Monday, September 30, 2013

5 Ways to Defend Yourself Against the Enemy

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:13

Last week I started going through Putting On The Armor: Equipped and Deployed for Spiritual Warfare by Chuck Lawless. The study focuses on the armor of God passage found in Ephesians 6:10-20. Each week is packed full of ways to be equipped and deployed for spiritual warfare and each week I want to share one thing that I took away from the study. Last week I shared Seven Truths about the Armor of God. This week, I want to share five ways to defend yourself against the Enemy.

1. Resist temptation when the Enemy seeks to lead you into sin.

2. Stay faithful even when the battle rages. 
The peace that God gives us does not necessarily mean an absence of conflict. In fact, sometimes "peace" means having a heart that remains comforted and faithful during, and in spite of, a conflict. God gives us a calm that the world can't understand, and we resist the Devil when we stand in that peace (Phi. 4:6-7).

3. Refuse to compromise biblical truth. 
From the events in Genesis 3 until today, the Enemy has encouraged people to doubt or deny God's Word. We stand against this strategy when we learn, affirm, and teach biblical truth.

4. Keep your eyes on God in spite of distractions. 
The enemy loves to catch our attention, turning our eyes from God toward the problems we face. We prepare ahead of time by deciding we won't allow our circumstances to overshadow our focus on Him.

5. March forward in faith at any given moment. 
When God calls us to take a step of faith, the prepared spiritual warrior moves without hesitation. He is equipped and always ready to be deployed.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Small Children and The Church

I read an article this week by Anne Bogel about the difficulties of being part of the church, in her case attending church, when you have small children. I was a little turned off by her post for many reasons, but I think many parents, especially young moms out there are resonating with her on a level that concerns me. Before I go any further let me point out the obvious: I am a father of two young boys that currently lives in S. Asia where there is no such thing as nursery, childcare, or children's church. My point, I know the difficulties that Bogel refers to here and believe that it is more difficult on some level for foreign families overseas to be a part of the church than those in America.

The nature of her article starts out by talking about going to church, almost in a selfish sense (not that children ever reveal that in us), instead of looking at being part of the body of Christ. Bogel is looking for more what she can get out of the church than how she can give and serve the church. This particular morning the devil himself is coming in the form of her naked three year old, which has become the number one reason for no longer being part of the body of Christ. 

In her real life example, she lost to her three year old son as she remained on the "wrong side of the door" of the church. She goes on to say, Since our very first Sunday as a family of three, my own family has utterly failed to merge with the family of God. 

The above statement by Bogel is sad and breaks my heart as it is an implication of something else. She is either a). part of a church that does not make room or prioritize children as we see in the New Testament or b). she is part of a church that caters to her every need in regards to her children, but she still selfishly chooses to allow them to be her excuse for not fully participating in the body of Christ.

The church is described as a family and if you think about your own family then you typically take care of one another and care for the needs of each other. The church as our spiritual family is to be the same way. I think many parents, Bogel included, find themselves not viewing the church the way that is should be viewed or part of a church that isn't operating as a church was meant to function.

In regards to Bogel herself, having this struggle is not the problem because at different stages we all experience this with our children, but what she fails to do in her post is turn to the all-sufficient grace found in Jesus. "But the [the Lord] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9). 

In the book Give Them Grace, Elyse M. Fitzpatrick says, "The power of Christ flows through parents who boast in and embrace their personal weakness, not on those who think they don't need it." Bogel obviously needs it, we all need it, and on some level she recognizes that, but she has a faulty view of how the church with children looks and fails to fully rely on Christ and his bride in her struggle. 

