THE FIERCE yet ABSURD ATTACK

Jesus in the desert

Jesus in the desert

Metrics, fruit, contribution, impact.  These are words we often use when we talk about wanting our work and our lives to make a difference for the Kingdom of God.  I can’t tell you how many Christians I (Matt) have spoken with that have been inflicted with undue discouragement when it comes to this subject.  The enemy loves to make the task to which we are called seem so overwhelming that we might just give up.  This is what he did to Jesus in the desert and this is what he continues to do to you and I. The accusations are endless and they are fierce, but they are ultimately absurd.

Throughout the narrative of scripture, we see the people of God meeting this attack head on with the weapons of faith and remembrance. Abraham, for instance, was promised that his descendants would outnumber the stars, but what did he actually see in his lifetime? Not much really. The author of Hebrews declares that the people of faith (like Abraham) are the ones who did NOT receive the things promised, but only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. Somehow, these great men and women believed that God was doing so much more underneath the surface than they could tangibly see. It wasn’t their contribution that was remarkable. It was their faith.Not only did they have faith, but they also took time to remember what God had done in and through them.  The Hebrew people practiced remembering their story. They even went so far as to set up monuments as a testimony.

There might not be a better time to take up these weapons of faith and remembrance than now.  As the year comes to a close we encourage you to pause and call upon the spirit of God to give you faith and to show you all that he has done and will do through you!

 

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Five Ways We Pastor Our Neighborhood

Since our arrival to Columbia City we have sensed the gentle whisper of the Spirit of God giving us permission to engage in God’s Kingdom imagination…more specifically in our role as Pastor/Minister in the neighborhood. To put it simply, our neighbors have become our congregants and we can’t get away from our church.  We have a small faith community that worships in our home but the reality is most of the 11,000 people in our neighborhood will never come to a gathering. And yet, they have spiritual longings that have gone unfulfilled. They have unexplainable desires that have not been quenched. Many Columbia City residents may not know it, but they were made to live in deep communion with the triune God. For some crazy reason God has asked us to help pastor these beautiful people regardless of whether they come to our gatherings.

Below are five ways we have been pastoring our neighborhood:

Read more »

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The Trip That Ruined Me…

Why give your life to peacemaking when it seems so futile?

 

Over the course of my 36 years I have had the opportunity to travel the world and participate in many different types of humanitarian trips, but none have impacted me in the same way as my recent trip to Israel/Palestine. Traveling with the Global Immersion Project wasn’t about doing humanitarian work; we didn’t paint fences, play with orphans, or go on a typical Holy Land tour. Instead, we simply went to be with the people who inhabit the land. We heard the stories of heroic Palestinian Christians, Muslims, and Jewish Israelis who have chosen to wage peace instead of war. Their stories stirred my soul.

The people we spoke with have a conviction that politics alone won’t bring peace.

 

They believe that peace is about unity, oneness, co-creating, and love. They understand that in order to

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Peacemaking friends: Sami (Palestinian) and Shaul (Jewish Israeli)

live the command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” one has to know their neighbor. This type of peacemaking is radical because it means cultivating shared futures together and becoming friends with the “other side”. It’s stepping into the deep end of the pool. It’s risky. They have all lost friends, been shunned from their community, been called normalizers, and many of the non-profits have had their employees walk away because the social pressure is too great.

I struggle with wanting to win. Maybe it’s my culture, my upbringing, or just because I’m human, but I want my efforts to pay off. So I find myself asking, “is this really worth it?” Will there be peace? The land has been in conflict for 7,000 years. The chances of these peacemakers seeing the results they are longing for (in their lifetime) are slim. This is the reality. So why not give up? Why not move to another land if peacemaking seems so futile? Why do they continue to persevere? This question would haunt me throughout the entire trip.

While the answer was echoed in all the stories of the peacemakers we met with, none hit me harder than hearing the story of Amal and her work with the Tent of Nations.

Tent of Nations is a Palestinian farm in the West Bank that seeks to bring people of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and peace.

As you enter the farm there is a sign that says, “We refuse to be enemies.”

 

Since 1991, the state of Israel has been trying to take thIMG_7416e land that Amal’s family has lived on, owned, and farmed since 1916. Last year the IDF (Israeli Army) arrived in the middle of the night and cut down 1,500 of their fruit trees. It was a devastating blow, yet they refuse to be enemies.

