Archives For Community

(Guest post by Julie McMullen)


We are officially beginning the season of Lent.  At Storyline we join together through daily prayer as a community.  Each week we will have a different leader & some topics we don’t want to miss praying about.  To go along with our times of prayer we will post a weekly theme on the Storyline blog to encourage our prayers. This week’s theme is Preparation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Read Luke 3:21-22; 4:1-15

Jesus is baptized and immediately goes to the wilderness, fasting for 40 days and 40 nights.  He was led by the Spirit. Luke 4:1 says “he was tempted for 40 days.”  Let’s just think about this for a minute – a desert (which means heat without relief, or maybe scorching days & cold nights), NO FOOD, and frequent meetups with the devil tempting him with desirable things.  This seems like a cruel thing for God & the Spirit to do to Jesus.  The Bible doesn’t include any of his conversations he had with God during that desert time, but we can draw conclusions on the importance of what happened here based on how Jesus responded to Satan & what he was like after this experience.  The tempter comes at him with temptation that includes a hook or a nugget of truth in each one…but Jesus doesn’t take the bait, he responds with a focused answer, with what is really true.  He does not waiver.

After the temptation, Luke 4:14-15 says, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” In the desert, Jesus had removed himself from distractions, given God time and himself.  And God did something…God filled him up & prepared him.  He was “in the power of the Spirit.” He went on to call the disciples, teach, preach the good news of the kingdom, heal every disease and sickness among the people.  I’m in awe of Jesus and this mysterious Spirit.  And I have to say that even though I’m slightly terrified of it, I want this.  I want to live IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT, to walk in his confidence, his authority, his freedom, his plan & his love.  I want this kind of life for Storyline, I want this kind of life for all believers, I want this kind of life for all people in God’s creation. And I think the first step is joining Jesus in the desert, giving up distracting things; even giving up some essentials to make space for God, to make space for the Spirit.

So we prepare, we not only make room, but say we want nothing else to fill that space but God.  Father, lead us by your Spirit.  May the Spirit open us up to you in a way that hasn’t happened before.  Prepare us Father.  Those things that we are holding onto for dear life, give us courage to let go, to give them to you,

Questions for thought & prayer…

  • What is cluttering your calendar, life, or mind?
  • What are you holding onto tightly?
  • What will you let go of during this season of Lent?

Lunch with a Black Pastor

Charles Kiser —  September 1, 2016 — 9 Comments

Every once in a while I become acutely aware that I am in sacred space. The ancient Celts called it “thin space” — where God’s world and our world come into contact and even merge.

My recent lunch meeting was one of those times.

I had the opportunity to share a meal with a friend who is a Black Christian pastor. I was most eager to talk with him about his perspective on recent events in our nation: the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castille, Black Lives Matter, and the shooting of five police officers in Dallas.

The truth is that I have long observed from the sidelines. I haven’t engaged the conversation because it hasn’t been urgent — because I haven’t been subjected to oppression. But it’s time to engage. I have so much to learn, so much to become aware of, so much growing to do.

The question that’s been rumbling deep in my soul the past couple months is: how do we — the church in Dallas, in all its diversity — enact the gospel of King Jesus?

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Over the past six years, in apprenticeship and then church planting, my overarching passion has been learning how to make disciples of Jesus.

As a result, I’ve experimented with a number of different approaches to making disciples: Greg Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship triads; Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Groups; David Watson’s Discovery Bible Study; Luke 10 Community’s Church of Two; and most recently 3DM’s Huddle.

Here’s what I’m learning: none of these structures is adequate to make disciples.

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I want to extend an invitation to all you readers out there in the blogosphere to participate in a conference hosted by Mission Alive, our church planting resource organization.

The conference is called Genesis: Recreating Missional Life. It takes place March 18-20 at the Richland Hills Church campus (one of our partnering churches).

The basic question of the conference is, “What does it look like to participate in God’s mission in our own contexts?”

This conference is for followers of Jesus who want to dive deeper into missional rhythms for life. It’s for church planters who want to embed such rhythms in their new churches. And it’s for established churches who want to revitalize their missional lives.

I’m excited about this conference for two reasons.

One – I’m not sure I’ve seen so many ministry resource people of such caliber together at any conference experience hosted within the Churches of Christ.

Here’s the keynote list: Hugh Halter (author of The Tangible Kingdom), Randy Harris (enough said), Alan Hirch (co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come), and George Hunsberger (co-author of Missional Church). You can see more about the presenters here.

