leading the world to Christ starts at your local Applebee’s


i don’t post here much anymore. only when i feel like i really have something to say.

so sue me.

as some of you know, i recently left full-time ministry and am trying to find my place in the world outside of being a full-time, professional Christian.

and for right now, that means i work as a server at our neighborhood Applebee’s. and, much to my surprise, i really love it.

last week, i had the opportunity to serve a local minister. he is well-respected in the circles i used to run in, having grown several small churches to mega-church status. i knew him, but he didn’t know me.

and, after serving him lunch…he still doesn’t know me. in fact, he didn’t even look up at me. or acknowledge me. or say anything to me.

the irony: he and his friend spent the better part of an hour at my table talking about how to lead the world to Jesus.

all i could think to myself was: “how are we going to lead anybody, let alone the world, to Jesus, if we can’t even give the guy who serves us our lunch the time of day?”

it starts in our neighborhood. or our neighborhood bar and grill.

(now, i am not mad at this man. he meant no ill will towards me at all. he wasn’t trying to make it in to my blog. he’s a good…no, a great man.)

can we all agree to keep our eyes open to the opportunities right in front of us? can we start thinking a little smaller, perhaps? can we stop overlooking the hurt and lost and broken among us every day?

confession: i’m an ichthus out of water

[this post has not been edited for anything. it’s 12:30am and my brain is in gear. thus, a collection of thoughts.]

“i’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints; the sinners are much more fun.” —billy joel in “only the good die young”

this week i started a new job. in a new town. in a new world.

my old world was full-time vocational ministry. a paid preacher. a professional Christian.

in my old world i talked about the necessity; nay, the command to be missional followers of Jesus…to live a life of intentionally engaging and being in relationship with those who do not yet follow Christ. of being in their world. of loving and earning the right to hear and be heard.

apparently, if i was a professional Christian…i wasn’t a very good one.

because for the life of me, i cannot recall a single, significant friendship i have had in the last 5 years with someone outside of the faith.

shame on me.

and now i find myself in a new world. a world where i sell iPhones and take collegiate courses and am surrounded by people who do not know my Lord.

and i’m not really sure what to do.

oh, i know the right answers (paid professionals always know the right answers).

talk with them. be engaged. hear their story. share a drink. serve them. meet their needs. be alert. love them. extend the grace that cannot be resisted.

but…how? what does this look like at work? in the classroom? in my neighborhood? i don’t know, because i’ve never done it. i’ve only talked about it.

i’m excited and terrified in this new world. you know those “Jesus fish” you see on the back of vehicles? (it’s call an “ichthus”). i feel like an ichthus out of water. i am firmly outside the confines of my safe and sanitized Christian world.

and it seems to be a good thing.

it seems to be where Jesus spent most of his time.

adventures in missional campus ministry, chapter 4

we need men to engage.

this last week, our large group gathering left the friendly confines of our ministry center and headed out to the heart of our campus. there, we were going to engage with and bless some students who had organized an event to raise awareness and donations to help end the homeless plight in our area.

we brought donated food items and money. then we received cardboard boxes and were told to make a cardboard house. it was called a “cardboard camp-out.”

when we got there, i looked around at all of the students who had gathered. and i noticed something…

we had brought the only men in attendance.

i pulled our 10 or so guys off to the side and i encouraged them. i told them to look around and notice the lack of male presence. i thanked them for engaging. for participating. for caring. for leading the way. and that we needed them to do so.

sentralized goodness

about a month ago, i mentioned i would be heading to KC for the “sentralized” conference.

well, i went. i absorbed. and it was good.

i have been meaning to post some of the goodness here, but as you know…life happens.

the vibe of the conference was very chill. the authors and speakers were accessible as opposed to hidden off in a green room somewhere. i saw lots of skinny jeans and faux hawks.

and you should make plans to attend next year. the dates are september 27-29, 2012.

in the meantime, here are some of these goodies i wrote down in the trusty moleskine:

hugh halter said:

  • people can’t seem to find Jesus when they look at us Christians. they are hungry for God, they just don’t want to be Christians.
  • the point of the incarnation of Jesus was that a new story could be told.
  • because Jesus has dealt with sin once and for all (and managed it), we no longer need to micro-manage sin in the daily life of others.
  • sometimes the only way to break through the disorientation is with something unexpected and crazy.
  • most pastors are pharisees: they know a lot of stuff but are separated from the world.

michael frost said:

  • the universal reign of God is the basis of all mission; our job is to announce and demonstrate that reign.
  • the missional life is meant to be like the fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. remember that? meg ryan’s character fakes an orgasm and the old lady sitting in the booth next to her says, “i’ll have what she’s having.”

the point here is that our missional life should make others look at us and say, “i want what they have.”