Again I found myself saying, “you can’t win!” And then it happened. I was forever changed as I learned the reason for their perseverance. Simply put, all of these peacemakers refuse to give up because they have a conviction to pursue life the way God intended it to be lived and experienced. They recognize that God did not intend for us to hate each other, to live isolated lives, and for inequality. So they refuse to be enemies by standing up for the way of oneness, love, and equality. For Amal, this means that when the government of Israel comes with bulldozers, she and her team will stand in front of them. When they try to drain their funds through expensive court fees, they raise the money. When one tree gets cut down, Amal responds in joyful conviction, “we will plant 10 more.” For Amal and all the peacemakers we met in Israel-Palestine, they chose to persevere because they believe that there is a better way to live. They see the results as each new heart is softened, and peace begins to reign in the soul, even if it doesn’t reign in the land.

I’m not going to quit anymore.

 

I’m not going to distance myself emotionally when I don’t see the results I think I crave. I’m also not going to exhaust myself by focusing on the wrong objective. I’m with my brothers and sisters in Israel, and will give it all because I hear the Spirit of God telling me that this is the way we were meant to live.

What are your passions?

 

Do you have dreams to see the marginalized flourish? How about a longing to see the Kingdom of God come to your neighborhood? Perhaps you feel called to influence a new kind of church? We all have dreams for our family, work, and the world. May the stories of our friends bring you to a holy ruin.

Take joy my friend. Your dreams and longings are whispers of the Spirit saying, “this is the God-intended-life to be lived and experienced.

 

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What “Missional” Looks Like For Us…

This was one of my most popular blog post from a while back that I thought I would repost again  It’s been a good reminder for me to look this over as we launch a new site in South Seattle.

 So what does the missional life look like for us? 

Pictures from our neighborhood

When Amy and I lived in the Seattle area our lives were devoted to helping people live deeper into their commitment of following Jesus.  I (Matt) loved my role as a youth pastor and Amy was (and still is) passionate about mentoring young women.  We were good at what we did and yet even in the midst of our joy, we increasingly felt disconnected from the realities of what it meant to follow Jesus.  We were so busy being with the people who attended our church that we seldom made time to be with the people that would never walk through the doors of the church.  We rarely invited our neighbors over for dinner. Most of our good friends were Christians while our other friends were mostly from the job place (but we didn’t make enough time to invite them over because we were so busy with church). And the only other place we met unbelievers were on mission trips or outreach events.  Missions became an event rather than a way of life.

When we came to terms with the disconnected lives we were living we began to make changes.  I joined a basketball team full of unbelievers, we began being intentional with our neighbors, and Amy was more intentional with friends at work. Yet, even in the midst of our changes, something still felt a bit off.  We were going at it all alone. Nobody from our church knew our neighbors, Amy’s coworkers, or my teammates who I played basketball with. It’s difficult to stay motivated and persevere when “going alone”.

We began to long for a connected life as we see pictured in the book of Acts where tribes of believers who lived in close proximity to each other shared life and committed collectively to be Kingdom players in their local context (neighborhood).

We believe it was God who placed that longing in our hearts and somehow He navigated us towards a tribe of people who have received similar promptings.  In many ways we don’t know what we are doing…we are stumbling our way through this with both success and failure, but one thing is for sure:  God has graciously allowed us to live a more connected life and it is deeply fulfilling.

Below are five unique characteristics to our life of mission:

1.  For Amy and I, living missional starts with our neighborhood.  We care about the area we inhabit.  We put a lot of work into researching the history of our neighborhood, who makes up it’s residents now, and where it is headed.  All of us make an effort to serve in a way that will bring healing to the area, and we are actively present in the places where our neighbors gather such as the local recreation center, coffee shops, parks, and non-profits.

2.  We live out our missional life with a committed group of believers that we call our “intentional community.”  We gather for a shared meal and worship on Sunday evenings, for missional formation on Tuesday evenings, and often throughout the rest of the week (attending an art show together, serving at a recovery home together, or throwing a potluck together).

3.  Our intentional community has committed to live in the same neighborhood.  This makes shared life and mission more natural as we bump into the same neighbors at all the same places.

4.  We pray with each other and with our neighbors.  We bring our fellow kingdom players to Jesus when we experience trials.  This keeps us encouraged and it gives us the grace we need to stay in the game.  We also bring our neighbors to Jesus by praying with them when we sense the Spirit leading us.

5.  We seek to multiply ourselves by pioneering other “intentional communities” in our neighborhood and in our city.  We are not content unless these communities are being birthed out of a response to our neighbors coming to know Jesus.

Now that you have heard a bit of our story and how we go about engaging a life of mission I feel compelled to confess two fears I have in sharing with you all.

