From the beginning Marcos and Julie Leon were drawn to each other by a mutual desire to live missionally, and it was a shared burden for refugees that made their paths cross. Marcos was living in an apartment complex that housed many Iraqi refugees, and Julie, having just returned from a three-year stint in Indonesia, was looking to get involved in ministry to refugees. At that time, Marcos was going through Faithwalking as a leader with Mission Houston, so the topic of missional community naturally became part of their vision for life together. [Read more…]
What is the best way to transform a city? There are many valid approaches to answering this question, but research has shown that one of the greatest investments we can make is in our children. In 2006 Mission Houston (predecessor to Faithwalking) started the Whole and Healthy Children Initiative, encouraging Houstonians to concern themselves with the welfare of our city’s youngest citizens, especially those in under-resourced and under-performing schools. Pastor Jeff McGee and Calvary Community Church, together with Copperfield Church, have been answering that call since 2009 and the impact has been far-reaching. [Read more…]
With the introduction of our new Faithwalking 301 series, living missionally is on the forefront of our minds. We have reworked the format and clarified the purpose. A portion of the purpose statement for our new 301 series reads, “We believe that being on mission with God and others is the will of God and brings meaning to people’s lives. We believe that all of our work in personal transformation clears the space for us effectively to get on mission with God… We believe that missional living, being in missional community, is the way of Jesus and is God’s intended design.”
What is Missional Living?
We see what God is “interested in” in Isaiah 58: “What [God is] interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and God will say, ‘Here I am.’” (The Message)
Isn’t it fascinating that this list of what God’s interested in doesn’t include how well-respected we are, what our social-media following is, what size clothes we wear, or so many other things that we spend our energies on? Isaiah 58:9-12 continues to fill in the blanks on what can happen when we get in action on these things:
“If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness … I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden … you’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.”
Those “if’s” at the beginning of the passage above are so petty, so small, and so very much in our way. Missional living is getting out of our own way and allowing our lives to be about what – and whom – God’s heart is set upon.
Jesus echoes this idea in Matthew 25:34-36, when he tells of those granted entry into the kingdom: “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.”
These are verbs – feeding, sheltering, clothing, and visiting. Not just raising awareness. Certainly not making excuses. The kingdom Jesus spoke of opened its gates because these people did something.
The bottom line here is that we are called to be on mission with God to love the ones around us especially the ones that are often overlooked or are in need.
Growing up in a family of five boys, Keith Rogers often felt overshadowed by his older brothers. They would regale the family with interesting stories about their accomplishments in the classroom and on the sports field. Keith loved his brothers and enjoyed listening to their stories, but as a younger child who struggled academically, he often wondered if he had any stories to contribute that would match up to his brothers’ deeds. With time, Keith drew into himself and began to struggle with low self-worth.
[blockquote type=”left”]Early childhood feelings of inadequacy led to a belief in a “false self”—a self that never seemed to be enough with very little to contribute. In the past few years, however, Keith has experienced a personal transformation that has given him quite a powerful story to tell.[/blockquote]
Coming together to reach out
As a family friend of Faithwalking co-founder Trisha Taylor, Keith was one of Faithwalking’s first participants. Besides currently serving as Associate Pastor of Clear Lake Baptist Church, Keith also leads a missional community as President of Christian Outreach Alliance (COA), a volunteer-run non-profit seeking to foster safety, nurture success, and bring about transformation in their community. COA is a collaboration of five churches in Clear Lake working together to provide services and support to low-income apartment complexes and their surrounding communities. Some of COA’s programs have included an after school tutoring program, a Girl Scout troop, a preschool ministry, and sports camps. As word gets out about COA, cause activists have approached them for partnership. In one such example, COA recently added their influence to fighting homelessness and human trafficking.
Presently COA is in the midst of achieving an “impossible goal”—a youth outreach center to meet the lack of positive role models and to provide a wholesome hangout spot for teens. This center, named “The Deck,” would include a coffee shop, mentoring, tutoring, art and music programming, job training, college prep, and more. The vision is to create a sanctuary for teens—not just a place to play, but a safe place to experience transforming relationships with other teenagers and adults. Recently, some land has become available and COA is in the process of acquiring it to fulfill their dream of building The Deck.