  • we need to make a daily committment to listen to our city.
  • we must be loyal to the context in which God has placed us. our departure from our city preaches something about the nature of Christ.

alan hirsch said:

  • if you can define the church without Jesus, you can have church without Jesus.
  • we can’t resolve the problems with the church by thinking the same way that created those problems.

eric mason said:

  • we have sent subsidized leaders to the inner city; we must have the same expectations of ministry in every context.

rickie bradshaw said:

  • the condition of the land is directly related to the condition of God’s people.
  • if you lose your saltiness, you are good for nothing but baby baptisms and weddings.

neil cole said:

  • if the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus doesn’t motivate the congregation, then my sermon isn’t going to motivate them.

debbie hersch said:

  • when we misunderstand “family,” it blocks our capacity to truly be hospitable.
  • it also re-distributes our resources. why does everyone in our neighborhood need to possess their own lawnmower, breadmaker, etc.? why can’t we share these amongst ourselves and use our saved resources in better ways?

lance ford and brad brisco said:

  • the three ‘isms we must deal with today are: consumerism, materialism, and individualism.

geoff and sherry maddock said:

  • the church has become the object of its own affection.
  • we must become collaborators.
  • we are made in the image of the Creator-God; not a consumer-god. therefore, we must create and not consume.


from tim chester: 10 ways to be missional

this is another great reminder of the sacred simplicity of missional living. it’s not hard. we simply must be intentional. please, get out there. build intentional, redemptive relationships. be sent.



10 Simple Ways To Be Missional

without adding anything to your schedule


by Tim Chester


1. Eat with other people

We all eat 3 meals a day. That’s 21 opportunities for church and mission each week without adding anything new to your schedule. And meals are a powerful expression of welcome and community.


2. Work in public places

Hold meetings, prepare talks, read in public spaces like cafes, pubs and parks. It will naturally help you engage with the culture as work or plan. For example, whose questions do you want to address in your Bible studies – those of professional exegetes or those of the culture?


3. Be a regular

Adopt a local café, pub, park and shops so you regularly visit and become known as a local. Imagine if everyone in your gospel community did this!


4. Join in with what’s going on

Churches often start their own thing like a coffee shop or homeless program. Instead, join existing initiatives – you don’t have the burden of running it and you get opportunities with co-workers.


5. Leave the house in the evenings

It’s so easy after a long day on a dark evening to slump in front of the television or surf the internet. Get out! Visit a friend. Take a cake to a neighbor. Attend a local group. Go to the cinema. Hang out in a café. Go for a walk with a friend. It doesn’t matter where as long as you go with gospel intentionality.


6. Serve your neighbors

Weed a neighbor’s garden. Help someone move. Put up a shelf. Volunteer with a local group. It could be one evening a week or one day a month. Try to do it with other members of your gospel community so it becomes a common project. Then people will see your love for one another and it will be easier to talk about Jesus.


7. Share your passion

What do you enjoy? Find a local group that shares your passion. Be missional and have fun at the same time!


8. Hang out with your work colleagues

Spend your lunch break with colleagues. Go for a drink after work. Share the journey to work.


9. Walk

Walking enables you to engage with your neighborhood at street level. You notice things you don’t in a car. You are seen and known in the neighborhood.


10. Prayer walk

Walk around your neighborhood using what you see as fuel for prayer. Pray for people, homes, businesses, community groups and community needs. Ask God to open your eyes to where He is at work and to fill your heart with love for your neighborhood.


i am excited to be heading to the “sentralized” conference in kansas city this weekend. the line-up of speakers includes some of the most influential voices in the missional movement right now, including alan hirsch, michael frost, hugh halter, lance ford, brad briscoe, and helen lee.

here’s a few things i am excited about:

  • hirsch, ford, and halter made up the majority of my summer reading this last year. i’m looking forward to hearing their actual voices.
  • i’m at the point in the semester when i’m primed to disconnect for a few days and re-fill my cup.
  • most of these guys are going to be speaking from the perspective of local churches. i am looking forward to the challenge of applying the conversation to the campus ministry context.
  • i love that this convention and the conversations are held close to home in KC. besides it being more convenient for me (and cheaper!), i’m glad the midwest is getting some (missional) love.
  • most conferences have green rooms where the VIPs and speakers hang out, a sort of holy of holies that keep them separated from the rest of us lesser men. not this conference. instead of a green room, sentralized has a living room. the authors and speakers are going to hang out there throughout the weekend, opening themselves up to conversations with conference attendees. this makes me happy.

the role of food in the mission and kingdom

we’ve often talked about the role of food in Jesus’ kingdom. this looks like a great read.

How we eat and who we eat with can communicate quite a bit about what we believe. Something as simple as eating not only creates natural opportunities to be intentional, loving, and missional—but meals can also be a reflection of our theology.