If you are a parent of small children and part of a church, how do you do it? How does your church do it? Please share in the comment section below. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Moving Law to Grace on Alcohol/Tobacco

Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition of the Christian faith I was always taught that consuming alcohol was sinful and I myself thought the same for years. It was only upon maturing in Christ and careful study of the Bible that I came to a different and more biblical conclusion, moving law to grace.
Conservative evangelical Moody Bible Institute recently announced the drop on its ban on alcohol and tobacco consumption by its 600-some faculty and staff. This comes as a shocker to many and as one can guess there has been quite the stir since the announcement. Personally I commend this institution for doing so and wish that others would follow their lead in taking a more biblical view on such things. 
Alcohol consumption is an important issue for Christians to address because the issue is not as "black and white" as some would like to make it, but rather a "gray" issue. Thankfully there is an emerging group that would agree that there are forms of alcohol consumption that are wrong such as getting drunk, but they would also agree that it is okay to consume alcohol. The distinguishing marks of this group would be that they see no problem in the consumption of alcohol as long as it is done so in a manner of moderation with a clear conscience where they feel they are following the Biblical model and able to glorify God in so doing (Rom. 14:21-13). Mark Driscoll describes my own thoughts well: “I personally long for the return to the glory days of Christian pubs when God’s men gather to drink beer and talk theology.” 
Here is a piece from Sara Pulliam Bailey on the announcement by Moody:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Seven Truths About The Armor of God

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. -Ephesians 6:11-12

This week I started going through Putting On The Armor: Equipped and Deployed for Spiritual Warfare by Chuck Lawless. As one could guess the study focuses on the armor of God passage found in Ephesians 6:10-20. This is a six week study that I am excited to be going through and one in that I wish I had gone through before moving overseas. During the six weeks you will see me share different quotes via twitter and occasionally different posts on here that will be beneficial to all in regards to putting on the armor of God in the fight against spiritual warfare.

Today, I want to share seven truths about the armor of God from week 1:

1. We are to wear the full armor of God.

2. The armor we wear is God's armor (Eph. 6:11).

3. Putting on the armor is nothing magical.

4. Wearing the armor can't be separated from what we believe and how we live.

5. Putting on the armor is about being equipped and deployed for spiritual battles.

6. The support of other believers helps us put on the armor (Eph. 1:1)

7. Learning about the armor of God takes place only as we read God's Word. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Day In Life With No iPhone

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...
-Ecclesiastes 9:10a

This week I was helping a friend move when my smartphone, iPhone 4 to be exact, quit being so smart and decided to crash. The screen went completely black and there was no sign of life. It was no big deal at first and I googled how to fix this problem once at home, only to learn that I needed both the on/off switch and home button to be working in order to reboot the phone. My on/off switch had already been replaced in May but quit working so I decided not to fix it again until now that I really needed it.

At the time I thought the phone may be gone for good, which may have been wishful thinking for justification of an iPhone 5S, but either way I knew that I would be without my phone for at least a day as I dropped it off at a repair shop. I quickly learned how attached to my iPhone I had become (I am sure my wife could have told you this before). A day with no iPhone, Oh no, how would I know the most recent exchange rate? How would I listen to today's ask pastor John? How would I update twitter? How would I look at my most recent emails? The list could go on and on of all the "necessary" apps that I need and check daily.

Every hour I found myself going for my phone to use one of hundreds of apps as I realized just how dependent I had become on my phone. I was forced to go through a form of detox due to the crash of the phone and lack of an on/off switch. I put the above verse from Ecclesiastes mainly as a joke because I have heard it quoted to justify masturbation so I am sure the same could apply for using a smartphone as much as most of us do (come on now be honest, I am not the only one).

What I Learned Without An iPhone:

  • I am too dependent on it.
  • It is a useful tool, but I allow it to take away from other things at times.
  • I need to have more intentional times of disconnect.
  • If I turned to Jesus and Prayer as often as I do my iPhone my spiritual life would be much holier.
The last point is sincere in my thinking of my own life. What if I got to the place that I turned to Jesus, the Bible, and prayer as often as I do my iPhone. To be transparent, I know that it would change the way my own life looks and that is hard to admit. Are smartphones useful? Yes. Are we generally doing good things when we are using them? Yes. Have they made our lives easier? Yes and No. Do I plan on giving mine up and quit using them? No. Am I trying to convince you to stop using yours? No.

