I took the proverbial Red Pill nine years ago: quit the “full time” ministry job as a pastor of a church we planted in the SF Bay area, left behind organized church and evangelical culture, stopped reading every insightful book that would come out, resisted becoming a conference junkie, and stepped into a world that doesn’t know what a Mdiv, ThM, or Dmin are. Thanks to Neil Cole’s book, Organic Church, I realized I didn’t know how to “make disciples” and was certainly not taking my cues from Scripture. Thanks to Ed Waken for being the evangelist who befriended me and brought me into the fold. Thanks to Dezi Baker and Bryce Barnes for capturing my imagination with spirit words that I largely didn’t understand at the time. And thanks to Ross Rohde for taking me out into my first experiences in starting churches amongst new disciples’ social networks as spoken of in Luke 9 and 10. I had great theory, great mentors, great coaches, and great friends who walked alongside me or supported me from just behind. Luke 10 was a critical part of my early organic church life. I prayed Luke 10:2 at 10:02am every day. It was all about planting churches and finding “people of peace.” It’s what I wanted from God most of all.
Fast-forward nine years later, and I no longer have my phone alarm going off at 10:02am anymore. In fact, I don’t pray Luke 10:2 anymore. Heresy! Compromise! Such gut reactions even come to my mind after years of faithful practice. I am now in a foreign nation every day, working a job I’m not qualified to work and not allowed to work [as a foreigner]. Every year, I teach hundreds of adult Native Americans who have dropped out of school and struggle to raise/feed a family without employment. Nearly every one of my students has been previously incarcerated, struggled with or struggle with substance abuse, and live below the poverty level. Few have vehicles, a bank account, or even a credit card. Most of the unemployed (60-75% of the nation) live government handout to government handout. And they’re tired of it; that’s when they come to me. I am their last chance at hope, and by God’s enabling, we are seeing a 1000% increase in the number of people passing their GED test from before I and others in my spiritual family came. Commonly, I will look at the clock during class exactly at 10:02am. What do I do then and there? I don’t pray Luke 10:2 any more; why? Because my life has become a Luke 10:2 prayer. It is no longer just words or a Hail Mary pass for God to do something. I have given Him permission to incorporate me into the solution; and He gladly has. So when I look at the clock at 10:02, I thank Him for paving the way, and I pray for my students that I am looking at, listening to, and who are even breathing the same air as me. It is a wonderful evolution of how I began the 10:02 prayer.
Things have changed for me since I first began praying it. First off, when I began to pray it from the safety of my vocational ministry job, I had little contact with and zero meaningful relationships with not-yet-christ-followers. My relationships with them were unnatural and unnecessary. I had to manufacture means to interface with any, like when I used a City Team spiritual survey taken by [forced upon] people waiting for grocery bags (That’s actually how we planted our first simple church). Now I am working among the lost and the “least of these” every day. I shake their hands, look into their eyes, and spend hours daily with the ones who want to change their life station, listen to their life woes, break fry bread with them. I see them at work, at the grocery, at restaurants, at the gym, at the coffee shop. I am intricately woven into their lives, granted access in a way that a vocational ministry job would have never granted. This is the door that God opened for me as I began praying it when moving to Arizona. Now, every day is part of that prayer: every photocopy I make, every pep talk I give, every lesson I teach, every paper I grade, and so on. Luke 10:2 is not a tool or a reminder; that’s not far enough. It’s an all-in lifestyle that chooses to make the harvest the most important pursuit among all others.
That’s not the only change. The more heretical ones follow. For starters, I understand that Luke 10:2 cannot be prayed from afar; it must be coupled with feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5 — “foot-to-ground” as we call it here. If I am still praying the prayer and not seeing anything change in my life around me, then I am not truly meaning it. I am not truly praying it. I am only giving lip service to something important to God. I am likely in disobedience as well, having said “no” to Jesus on something He set up as a way to get started. This foot-to-ground impulse is a requirement to ensure that Luke 10:2 moves from lip service to life style, from far-away prayer to incarnational reality. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t start here. I am saying, however, that we need to move on from just praying it. And if something doesn’t materialize, that’s likely on us. We should be looking no farther than our own unwillingness to make the inner and outer movements necessary to follow Jesus where He is already.