Over the years COA’s influence has expanded, drawing unsolicited help from people who simply want to support their cause. Keith is amazed at how COA experiences God supplying their every need. He also praises the cooperation among the churches involved with COA: “We have a vision for the whole community and we enjoy working together. We all sense an extra measure of God’s grace and power when we work together.”
how keith’s life changed
Keith correlates the growth of COA with the personal growth he has experienced through Faithwalking. “Faithwalking revealed deep-seated shame, and helped me dismantle my false self. I am beginning to understand who I truly am. I am beginning to love who I am more and more.” Faithwalking also helped Keith process his former struggle with chronic anxiety. “Because I didn’t think I had anything to offer, I was absorbing everything anyone threw at me. I had adopted this idea that Christians should not get mad or angry—we just take it,” Keith explains. “I was not exerting my own identity or personal authority, I was just absorbing others’ anxiety.” Through his personal growth, he no longer suffers from chronic anxiety. He is learning to “say what is so” for him and allow others to say what is true for them without letting that disturb their relationship.
Today, God is writing an incredible story of transformation in Keith’s personal life, one that is reflected on his brightened countenance. Through the healing that has occurred internally, he has grown into a leader with big vision for his missional community. Keith says, “The effectiveness and growth of the COA community is in total proportion to my understanding of self and to my ability to live authentically with God, myself, and others. Beyond messages, beyond techniques, I believe that is what is true for me and for my group.” By growing in his ability to step out from behind the false self and lean instead into his authentic self, Keith is learning more about himself, about God, and about God’s ability to transform individuals and communities.
“What does it look like for a church to be on mission?” This is the question Jerry Edmonson, Lead Pastor of The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch, is seeking to answer. For Pastor Jerry, it means not simply “doing church” but “being the Church” to the community.
For the past 13 years The Fellowship has been on the journey to “be the Church,” externally focusing their congregation. In 2005, the church started Compassion Katy, a non-profit organization that promotes “Christ-Centered Compassion in Action.” One of Compassion Katy’s most wide-reaching initiatives is Katy ServeFest, a united outreach effort among various churches in Katy. ServeFest coordinates volunteers to serve en masse on specific dates at designated locations throughout Katy. ServeFest 2014 saw 380 volunteers from 15 churches serving at five locations over three weekends.
[blockquote type=”center”]In order to become the functioning body of Christ, at home and in the world — each of us must be transformed from within. [/blockquote]
Being on mission and “being the Church” to a community can take many forms, but Pastor Jerry is certain of one thing—in order to be followers of Jesus who are living out the fast of Isaiah 58, becoming the functioning body of Christ locally and globally—each of us must be transformed from within. For The Fellowship, the process to that kind of transformation involves Faithwalking. Pastor Jerry has been a part of Faithwalking for several years. At his first 101 retreat several years ago, he was deeply challenged to see formation at the core of mission. Out of that conviction he registered for 201, an intensive 24–week personal transformation program. Participants in 201 commit to “playing full out,” meaning, completing the homework and making the necessary sacrifices to attend the requisite number of meetings. For Pastor Jerry, missing a few 201 meetings became a lesson in integrity. He did not play full out, and thus had to repeat 201. The second time around, he honored his word and completed the program. He learned the importance of giving one’s word to something and soon wanted to give his word to bigger things.
One of the big things Pastor Jerry and his church have given their word to is implementing Faithwalking to reach their entire congregation with the message of personal transformation leading to community transformation. The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch is, in fact, the largest church in Houston to adopt Faithwalking as their foundational spiritual formation process. Both Pastor Jerry and his wife, Gail, have participated in Faithwalking, and Pastor Jerry also serves as a Faithwalking presenter.
The commitment to Faithwalking trickles down through the leadership. At least 25 elders have attended a 101 retreat; almost all of them have also gone through 201, with a core group completing the Leadership Course. The church also hosted its own 101 retreat in Spanish, one of the first churches in Houston to do so. Recently the church organized its first church-wide Faithwalking 101 retreat and has plans for six more in 2014. They even anticipate a Portuguese 101 in the near future.
[blockquote cite=”St. Irenaeus” type=”center”]The glory of God is man fully alive.[/blockquote]
Another big thing The Fellowship has given their word to is seeking transformation outside of the church. To that end, they are currently partnering with Attack Poverty to launch a “Friends Initiative” within the under-resourced community of Sundown in Katy. “Friends of Sundown” is a ten-year commitment aiming to empower individuals to overcome generational poverty with the goal of seeing individuals, families and the Sundown community transformed.
Through Pastor Jerry’s leadership and involvement with Faithwalking, The Fellowship has actively embraced the principle that missional living begins with personal transformation. “Faithwalking is becoming part of our DNA,” Pastor Jerry says. The church’s theme for 2014 is “Transformed,” and to reinforce the point the church shares a video every week of a transformational conversation with someone who has been through Faithwalking. Each video tells the story of a life being transformed.[blockquote type=”left”]Through Faithwalking, The Fellowship is giving their people the tools and the understanding to participate in their formation in order to be on mission in Katy and beyond.[/blockquote]