Now iOS7 has released since my phone has been repaired and yes, I already have it on my phone and I am enjoying it, but I am trying to remember the points I learned by a day with no iPhone. An iPhone is not a bad thing, but times of unplugging, whether intentional or non-intentional, are good for us so we don't fall into the trap of being secluded on our own little technology islands away from all the people we love that are right next to us.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Does Your Obedience to Jesus And The Great Commission Depend on Money?

Recently I have noticed a growing trend within my ministry context, which is that every Christian wants to be paid in order to do ministry. Now, before I go any further I want to be upfront and honest so that I don't get any stones thrown at me. Currently, I do get paid to do full-time vocational ministry, but I have been doing ministry for much more time than I have been getting paid to do it. For the majority of my years in ministry, I have worked in restaurants and coffee shops in order to provide for myself and my family. These places have always become a large part of my ministry, but I also focused on other areas within the local church. And to be fair, I do think that there is a place for individuals to get paid to do vocational ministry, but the focus of this post is whether or not one's obedience to Jesus and the Great Commission depends on money.

As I have been having these reoccurring conversations, I have been reminded of the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Hinder It, by Roland Allen. And though, it is over 85 years old, in many ways it speaks to issues in modern missions more than ever before.

In one section of the book Allen warns of the dangers that mission organizations can produce along with the serious difficulties it can cause both at home and abroad. The first major thing that he points out is that it makes all the progress depend upon money, which in result is the antithesis of spontaneous expansion.

Allen further points out that in a sense there have always been mission organizations, but the original he refers to as the simple necessary one, being the local church itself. It was only later and in to today that the more complicated large mission organizations came to be. Basically what he is pointing out is that there was no such thing as an organization that did missions for the early church, but the church itself was sufficient for such cause; obviously allowing for a spontaneous expansion of the church as we read in the New Testament.

Here Allen says, "If we compare our modern missionary work with the missionary work of the Early Church, this is what differentiates them: with us missions are the special work of a special organization; in the Early Church missions were not a special work and there was no special organization."

The key thing that Allen has pointed out that I want us all to get here, is that by allowing the progress to depend upon money, we are failing at being faithful to the Great Commission. Yes, I know and realize that our global church planting efforts take money, but we should not allow the progress to depend upon money.

And though Allen is referring to organizations that send missionaries out to do overseas work, my focus is also on those people within that context. I have become very frustrated recently as it seems many people I come across are only looking for a paycheck in order to do ministry. And the main reason that this is happening in my context is because at some point other organizations came in and immediately started paying people to do ministry, which set up an unhealthy, unreproducible, and unsustainable model. Many of those organizations no longer exist or quit paying workers, which has left many people roaming from Christian group to Christian group looking for their paycheck in order to do ministry.

I don't believe that modern day mission organizations are going away nor should they, but I would like to see the local church take the lead role in our missionary efforts as did the Early Church. Even in places where there are few churches, which is my context, I would like to see the local church continue their obedience to Jesus and the Great Commission regardless if there is outside money involved. So, what about you? Do you allow your obedience to Jesus and the Great Commission depend on money?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vacationing As Worship

My family and I are excited because we just planned our first vacation in over a year. Sure, we have had some mini breaks and travelled, but those trips are often work related, which doesn't usually equate to complete rest. As we plan our vacation, it has been quite interesting some of the conversations that I have had and information that I have received leading up to this time of rest.

Some people were unsure how we could take such a break, almost two weeks, away from our work because it is so pertinent to the Kingdom advancing in this part of the world. These type of people are often addicted to work and in regards to ministry they have an imbalance that is obvious. They believe that the work ultimately depends on them instead of Christ. My advice to these people, repent of your sin and take a break as you recognize your dependence on Jesus.

