Father Maestro

Do you know how to make time slow down? It works like this. An orchestra conductor extends his arms, suspending his white shirt cuffs and links above the laser-focused eyes of skilled musicians poised at the ready like warriors entering combat–and that is the moment time stretches. That ever-so-slight lift of the baton, when everyone inhales indefinitely, and a three centimeter movement seems to command the cosmos… you have been there. Time waits for him.

The majestic Maestro, similarly, orchestrates all of his purposes and mission. For those gazing and concentrated where all drown like Peter if they dare look away, He is known as Father.

When Father commands, children make music. Knowing that he is in command and coordinating my piece together with all others removes every disappointment, pressure, and tension. He has this. Mission is in his hand and so is my heart.

Knowing that he is Father, endears me to his music. Captivated, I refuse to play anything else.

The concerto rises — “Your Kingdom come!” and falls — “Your will be done.” In each movement, Father conducts his mission and weaves his glory.

I play in the Italian section. If found in Christ, you play in yours. Therefore, do play and don’t stop. Father Maestro does not wave needlessly. There is missional music to be made and we each have a part. From soaring melodies to subtle harmonies and the occasional touch of a triangle, all share in symphonic glory.

Watch him closely for every subtle and swift movement of his baton to not miss a single beat. Father Maestro orchestrates and orchestrates. Praise him. It is so comforting, so control-free, to know our lives are not wasted and time slows down, because we have been given lives to be spent and an eternity to play in the orchestra of the Father’s family.


Orchestration Design of the Father and Body of Christ (from the book, The Church Beyond the Congregation)


Introducing The Ascension

Hey Minestrone Readers!

I want to highlight a brilliant new book by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow on the doctrine of the Ascension. The book is concise, accessible, and dripping with rich, biblical theology. Best of all , it is the kind of book that leads you straight to the waters of worship because the authors are magnifying Jesus through an oft-forgotten doctrine. I have repeatedly found myself saying, “Bless you, Lord Jesus” as I’ve sat in awe of both his authorship and workmanship of our Faith. I hope you will, too.

Here is a post from Tim’s blog which includes a video interview describing what the Ascension is all about and why they are writing this series.

Sandy and I have had the wonderful privilege of hosting both Tim and Jonny in our home this last month and their families on various other occasions. These brothers are our dear friends and Gospel partners. And we are grateful for their encouragement, prayers, teaching, and care for us at Serenissima Ministries for the mission in south-central Europe.


disclaimer: I do not receive any commission or incentive for promoting their book (apart from an occasional supply of English Tea and chutney which compliments the Italian cucina “quite nicely”).

Tim Chester

Here are Jonny and I introducing our book, The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God …

The Ascension is available in the UK (at 25% off) from  thinkivp.com and in the US (from 1 May) from amazon.com.

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HM Cooking in a New Kitchen

HM is Moving to a New Kitchen

I will continue to share Holy Minestrone articles over at http://minestrone.posterous.com for the coming weeks. Then, by sometime in April, I hope to have made the complete transfer over here to holyminestrone.com

In the meantime, a friend and I will be working on the appearance of the site and souping it up for public consumption.

Thanks for your patience while we’re moving sites.


Church Beautiful

Have you been reading any good books lately? Reading is an art-form that is sometimes dry and uninspiring and at other times a cascade of wonder and insight. I don’t really talk about what I’m reading when it’s been a bit dry, but lately, it’s been very good. So, after a lengthy pause due to many reasons, I write again. (inspiring background music starts here)

(inspiring background music abruptly finishes here)

I re-started to read a good book by Jonathan Wilson called Why Church MattersIn it, Wilson speaks often to the practices of our worship and community. He writes a section on the beauty of worship which touches on the fact that God cares about the beauty of our worship. God desired the unblemished, spotless, and best of the lambs to be offered to him and he chastened Israel when they offered him second-rate, leftover lambs because they were making money on the good ones. Even the presentation (the beauty) of the lamb must point to the one, true Lamb to come. And so it is with us.

Wilson describes beautiful worship first as a plural “we” and keeps the people of God as a whole in mind. In other words, we need to reflect deeply on what we practice as our worship. Second, he says, “Beautiful worship means worship that is shaped by and participates in the telos (the final goal; end of all things) given by God…” This means that it is summed up in the Trinity and has the look of Jesus all over it. Beautiful worship is therefore a people who love God alone.

And then he shares a number of “not beautiful” errors in our worship. Here’s a Gospel and community one:

Another way that our worship is “not beautiful” is our failure to reflect the work of God among all peoples. Our one-color, one-culture, one-class churches are ugly to God. They do not embody the practices of that telos — the redemption of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation…

The beauty of the gospel, its attractiveness and persuasiveness, is in part the glorious reality that in Jesus Christ “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female” (Gal. 3:28). The ugliness of the church is that very little of our practice bears witness to this beautiful, heartrending truth. God have mercy on us. God transform us by your grace.  {p. 46}

Lord Jesus, please help us to be your missional body that revels in your beauty found in the in-gathering of the peoples of the Earth.


I Don’t Go to Church


I’ve struggled with this language and idea that we “go to church.” Have you thought about this too?

Authentic “church” is not something I go to; it’s something I am. Even the word “church” speaks of a people who are called out by God. They are the people of God as a state of being. 

We need to watch and renew our language. We’ve reduced the whole concept of church to something very event-centric; like church is a sports event or concert thing held in a stadium environment or a trip to the mall. Jesus didn’t die to make something so cheap, so plastic. He died and rose again for his bride and his family.