The presenters are individuals who aren’t just talking about living on mission; they are themselves living on mission and helping to pave the way forward for the rest of us.

Two – The structure of this conference is unlike any other I’ve ever participated in.

Most conferences have large venue keynotes for the high caliber, internationally-known presenters (e.g., the Hirch’s of the world), then mid-sized venues (50-100) for presenters with local or regional influence.

One’s interaction with the Hirsch’s of the world at such conferences is usually limited to a big screen, bright lights and a seat about 100 rows away from the stage.

The Genesis Conference, on the other hand, is designed for deeper dialogue and personal interaction.

From the event brochure: “Genesis is a new kind of conference. It models learning in community….Participants develop practical paradigms for recreating missional life. It cannot be done by more listening, more speeches, more thinking! It can only be done in dialog.”

The conference models such community learning through conference, cluster and cohort groups.  Keynote presenters make presentations to the whole conference (limited to 400 people). Keynoters and other speakers then cycle through clusters (35-45 participants or 4 cohorts) to have deeper conversation about their material. Participants in cohorts (8-12 people, usually from the same church or with similar ministry roles) then gather together to talk about implementing what they’re learning in their own lives and ministries.

Can you imagine the benefit of sitting down with someone like Alan Hirsch and 30-40 other people to talk about living missionally in your own context?

I’m looking forward to journeying with a cohort and facilitating interaction for a cluster. This promises to be a powerful learning experience.

You should come! All are welcome. Spots are limited so sign up as soon as possible at Early bird registration ($135) ends 12/31/09.

The Relational Principle

Charles Kiser —  November 26, 2007 — 3 Comments

Probably the most common means of evangelization in the last hundred years has been through the medium of large crowds. Billy Graham, the king of mass evangelism, has preached to nearly 100 million people in his lifetime all over the world. Many of these crowds have numbered in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. Churches of Christ were once well known for hosting gospel meetings (and some still do). Hundreds of people gather, sometimes every night for a week, to listen to preachers present the gospel.

The logic behind such gatherings is that the gospel is preached to the most people possible; the more exposure people have to the gospel message, the more likely they are to respond and follow Jesus. People who do respond in faith are then assimilated into local congregations for follow-up and discipleship. So goes the logic.

The effect of these mass evangelistic events has not been unsuccessful in terms of initial conversion. If it were, I suppose the venue wouldn’t have lasted very long. Billy Graham’s son speaks at Crusades to this day. Undoubtedly, thousands have come to faith and decided to follow Jesus because of a Crusade or gospel meeting.

Yet I wonder if the gospel is done injustice when evangelization (and discipleship, for that matter) is truncated to an oral presentation or a set of propositions in which to believe. The gospel must be preached, of course. It includes propositions to believe, for sure. But on the whole, the gospel is a way of life. The gospel is about following a person — Jesus.

At the heart of the gospel is relationship. After all, Jesus spent the majority of his time not with the crowds, but with a handful of men and women. I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it: “Jesus, it must be remembered, restricted nine tenths of his ministry to twelve Jews, because it was the only way to reach all Americans.” The gospel spreads relationally.

td.jpgThis relational principle has revolutionized our perspective on ministry in the church we’ll start. In short, the heart of the church we begin will not be a large gathering (whether an evangelistic event or a worship assembly) but rather handfuls of people who journey together in the way of Jesus.

One way we envision expressing the relational principle is through gender-specific groups of three or four that meet regularly over a 6-9 month period for the sake of learning how to follow Jesus. Greg Ogden has been a great help to us in this area. He’s authored two books that have fleshed out what it looks like: Transforming Discipleship and Discipleship Essentials. The first is theological and practical rationale for such an approach. The second is a 24-lesson curriculum designed to help people learn to follow Jesus.

Three components form the foundation of these groups: Scripture, transparent relationships, and accountability. The best part is that after the groupsde.gif conclude their curriculum, each group member commits to finding two other people to journey with through it. One group becomes three, which becomes nine, which becomes twenty-seven, and so on. The gospel spreads relationally.

I’ve been through Discipleship Essentials once with three other guys, and am now going through it with Ryan Porche, my staff partner. Our wives plan to go through it together soon. These two groups will soon become four and function as the grassroots beginning of this new church. The curriculum isn’t perfect, but the environment is the Holy Spirit’s laboratory for life change. It’s amazing the way I’ve seen transformation take place right before my eyes. And I think it’s at the center of what it means to be the church, to be on mission, and to engage in spiritual formation.