Stories From Our Forge Dallas Training - John

Forge Dallas is the training are of Waken Ministries. Forge Dallas recently finished its 2013-2014 residency. in this blog, John Reece, a residency graduate, writes about his experience as a resident.

Reflection on My Forge Residency

John Reece

The most recent chapter in my journey of faith has been significantly impacted by my participation in the Forge Residency that has just concluded. A few of these observations of influence are noted below, while the full impact has yet to be realized.

Some anchor points of background as I entered the residency include:

  • I have been on a quest of integrating my faith in all aspects of my life, and have made significant strides over the past ten years;
  • I have a heart for discipling and mentoring others; and
  • My wife and I desired to learn how to further express our faith on a daily basis.

The Forge Residency has expanded my vocabulary and understanding of what it means to live on mission, or missionally. There is a shift in perspective that I have come to understand. Instead of intentionally being focused on kingdom-minded activities in all areas of my life (e.g., marriage, parenting, work, and recreation), I now view all of my activities through the lens of realizing that I am participating in God’s kingdom.

My attention is focused on how I might demonstrate the gospel – God’s reign over his kingdom through Christ – embodied in my activities of life. With this adjustment of perspective, I am learning to stop trying to identify distinctly kingdom-minded activities. In other words, every activity is to become kingdom-minded, without a hierarchical distinction of value. There is no difference in value within God’s kingdom, for instance, between my coaching a little league baseball team or feeding the hungry. We are to look for ways to announce and demonstrate the gospel in every moment of life, and to go deeper in the relationships we have with others.

It has been very freeing for me to more fully understand that the gospel is God’s reign over his kingdom through Jesus Christ. My spiritual background focused on the salvation aspect of the gospel. With a broader view of the gospel, I am now free to establish relationships with and love others that have not yet started to follow Christ without an agenda of attempting to nudge them across the line of faith. My heart breaks for those who are missing out on God’s grace, and I am sent to love others in a way that offers a foretaste of God’s kingdom, to share God’s grace. I do not have to attempt to sell salvation.

I am more aware of the opportunities to announce and demonstrate the gospel in every aspect of my life, to those around me from different backgrounds and perspectives of faith.

I am focused on sharing with other followers of Jesus their general call of being sent by God to live out the mission of announcing and demonstrating the gospel, and to help them discover what that may look like in their life

The Forge Residency has influenced my journey and I am grateful for the experience.

Posted on May 25, 2014 .

Lessons from the Journey

About 4 years ago, my husband, Ryan and I heard the term ‘missional’ for the first time. For us, it was a completely new concept learning to live as missionaries in the places God had already placed us. Also, hearing of the 60% who would never walk through the doors of the church on our best Sunday where we were on staff. And, hey, I grew up a southern Baptist girl in Texas - all of this rocked my world, as I am sure you can imagine.

So, we made a huge paradigm shift and life change. We are forever grateful God opened our eyes to the amazing neighbors, now great friends, around us and the value they have brought to our lives. Many great stories have birthed and God is helping transform our neighborhood into more of what the kingdom is about. Truly living out our faith has brought so much life to us. We are not just taking in material and sitting on our butts, but, we are actively engaged in making disciples of Jesus and that is an exciting journey.

But, I would say we have definitely learned some things along the way, and are continuing to do so.

1.  Build relationships not projects.

At times in our efforts to start living missionally in our neighborhoods, the first step is often meeting our neighbors, but, I have heard people talk as if ‘checked that off the list’ instead of wanting to build genuine relationships. Be willing to learn something from someone that may not be a Christ follower. Just because they are not church attendees or followers of Jesus does not mean they don’t have value to offer you. Be a learner and a friend. Build relationships not projects.

2.  Be authentic. 

As Christ followers, we are in the process daily of hopefully becoming more like Jesus, but there is a reality – we are human and imperfect people. Just because we choose to follow Jesus does not mean we immediately stop sinning! On the contrary, it almost becomes harder because of the desire to live one-way but our flesh does the other (something Paul knew a lot about!).

TED talk I heard by Dr. Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability completely turned me upside down. We need to learn the art of vulnerability. After six years of stories, interviews and focus groups, here is what she found:

These folks (whole-hearted people) had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

Is that not how we want people to feel when they come in contact with us? If we want friends to walk in authenticity with us, then we must be willing to do the same. Jesus came and died so that we did not have to live under the bondage of perfection. Walk in his grace and allow others to do the same. Be authentic.

3.  Know when to stop.

Do you ever feel the need to be all things to all people for the sake of the gospel? Do you feel that their wholeness is dependent upon you? If so, stop it! I have heard that referred to as a savior complex. Remember, Jesus is the saving one and through him is ultimate hope, healing and restoration. Now, I believe we are to serve, love and walk alongside the least of these, but with a healthy reality that God is in control; we are his hands and feet. We have to know when to release what is not ours to own.