Fear #1:  You would so resonate with this story and long for it and yet, in the same breath, determine that it can’t happen for you.  The result of this is often discouragement and a lack of movement.  My response:  You can step deeper into a life of mission.  The way God has created you to live on mission should look different than how we go about it.  The beautiful thing is we can learn from each other.  So may this inspire you to live deeper into the missional life according to how God has uniquely wired each of you.

Fear #2:  You would dismiss this story altogether.  You might find yourself saying, “If I were a full-time missionary like them then I could live this life.” This question causes me to ask you a question:  What if you could live as a missionary while working full-time?  It’s happening in our community, it’s happening in places around the world all the time.  It is possible.  Our community makes it pretty clear that we don’t get paid to live a missional life (even Amy and I).   Rather, for those of us that raise funds (like ourselves) do so only to train other leaders to pioneer creative ways to live this out all around the world.   This is our passion.  We want to help you live this out.  We believe in each of you!

Please share your story with us and let us know if we can come alongside you in anyway.  Let all of our stories be contagious for they are simply reminders of the GRAND story we all are invited to participate in.

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Above all things, Love. Except on social media.

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I (Amy) might be viewed as a hippy by those who know me well, and it’s partly true. I eat clean. I birthed my babe at home. I give away a lot, and buy little. I would prefer to sleep in a van (but my boys wouldn’t). I daydream about standing on the street holding a “free hugs” sign (anyone want to join me? My boys won’t). And I truly believe that Love makes the world go around.

The hippy movement may have had its problems, but there was truth rooted in their actions. Be Love, show Love, live Love, and the rest will work itself out. Okay, it feels pretty darn oversimplified, right?

Matthew 22:36 – 40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  

ALL the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Oversimplified? I don’t think so. Go ahead, spin your wheels trying to accomplish all the other commandments without these two. Go ahead, try to raise up your children well. Go ahead, try to stand up for issues of justice. Go ahead, try to change the world. Try to convict people of their sinful ways. Try to make people more republican. Try to make people more like you (And so I digress). Try to do it without the two most important commandments.

Everything we do begins with Love or without Love. Choose to go without Love and you go without God. Success is impossible. Go with love and you’ll still make a thousand mistakes. But you will have God. And you will find meaningful encounters.

Cameron Strang wrote in the January issue of Relevant Magazine:

“Don’t be a Jerk. 2014 wasn’t a banner year for Christians public discourse. Social media has opened the chance for every person with an opinion to spew whatever they want without filter. Listen, it’s OK to disagree or take a stand. But keep in mind the golden rule and treat others the way you’d like to be treated – online and off. Let’s be a little more humble and realize our opinions aren’t the only valid ones.”

Cameron gave Christians a lot of grace in this small paragraph on page 4. I have been convicted of my lack of grace.

I’ve been trying to reconcile all the nastiness I see in the Christian culture today. So much slander. So much hate. So much self-righteousness. When did Jesus ever say “he’s such an ass-wipe”? Given the opportunity to jump on Facebook, would Jesus have responded to prominent leader’s skewed perspectives by calling them “ignorant bastards”? I can’t imagine it. Sure, he got righteously angry. He flipped over some tables. But, He was God, and He knew when and where he should take action to be in alignment with his role on earth, and it was honestly seldom.

How can we, knowing Jesus, still spend our time foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog, waiting to pounce on some “other” dirty animal? We are all dirty animals and we have work to do in ourselves first.

And I don’t just see it in social media. It lives among all of us; in our homes, in our beds, at our jobs. It’s everywhere.

Recently, a friend of mine was yelled at, belittled, and degraded by a fellow Christian because her theology is different. Ugh.

Don’t think you can hide it. Hate begets hate. Love begets Love.

I’ve seen churches and communities fall apart because hearts that lacked love built it, led it, and killed it.

Hate begets hate. Love begets Love.

I’ve seen Christians yell at the homeless (afterall, they are lazy, right?). I’ve seen them berate Muslims (because they are the enemy of course). I’ve seen them foam at the mouth because of what I do for a living (I’ve totally gone off the deep end. I might even be a democrat, with my crazy immigration views. Lord have mercy).

Hate begets hate. Love begets Love.

I’ve seen it. (And I’ve done it too).

But try this for a few months. Confess every thought that is absent of love. Confess it and hand it to God. Pray for new focus, for kingdom inspiration to replace the hate. And when you have found God (because remember, when you find Love you find God. God IS LOVE. The places without Love are the places without God), go and do something with new calling, new drive, new passion, and new Love.

Pray that He, that Love, saves you from yourself. Only then can you help save others.

Oh, and by the way, if you find yourself with a new passion, and need help figuring out “how” to use it, come talk to me. I’ve got some people and places that would love to have you (and your God of Love).

