A Witness of Jesus


IMG_0834I’ve heard a lot said about the responsibility of Christians to be good witnesses of Jesus. In my evangelical experience, witnessing is a verb referring to the activity of, in some form or another, outlining the content of the gospel to someone who is not yet aware of it.

As I’ve thought about this, it strikes me what a witness does in a court setting. A witness simply tells the story of what they themselves have seen. They share their perspective on a happening. They speak of what they have actually witnessed.

In inviting us to “bear witness” (John 15: 27, for example), Jesus is not so much telling us to be attorneys, seeking to convince someone of something. He does not call us to be the judge, deciding who is innocent and who is guilty, who is in and who is out. He calls us to be witnesses, and a witness’s sole reason for being present is to talk about what she has seen and heard. To speak of something that we have not personally witnessed is to be guilty of hearsay.

Question: Are we making sufficient time to see (witness) Jesus in our lives and circumstances so that have something of Him to bear witness of to others?

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Todd Hunter: Following Jesus for the Sake of Others (Part 3)


toddA week ago today, Todd Hunter spoke at the Spiritual Formation Alliance Pastor’s Forum in Orange county. I found it helpful in so many very personal ways. In gratitude I wanted to share my notes in three installments here. This is part three: a question/response time at the end of what he shared.

As always, when I share notes from a presentation, my standard disclaimer is that these are insights that I gained from listening to Todd. They are sometimes his exact words or quotations. They are sometimes my own words or reflections on what he shared. So, don’t assume that every word here is straight from him. And these are lightly edited, so bear with possible typos or grammatical goofs. I’ll take responsibility for any way in which I might have misunderstood him. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey of following Jesus for the sake of others.

- – -

(Read Part 2)

Q&A/Response (with Bill Gaultiere who facilitating the session)

Regarding personal feelings of inadequacy and how that prevented Todd giving voice to heartfelt concerns.

Todd: We have to find ourselves a place of safety. When you don’t feel safe, you won’t expose your true self and true voice. Your life in the kingdom is always and forever safe. Nothing ultimately bad can happen to you. Jesus talks to the disciples in the Galilee crossing during the storm and calls them “little-faiths”. He coins a new Greek word. “Even if this storm swallows you, you’re always safe with me.”

Jesus was not afraid. Even at the arrest, when Peter draws his sword, Jesus says, “I could call on angels if I needed them. I am perfectly safe.”

There was a secondary type of brokenness in me, namely perfectionism. That combined with an essential not-good-enough-ness made safety feel impossible.

“I don’t have to be ultimately right, but I can say what I think.” I don’t have the have the last word but I can speak my heart and mind with love and grace.

I often remind myself inwardly, “Todd, you’re safe. You are safe in the kingdom of Jesus.”

Regarding writing:

My main objection to writing was that I believed I had nothing to really say. My heroes had already said it all.

Dallas persistently and gently encouraged me to write.

Regarding speaking and issues of control:

Todd: In recent years, I try to make speaking an act of love, not an act of clever words. Connecting with Jesus. Connecting with people. That changes me inside. I let love pull out of me what might help. There is a toning down of my specificity of information and a toning up a sense of my heart and the community to whom I’m speaking.

Again, I seek to be present to God, to others, and to myself. How do we practice that posture? One disciplines that helps immensely is solitude and silence. Dallas says that you can’t take a shower one drop at a time. We need occasional unhurried times to be alone and quiet with God.

Nouwen’s insight: when you practice silence and solitude enough, it produces an inner solitude and silence to carry with you wherever you go. These days, I haven’t been as good at solitude and silence as at other times.

The sign that I need unhurried solitude and silence is when I feel the noise in my inner being increasing again–anxiety, self-depreciation, anger, frustration.

Regarding witnessing and spiritual formation:

One heroes in all of this was Becky Pippert in her Out of the Saltshaker (1987). She said then that the conversation between the church and the world has never been more awkward. Well, it’s even more awkward today.

Think about this: If you ask an unbeliever what they most fear about religious conversations, they say “judgement.” And when you ask Christians what they fear about sharing their faith, they also say being judged as “gay haters” or some other label. So how do we respond? Don’t talk, but listen. Ask for their story. Listen, listen, listen. Especially young people (and Boomer) have church hurt stories. Radical hypocrisy stories.

