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.

Why I am a bad neighbor

Before I write this I must at the very least include a giant asterisk that clarifies the reality that due to my health I am unable to engage as fully as I would like or as I feel like I should. As I have said before, there are many factors that eat up my time and energy. Chronic back pain steals hours and days of my time. My chemo regimen also eats up about 10-13 days a month of usefulness. Appointments with oncologists, radiologist, brain surgeons, and naturopaths eat up another significant portion of time. Getting regular MRI’s, CT scans, getting my INR checked (my blood thickness related to my previous clotting and embolism issues), etc. also take up a large portion of time. And then there’s the emotional element of not knowing how much time I literally have and therefore the desire to spend more time with my family and less time with…with you…and my neighbors. So this blog was written more out of the dichotomy between desire and reality than anything else, between what I want to do and what I can do, between what I know i should do and what my body allows me to do. What a mess life can be!

I find being a neighbor hard. Seriously difficult.

I love showing hospitality, we have people in our home all the time. Inviting people into our house is something that both brings us joy and, for the most part, comes pretty easily for us (not quite as true for my son as it is for the rest of the family). I also love running into neighborhood people at the cafe, while walking down main street, etc. but when it comes to actually seeing and knowing those neighbors who live on my street…I’m pretty pathetic. I’m sure it depends on where you live and what type of people live on your block, but what I’m finding is that it takes much more intentionality to actually meet and get to know my immediate neighbors. And I just have not done the work! It is intimidating to me and sounds like a lot of work to find excuses to go to a neighbors door (one who I have not met yet). I’m not against doing that, and I have done so on different occasions, but when it comes down to my actual activity I seem to always find something else to occupy my time. The reality is that I’m just not that great of a neighbor.

We talk about neighborhood a lot in our life and work. In Grassroots Conspiracy neighborhood language is pervasive and important. And I do know hundreds of people in my downtown neighborhoods…but on my actual street…I’m pretty pathetic. I am. We had a new set of people move in a few months ago and did we bring ’em cookies? Nope. We have a few elderly women that live on each end of the street and have I ever tried to be available to them? Nope. There are homes on our street where I couldn’t even tell you how many people live there let alone their names…let alone say that I’ve had them over for dinner…let alone say that I’ve brought them some bundt cake.

The reality is that it just takes more work. I’d rather go sit in a cafe and meet people as they enter or exit because it is easier.* It’s not as if I dont know what to do nor is it that I’ve never been willing to do it. No, I’ve written a bit about it in the past and our family has done some intentional things in the past in order to meet those who live on our block (from putting our garden in the front yard to going door to door we’ve done different things at different times), but when it comes down to it I just find it incredibly hard.

Again I want to justify my actions a little bit. We knew more of our neighbors in our last house. We moved here in October and I got sick in May. So there has never been a real solid time where we’ve been free to invest as fully as we’d like. But regardless of my health I still have the same set of desires, the same expectations (though these expectations are not fair to myself or my wife), and the same level of awareness of what I’m not doing (or not able to do). Regardless of my health I am able to recognize that being a good neighbor can be just plain ol’ hard. It requires a different set of rhythms to ones life…rhythms that may be more difficult for you–they’re more difficult for me for certain.

I hope that you’re able to find space in your life to be present and available to those on your block. I think it’d change your life (though I’d go out on a limb and say that it’d probably make it harder in many ways…relationship always does that!). I think it’d be worth it. And I think I’d like to learn from you.

I hope that I’m able to find space in my life to be present and available to those on my block…but until then I’ll probably continue to park myself at the cafe around the corner.


* I’m not trying to downplay the value of going to a public space as a means to get to know people. I can’t imagine ever giving this up as a valuable practice. Rather this is a blog where I’m doing some general griping and simultaneously criticizing myself… apparently even some of the good things I may do…not sure this is the best way to go about writing this blog…but it is what it is right?

What is Grassroots Conspiracy

Movement, church, or network.

The question at hand is which one is Grassroots Conspiracy. Are we a movement, are we a church, or are we a network? You may be thinking that this is an incredibly boring question…but I think it’s worth pursuing and I think it’s answer sheds much light on how we go about our activity as a community of conspirators.