Tim Chester’s newest book, A Meal with Jesus considers how Jesus used meals not only for physical nourishment, but to enact grace. How can we learn from and emulate that part of his ministry? Check out our recent interview with Tim Chester:

  1. What does food have to do with grace, church, and mission?
    Everything! Just think about how often food figures in the Bible story or how much of church life involves meals. I don’t think this is incidental. Food expresses our dependence on God and on other people. Meals embody friendship and welcome. So food is a powerful way of doing mission and community. The Son of Man, Jesus says in Luke 7, came eating and drinking – this was the way Jesus did mission.
  2. What do you mean when you say the way Jesus did meals was “radically subversive?”
    Meals in Jesus’ day were highly stratified. Roman meals expressed the social order Jewish meals were similar (think of the jockeying for position in Luke 14) with the added twist that Levitical food laws made it all but impossible for Jews to eat with Gentiles. So meals expressed who were the insiders and who were the outsiders. Jesus turns all of this upside down or, perhaps I should say, inside out! Outsiders become insiders around the table with Jesus.
  3. How do the meals of Jesus image the gospel?
    Let’s take one example. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Tax collectors were collaborators with the Romans, the people who were occupying God’s promised land. This meant they were not only betraying the nation, but they were enemies of God. God sits and eats with his enemies. That’s what happening in the meals of Jesus. It’s an amazing expression of gospel grace. You would not believe it if it were not in the Scriptures. The Pharisees certainly could not believe it. And that is without considering how the feeding of the 5,000 points to the messianic banquet of the future or how the last supper points to the cross.
  4. How would you practically encourage readers to begin associating with the marginalized?
    No doubt there are lots of ways to begin, but in the book I highlight the importance of eating with people. There is a danger that if we only ‘do’ things ‘for’ people then we communicate by our actions ‘I am able and you are unable’. Then the message we convey is not the welcome of God, but the message ‘become like me’. We may talk of grace with our words, but our actions communicate the need for social or moral improvement. But when we sit and eat with one another then we are together round the table. Then we can speak of grace as fellow sinners.
  5. You say that our meals actually express our doctrine of justification. Can you explain that?
    Paul’s great exposition of the doctrine of justification in the letter to the Galatians is sparked by a meal, by Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles. This is where a false doctrine of justification led: to broken table fellowship. Why? Because meals are such a central and powerful expression of community (and the withdrawal of community). It was the same with the meals of the Pharisees. Their sense of how we are made right with God was reflected in their meals; their meals expressed who were insiders and outsiders on the basis of moral and religious respectability. The ladder of self-righteousness was represented in the positions of honour around the table. But Jesus freely eats with tax collectors and sinners. He expresses God’s grace through his willingness to eat with everyone – even self-righteous Pharisees! I’m not saying justification is merely about who we eat with. It is about how we are made right with God through faith in the finished work of Christ. But this will then be reflected who we associate with and on what basis. Our meals will mirror our doctrine.
  6. How do your “missional communities” work?
    That’s a big question! Our meetings always involve a meal. Plus we encourage people to share lives throughout the week as well as involving unbelievers in that shared life – and that often involves sharing food. But meals don’t make community. They embody or express it . . . and I can’t imagine doing community without meals. But it’s the gospel that creates community. This is what makes communities “work”. So in fact we called our missional communities “gospel communities”. (But then you can’t talk about the gospel story for long without bumping into a meal!)
  7. Do you have practical steps readers can take to encourage them to grow in initiating missional meals?
    The great thing about using meals to do community and mission is that it doesn’t add anything to your busy schedule. We already have 21 ready-made opportunities each week. Nor do you have some kind to special missiological training. You just need to love Jesus, love people and enjoy eating! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Sometimes you may want to make a special effort and celebrate the goodness of creation in a fancy meal. But most of the time it is just a question of sharing an ordinary meal with people. Invite members of your Christian community for your evening meal. Meet up for breakfast with someone on the way yo work. Use lunch in the canteen to get to know your colleagues. If you’re single then entertaining families might be difficult, but invite them for dessert or cake. Try to invite unbelievers together with believers so your unbelieving friends are introduced to the Christian community and get to see how Christians relate.
  8. How can meals express a vision of the kingdom of God?
    Once you start looking for it, it’s amazing how often food is used to express both judgment and salvation. A meal in the presence of God is the goal of salvation. The first thing God does for Adam and Eve in the garden is given them a menu, the fruit of every tree (except one). The climax of the exodus (an act of salvation commemorated in a meal) is when the elders of Israel eat with God on the mountain in Exodus 24. Isaiah promises a messianic banquet of rich foods that will never end in Isaiah 25 and Jesus anticipates this perpetual meal with God in the feeding of the 5,000, a meal with more food at the end than at the beginning. The last supper looks forward to the time when Jesus will eat with his disciples in the kingdom of God. And the Bible story ends with a meal as we celebrate the wedding supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19. Every time we eat together as Christians we are anticipating this hope.

Tim Chester is co-director of The Porterbrook Network, which equips individuals and churches to rediscover mission, and director of The Porterbrook Institute, which provides integrated theological and missional training for church leaders. He is co-leader of the Crowded House, a group of church-planting networks. Chester has also authored You Can Change and co-authored Total Church (Re:Lit). Learn more about A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table.