Also, learn to set rhythms of rest for your family and yourself to be renewed, re-energized and to reflect on what God has done and allow him to prepare you for the future. Know when to stop.

4.  Don’t judge too quickly.

The past few years, I have noticed judgment on the established churches from different organizations and/or individuals. Now, I’m not saying prophets and others are not to speak into the system, but let us remember we were all their at one point, going through the motions and becoming wrapped up only in what happens on Sunday morning, all the while forgetting our city and neighborhood. In their book, Sentness, Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw say,

It is easy, in a consumerist age, to judge quickly and critique loudly. But we have been learning to celebrate mission and sentness where we see it, and to learn what we can from one another across all different styles of church.
— Kim Hammond & Darren Cronshaw

At Forge, we want to hold the hand of the local church as well as the mom, mechanic, artist, accountant and those on the fringes because we believe all are important in the kingdom of God, and we want to celebrate where change is taking place. If you have friends attending a local church and their minds cannot even fathom what missional or incarnational looks like, then disciple them too. Bring them alongside you in the journey. I heard Alan Hirsch once say, “Let the critique of the old, be the practice or fruit of the better.” If you want to speak into the church consumerism and lack of disciple making, then live it out and have stories to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

Take some time this week to mull over some of these questions.

  1. Am I building genuine friendships with those who are not yet Christ followers? Do I humbly want to learn from them or are they a means to an end (be honest)?
  2. Am I being authentic with others and myself about my weaknesses? Am I allowing others to do the same?
  3. Am I taking adequate times of rest? Is my family taking time to rest?
  4. Am I helping those who have not yet identified themselves as sent ones live out their true calling or am I judging them because they are not?

Posted on April 11, 2014 .

Staying is the New Going

"The word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14, Message)"

We are living in a day where far too many people are on the move. Many people fear putting down roots, committing to a place, and the idea of missing out on a better offer that might be right around the corner.

How could our world, our communities, and our neighborhoods change if we fought against this fear and committed ourselves to the very place we live now?

For those who follow Jesus, this is our call. To incarnate, to move into, to put down roots, and care deeply about the place God has sent us. Mike Frost writes,

“Incarnational mission means moving into the lives of those to whom we believe we’ve been sent. Living in one neighborhood, working in another, playing in another, and churching in yet another doesn’t model to people that Jesus is willing to move into their neighborhoods. It says that if Jesus’ followers don’t want to live here, neither would Jesus.”

What if the commitment to place became the norm for those who follow Jesus? How would this change the communities we live in?

What if staying became the new going?

"Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made. Put the interests of your community first. Love your neighbors – not the neighbors you pick out but the ones you have." ~ Wendell Berry

Posted on March 19, 2014 .

Carry The Mat

by Laura Hairston

When I think of my blog’s title, “Life At The Table”, I am reminded it is not just easy life, but all encompassing of life at the table – life when it’s easy, fun, exciting, but, at the same time, when life brings stress, illness, loss, and a list of things we have all experienced at one point in our lives.

This morning as I read about God being for us and not against us (Romans 8:31) and that God is our help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1), it made me think of the other times I have read those words, well actually quickly skimmed over those words without question and just assumed ‘yeah, that sounds good’, but once I walked through my own adversity, if I’m being honest, those words became challenging for me. I think when we walk through times of uncertainty, life shattering words like, ‘you have cancer’, those words can become a comfort, but, also, a question. God, if you’re for me, why do I have cancer? God, if you are not against me, then why did I lose my baby? Even though deep down I know God is good, He’s the one who ultimately brings peace, hope, life, there are times in the midst of the fog of life, to feel those truths, but there are times if we are all honest with ourselves we have questioned those truths. Sometimes in life we feel paralyzed and even unsure of what to feel or where to seek, but God brings along friends who help carry us and help answer those questions and even show us in tangible ways the nearness of God.

I was then reminded of the story, our friend, Kim shares of the friends who carried their paralytic friend to the feet of Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). Now, it was not easy because of the crowds, but they were persistent and opened the roof and lowered their friend to Jesus. Jesus said by their faith, his sins were forgiven and he was healed.

So what does that say to me? First of all, I have experienced and seen God’s help in times of trouble work through others. There are times our friends go through life shattering events that paralyze them – death, illness, loss of family, etc., and it is hard for them to move let alone pray, believe, or just make arrangements for life – because life does not just stop going on around us.

So, what is our response? We carry our friends. We organize whatever is needed when they are unable. We watch their children. We make them meals. We clean their home. We sit with them without having to utter a word. But, we also pray when they cannot and we trust that by our faith they will be healed.