To put things into perspective a little for you, I had one guy within my own tribe say to me, "Most of us don't even use all of our vacation." He told me this in a boastful way and once again pointed out the attitude of "we work so hard for Jesus that we don't have time to take a break." In my mind once again this is communicating, "Jesus needs me so I don't take a vacation." My advice to this type of attitude, Jesus does not need you to accomplish or finish his mission. We see Jesus himself getting away to be alone with the Father as he himself needed rest.

To take things even further within my own realm of influence, the organization I am under had to "implement" a policy (which they love doing by the way) to take a weekly sabbath. This was not too surprising because I firmly believe that one of the most broken commandments is remembering the Sabbath. It was stated that people were feeling bad for taking a sabbath day when they did. Seriously, this is a very large Christian organization full of Sabbath breakers. Maybe they should focus more on this in their long application process instead of focusing so much on speaking in tongues and alcohol consumption, which I have heard can be enjoyable from well-known Pastor Mark Driscoll.

So, how can I take a vacation? Because I realize that I need one and that I am commanded to take rest. I've heard it said that you eventually will take a break whether it is voluntary or involuntary. I am trying to take one voluntary so that my health will not take one involuntary and ultimately as a way to worship God in trusting that it is He who rules and reigns in my work that I am resting from.

In addition, here are 5 Practical Thoughts on Rest from Tim Keller:

1. Take some time for sheer inactivity

2. Take some time for avocational activity:
  • You need contemplative rest.
  • You need some recreational rest.
  • You need to include aesthetic rest.
3. Consider whether you are an introvert or extrovert.
4. Don't necessarily count family time as sabbath time.
5. Honor both micro-and macro-rhythms in your seasons of rest.


A version of this post originally appeared on September 21, 2012 on 

Friday, September 13, 2013

9Marks Evangelism Conference at SEBTS

One of the things that I miss about living in the US is occasionally attending worthwhile conferences in the Raleigh-Durham area. 9Marks at Southeastern was always one conference that I looked forward to attending as it is solid, biblical content with an unusually gifted line up of speakers. This year is no different as 9Marks looks at evangelism and looks to answer these questions: 

What is evangelism?
What is the church's role in evangelism?
Who is called to evangelize?
How can I evangelize better to my neighbor?
When a church has an unbiblical understanding of the gospel, its members don’t evangelize. They evangelize in misleading or manipulative ways. Or they share a message that’s not the gospel. But a biblical understanding of evangelism clarifies our role in the mission God has given to the church. We should preach the good news about what Christ has done, and pray that God would bring people to believe it.

The fifth annual 9Marks at Southeastern Conference on September 27-28, 2013 will explore the topic of Evangelism, its relationship to the church, and why we must tell non-believers the good news of Jesus Christ.

The speakers for this fifth mark will be Danny AkinThabiti AnyabwileMark DeverJohn FolmarJ.D. Greear, and Peter Williams.   
To learn more about this event, visit or call 919-761-2200.


The above information was taken from the website of Southeastern Seminary in order to promote this conference.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

'Christianity And' _______________________

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-not that there is a another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."
Galatians 1:6-7

It seems that there are many versions of Christianity these days. I don't mean different denominations, networks, or expressions of the Orthodox faith, but different messages of "Christianity And," where something else is added to Christianity taking away for the one and only gospel message. Most of these things are subtle because many of them are good things such as social justice, but when it becomes Christianity plus whatever other message as one message then it becomes an issue.

Adding another message to the gospel and masking them as one is a tactic of the enemy that trips up most Christians at some point. It is easy to wave our banner of whatever cause we stand for at a particular time or our favorite political party and as humans we easily mix these messages in with our faith, which causes an entirely different message to be communicated, "Christianity And."

In the satirical Christian apologetic novel Screwtape Letters there is one letter from the senior demon to the junior tempter that captures this very idea:

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And'. You know-Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Physical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. 

