Helping others to find the fullness and freedom of life in Jesus as reflected in the life, writings, recordings, and travel of Wayne Jacobsen. He believe a greater awareness of God’s unfolding work in you, and we want nothing more than his purpose to be worked out in us, no matter where that leads us.
I got to spend the weekend and then a three-hour drive with my dad this week. I realize I’m incredibly privileged to have a father like him. He was the epitome of character, integrity, graciousness, and willingness to follow God even at great risk to relationships he treasured. I watched him be lied about by close friends and not defend himself, to be called names because he wouldn’t conform to what others wanted. This was not only my father according to the flesh, but also he is my father in the faith, setting the example of a man who would carve out time in his life to cultivate a closer relationship to Jesus, to listen to him, and to do whatever he put on his heart.
Spending time with my dad and talking over things we’re both thinking about and struggling with, is better than any book I can read, any conference I could attend, or any counselor I’d know. It is a rich, rich time that helps center my heart, shift my priorities, and adds nuggets of wisdom to my own journey.
After I dropped my dad off I spent a few hours with another friend, Dave Coleman who was my co-author on So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I enjoy time with Dave in the same way and with the same results. Between those two men in a single day, I gleaned over 170 years of experience of learning to know who Jesus and and how to follow him. What an outstanding resource they both are! And, I know many more like them all over the world—men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s—who have been seasoned in walk with Jesus and picked up some amazing lessons along the way. Yet, they spend countless hours at home, alone. Few people come to visit, to ask questions, to not only offer them company but draw from their fountain of wisdom as well. And, I don’t just mean about spiritual things. These people know how to raise families, run businesses, cultivate healthy relationships, and put the welfare of others above their own.
In fact, after I left Dave’s I met with some others who know him. They asked me how he was doing. It seemed so absurd to me. I live 250 miles away and they ask me how someone is doing who lives down the street from them. “He lives right here, you know?” I asked comically, though, I was also making a point. I know Dave would love to spend time with any of them, and they would all go away, enlightened and encouraged.
A few years ago I met with Jack Gray, a ninety-year-old in New Zealand, whose life and wisdom in Christ I’ve come to appreciate deeply. The man who drove me to that appointment, joined in our conversation and after I came back home, he got a few more friends and went over to visit again and continues to because of how helpful it has been to them. Jack told me those conversations have revitalized him and he looks forward to every one.
To its detriment, our culture has diminished the wisdom of age. Yes, I know many people grow old, bitter and more reclusive, but many others don’t. It’s as if we put their vast resources of wisdom and compassion on a shelf and ignore it, all the while trying to find the right book or speaker that might give us the wisdom we think we need. Don’t fall for it. There are brothers and sisters right around you that have what you seek and would love to help you discover great life in him. And you won’t just get platitudes or principles, but a living example and the honesty of their struggle.
If you know one of them, just invite them to lunch, or ask if you might visit. Get to know them and see what treasures spill out of their heart. If you don’t know what to talk about, here are some suggestions:
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned on your journey?
What are you thinking about these days?
What’s the best advice you ever received about marriage (or business, or relationships, or discipleship)?
Tell me some ways God has made himself known to you?
What has been the hardest thing for you to entrust to God?
I promise you, you’ll make their day. And yours too!
Many of you know we are trying to make a movie of the story of Jake and John in So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. We announced two years ago that we were going to make an opportunity for people to give towards this as a way to have some “passion” money alongside the investment money. I’m grateful for the many of you responded. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive enough to begin production right away. My producer has been looking elsewhere for the necessary funds, which has been made all the more difficult by Amazon and Netflix scooping up the independent projects to create their own original content. It has changed the available money for making small, independent films.
Interestingly enough, on my recent trip east a couple of people asked me about the movie and where we are in the process. After catching one of them up, they simply commented, “I think the time is now.”
Honestly, I have no sense of that. Converting this story into a movie has always been a long-shot in my mind, as much as I’d love to see it done. I do what I can to help it along, but I know many projects get as far as we have that don’t make it into final production. Getting the right people and the money to the starting line at the same time is quite an endeavor.
So, I was surprised when my producer wanted to talk this week. He told me that he had a recent conversation with another filmmaker who was also asking about this project. At the end of it, that friend said to my producer, “Relax. This will get done. Projects like this have their own time.”
“The time is now,” my producer found himself answering, to his own surprise.
When he told me that, I told him the conversation I had the previous week and he said, “I’m bursting out with goose bumps all over here.”