Another heretical change I’ve embraced is that I moved away from the end-game goal of church planting. I have shifted from church planting to Kingdom expanding. Both begin with disciple-making, but one has a very narrow result it’s looking for: a church started among a non-yet-christian in a social network. With that shift has come a different take on Luke 9 and 10 than the one being promoted by the people who make their living off teaching that Luke 9 and 10 are about church planting. At the risk of sounding cynical, I have observed that only self-styled “apostolic” people (translated by them as “church planters”) are promoting a view of Luke 9 and 10 as being about planting churches. In my heretical shift, I see that Luke 9 and 10 are not about church planting at all. The words are never mentioned. Nor is the follow up for what to do with the church. Come to think of it, in all of Scripture, Jesus never tells us to even plant churches at all. So how can these passages be asking for something He doesn’t in general ever talk about? I see these passages, rather, as Mike Frost does: as Jesus “seeding the Kingdom” through the commissioning and send out of his disciples. Not only is this view more hermeneutically sound, but it is less narrowing in its mission/discipleship application. Let me explain. I’ve read and heard enough to know that Luke 10 is put forward as a template and strategy for missions. It is taught with the enticing promise of “exponential multiplication.” What person wouldn’t want that? I know I did. But it is treated like a formula, even called a “technology” by some strategists. Must we then slavishly follow Luke 10, going out in twos? Not taking staff or extra clothing? Reciting “peace” to a house? Of course not. It is not a one-size-fits-all mission strategy. It is a holy moment where Jesus gives principles that are sound and begins His assault on the enemy in a new and different way in the gospels. Was it to be normative as a strategy? I’m not sure that it is, but the principles are useful for those who want to seed the Kingdom. How contrived and inorganic can we be to expect God to make things happen the same way? Jesus, Himself, is never formulaic in any of his evangelistic encounters. He handles different people differently. The authority and power rest in the King — not in the technique or methodology. Do we carry it forward as we put foot to ground? Absolutely. And we should look for miracles as the gospel advances into new sectors of society and into new groups of people; they just may not look the same as they did to 1st century Jews. We miss the miracle of multiplication if we become formulaic, as those insisting on church planting often are.
A final heretical shift in me is that I no longer give prominence to Luke 9 and 10 as the primary passage of Scripture from which all other passages must fit. This is a common hermeneutical sin committed by nearly every Christ-follower: letting favorite passages interpret every other Scripture passage. For those of us in the CPM, organic church circles, let’s be honest: We do this with Luke 9 and 10. We assemble Luke 10 groups. We pray Luke 10 prayers. We start Luke 10 conferences where we hand out Luke 10 training manuals. Rather than reading Luke 10 and church planting into the rest of Scripture, why not let the dominant themes in the NT speak for themselves? The Kingdom of God is just that. When we do this, we begin to see the importance of eschatology in the grand Kingdom story. History is going somewhere: when every knee bows and tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord. And between the cross and the new heavens and new earth, God uses people in different ways to ensure that disciples are made and Christ is pre-eminent on earth. Church planting is a narrow understanding and application of that strategy that is predated by Kingdom architecture that has its own economic principles. Any talk of church planting, apostles, prophets, etc. needs to fit into that eschatological narrative — not the Luke 9 and 10 narrative.
Allow me to round back to my experience to date. I prayed Luke 10:2 before stepping foot onto the Reservation 4.5 years ago. But I do not go there looking for a person of peace or looking to start a house/organic church. Luke 9 and 10 assume you are coming out of and into a region or culture; that’s why it’s so critical to have a “local” be the contact point of the new network. But God has opened the door for me to be there every day and in a secular professional context. It is not appropriate for me to be casting out demons, healing the sick, and converting the lost while I am “on the clock.” Off the clock is another matter. On the clock, we seek to bring real blessing and value to their lives, saving them in every way they can be saved. Furthermore, most Native Americans are cynical of foreign “white folks” who come in, do their ministry, and leave. They feel used and like the foreigners have no genuine interest in them. For me to get in and get out would confirm their suspicions and stereotypes of the old colonial ways of mission/ministry. In fact, one of the first set of questions my students would ask me is how long I planned to be there. They were already preparing for me to not last. “Apostolic” teachers on the book and conference circuit all say that “apostolic” work in this situation should be fast and result in conversions and new churches. If Luke 9 and 10 are the templates and read in that way, ok. But how does the whole counsel of Scripture stack up? My understanding of “apostolic” includes the OT and the NT and is not limited to Paul and Luke 9 and 10 (I have written further about this topic elsewhere). For our community, Joseph has been a key example of apostolic work that does not focus on conversions and churches. Kingdom infrastructure and expression become more relevant pursuits in such a view. How can we lay a foundation for an entire nation to be saved in every way that it can be/God wants it to be? This is what God seems to have done in our community. He has opened the door for Joseph like influence for a handful of us where we now have relationships with people and the trust and ear of key leaders — including the president himself. Where this is all going I do not know. But I don’t need to know. And I don’t need to force things to happen to an expected outcome. I trust that real time spiritual intelligence will come forward when it’s needed. In the mean time, we keep feet to ground and focus on the things that matter.
This is where I am now. I expect that I will grow and have different insights in the future. But for now, I wanted to chronicle some significant mile markers in the organic and beyond organic journey thus far. I’m grateful to our spiritual family here for helping to shape this spirituality, community, and mission that is beyond the organic fad and taps into the very organic nature of God, Himself.