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." -Galatians 1:8-9

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ten Most Common Strategies Used by the Enemy on Leaders

This semester I am taking a class on Spiritual Warfare with Dr. Chuck Lawless, Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary, who for the last fifteen years has studied the biblical reality of spiritual warfare. He recently wrote a post where he gave the ten most common strategies that the enemy uses on leaders, which I found very helpful.

  • Encouraging leaders to live in self-reliance. Most leaders are in leadership positions because they can lead. I realize that statement sounds obvious, but it’s strikingly important when thinking about spiritual warfare. Because most leaders can lead, they are always susceptible to leading in their own ingenuity and strength. Creativity and strategizing trump prayerful dependence on God . . . and the Enemy relaxes in glee.
  • Distracting leaders from their devotional life. Regardless of a leader’s position (whether church-based or secular), the Christian leader must lead from his knees. What the leader does when no one is looking – when he or she is alone with God in Bible study and prayer – matters much. At the same time, though, leadership demands focusing energy toward organizational plans and results. Who has time left for God?
  • Destroying the leader’s family.  Leaders tend to be task-driven more than people-driven. Rewards and recognition come from accomplishments rather than relationships. In fact, relationships are private and intimate, often uncomfortable for people who excel in the public arena. Leaders who lead their organizations while neglecting their families are not inviting spiritual warfare; they are already losing the battle.
  • Enticing leaders into email relationships. The Internet is a marvelous tool for leaders, but it’s also dangerous. It’s easier to talk about intimate issues across cyberspace, and flirting seems less risky. After all, “we’re not even together,” I’ve heard leaders say. The affairs that often develop, though, are no less damaging.
  • Drawing leaders into sexual sin. Needless to say, this strategy is at times related to the fourth one above – though not always. Leaders are by nature hard workers, and they at times wear themselves down physically and emotionally. Relationships are home are sometimes strained by workaholic tendencies.  That attentive person at work suddenly looks more attractive, and the Enemy’s trap is set.
  • Focusing leaders on their kingdom.  After all, leaders deserve attention and recognition, they think. They would not be in their positions were it not for their abilities and intelligence. If the organization they lead is not large enough, or if their name is not recognized quickly enough, it must be time to start looking for the proverbial “greener grass on the other side.” The distracted focus then weakens the leader in his or her current setting.
  • Isolating leaders in loneliness.  It happens all the time. The leader who looks so relational, so “together,” so popular is actually secluded and isolated. Those who long to walk in his shoes don’t realize his footsteps are lonely ones. By nature, though, leaders often choose not to reveal their weaknesses, and they remain alone. Men and women who fight battles on their own are destined for defeat in spiritual warfare.
  • Diverting a leader’s attention away from evangelism. It might seem that this strategy relates only to church leaders, but I don’t think so. All believers, regardless of their position, are to be Great Commission Christians. Leaders, in fact, may have as much opportunity as anyone to influence others with gospel truth. The Enemy is not alarmed when leaders focus more on their own goals than on the spiritual needs of others.
  • Encouraging leaders to live by comparison. Christian leaders have one person to emulate: Jesus Christ. It is the Enemy who directs a leader’s eyes to somebody else’s popularity, opportunities, and recognition. “I don’t understand why he gets all the attention,” the leader thinks, even if he never states that opinion publicly. “I know I could do better if I just had the opportunity.” The Enemy delights when somebody else’s fame becomes another leader’s idol.
  • Convincing a leader that failure won’t happen to him. It’s not hard to do, actually. Leaders are often leaders because they don’t accept failure and defeat. Others may give in, but not a true leader. Here’s what I’ve learned through the years: no leader expects to fail, and few recognize their own dangerous steps in the wrong direction. They come to their senses only after failure has cost them much.
  • Friday, September 6, 2013

    Verge13: Chicago Regional

    Early this week I introduced you to Sam Smith and The Release Initiative, where Sam is the Director. Sam has also architected the upcoming Verge Regional Conference in Chicago, which is a conference primarily for church leaders such as pastoral staff small group leaders, campus staff and outreach organizations. From what I have been hearing it is going to be a time full of equipping and collaboration. If interested in attending this late Fall conference check out the info below.