A little over 8 years ago, Ryan and I walked through one of those times. On December 19, 2005, the day after our one year wedding anniversary, I received the news that Ryan had been in an accident and rushed to one of the hospitals and I needed to get there as soon as possible. I immediately froze, and all I could do was call my friend whose house I Just left. She immediately threw her children in the car, past their bedtime, with no shoes and rushed to pick me up. If you are not aware, there are A LOT of hospitals in the DFW area, but through her making phone calls, we found it. Ryan had been taken by helicopter to one of the head trauma hospitals in the area, an hour away from our home.

The next 4 weeks we sat in ICU, at times unsure if he would pull through experiencing blood clot, collapsed lungs, multiple breaks in bones, induced coma, and breathing machine all happening during Christmas and New Years. He was then stabilized and released. He was unable to put weight on his foot, which meant he was to be in wheelchair for six weeks and afterwards, a month of therapy learning to walk again.

So, there I was a 23 year old young woman, thinking after one year I would be a widow. Paralyzing to say the least. But, I had friends and family carry the mat for me. They prayed for us, brought meals to the hospital and to our home after leaving the hospital, kept our dogs, came and sat with Ryan so I could take a break, lured me outside the hospital room to take a walk outside or just a good nap. Once he started therapy, the staff at our former church set up a schedule to take him and bring him home. They knew what I needed and just did it. They did not care if they were inconvenienced, they didn’t say, “let me know what you need”, they just made suggestions and did it. I will say that is very easy for us to throw out and even though our hearts may be right, but when in deep water treading, we don’t know what we need. That is where trusting in the spirit to help us discern what people and the obedience to just say “yes” is very important!

I cannot tell you how much it meant to me when in the midst of the fog they stepped in. I was so thankful for the shared life I experienced with friends and family and the way they allowed God to use them. He was close to the brokenhearted and those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18) through the servantship of our friends. I am forever grateful for them because God gave me a peace that passed all understanding, a hope that Ryan would be healed, and a trust that whatever happened The Lord was faithful and He would take care of me.

So, as you share life with friends, remember that when life throws curveballs and leaves us paralyzed, pick up the mat and carry them to the feet of Jesus.

Posted on January 11, 2014 .

Look What We’ve Done Together!

Wow! When taking a look at this last year, I am truly amazed at everything God has done and everything He has allowed Laura and I to be a part of. Our family continues to live as missionaries here in our own local context in an effort to help the people take steps towards Jesus. Also, through Waken Ministries, the non-profit entity we established 2 years ago, we continue to help waken all Christ followers to their full kingdom potential and to their own missionary calling and identity. When we first started out on this journey, we could have never imagined all that God would have done in just a few years’ time. While there are so many wonderful things I could share with you, I would like to share a few highlights from 2012:
Our Partnership With Forge America

Waken Ministries has been blessed with the opportunity to partner with FORGE America, a mission training organization, to bring missionary training to individuals across the country. At its core, Forge seeks to train individuals to live as missionaries in the places that God has already placed them. This past year, both Laura and I joined the Forge America Team. Each member of the Forge America team, including us, raise support so we might play a part in seeing this type of training continue to spread. Laura and I assist Forge America in replicating the missionary training and residency that we have done here in Dallas to other locations across the country. This training is now happening in El Paso, Joplin, Raleigh, Portland, Huntsville, New Jersey, Sacramento, & Knoxville. In each city there are anywhere from 6-18 individuals being trained to help the people in their everyday life take steps towards Jesus. Our hope and prayer is that we will see a movement of Christ Followers who fully embrace the God given potential for world transformation that is already in them. Serving alongside the men and women of Forge has been a humbling experience for both Laura and I.

Forge Dallas & Waken Ministries

Forge Dallas is a DBA of Waken Ministries and serves as the training arm of Waken Ministries. In May of 2012 we completed our first residency. The Forge Dallas Residency exists to train individuals to live as missionaries in the places that God has already placed them. Nine people walked through this 9-month training and as a result, have begun to connect with people who may never walk through the doors of a church building. Also, 2 of our residents have decided to move to East Asia to be missionaries to an unreached people group. In September of 2012 we started our second cohort of residents. We are half way through this residency and can not wait to watch how God will use these individuals to impact their neighborhoods, businesses, play groups, apartment complexes, and sport fields.

Church Transitioning

This past fall, in conjunction with our Forge Dallas Residency, we launched a Church Transition Residency for church leaders and church staffs. This residency is designed to assist church leaders in guiding their faith communities to develop a more missional mindset. We are honored to walk 3 churches through this residency and we are already blown away by the shifts these faith communities are making to better communicate the gospel effectively to those in their community.

