The Boring Ways of Jesus

Boooorrrrrriiiinnnngggg (is that how you spell it?)! It is so so boring. Incredibly boring. At the very least it’s plain ol’ boring. It is. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Yet we churchy people think it’s cool (we do). There are books upon books (many of which I own and continue to purchase) written about it, there are whole conferences dedicated to it (of which I wish to attend), there are whole movements predicated on it (Grassroots Conspiracy anyone?), and yet it’s the most ordinary thing in the world. Some might say it is even a bit boring.

Christians call it missional living. Other people probably call it something more along the lines of being a nice person. I call it ordinary. (ok, I called it boring, but that was more just for sensationalism…feeling sensational anyone?)

Let me explain my thoughts a bit.

The idea of living missionally is very exciting to most Christians because it invites us into a way of life, a way of doing church, a way of following Jesus that’s not weird or creepy feeling. Evangelism, as we’ve understood it for many years, has felt weird and a bit creepy. At the very least it’s felt coercive–and most of us don’t want to be salespeople (even for something that we believe very strongly in). Living missionally, as I think it is understood, is all about the Great Commission’s phrase “…go and make disciples” which more rightly is translated “…as you are going make disciples…” or in other words: go about your business and live in such a way so that people see Jesus, fall in love with him, and see reason to dedicate their existence to his love movement (there’s some interpretation happening here obviously). That’s my off the cuff definition of missional living–and I think it’ll work well for us here. As a way of life I think most of us would agree that it sounds quite appealing. As a matter of fact it is essentially the underpinning idea that the Grassroots Conspiracy movement is built on. We dig that way of life and think that a movement founded on it in radical ways just might be an exciting experiment to create. And so we have. (or we are in the process of it…creating it, that is.)

Here’s the interesting thing: lots of Christians from outside our circle are intrigued by what we’re doing at Grassroots. They want to be a part in some way, they want to send their youth group to do a mission trip with us, they want to partner with us in ways that will get their church people excited and living on mission, they want to be involved!

But (isn’t there always a but?) the Grassroots movement is really pretty boring. Right? Isn’t it? And so is living missionally. Right? Do you realize what it means to live missionally? I mean, seriously, in reality have you caught the implications of what missional living demands from you? Practically speaking think about what it would look like for someone from outside your world to come and participate in your “missional living”!*

Missional living demands that you listen to people (and actually remember what they said to you!), it demands that you show hospitality, that you’re willing to receive hospitality, that you slow your life down enough to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor, that you go to the same restaurants repeatedly so you can get to know people, it means you sit on your front porch and drink coffee, it means you’re home more nights than you’re gone (how else will you be available to neighbors?), it means that you take your dog for walks, it means that you attend people’s parties, essentially it means that you live a life of availability to others. IF you ever get to do something seemingly spectacular: organize a food drive, throw a block party, volunteer at a soup kitchen, etc. it is usually BECAUSE of your willingness to listen people around you into free speech. And THROUGH your listening you and your friend discover needs that should to be responded to. It is that posture of responsiveness that gives missional living it’s more exciting bent at times, but it usually follows the boring process of availability. Right?

Did you notice how boring all of that is? If you send your youth group to work with us do you realize what they’d be doing? They’d be doing my dishes (you’ve got to do something as you’re slowing your life down, being a good parent/spouse, and being available to neighbors), or they’d be sipping coffee with me at Mon Ami (’cause that’s where me, my friends, and my neighbors hang out!), or they’d be walking my dog down the street around the same time every day. Here’s the trick: it is in the ordinary things of life that God does the extraordinary. God thrives in ordinary, I mean come on(!) the guy was born in a feeding trough and raised by a poor teenage mom! Talk about extraordinary things emerging from the ordinary! Jesus was a carpenter…shoot, even the idea that Jesus had a nine to five is incredibly ordinary! And yet JC was anything but ordinary.

Extraordinary emerging from the ordinary–that’s what missional living is all about–the spectacular emerging from the routine of every day life. If I defined missional living as: going about your business and living in such a way so that people see Jesus, fall in love with him, and see reason to dedicate their existence to his love movement. Then a working description of what it looks like would be just that: the spectacular emerging from the routine of everyday life.

And by “spectacular” or “extraordinary” what I am referring to are those simple and beautiful stories of people falling in love with Jesus and the Jesus way. They are stories of the “gospel” that Christians speak of actually becoming good news to those around them. ‘Cause if it’s not news that is tangibly good then what is it?