I love how God’s work gently unfolds in our lives. I’ve come to trust it over my own plotting and scheming. I know the frustration of asking God to give me wisdom about something I wanted to do and then feel as if he’s gone silent. Looking back, I now see that I was asking God to give me a strategy so I could work toward the outcome I desired. God didn’t go silent; he just didn’t have an answer for that. So, when he didn’t say what I wanted to hear it was easy to make up a process in my own head and attach his name to it. That is a futile road, for sure. When he didn’t honor my process, I felt even more abandoned.
But now, I’ve been won in to different space, knowing that God’s will for us unfolds in the circumstances of life. We want a strategy to implement; he wants a relationship where he will walk with us. I’m convinced that the best way for God NOT to get me where he wants me in six months, is to tell me. I’ll actually try to get there for him and mess it all up. But if I’ll just follow him today, and again tomorrow, six months from now I’ll be right where he wants me to be. Almost everything I’m involved in now was not part of my planning, but I wouldn’t trade how God has fulfilled the passions he put in me for anything I’d envisioned in the past. I love being in the moment with him, free to respond to the opportunities that come, rather than trying to claw my way to the destination I desire.
Even the cover art (see picture above), which was a gift from someone I didn’t even know who lived in Chicago at the time, conveys that same reality. Some people thought the book didn’t offer enough “how-tos” at the end, but it wasn’t meant to. The invitation was to an adventure with him down the road less traveled, rather than a new methodology to try and create his church in our image.
I meet too many young people who are trying to strategize a new way of doing ministry. It’s an exhausting road with little real kingdom fruit. I encourage them to draw close to the Master and let him guide them through the circumstances that come their way. Rather than trying to impose our will, we get to flow with his as it winds through the circumstances and opportunities of life. Then we’ll find ourselves being fruitful in ways we’d never imagined and open doors we could never have contrived. It’s slower this way, to be sure, but it is a more joyful and fruitful way to live.
Part of that phone call with my producer this week was to let me know he thinks he’s found a path to get us to that elusive starting line. A fortuitous experience working with another film crew has opened up some new options. I can’t say more than that now, but it will still take people with passion, both on the casting and production side as well as the money side. But this looks far more hopeful than it looked a few months ago.
For those of you interested in the movie, we made a video two years ago to let people know what we were doing. You can view it here:
Jake Movie Trailer - Vimeo
The budget is currently estimated at $2 million. While we have had, and will continue to have, conversations with both conventional movie and private investors, we also want to include people who have a passion for the story. That will give us a seat at the table to help protect its message. So we’ve come up with the idea of raising funds through Lifestream. Not only will that give you a tax-deductible receipt, but give Lifestream a stake in the movie. If it generates a profit, our share of return will go to help fund our various projects around the world.
Click here to SEE LOOKBOOK Click the button here to view a copy of our Lookbook. In the industry it’s a representation of the movie we want to make and a feel for how it will look.
For most of my life I’ve tried to do God’s work, instead of doing mine. And, honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. That didn’t keep me from trying, however. That’s why in recent years I’ve come to love the prayer Paul prayed for the Colossians and to make it my own every day:
“Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works… As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. (Colossians 1:9-11 MSG)
That’s what I want. I want my mind and spirit to be so attuned to God’s will that I can acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which he works. I wish someone had taught me that when I was younger. When we don’t have any understanding of how God works, we’ll spend all our energies trying to be God to others. Even on our best days, that will only make a mess of things.
When I was a pastor, I thought it was my responsibility to build the church, when Jesus said he would take care of it. (Matthew 16)
In sharing Christ, I thought I was supposed to bring the conviction of God, when Jesus said that was the Spirit’s job. (John 16)
I thought the body of Christ was called to walk in unity, when Jesus asked his Father to bring us there. (John 17)
I assumed it was my responsibility to be better for God, instead of coming to the end of my human efforts and learning to trust his power. (John 15, Philippians 2)
I don’t have to figure out the times and seasons of his return, because that is in the hands of the Father. (Acts 1)
Learning how God works changes everything! He’s not a projection of our better selves, but Wholly Other, who thinks and acts in ways that confound my natural mind. When we think we know best, for ourselves or others, we usually end up working against him rather than with him.