Within Our Faith Community

Laura and I continue to journey alongside the families in our missional community. We continue to gather weekly to learn from the Jesus of the Gospels and to encourage one another as we all live on mission as missionaries in the places we do life. Over the last year, we have had several new families join our faith community. Also, there been individuals in our faith community initiate faith communities with those they live alongside. We have learned so much from one another and we look forward to what God has in store in 2013.
As we look back over the last year, there is so much that we have to be thankful for. We are so grateful for the journey in which God has taken our family on and we are so thankful for all that He has allowed us to be apart of.  We are also very thankful for those of you who have journeyed alongside us in this last year. None of this would be possible without the prayers, encouragement, and financial gifts of friends and family. Thank you for your partnership in the gospel. You fill our hearts with joy and have blessed our family beyond imaginable.

Posted on February 5, 2013 .

Truly He Taught Us to Love One Another

 written by Laura Hairston           

I’ve always been a huge fan of Christmas music. It doesn’t matter what time of year, but I’ve been known to pop in a bit of Mariah Carey Christmas & rock out! Tonight as I was coming home, I turned up “O Holy Night” (yes, from the Glee Christmas Album – don’t judge me! J) but, this is my all time favorite Christmas song, and anything sung by Lea Michele is a thumbs up in my book. But, I was drawn more to a specific verse that for some reason jumped out at me more than ever before – it says,

Truly He taught us to love one another

His law is love and His gospel is peace

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in His name all oppression shall cease…

I sat in my car with tear filled eyes imagining the day that everyone (especially The Church) would truly embrace these words and live them out in their every day lives. What does it mean to truly love each other, the ones who may be like us and those very different from us? To live out His gospel – helping bring peace where there is strife, dissension, broken relationships, poverty, the list could go on and on. I was really intrigued as to the story behind why this song was written.

The first article I came upon said “Declared 'unfit for church services' in France and later embraced by U.S. abolitionists, the song continues to inspire.” Of course this immediately caught my attention. The song was actually written by a wine merchant in a small French town who was as the article said, “known more for his wine than his church attendance”. In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was asked by his parish priest to write a poem for Christmas mass. He was honored to share his talents with the church.

In a dusty coach traveling down a bumpy road to France's capital city, Placide Cappeau considered the priest's request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, "Cantique de Noel" had been completed.

Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his "Cantique de Noel" was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician's hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help.

The son of a well-known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris conservatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.

As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of "Cantique de Noel" represented a day he didn't celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau's beautiful words. Adams' finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

The song became embraced by the Church in France and sang in the Christmas Catholic mass. But, when Placid Cappeau left the Church and joined the socialist movement & church leaders found out Adolphe Adams was a Jew, they declared the song unfit for church services because of it’s “because of its lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion."

Soon after the church attempted to bury the song, an American writer, John Sullivan Dwight, felt this song should be introduced to America. Being a strong abolitionist, he was drawn to the same verse I was, especially the part “Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother”. It truly identified with his view of slavery in the South. He published it in his magazine, the English version “O Holy Night” and it became embraced by America especially in the Northern part during the Civil War. You can read more of the story here.

It is so interesting to me how a song, which was declared unfit for church services, could be so prophetic and timely today. It seems to me that just like Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, words that are truly inspired can transcend time and still have so much meaning in our present lives. So, today I would challenge you to answer the question, right now, am I living out His law of love and gospel of peace? And, do I love my neighbor, even those who are unlike me? Those are just a few things to think about this Christmas season! Thank you, Placid & Aldoph for writing such a beautiful song!

Posted on December 4, 2012 .

Waken Ministries / Forge Dallas Residency Story - Shawn

At the time which Shawn joined the Forge Dallas residency, he was considering starting a Christian centered support group for alcoholics and addicts. For years he had attended both AA groups and other Christian recovery groups but as of recent had only been attending the Christian ones. As Shawn walked through the Residency, he began to ask the question, “God where are you at work and in light of my gifts and resources, how can I join you?” From this, he began to realize that God was already at work in the traditional non-religious AA meetings that he once attended. As a result, Shawn decided to join God in His redeeming work by participating regularly in local AA meetings. Since this, Shawn has built many relationships and friendships with those in AA who are broken and hurting. He continues to ask what the good news of the Gospel is for these people and how can he continue to show the love of God to those he meets with. Shawn has said,

“The beautiful thing about AA is that it is a group of people that are brought together by their brokenness to help one another. Being connected with AA groups has given me the opportunity to connect with people, learn from others, and has given me the opportunity to bless and help those who are hurting who might never walk through the doors of a church building.”

Posted on August 17, 2012 .