No form of evangelism has arisen out of the blue. They are always contextual. Jesus, Paul and Peter, for example, all spoke with individuals in their unique context. They knew who they were speaking with. There was no “one size fits all” approach.

There was a time when we had a position of respect in a “Christian America” (church respected) and a “modern America” (truth accessible). We could stand at a pulpit or podium and “speak down” to people. They wanted experts to speak with authority. Billy Graham mostly invited people to make what they had already knew about Jesus more personal.

What is required today is a “level-ground conversation”–a way of listening. What do you think about Jesus? Conversation is not compromise, but an act of loving hospitality.

Question: How do we approach the one who feels just fine sitting in church week by week with little personal engagement.

Todd: There is the church crowd, and then those who are deriving their life from Jesus and the community. Conversion just means the first step.

Dallas tried to drill into my head, “Stop spending so much energy in trying to interest the uninterested. Find the interested and work with them.”

Dallas also said, “Find ways to ask provoking or evocative questions.” Can we stimulate interest? Can we show beauty in the life of the Spirit that might evoke in someone a little more desire? It won’t happen without desire.

Maybe the task of evangelism is to show someone a different way of life. Metaphors of salt, wheat and tares, sheep and goats, light and darkness. We help others see better ways of being human.

Evangelism used to use the question: “Do you know where you’d be if you died tonight?” Perhaps today the question should be: “What if you knew you were going to live tomorrow, the next day, week, year, or decade? Who would you follow and what kind of person would you want to become?”

Heaven and hell matter, but this life here and now matters too. It mattered a lot to Jesus.

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Todd Hunter: Following Jesus for the Sake of Others (Part 2)


toddLast Thursday, Todd Hunter spoke at the Spiritual Formation Alliance Pastor’s Forum in Orange county. I found it helpful in so many very personal ways. In gratitude I wanted to share my notes in three installments here. This is part two.

As always, when I share notes from a presentation, my standard disclaimer is that these are insights that I gained from listening to Todd. They are sometimes his exact words or quotations. They are sometimes my own words or reflections on what he shared. So, don’t assume that every word here is straight from him. And these are lightly edited, so bear with possible typos or grammatical goofs. I’ll take responsibility for any way in which I might have misunderstood him. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey of following Jesus for the sake of others.

- – -

(Read Part 1)

Around ’89 or ’90, I realized that I couldn’t respond to Romans 12. I couldn’t actually do what Paul was inviting me into. This is what our mentors mean when they talk about training off the spot. I have to become a different kind of person through the transformation of our souls.

No one in my movement knew anything about spiritual formation. We resisted it because of an misguided fear that we would be focused on works rather than grace.

“You spiritual directors are way more important than you may know.”

When you shut your heart down, there is no ‘you’–you are not present to the rhythms or routines of your life. The Christain life isn’t about being able to pass a ‘theological pop quiz’, but about the vision Paul articulated in Rom 1-11 actually being lived out.

We wish our lives away. “Things will be different when…” We think there is another life somewhere in the future. There isn’t. There is only you and there is only now. There is no “you” apart from your life as you present experience it.

My default position was to always put myself down. I assumed everyone else was smarter or more anointed than me.

In athletics, the position of your body really matters. Golf. Defense in basketball. Our inner stance is either able or unable to deal with life as it comes to us. We must change our inner stance so we’re prepared. This is how we avoid spiritual formation as legalism or self-flagellation. To do this graciously.

Peter believed he was being real when he proclaimed that he wouldn’t deny Jesus. Jesus knew Peter couldn’t do what he intended. Jesus knew Peter’s heart and what he was able or unable to do. Jesus was committed to Peter even in his mistaken affirmation. Jesus even stayed committed to Judas until he killed himself.

In spiritual formation, we aren’t trying for works-orientation, elitism or legalism. We are aiming for childlike and organic life in Jesus. Childlikeness isn’t afraid to try what seems impossible. It isn’t a grunting burdensome effort, but a graced effort.

Some who pursue spiritual formation become judgmental and unkind. This is wrong. It should be joyous, grace, organic, rooted in the Spirit.