Jesus asked me to love others like he’s loving me, to proclaim with my life and words the reality of Christ, and to help those who want, to know the God I know. It has become a major focus of my walk now to see what God is doing and how he’s working, especially when he isn’t acting in the way I think he should. When he’s not doing what I think is best, what is he doing? That’s where we learn how different, and how much better his ways really are. It is so much easier to live inside what he asks of me today, when I see, if even just in glimpses, how he is working in people and situations around me.
It helps me be more patient, because I realize God is not in the hurry that I am. It makes me softer toward marginalized and hurting people, because I know he doesn’t always wave his magic wand and fix everyone’s need instantaneously, and more often he wants me to be his gift to them. I’m not so settled on my ease and comfort because I know there isn’t any tragedy that he can’t work in for incredible good. And when I’ve given up trying to change me, I give up trying to change others around me as well.
I’m still learning to take my cues from what Father is already doing. Ask him to show you in the very circumstances you’re in right now. Instead of giving into anxiety and trying to fix them yourself, ask him to show you what he is doing. When you know what he’s doing, then you’ll know how you can respond in trust and be part of what he’s doing. It’s more fun than trying to do his job, that’s for sure!
A Huge Harvest in Pokot
Progress continues in Kenya, and I’m always blessed by those who help us. In the last couple of months, the pumps in the Living Loved Petrol Station (see picture above) that we built to support the orphanage, died after eight years. They were only meant to last five. We had to replace them at a cost of $24,000. They are learning now to set funds aside each month to replace them at the end of the next cycle.
The four agricultural projects in Pokot, have branched out to five and the produce as been prolific. You can’t imagine the joy and awe of people who have been nomadic throughout their history, to be able to grow their own food! They are euphoric, and grew so much they had new expenses as to how to dry and store the produce for future months. And thanks to so many of you who have continued to send in your gifts to help. We’re 2.5 years into a 5-year plan to help them gain some measure of sufficiency. Even the local government has taken notice of these agricultural projects and are helping out as well. If you have extra to help in this process, it will always help. As always, every dime you give us ends up in Kenya. We take nothing for administrative or financial transfer fees.
Travel to Year’s End and 2019
I head to San Diego County this weekend, and then after a brief trip through the Wisconsin, Tennessee, and South Carolina, I’m returning home for year-ending (at least as far as travel goes) minor surgery on an old broken toe. I need a bone chip removed, which is working its way into a joint, but it will put me on injured reserve for the rest of the year. So, I’m going to be staying close to home through the holidays.
As far as 2019, I’m already praying about possible trips to: Northern California, Georgia, West Virginia, West Texas, Upstate New York/Toronto, Kenya, and Southern Florida. If you have anything on your heart, now is the time to let me know.
So, during the rest of this year I’ll be able to give some time to the three book projects that have captured my attention.
Lucien’s Crossing, my friend’s delightful tale of two boys, one a slave the other the master’s son, growing up in the pre-Civil War south, through the Civil War itself, and then in its aftermath in New York City. It is an occasionally humorous, and always gripping adventure story where religion and faith hang in the background of our views of war and racism.
The Language of Healing, with co-authors Bob Prater and Arnita Taylor. Three common Americans look at the vitriol in our political and personal conversations and how to move away from the politics of polarization to have conversations about important matters in ways that brings healing rather than division.
The Healing, an novel I began in 2005 about how the gift of God draws us out of religious performance and into a way of living that is real and transformative.
As you consider gifts for friends and family this year, keep in mind the books and audio available in the Lifestream Store. Especially, A Man Like No Other is an excellent gift for people as it re-tells the life of Jesus without all the religious stuff we have added to him. It’s book of paintings done my award-winning artist, Murry Whiteman with text by myself and Brad Cummings. It’s not a children’s book per se, but I know families who use it for a devotional because the pictures draw the kids in and the text often provokes lots of questions. As a special, we are reducing the normal sale price by $5.00 until Christmas Day. (As always with international orders, please for a quote. Shipping rates are always off for those orders.)
Discussing Community on Confronting Normal Podcast
Wayne was in Kelowna, BC recently at the invitation of the two young moms that host, Confronting Normal, a podcast that helps us rethink what “normal” spiritual life might look like. While there I recorded a two-part interview that is now available on their podcast. They asked some great questions and we processed some wonderful things together. If you’d like to listen to them you can get Part One here, and Part Two here.
In Case You Missed It…
Here are some of the podcasts and blogs that have generated a lot of interest over the last couple of months.