So get ready to be bored. Do what you’ve got to do to slow down a bit, be available, listen, show hospitality, be a recipient of other’s hospitality, respond, dialog, remember, be a learner, be a lover, show compassion–read the stories of Jesus and be fascinated by the Jesus way. Study him and allow his radically (often times ordinary) existence to inform your ordinary (hopefully becoming more radical) existence. At Grassroots Conspiracy we are a developing collection of partners who are committing to a way of life together that is marked by the Jesus way. In virtually every aspect we are ordinary boring people but we are attempting to live out an existence that is marked by the simply radical ways of Jesus. What happens after or around that is beyond us, it’s beyond me. But I do know that there is something tangibly beautiful about a collection of people who are wholly sold out to practicing the ways of Jesus together. Many people call it the church. We’re calling it a movement (though we anticipate a church one day emerging). My friends probably call it being nice. I’ve been accused of calling it boring (or did I say boooooorrrrriiiinnnnggg?). Call it what you want, but give it a chance and I bet it’ll blow your mind.


* I hesitate to even talk about it like this because it begins to make it weird. I fear that it makes my friends feel weird when I talk about it like this. Am I loving them because I’m simply trying to “live missionally”? When I have them over for dinner am I just trying to “missionalize them” (yes, I made that word up)? The reality is that it gets weird anytime you talk openly about things, about motivations, etc. So, yes, this is a bit awkward. But please know (friends) that what this means is that I’m just trying to follow the ways of Jesus through the (sadly) radical practices of hospitality, listening, responsiveness, compassion, etc. I put words like “missional” to it so that we can have communication and invite others into this way of life. Sorry that it makes it weird. Just know that I’m the weird one…you’re not.

Capturing the Imagination

We highlighted this quote at our monthly Grassroots Conspiracy gathering* last night:

‎”Revolutions are often planned in cafes and begin with talks among friends. Great social and spiritual movements germinate when a few isolated people find one another, share deeply and dream out loud about a different and better future. Through generative friendship, a collective voice becomes stronger, and what was once timidly whispered in private emerges to become the topic of public discourse and reform. Dialogue creates resonance that fosters grass-roots energy and initiative. Conversation at its best is never just talk; it is the means by which we kindle imagination and gain the courage to take action.”

— Mark Scandrette

When I read this I was struck by how dead on it was in describing what it is we are experimenting with in the fledgling GC movement. I’d love to fashion a blog around that quote but I tend to think that it adequately speaks for itself. And. So. I’ll just let it do that. I hope it inspires you and draws you up into a new place within your own imagination for what could be in your own world! Because the more I’m learning the more I am convinced that one of the greatest tasks of a leader is to cultivate a new imagination amongst a community of people.

* Our monthly gathering is not a worship/church service. It is the first among a series of rhythms that we’ve invited people to join us in. The idea, the expectation, is that if we live into these rhythms with intentionality it will lead to a movement of people getting to know Jesus and the eventuality of the formation of a faith community. If you are someone who lives in or around the downtown area and may want to join our little ‘Conspiracy’ please let me know and we’ll talk!

Experimenting Our Way With Jesus

I’m almost embarrassed to share this with you but quite a few years ago I created a bit of an experiment. I’m a bit embarrassed because the content of this experiment is slightly childish…but to my credit it was done back when Facebook was still young, new, and fresh to me. Groups and pages and “liking” things were all new ideas and concepts that I was still exploring.

So I created Pit Stains.

It was an experiment to see if something as idiotic as this could randomly, on its own, get a following. I’m not sure if having 135 followers after a few years is considered a valuable experiment or not. That’s the thing about experiments: success isn’t measured simply by achieving a goal as much as it is by what you’ve learned. The reason I’m not sure it was a successful experiment is because I’m not sure I’ve learned anything whatsoever. At the very least I still get a bit of a kick out of the drawing I made…and isn’t that enough?

At Grassroots we talk a lot about experimenting. Honestly we are not at a place where we have initiated many experiments, but at the very least it is a part of our verbiage, a part of our identity, and is projected as a part of our defining behaviors.

Experimentation is important because very little will keep a group from calcification. Over time every group will work itself toward being defined by a more rigid set of ideals, structures, or systems. While none of those are bad things, I do think that (at least for what we’re attempting to do) acquiescing to rigidity or creating a stiff and inflexible identity is unhealthy and counterproductive. When following the Spirit of God (always moving and very fluid) and working amongst and in partnership with humanity (always moving and very fluid as a whole) it is impossible to stay healthy and stagnant at the same time.

Experimentation, I believe, is one of the keys to keeping a sense of fluidity and creativity amongst us at Grassroots. It invites us to explore the words of Jesus in meaningful ways. It invites us to move past the fear of failure because in experimentation failure teaches you just as much as success (probably more actually). It invites us into a way of life defined by journey over and above destination–something that I think is hugely valuable for an as you are going missional mentality.