How do we live Romans 12:1-2? I suggest the “Golden triangle of presence.”

  • Top: God
  • One bottom corner: People and events in my life
  • Other bottom corner: Me

This has been my paradigm for 22 years. I try to live my life present to God, present to people/events in my life and present to myself.

I often pray, “Jesus, I want to be present to this group today. I’ve done this hundreds of times. What do you want to do today?”

How to be present? I’m tempted not to be present because it might hurt, be scary or call me to do something that’s hard.

When possible, I will say aloud, “May the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart, and the thoughts of my mind be acceptable in your sight.” I pray for calls I’m getting ready to make. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” I have to do this or I drift. Instead of beautiful, life becomes gray.

I have two main pillars in my life: morning prayer and evening prayer. I don’t do morning prayer if I have to rise at 4:00am to leave for for a flight.

Evening prayer: Compline. I do this just before retiring. It’s easy to connect this with bedtime. I’m never legalistic.

These are the two pillars that hold up the golden triangle of presence for me. This enables me to do this as a social person. We are always in contact with others. How are they experiencing us? “Love is to will the good of the object before us” (Willard).

I’m kind of a Jesus freak (not in the 60s sense), but in that I have astounding respect for Jesus. I think he’s brilliant.

Jesus was a great leader. Every great leader has to answer certain questions.

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • How will we get there?
  • How can others become meaningfully involved.”

Jesus was clear on these questions.

Then, in the last stroke, Jesus answers the final question, “What will it be like if you come along with me?”

      Matthew 11:25-30 (MSG) – 25-26Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”27Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.28-30″Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus knew that most of the people in the crowd listening to him weren’t listening to hear him, but listening to filter and manage him according to their presently held viewpoint. They listened with zealot, Herodian or Pharisee ears, not listening ears. “Those who have ears to hear” they were not.

We do this today. We filter Jesus to fit our framework or orientation. We don’t let Jesus transform our essential position of anger or power-hunger or greed, but we hear him and filter Him as a way of upholding our current way of life.

There are millons of women who wouldn’t know how to live without manipulation and millions of men who don’t know how to function without anger. As a kid, I managed my life through lying.

Jesus sees the human exhaustion with this trying to manage our lives. He invited us to come to Him to recover our lives.

Jesus asks us, “Are you tired of doing life your own way? Would you let me show you how?”

(Read Part 3)

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Todd Hunter: Following Jesus for the Sake of Others (Part 1)


toddOn Thursday, Todd Hunter spoke at the Spiritual Formation Alliance Pastor’s Forum in Orange county. I found it helpful in so many very personal ways. In gratitude I wanted to share my notes in three installments here.

As always, when I share notes from a presentation, my standard disclaimer is that these are insights that I gained from listening to Todd. They are sometimes his exact words or quotations. They are sometimes my own words or reflections on what he shared. So, don’t assume that every word here is straight from him. And these are lightly edited, so bear with possible typos or grammatical goofs. I’ll take responsibility for any way in which I might have misunderstood him. With that in mind, I pray these notes will help you in your own journey of following Jesus for the sake of others.

- – -

Christianity Beyond Belief: Following Jesus for the Sake of the World is my book that lies at the heart of today’s presentation.

I came to trust Christ as a Calvary Chapel convert at a teen in the Jesus movement. Grew up nearby in Santa Ana. Was a Methodist youth pastor. Planted Calvary Chapels, and the second one east of Mississippi. Became President of Vineyard at 37. John Wimber was a mentor. Later President of Alpha. Now Anglican bishop (Accidental Anglican).

Success can either inadvertently or unintentionally mask brokenness. I cannot be reduced to the titles I have held. We bring our essential and real self into whatever we are doing. That self always affects others, whether I am trying or not. We are social beings by nature.

I think I first read “church for the sake of others” in Karl Barth. Later, I read it in missional literature. This idea has been in the air and available in scripture for 2,000 years.

      1 Peter 1:13-16 MSG – So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

Do we have God’s life blazing in us?

As for theories of atonement, substitutionary and representational theories are not mutually exclusive. In what way is Jesus alive today? How can he be present to us today? How do you understand this without some form of representational understanding of the atonement?

      Colossians 4:5-6 MSG – Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.