Recommended Read, if you’d like new perspective:

http://www.amazon.com/Immaculee-Ilibagiza-Discovering-Holocaust-Printing/dp/B00HTK89V6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1422170778&sr=8-2&keywords=left+to+tell

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Missional Community Cohort: Starting in March!

This spring we (Rob Yackley, Ben Katt, and others) are going to launch a new leadership cohort that has been crafted specifically for people who are jumping into the missional community movement and who want to bring others along with them.

It’ll be based in our Seattle neighborhood and we will primarily gather in our home, but we’ll also visit other communities in the area and the cohort will also include a handful of community leaders from outside Seattle which will add depth and diversity to our learning community.  We will gather 5 times over 18 months and there will be several touch points and action-oriented assignments between each gathering to keep us moving ahead together.

Pictured below is a PDF with all, (okay, most), of the details.  Give it a read and let me know if you’re interested.  I think the combination of teaching, conversation, study, relationships, on-the-ground experiences, and personal coaching will be powerfully transformative and help leaders grow the community God has given you to lead.

Would you do us–and the movement–a huge favor?  If you know any missional community leaders in your circles who could really use the encouragement of a learning community and the help of experienced guides, could you forward this on to them with a word of encouragement?

Here are the dates of the first—of what we hope will be many–cohorts:

March 26-28, 2015
June 18-20, 2015
October 22-24, 2015
February 18-20, 2016
June, 9-11, 2016

 

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The FEAR of “the others”

“Take everything out of your pockets,” the man said as he approached me with his metal-detecting wand before I (Matt) entered a local high school to watch a basketball game just one week ago. In that moment I realized that God has a sense of humor. This was the exact high school I was fearful of coming to when I was a kid, and now I am raising my family in the neighborhood

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Eighteen years ago, when I played basketball for Lake Washington High School, we would occasionally have to travel to play a south Seattle team. The coaches would prep us saying, “stick together,” as though something dangerous might happen between the parking lot and the gym. Fear of “the others” was birthed and it would take years to undo.

“The others” referred to anyone that wasn’t like me. People, who had different skin color, were of lower social-economic class, or from neighborhoods that tended to be crime-ridden. I remember one day about ten years ago when I was with my brother and we had to stop in South Seattle to get gas. I was afraid to even get out of the car and pump my own gas so my brother did it for me.

Fear keeps us from being fully human and fully alive. We were made to live in relationship with one another. We were made to bring all our talents to the world around us. We were made to receive and to learn from one another.

Fear poisoned me so much that safety became the primary lens through which I made decisions. This is not just my story, it’s the story of many Christ-followers in the western world.

 

 FEAR causes us to make decisions on where to live based upon the safety of the neighborhood.

 

 FEAR causes us to deny our appetite for risk and adventure because “it might not work out”.

 

 FEAR causes us to engage in relationships, and share meals with ONLY those that are like us.

 

 FEAR causes us to miss out on Kingdom-on-earth experiences because we are worried we might be “tainted by sinners”.

 

What would happen if we began making decisions from the example that Jesus left us rather than through the dreaded lens of fear? My hunch is that FEAR would become less of a big deal. Relationships would take center stage. People would be healed (including us). We would become fully alive. This is life as God intended it to be experienced.

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A call to move beyond small groups and home church

Last night we had 15-20 people from the neighborhood in our home to explore the teachings of Jesus. We shared a meal, studied the scriptures, laughed, shared stories, and even prayed blessings over our friends and families.

We get this question often: “So what’s the difference between what you do and a house church or a small group?” I love this question. Not so much because of the differences but because it gives us a chance to explain what we believe God wants to cultivate throughout the city. It allows us to speak to the big idea rather than highlight the differences.

SO WHAT’S THE BIIG DEAL?

Here is the thing. I believe both models are needed. We know of some amazing small groups and house churches that are following Jesus with abandon. But, oh, how we need more men and women of God to move toward this neighborhood expression. Something beautiful happens when the people of God choose to live this way. The outward world begins to see the body of Christ, and the body is beautiful. Frankly, I don’t want my neighbors to just see Matt and Amy. I want them to see the body because that is when the glory of the Lord is fully revealed. By making simple but radical choices towards a shared mission and calling to place, this becomes possible. We begin to be seen as we were designed to be seen, and we all experience transformation.