My oldest brother, Rod went to college with such a passion to be a missionary to the Soviet Union that he double-majored in Russian and in Biblical Studies. When the iron curtain finally fell my brother was so hampered by his battle with multiple sclerosis that he was unable to go. He eventually died in 1999, just short of his 49th birthday, after years of praying for the people of the former Soviet Union. So, when I get invited there I make every effort to go in his honor and to love the people he carried in his heart and his prayers for so long. I was in Russia seven years ago and spent the past weekend in Ukraine.
In addition to the Ukrainians that joined us, we were also enriched to also have people from Israel, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Moldova, and such rich people they were, too. The hardest part of traveling is how connected I become to people even after only three or four days together. Leaving is always difficult, not knowing if I’ll ever get to see any of them again. This weekend, I was enriched by their faith, played out in the difficulty of a country transitioning out of Soviet domination, while still at war with Russia on their eastern flank. I was amazed at their hunger for the real things of God and the price so many had paid to follow their heart instead of the religious conventions of others.
Since this was only a five-day trip for me, I spoke through the stupor of a persistent jet lag that never allowed me to get a full night’s sleep. Often I lay awake at crazy hours and used it to pray for the day ahead. But each time I helped facilitate a discussion, my mind was graciously alert and my heart alive with passion for how I might be able to help or encourage them. The first good night’s sleep I’ve had in over a week came last night after I returned home to my own bed. Surprisingly I slept through the night and woke up wonderfully refreshed this morning.
It is never easy to be with people whose language I don’t share. While there were people who would translate for me in personal conversations, I felt like I missed so much depth in the stories they were telling me. I felt like I’m just scratching the surface of who they are and what they’ve been through. And, of course, translating takes extra time, which means we don’t always get to the heart of a matter before someone else comes along and the conversation shifts yet again. Even so, I found my heart touched by their love for God and each other and their desire for a deep and vibrant walk with the living God.
The picture above is of some time around the fire our last night at the camp. Even though I could hardly stay awake as we sung and shared, this picture brings back such rich memories of my time there, the people I met, and the stories I heard of faith and courage.
On Sunday afternoon after the conference had ended, some people took me around the city of Kiev to show me the sights—World War II memorial, where the army gunned down protestors of the government five years ago, a delightful chocolate shop, and a seemingly endless stream of religious buildings with golden, onion-shaped copulas, like the picture below.
Isn’t it tragic, that we call buildings like these “churches”, and few people would use that same term to describe the people in the picture at the top of the page? If anything, however, the picture at the top is a far more accurate characterization of the reality of the church in the world. It speaks of people, shared life, relationships, and following God together the best we can.
Like most people, I find the ornate, opulent, religious structures of Europe fascinating in their beauty and architecture. I just cringe when anyone calls them a church, or thinks they represent God in some special way. They don’t. If anything the represent skewed priorities of religious leaders who put opulence over people and power over love. That most were built on the terrified backs of peasants trying to curry favor with God or alleviate their guilt makes it all the words.
Remember, Stephen was stoned for saying, “… the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.” That reality still makes people nervous today, and makes it difficult to justify the incredible wealth we have (and still do) put into buildings. And yet, if you want to find God, you would be better off looking for him in the people around you than in any building, as impressive as it may be.
With special thanks to my hosts and all the people I got to meet in Ukraine.
On an unrelated note, the first of a two-part interview I did with the ladies of Confronting Normal has just released. It’s about community and you can find it here. This is how they described it:
Community is a complicated topic. It’s a conversation laced with many layers, a wide variety of interpretations and definitions, and typically, it comes accompanied with a ton of painful baggage and unmet expectations.
But in this episode, Cindy and Renae get the rare opportunity to sit down face-to-face with author, speaker and fellow podcaster, Wayne Jacobsen, as they explore this important conversation from the comforts of Cindy’s living room – a fitting location for such a relational topic. Together, the trio share openly and honestly about the struggle and beauty that is community. In the end, they consider that perhaps community should really just be called … friendship.
While on vacation in the Sierras a couple of weeks ago we connected with old friends we used to camp with in that area. The wife shared with us some pictures (one of which you can see above, and another further below) that she had taken on a trail we used to hike together. In fact, it was this trail over Potter’s Pass east of Huntington Lake that inspired the theme illustration I use in Finding Church.
What if the church of Jesus Christ is more like wildflowers strewn across an alpine meadow than a walled garden with manicured hedges? Wouldn’t that change everything?