    VERGE Regional: Chicago is not just a conference, it is an experience and a conversation, globally connected and locally focused — for anyone pursuing the mission of God, in community, whatever the context, for the sake of the Gospel. Verge Chicago will resource the Church in Chicago and the greater Midwest to make disciples who make disciples in every sphere and domain of society, advocate for the poor and oppressed, mobilize urban and global mission leaders, and champion movements of gospel-centered missional communities.

    Join us for 1.5 days of challenging main sessions, music, local-led conversations, networking opportunities and more, Verge Chicago 2013 is here to encourage, build up and renew all kinds of leaders engaged in the mission of God.


    What does it mean to be a church on mission? To live with gospel intentionality in the places where we dwell, work & play? To grow disciples by example — both men & women? Recently there has been more and more of a resurgence in the interest and passion for making and multiplying disciples — for being a church on mission.

    We long to see a Church that embraces the “forgotten ways” of God’s mission and will focus on four paradigm shifts necessary for, our maturity, Chicago’s good and Jesus’ fame. That is why our theme at Verge Chicago 2013 is:


    Wednesday, September 4, 2013

    The Release Initiative

    Monday I interviewed Sam Smith who is the Director of the Release Initiative, which focuses on training guys in foundational Kingdom DNA and then sends them out to plant the gospel of the Kingdom in cities around the world. The core DNA is Kingdom, Disciple, Society, and Church with each having sub-categories underneath them. In the words of Sam Smith, "A simple way to phrase the DNA of Release would be: As we make Disciples of the Kingdom, and send them out to engage all domains of Society, Jesus will build his Church." 

    Today I want to give you a little better idea of what it is that Release does and encourage you to consider them as a viable option for you if you are called to plant a church. I am actually considering applying for their spring cohort myself in order to become a future coach with Release.

    What Does Release Do?

    Release Initiative, a ministry of Mosaic Church Chicago, is a Global, Muti-ethnic, Chicago-based church planting intensive for potential and existing church planters and leaders. We train in DNA, assess, coach, resource and release.
    DNA: We spend two intensives per cohort going deep in our DNA (Kingdom, Disciple, Society and Church). We train, equip and coach in this DNA and we believe that this DNA is foundational for the life of your church and city.
    Assessment: We will do a post-cohort assessment for each participant to help you understand where you are as a Church leader and what gifts you have been given to build up the Church.
    Coaching: After one has completed the cohort we will provide ongoing coaching as you live out the DNA in your particular context.
    Resources: We provide you with actual and recommended resources, including Skype coaching calls from various leaders/pastors that will help you apply the DNA in your context.
    Releasing: Once you have completed the cohort we will help release you (a disciple) as a sent one into the grid of your city (society) with Kingdom DNA to see the Church emerge. This could look different for each participant, it could mean a) helping connecting you to a network for additional financial support (such as NAMB, A29, Redeemer City to City, Summit Network, etc), b) getting you plugged into the life of Mosaic as an apprentice or leader or c) releasing you to your already existing church leadership position. All participants will be part of the Release family as we continue to coach you in DNA and learn from one another.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Release Initiative is a ministry of Mosaic Church Chicago. To learn more or apply for the upcoming cohort visit the Release website.

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    A Conversation with Director of the Release Initiative: Sam Smith

    Sam is a recovering false dichotomist who grew up in a highly conservative culture and reacted by living a life towards the opposite extreme. At 24 years of age Jesus found him and gave him a new beginning. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago with a degree in Biblical Studies and interned with The Chicago Plan and Forge Chicago. He serves in Chicago as Pastor of Multiplication with Mosaic Church and is the Director of the Release Initiative. He has served with various other initiatives such as Chicago Partnership for Church Planting, Hope for Chicago and Christ and City.