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This calling we sense is different than a typical small group or house church…

See the major differences in the table below:

 

Small Group or House Church Neighborhood expression
Participants often commute up to 45 minutes to attend All members live in same neighborhood and stay within a 10 minute walk
Participants often see each other once or twice a week Members share the messiness of life together and have random encounters in the neighborhood.
Participants can care or invest in something they are passionate about. i.e. homeless ministry, recovery ministry, etc. Members are a part of the place they serve. Their home is their neighborhood and they invest, care, and learn in their home. They also serve together regularly at a location in the area.
Participants can often opt in or out when they want. Members share a set of commitments or covenant that help them live into their shared mission and calling.Note: We share an annual covenant

The place we all call home: Columbia City

Why does it matter?

While the differences are important to understand this is not what motivates us. What motivates this movement is the hope to see the body of Christ known and magnified.

We do, however, want to stay true to our calling and invite people to join us if they feel a similar call. We sense God calling us to be Christ-followers who have a deep commitment to the place where we live (the neighborhood) and towards a radical shared life (community) with the people we worship with. Do you sense a similar call? Do you have similar longings?

 

 

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The Seattle Freeze + Loving your Literal Neighbor

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The Seattle freeze can be a bit disheartening.  It is known to breed isolation, loneliness, and yes, even depression.  No I’m not talking about the weather. I ‘m talking about the lack of hospitality and neighborliness that most refer to as the “Seattle freeze.”  We have all been a part of both sides, the receiving and delivering side of it: “We need to hang out”, or “we should grab lunch soon”, a potential new friend insists, only to never hear from them again.  If you are really persistent, you may try to follow up with your want-to-be friend but, if you are like the majority of Americans, after you are denied two times you will most likely never extend an invitation to that person again. (Which implies, by the way, that if you turn someone else down twice, they probably won’t ask again.  Maybe it’s worth your while to change your schedule for a potential new friend.)

Here is the reality:  “the Seattle freeze” is not going to change unless you become the champion of invitation and hospitality.  One thing that I have learned after living in three different cities in five years is that our society’s longing to belong runs deeper than the status quo of isolation and independence.  Your neighbor wants to know you.  They want to be in your home and have dinner with you.  They want to open their hearts, share their hopes and dreams with you.  They just they need someone to help them get unstuck from the deceptive lure of hibernation.  You can be a champion of Justice, even in a small way.

What if we, as Christ Followers, showed our fellow neighbors what it means to be human, that we were created as relational beings that care for one another?

 

What if we were the ones who were the champions of hospitality and connectedness in the places we call home?

 

What if we took Jesus’ command to love our neighbor literally and we began to engage the person living next door or across the street from us?

 

When we moved to Columbia City nine months ago we began to experiment with this idea of being a champion of hospitality for our place.  We are still in the early stages, but we are having a blast!  We have thrown parties, had countless dinners, started numerous sidewalk conversations, and (my personal favorite) hosted neighbors on our front porch for late-night chat sessions. We have even invited neighbors into our “day of prayer” that we host in our prayer room quarterly. This summer we will also begin neighborhood BBQ’s at our house every Thursday. It’s been a lot of hard work but the rewards are worth it.  The Freeze is beginning to thaw.

So who lives on your street?  Perhaps God has put you next door to them for a reason. If we don’t take the first step, then we miss the beauty of what God has and oh, how it is beautiful!  Let us be a people who are known as people of hospitality, who help usher into our cities a relational warmth that melt the freeze and open the door to living deeper into our God-given design as ones who bear the image of our triune God.

 

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Come and See: NieuCommunities Seattle

What if every neighborhood in Seattle had a group of people who felt compelled to live into the Kingdom story by living in intentional community, rooting themselves in a specific neighborhood, and had a commitment to pursue Jesus together? There is a movement afoot across the city of Seattle for these things. 

Whether you are interested in being trained by NieuCommunities to launch your own community, are called to apprentice with our Columbia City community (this fall), or are simply curious about what NieuCommunities folks are up to, we invite you to DREAM with us as we walk our streets, talk, and pray together.

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WHO:  Potential participants (apprentices, leaders), supportive friends, & curious. 

WHAT:  Come participate in a Columbia City neighborhood tour & prayer, a short talk on NieuCommunities’ vision and story, dinner, and our Sunday evening gathering.

WHERE: We will meet at Matt and Amy Chapman’s house.  3952 S Edmunds Street, Seattle  98118

WHEN:  Sunday, May 18th from 3:30pm-9pm

WHY:  Our hope is to give you a sense of who we are and to spark your imagination for what God might be calling you into. 

HOW:  Through food, conversation and sharing, we hope this will be a time when new friendships are formed, and old ones are strengthened and inspired.

Note:  This is not a support-raising meeting.  Dinner will be provided.  $5 suggested donation. 

Space is LIMiTED and will fill quickly….

For REGISTRATION go to our FB to secure your spot

NieuCommunities FB Page

matt@nieucommunities.org 

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