I’d like to flesh out this dream we’re pursuing in Storyline to become a “red hot center of mission.”

The inspiration for the metaphor comes from a series of posts written by Mike Breen on missional communities, where he explores the red hot center of the early church, the three elements of a red hot center, and what happens when “torches” of red hot centers gather together and make a “bonfire”.


This is a powerful metaphor and a great vision for the church in North America, especially in a time when the fire of mission sometimes seems to have burned down to embers.

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– Henri Nouwen, in Life of the Beloved (pp. 25, 26, 30-31), writes to his friend Fred, a secular Jewish man from New York who asked Nouwen, “Why don’t you write something about the spiritual life for me and my friends?”

Ever since you asked me to write for you and your friends about the spiritual life, I have been wondering if there might be one word I would most want  you to remember when you finished reading all I wish to say. Over the past year, that special word has gradually emerged from the depths of my own heart. It is the word “Beloved,” and I am convinced that it has been given to me for the sake of you and your friends….

Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: “You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody — unless you can demonstrate the opposite”….

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Penguin Leadership

I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. – Jesus (John 13:15)

I am the firstborn in my family. When I was a kid, one of my parents’ mantras for me was “set an example”. There were three younger siblings watching what I did, they said. And whatever I did, they’d be likely to follow.

It just so happens that they would pull that mantra out whenever I wasn’t setting a good example – and it worked on some level. I received it as an honor and a responsibility to set an example for my brother and sisters. Not that they always did – or that I always set a good example. But that mantra stuck with me.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents were developing me to lead people.

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ShockEarlier this month I heard Chris and Stacie Hatchett give a presentation on parenting. One of my takeaways from their talk was being a “shock-proof” parent. Shock-proof parents are those who play it cool when ridiculous or even offensive words come out of their kids’ mouths. I instantly realized how often my own reactions to such comments take the form of shock: “WHAT did you say?” “You did WHAT?” “EXCUSE ME MISTER?!?”

The Hatchetts make the great point that if we are shocked by every crude or inappropriate thing our kids say, they’ll be less and less likely over time to share openly with us. They will stop trusting us. We will cease to be a safe person with whom they can share.

Instead when we hear those kinds of things from our kids we should say – with a chill face, “Oh, really? Tell me about that.” And then gently instruct them after we have sought first to understand.

Being shock-proof is not only a great skill for parenting; it also has great application for living on mission.

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signs of life

The resource that has most influenced the way I’ve approached disciple-making in the last two years is Building a Discipling Culture (BDC) by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram. Here they introduce LifeShapes – simple geometric forms that make profound truths about the way of Jesus accessible and portable. The idea of using shapes may seem cheesy, but it works. Once these frameworks got in my head, I couldn’t forget them!

Except for one shape: the Heptagon.

Besides being a word that I’d probably never use in a sentence otherwise, I found the ideas housed within the Heptagon to be quite fuzzy. It was the hardest of all the LifeShapes to get my mind (and life) around.

Then my 3DM Coaching Huddle leader, Jeff Saferite, opened my eyes to it. I suppose this is as it should be – in discipleship it’s not enough to read a book about discipleship and try to understand the concepts. Discipleship happens as we see the truth embodied in the life of another person, we imitate what we see, and we find ways to integrate that truth into our own lives.

It turns out that the Heptagon is a very helpful tool for evaluating the spiritual health of a person or a community of people. It’s a great framework to reflect on if you want to give yourself or your ministry a spiritual check-up.

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