You might believe all kinds of true things, but what if you’re a butthead? Well then, under pressure you will leak who you are onto others. You can’t help it. You won’t be able to be present in love to others.

The issue of control in our society is a zero sum game. If I take some control from you, you lose some control. And we all generally resist a loss of control.

The source of our world’s problems are rooted in the human heart. This is why we are talking about spiritual formation. Not because it’s cool or pragmatic. Not just utilitarian.

Jesus came and gave us a vision for life. The gospel we’ve been preaching turns the New Testament upside on its head. “Say the sinner’s prayer and become a Christian. Then, a few will become disciples and even fewer will become ‘full-time Christian workers.’” But the gospel invites us up front to come as disciples—apprentices. In the first century, they were known to be following Jesus. How many today can be easily identified as His followers?

My bio does not reflect the hidden inner me.

There was a steep incline of success in my life and calling. Somewhere around ’89 or ’90, I realized I didn’t have the inner character or integrity to sustain the scope and scale of my leadership responsibility.

My “fall” was boring, real and painful. At that time, Vineyard was interacting with internationally known prophets. I was in room with key leaders. They were talking prophetic nonsense, but I would sit there thinking, “He prays more on accident than I do on purpose. Wimber is my boss. What can I say?”

I think this comes from my childhood and juvenile years, when I wanted deeply to be a pro baseball player. Worked for Angels for a few years. Saw all that the players had. I was deeply  devoted inwardly to trying to achieve this dream. Coach came one day and said, “The scouts say you just aren’t going to make it.”

I came to believe that there was something essentially wrong with me. Believing that, I could not be present for others. I couldn’t contend for what I knew to be true. I was Peter proclaiming his allegiance just before his immanent denial. I didn’t stand up at that time in the Vineyard when my voice might have helped.

      Romans 12:1-2 (MSG) – So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

(Read Part 2)

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A Good Word: God Loves Beauty


This morning (Monday), I will be driving with two friends up to St. Andrews Abbey in Valyermo, CA for a personal retreat. It will be a nice crisp day (compared to Orange county).

I recently browsed some quotations from Frank Laubach’s classic book, Letters by a Modern Mystic. I love how this one illustrates the connection between enjoying God and seeing the world around me through His eyes:

“One thing I have seen this week is that God loves beauty. Everything He makes is lovely. The clouds, the tumbling river, the waving lake, the soaring eagle, the slender blade of grass, the whispering of the wind, the fluttering butterfly, this graceful transparent nameless child of the lake which clings to my window for an hour and vanishes forever. Beautiful craft of God! And I know that He makes my thought-life beautiful when I am open all the day to Him. If I throw these mind-windows apart and say, ‘God, what shall we think of now?’ He answers always in some graceful, tender dream. And I know that God is love-hungry, for He is constantly pointing me to some dull, dead soul which he has never reached and wistfully urges me to help Him reach that stolid, tight-shut mind. Oh God, how I long to help You with these Moros. And with these Americans! And with these Filipinos! All day I see souls dead to God look sadly out of hungry eyes. I want them to know my discovery! That any minute can be paradise, that any place can be heaven! That any man can have God! That every man does have God the moment he speaks to God, or listen for Him!” (Laubach, Frank. Letters by a Modern Mystic. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H Revell Company, 1937, p. 28.)

How is God opening your eyes to the beauty around you? How might He be opening your eyes to the real needs around you that He wants to touch through you?

A Good Word: Being Missionaries


IMG_2784“We are then prepared to enunciate and to implement the revolutionary idea of the “Universal Apostolate.” When they are loyal to the basic conception, Christians do not merely send missionaries; they are missionaries. The noblest conception of the true Church is that of a band of people who are engaged in ordinary life and who are conscious of their missionary vocation. The Church, in essence, is a missionary society.” (Elton Trueblood. The Validity of the Christian Mission. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972, p. 69-70)

Elton Trueblood was, in my opinion, the Dallas Willard of his day. He taught philosophy. He was a prophetic voice for the spiritual renewal of the church, for vital community and for the universal ministry of Christians. The book above was a visionary work reminding everyday Christians of their place in His kingdom work right where He planted them.

Buy a copy of The Validity of the Christian Mission on Amazon.com