    Matt Boyd: What was your life like growing up? How did God use your background and upbringing to bring you to the place you are in ministry today?

    Sam Smith: I grew up in a first generation Christian family, my dad started following Jesus in his twenties and my mom and grandparents started following Jesus a few years after my dad. We were a lower middle class family living in New York state where my dad was a bi-vocational church planter. I wasn't too excited on the idea of the Church, as the network we were a part of was deeply legalistic. Because of this I reacted against Jesus and the Church by running the opposite direction and living a life that was centered on me, filled with many vices. However, while I was working with inner city youth from Baltimore and DC I was required to take the guys to a local church gathering each Sunday morning. And at that local gathering I became aware of my brokenness and need for someone to help me, forgive me, accept me and make me new. I was adopted into God's family after seeing this local church exhibit the rhythms of both grace and truth. I was 24 years old. 

    I became aware of my brokenness and need for someone to forgive me and make me new.

    I believe my experience both in the "churchy" conservative, legalistic culture and my experience in the un-christian culture has shaped how I view following Jesus and ministry engagement.  I believe God has given me a unique story to speak into both of those cultures.  For the most part, the negative, difficult and broken things in my background and life have primarily shaped the place I am at today in ministry. However, my dad was a strong influence as well, as he helped shape me theologically and practically as I watched him teach, read, work, serve, live and play as a follower of Jesus. 

    MB: Tell us about your call to ministry, where that has taken you, and what the future holds?
    SS: Shortly after I begin to follow Jesus I was on a trip through New England. It was there, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire,  that Jesus clearly called me into full time vocational ministry. I had several moments throughout the following months where God confirmed that he did indeed want me to do what I heard him call me to. For example, there was a time when I distinctly heard him say, "This is the way, walk in it." The next year I was studying biblical theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. 

    As I studied at Moody, I almost immediately was connected to a local church planting church in downtown Chicago called Holy Trinity. Within a year I joined their training program called the Chicago Plan and it was there where I met a guy named Jon Dennis who would disciple me for years. Eventually, after serving as an intern and graduating from Moody, I was hired by Holy Trinity's non-profit organization Hope For Chicago (HFC). Shortly thereafter I was brought on the Chicago Partnership for Church Planting (CPCP) leadership team. I served at HFC and CPCP for three and a half years and also worked with Holy Trinity on equipping and transitioning some of their community groups to missional communities. 

    As I begin to build relationships with church planters and leaders in Chicago through CPCP I started to architect collaborative and catalytic events for the Church of Chicago. My desire in doing these events was to see the Church of Chicago equipped, unified and sent out to make disciples and reflect the Kingdom of God. 

    After working alongside Jon Dennis for some time, I became infatuated with cities. Because of my urban sensitivities I believe, in the future, I will in some form or the other be involved in equipping, sending and coaching urban church planters to plant the gospel of the Kingdom in cities around the globe. 

    MB: What are your current roles in ministry and how did you get there?

    SS: I've now lived in the great city of Chicago for nine years. A year ago several churches and organizations invited me into a relationship with them. I prayed for a couple months and I believed God wanted me to walk with a church plant called Mosaic for a season. I joined their staff in January of 2013 as their Pastor of Multiplication. I have the privilege of overseeing their Villages (Missional Communities), being on the teaching team and serving as one of their elders. I also was asked to be the Director of their church planting intensive. We eventually called it the Release Initiative and this coming September we will be training ten guys in DNA and sending them out to plant the gospel of the Kingdom in several cities. 

    Alongside Mosaic and Release, I get to coach future and existing pastors, missional community leaders and planters from Chicago and other cities in Gospel identity and rhythms. And lastly, God has allowed me to partner with a couple guys in Chicago and we hope to see a couple partner church plants in Chicago emerge in the near future. 