Maybe that’s why people get so frustrated trying to find his church, but they are looking at institutions, or home groups of like-minded people instead of simply loving the people God is bringing into their lives. The church Jesus is building is everywhere! She is not a place or an institution; she is a real, living creation, and if we look for the people who express his reality around us, we’ll find his fingerprints at work. The following is an adaptation from Finding Church.
I realize such a seemingly amorphous view of the church will make many nervous, especially those who think it their God-given duty to manage a group of people on his behalf. The church takes her expression in relationships we have with others who are also following him—local friendships as well as international connections that he knits together.
We’ll first see it reflected in conversations where Jesus makes himself known. Some of those conversations will grow into more enduring friendships that become part of the fabric of our lives as we serve, encourage, and grow together. These friendships will lead to others, and out of that network of friends and friends of friends, God will have all the resources he needs to invite us to agreement in prayer and collaborative actions to fulfill his purposes around us.
Can it really be that simple? This is perhaps the greatest stumbling block to people seeing the church for who she really is. It’s too simple, they think, or too easy. So, they put their trust in the vast array of discordant institutions instead of the present work of Jesus. As we’ll see, finding those connections is difficult only because it is far easier than we dare to believe. In fact, you probably have those growing connections with people, even in the congregation you attend or have attended. I’m only suggesting that your interaction with them expresses more freely the life of the church than sitting in a pew watching the staged activity up front.
Admittedly this discussion about church is not easy to have. Most people want simple, clear answers to heavily nuanced realities. It would be easier to say that all religious institutions are bad, and smaller, more informal groups are good, except that it isn’t true. If we just had an organization that represented the one, true church led by the right people then we would know who is in and who is out, except that every group who has ever tried it has ended up arrogant and abusive in trying to keep it pure.
So, we are going to have to make a distinction in our minds between the church that humanity has attempted to build for two thousand years, and the community of the new creation that Jesus is building. They are not the same, though they can gloriously overlap on occasion. It’s just that our conformity-based structures cannot produce the internal transformation necessary for his church to take shape among us.
And as much as we have to see how our congregational doctrines, rituals, and structures can fail us, I’m not saying they are evil. This isn’t matter of whether these are good or bad, but how we use them. If they enhance our growing relationship with God, great! It’s when they become a substitute for the relationship we lack that they are problematic.
I agree with the theology of the historic creeds and reading them inspires me. It is not our mental assent that’s important, however, but living inside the truth they espouse. Likewise, ritual can open our hearts into a wider world and help us reflect on him, or it can become meaningless repetition that only makes us feel more distant from the Living God. I’m not against structure, which is incredibly valuable whenever it gives shape to what Jesus is doing among a group of people. Everything I do has structure, from the books I publish, to the travel I arrange, to our work in Africa with orphans and widows. Structure is essential to coordinate people to accomplish specific tasks, but history shows us that no group structure can successfully reflect the life of Jesus’ church for very long. It happens subtly but, over time, people end up serving the structure. They become dependent on it, instead of following him.
In the end, however, no creed, ritual, or structure can contain the church Jesus is building. And strangely enough, neither do any of those things exclude the possibility of his church taking shape among them. Because the church finds expression wherever people are learning to live alongside Jesus in the new creation, it can appear almost anywhere at any moment.
The church isn’t something we can plant or build; we can only recognize it and make room in our hearts when she appears.
This book contains everything I believe about the church Jesus is building. I hope it is helping people get their eyes off the failed attempts of humanity’s doing, and see how Jesus is marvelously putting his church together through the interconnected friendships of people who are growing to know him. Whether or not that ever coalesces into a weekly meeting isn’t what’s important. It’s learning to be loved and to love others the same way. He has everything he needs to bring that family into fullness and life. It’s always been his job, not ours. And, I don’t have to participate in anything that is morally broken, condemning, or bound to obligation just because others call it “a church.”
I love being able to celebrate her reality wherever she takes shape around me, and I find her more breathtaking than any wildflower vista, whether it be in a conversation, a growing friendship, or a weekly gathering of people wanting to follow him. Our task is only to recognize her when she’s there, and cooperate with his working however he may ask us to do so. There we will find community enough, mission enough, and discipleship enough!
You can get Finding Church in print, e-book or audio. For those who want the printed version for yourself or to give away to others, we are selling them from now through the month of September at a 25% discount ($7.99 per book, plus shipping). For international destinations, please for a price quote, since the online calculator is often wrong.
This weekend I get to wander in his meadow in western Canada (Calgary, AB and Kelowna, BC) see how his church is taking shape among people there. I’m looking forward to it.