The answer is that we’re a movement. We’re not a church (not yet at least…in the sense that we use the word). We’re not a network (insomuch as intentionality and purpose is concerned). We’re a movement.

Let me define how I’m using these words just a bit.

Network: a network’s commitment is to celebrating the satellite organizations/groups associated with the network. It’s not about what ‘we’ are doing but about what these other groups are doing. A network might give advice but they do not really speak into the movements to which they are connected. Each satellite group has its own leadership, direction, and purpose. A network, as I’m defining it, is about celebrating multiple missions with at least some sense of overlap that causes us to be ‘together’.


Church: a church* is a local gathering of Jesus people who are not only committed to each other and a certain way of life, but also to a structured identity that organizes them into a public/social entity. A church exists when you have a community of individuals who choose to die together for the sake of others, when new people are entering into this way of life, and when they’ve then determined to own a shared story publicly, privately and as they move forward into the future. (a whole blog should be written about church)


Movement: a movement, as I am defining it, has a central mission–a direction that a collection of people rally around. It is different from a network because unlike a network a movement is about ‘us’, about a direction that we are moving together. A movement can (and should) support satellite groups, but it does so insomuch as they are inline with the movements direction and mission. A movement is not quite a church because it is not about the formation of a localized gathered people as much as it is about a way of life that pursues a certain direction. The distinction is subtle but I think that when lived out practically it makes a huge difference. My guess (my assumption and my hunch) is that a movement should and will lead to the formation of a gathered church where people are not only committed to a way of life but to a gathered way of life.

Grassroots Conspiracy is a movement of people who are choosing to live a certain way. We are a collection of individuals who are choosing to live scattered across the downtown neighborhoods (and a few families who live outside the downtown vicinity), prioritizing living scattered in the neighborhood doing life with and for people over-and-above gathering together often. We gather together only once a month in order to remind each other of the mission that draws us together only then to send each other out to live it. Grassroots Conspiracy works in partnership with a surprisingly large number of churches and organizations. It’s easy to do so because our commitment is to the good news of Jesus (gospel), to seeing his kingdom realized on earth as it is in heaven. At the same time, however, GC has a peculiar way that we are attempting to do life together, certain rhythms that we believe are both fitting to our context and to our story. While we are all about the kingdom and the gospel and therefore in full partnership with anything that is gospel-ish, we also recognize that these rhythms and ways of life that  are distinctively “us” will at times bring separation between us and other groups (hence the reason we’re a movement and not a network) And while we’re committing to a way of life together, I don’t see us as a church because at this point we’re not about the formation of community but to living out the gospel. My guess (my assumption and my hunch) is that this way of life will lead to the creation of a new church…but that’s not where we’re at yet. It’s a part of our anticipated future but not a part of our present reality.

Let me finally add that all of this (and if we were honest much of life) is a grand experiment. We are exploring new ideas, new ways of living, new paradigms for what it means to be church, to do church, to live like Jesus, and to die for the sake of others. I don’t expect to get it right the first go around and so we are therefore all about exploration and experimentation–trying things on, taking things for a spin, and believing that “failure” is a clear part of our future.**


* “a church” is different in my mind than “the church”. THE CHURCH is the name given to those who have committed to following the radical ways of Jesus. It is a global movement, it is massive, messy, crosses every culture. A CHURCH is what I refer to as the local and contextualized expression of this massive movement. It is local, it is somewhat definable, and it (too) is super messy.

** I should also add that I’m more nervous posting this blog than most. When you write something down it tends to be viewed concretely (as maybe it should). While I wish I were that type of person that only writes and says things that he’s certain to defend…I’m not. I work things out publicly, in dialog, with others. When I write blogs or engage in conversation I will rarely sit down beforehand and figure out exactly what I believe in a black and white fashion that I then intend to defend. I realize that this is abnormal and potentially unhealthy for a pastor/leader because we’re supposed to have things figured out…but, again, that’s just not me. I do think I can and would defend everything I’ve said above, but I think it would work better in conversation than it has/does as a blog. Regardless I see it as an important set of ideas to put out there as GC moves forward.