    I got here because God called, equipped and sent me here.

    I think I got here, because God called, equipped and sent me here. I've had a lot of pain and failures along the way, but He's been faithful and patient with me and he has allowed me to join him in the renewal of all things. There's really no other way to explain it. 

    MB: As the Director of the Release Initiative, tell us more about what it is that Release does, explain the DNA briefly and why it is beneficial to guys looking to plant.

    SS: Release equips men in what we believe is foundational Kingdom DNA and then sends them out to plant the gospel of the Kingdom. The DNA is Kingdom, Disciple, Society and Church and beneath each component there are sub categories (for example we define a Disciple as someone who hears and obeys God. And underneath the Disciple component is sub categories such as how to holistically disciple people through the rhythms of Up, In and Out). We believe this DNA is crucial to any church planter, pastor, small group leader and Christian.  The DNA of any local church or network is what the culture is built on and the place where the life rhythms of a local church or network flow from. A simple way to phrase the Release DNA in a sentence would be "As we make Disciples of the Kingdom, and send them out to engage all domains of Society, Jesus will build his Church." 

    As we make Disciples of the Kingdom, and send them out to engage all domains of Society, Jesus will build his Church.

    As guys join the Release Initiative they are put into cohorts, and each cohort has two intensive dates (each intensive is two days).  In the past we have sent guys that have been through these cohorts to Chicago, Chicago-land, Jackson, MS and India and we have ten guys from several cities going through the upcoming Fall Cohort in Chicago. Some of these men will be residents and others will be non-residents. Our desire is to send them all out to plant the gospel of the Kingdom in their contexts.  Alongside their intensives times in Chicago, they will also do some light reading and writing and have some Skype calls with some leaders from some of our partner networks. And lastly, as they finish the cohort they will be coached by one of our coaches as they seek to live out the DNA in their particular context.  

    The Release Initiative is beneficial because a) it trains and equips in DNA instead of methods, b) the DNA is again foundational. It is what we believe to be the DNA Jesus instituted, as he came proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, c) the DNA is able to be reproduced, transferred and applied into any context in the world, d) we are connected with many networks that we can connect guys to if they are in need of further relationships, funding or more training, e) the Release Initiative intensives for each cohort are both informational and practical. We teach it and show it, f) we offer both a resident and non-resident track and g) it is very cost effective. 

    MB: If there is a guy out there reading this right now and Release sounds like it is for him, what are his next steps?

    SS: He can start by visiting our website, and from there he can either contact us with further questions at or  fill out a simple form labeled "apply now" on the home page. We are beginning to accept pre-assessment applications for the Spring Cohort. 

    MB: I heard from a mutual friend that you are also putting on the upcoming Verge Regional in Chicago November 1-2, 2013. Tell us briefly about that and who is that really for?

    SS: Yes, this will likely be my last conference of this nature! I architected this conference in partnership with the Verge Network because I've been encouraged and equipped by Verge in the past. My desire is to simply see the Church of Chicago, and the Midwest equipped and encouraged in disciple-making. At the conference five speakers from outside of Chicago will be addressing our Chicago/Midwest audience in several different paradigm shifts that I believe we in Chicago/Midwest can be further equipped in. So we will be hearing from our distant Church Family on day one. And then on day two there will be local-Chicago led breakout sessions on particular topics. These breakouts will be much more conversational and led by practitioners from Chicago.  

    The goal is to see us reflect the way of Jesus, dismiss some traditional models, grow in unity and maturity and to be sent out on mission to see others invited into the Family of God. This conference is primarily for church leaders such as pastoral staff, small group leaders, campus staff and outreach organizations. But secondarily we desire the entire Church to come and be equipped and we desire all the saints to join Jesus as he makes all things new. 

    Sam Smith is the Director of the Release Initiative and Pastor of Multiplication at Mosaic Church of Chicago, IL. Learn more about Release and Verge on Wednesday and Friday.