It must look different in every context depending on what you’re seeking to learn, who you’re partnering with, what questions you have, what stories you’re interacting with (I’m thinking here of the Jesus narrative primarily), etc. So I can’t speak much into what this all may or could look like. What I can say is that the Grassroots Conspiracy and all of its co-conspirators seek to be defined by an experimental mentality where we are continually caught up in the vastness and mystery of following Jesus in and amongst the beautiful and messy creation of God. I think I can safely say that questions and ideas will range from

  • How often should we meet together…and where should we do it and why and for what purpose?
  • If scripture tells us to care for orphans and widows what implications does this have for my widowed cranky neighbor down the street and how might the GC community shape an experiment to better live out this text within my own reality?
  • How might we follow Jesus’ words to love your neighbor as yourself if many of us struggle to love self?
  • What if, in an attempt to ‘turn the other cheek’, we gave up partaking in any violence whatsoever for six weeks? How would that shape our media choices? The Bible stories we read? The way we speak about political opponents? The way we love our spouse? The type of chocolate we purchase?
I can imagine question after question from huge to seemingly mundane where an experimental mentality could wholly change our outlook on life, on theology, on love, or on marriage. or. Or. OR it could be as simple as inviting us to not take ourselves so seriously, to let us off the hook a bit for doing everything exactly right every single time all of the time.
Maybe we should just experiment a bit and see what we learn. Who knows, maybe we don’t all have it figured out already?


If you want to read a great book about experimenting within the ways of Jesus, you must read Mark Scandrette’s book Practicing the Ways of Jesus. It is absolutely dynamite. No joke.

Video: Conspiracy of Love

As I attempted to say in my last post (though I was clearly not able to find adequate words to capture it), a collection of beautiful people came together in the last month to paint a neighborhood mural. While the mural was partially in honor of our family, it was more accurately done to bless the entire community. The intent, as I am told, was to give something to both the community and to our family–or better said, it was by giving to the community that these people felt they could most effectively give to us. Our friend who headed up the project said that her intent was for it to partially capture an end result of our work, passions, and dreams. It was the action of all the neighbors coming together creatively that was actually the gift to Jess and I while it was the end result art piece (the mural) that was the actual gift to the community. I think she’s right.

One of of the subversive participants in this project put together this video of the murals creation. It makes me jealous that I missed out on the fun of secretively painting together with friends…so I kind of hate this video…but I guess it’s still worth watching (please know I’m joking)…

Blessed to be a witness

Oh where do I start? I am blessed. I don’t always feel that way, but today I do, today I feel overwhelmingly blessed.

I was blessed to be invited to fly to Rochester, MI for the Streaming Conference at Rochester College. It was an amazing few days where Jess and I were bombarded with incredible information from renowned scholars who invited all of us attending to love more radically through the simplicity of hospitality. I was blessed to see many old friends and to meet many new faces. I was blessed to be able to share some of my own story about living in awareness of my own bodies decay, about its clear fragility, and about the implications these realities have with regard to hospitality and community. It was an amazing few days and I feel blessed to be a part.

I was blessed to travel with my partner in life. Not only did she do all the heavy lifting, but she’s also great to cuddle with on a cramped airplane. There’s no better person to sit in an airport with than Jess.

I was blessed to come home to my beautiful children who were eager to be with us on this, their first day of Summer vacation. While Jones was upset that he wasn’t allowed to stay in his jammies all day and build Lego’s, he did overcome quite well–even ‘allowing’ us to eat dinner at Edgefield.

But more than anything today I am sure that I am overwhelmingly blessed to be a part of the downtown Vancouver community. There’s no way to define what this community is nor what it is becoming…yet. There’s no way to capture who exactly it is and what the boundaries clearly are. The lines are all blurry, the impetus for togetherness is not easily understood. But there is movement happening–there is A movement happening.

Today we were surprised by forty of our downtown friends by a mural that they had been working on for nearly three weeks with the utmost secrecy. They painted until nearly 1am the last two or three nights in order to finish in time to share it with us today. It is amazing. I think it’s supposed to be a tribute to our family, but what they’ve really done is they’ve captured our heart, our passion, and our dreams of Vancouver. The paint on the wall partially captures who we are, what we love, and what we want to be all about–but I think it’s the actual event itself that truly brings me to tears. Friends from every nook of our downtown life came together in one big communal mess to work in partnership in order bring beauty to our streets and to bless someone they love. Does it get much better than that? Bringing art to our neighborhood? Blessing someone they care for? Developing new friendships? Creating new partnerships? Engaging in subversive acts of beauty? I mean, it seriously doesn’t get much better than this now does it?! Oh yeah, and did I mention that the design itself is hugely meaningful too? Yeah, there is that part too now isn’t there! The image is perfect (though as of yet incomplete I’m told) as it captures some of the iconic downtown Vancouver buildings (including our home!)–and yet, as you can tell it is not the buildings that is bringing life. No, for the Grassroots Conspiracy movement it’s not about buildings but about what they represent. Life is emerging all around and throughout those buildings–in the image those buildings are being covered by life and light in the same way that I believe/dream/hope that our downtown movement sees life and light envelope all that is ‘us’.

…and I love being able to say (as I’ve said a few times over the last year or two)…it’s happening. Life, light, movement, hope, community, meaning it’s happening. And I’ll be pissed if I don’t get to stick around long enough to see even greater things than this emerge.

I am so so blessed.