus and His early followers.  They also lived in cultures of antagonism; being ridiculed and even persectuted by those who stood opposed to the truth of God…or by those who added heavy burdens on top of it…or by those who subtracted from it to make it more popular.  The Church of the New Testament saw God move in unprecedented, miraculous ways when they focused on the basics of Christian living; and avoided the distractions of false pursuits.  There are a lot of those.
One of the reasons I think we often have such trouble connecting with the world around us is that, collectively, we seem to have lost the point.  We’re often so wrapped-up with our manmade cultures (buildings, programs, doctrines, strategies, hierarchies, etc.) that we become lousy representatives of our King, becoming irrelevant to the world we’re called to engage…and when we do engage, we often mistakenly lead with critical words rather than loving hands!  It’s time for the people of God to lead with acts of transformative compassion & hope…just like Jesus did.  

Always remember that your church is not the mission; the people who don’t show-up are the mission, and the church is the people who embody the presence of Jesus to them.  

This is why I love partnering with local churches for Catalyst projects.  We get to mobilize church people by getting them out of their comfort zones to address the felt needs of the poor in their own communities…sharing Jesus with their hands and hugs, which often inexorably leads to His words of hope and truth being shared as well!  
This Spring, we’re building new partnerships with several churches & ministries – Abundant Life Church in Happy Valley, Grace Point Community Church in Tigard, Highland Helpers in Beaverton, and other prospective partners. They join the ranks of awesome existing partners like Community of Hope Lutheran in Wilsonville, Stone Creek Christian Church in Oregon City, Living Hope Fellowship in Aloha, Tigard Christian Church, and others.  We celebrate the vital role that God has given Catalyst for these partnerships, and we rejoice in the opportunities we have to equip God’s people for works of service!” (Ephesians 4:12)
“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world…It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you…Who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear.” (Excerpts from 1 Peter 2, 3)