So, instead of saying, “I (singularly) go to church,” we could more accurately say, “we live in this church, together.” And this state of being and living comes from the special identity that’s given to us in the Gospel. We live through our identity in Christ. Therefore, we gospel one-another (a term I have shamelessly borrowed from Steve Timmis 🙂

My emphasis is more about a paradigm shift than a nuance of words. If I just go to a church then it’s very easy for me to just go away from a church too. It starts to treat other people (our holy-family members) as a weekly task to be accomplished and checked-off on a personal agenda. It also sounds very consumeristic. So, I think it would be a good thing for us to struggle with this kind of language until we nail-down who we really exist-to-be in this holy minestra of the church.

Missional Giving through Repentance, Underwear, & WeBay

Wild truth. That’s the description that comes to mind when I study John the wilderness prophet. John was called the forerunner or way-preparer of the coming Messiah. Radical was his message; radical was his baptism. While forms of immersion and washing were practiced in the temple, John’s baptism was one of total devotion, never having to be repeated. It was all about cleansing and transformation.


Yet, to be ready for the Kingdom, to recognize the Messiah when he would arrive, repentance was necessary. John preached, therefore, that a sign of this internal-transformation was how a person conducted themselves toward money and toward others. A person who would look like the coming Messiah would be content with what God was giving them and they would share what they had. In other words, they would be predisposed to looking-out for the needs of others. This would be a sign of Gospel generosity.



John preaches with earnest, earthy language. He is in the stuff of life to show men their need. One of these earthy illustrations is found in the hulag, or the tunic which was the common undergarment that everyone wore. It wasn’t the most important garment, it was the most basic and most needed

There’s a great description about what a tunic was and how it was worn here and here.

“The tunic was a shirt that was worn next to the skin. It was made out of leather, haircloth, wool, or linen. Both sexes wore tunics but they was a difference in the style and pattern. For men, the tunic came down to the knees and was fastened at the waist by a girdle of leather or cloth. Female tunics were very similar to the males, but went down to their ankles.” – Heather Breining in the article link above.

John says, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none…” (Luke 3:11)

Now, let’s be practical here and ask ourselves, “If we have ample supply of our basic needs, how are we supposed to know who has a tunic and who doesn’t?” At least three simple answers to that question come to mind:

  1. The need of a tunic became obvious when someone was wrapped up with an outer garment only. They would be hiding both their shame and their cold. My guess is that there were people cloaking their needs in the very crowd John was speaking to. Messiah would be looking for those basic needs to be met.
  2. Therefore, we have to be close enough to people to be able to observe and comprehend their needs. We need to be involved enough with people where we can see the neckline of their T-shirts and that’s a way to say “eye-to-eye”. The church must function in close, caring, and discreet community.
  3. And then, we need to share our abundance with others in need. The Messiah-community can no longer support the excuse that says, “Well, all the people around me aren’t that needy.” Or, “I don’t know anybody who has basic needs like that.” If that’s what we commonly tell ourselves, then we need to get some new friends for Jesus’ sake! The Good News is a generous news. The Gospel will work against hoarding. We should cringe and ache in our spirits when we find ourselves with amply more-than-enough and nobody else to care for at the same time.



Because we all struggle with this, our Messiah-community practices what is called WeBay. I use the word “practice” because it’s a Gospel-principle more than it is a place. The WeBay was invented about 10 years ago to dedicate an area of our ministry center to the exchange of tunics. We ask people that if they have any items of value and abundance to bring them and freely place them on the WeBay (a series of shelves and racks for organization etc). We have had tens-of-thousands of euros worth of clothes go through there. We’ve seen kitchen supplies, shoes, motor oil, cleaners, couches, desks, beds, and even some skis all make their way through the gospel generosity filter. So far, no children or elderly parents have been donated but a few turtles came through once (and almost landed at my house).

The principles for WeBay are simply to freely give (let-go!), freely take (meet your need), and freely give again (take something and meet other’s needs). This activity and practice is so healthy both to the giver and the recipient! What I’m pleading for in this post is that there has to be some avenues for giving that we regularly utilize to work through our abundance and our repentance at the same time. When the majority of the church is practicing this, it adds fabulous flavor to the minestrone. 

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A Nip of Newbigin: The Local Congregation


In this second part on evangelism in a secular culture, Lesslie Newbigin shares that it is not enough to try to impart evangelistic information to society, but rather, there needs to be a local and visible demonstration of the impact this Good-News-knowledge has had on real people. Therefore, the family of God becomes the best apologetic of the true story. 

The clue to evangelism in a secular society must be the local congregation. There are many other things of which one could speak — mass evangelism of the Billy Graham type, Christian literature, radio and television, study and training courses, and so on. These are auxiliary. Many of them can be very valuable. But they are auxiliary to the primary center of evangelism, which is the local congregation. The congregation should live by the true story and center their life in the continual remembering and relating of the true story, in meditating on it and expounding it in its relation to contemporary events so that contemporary events are truly understood, and in sharing in the sacrament by which we are incorporated into the dying and rising of Jesus so that we are at the very heart of the true story. The congregation that does this becomes the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God among the members and in the wider society. And here, of course, an immense amount depends upon the leadership given through preaching, pastoral encouragement, and public action by those called to ministry in the congregations.

~ Lesslie Newbigin: a Reader, p. 234-235

I liked that part about the congregation becoming the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God…

We need to emphasize that present, new reality. While contextualization is important, one of  the most compelling things about our gatherings (larger and smaller) is how serious and committed we are as a people to the true story. Rather, the focus is often on our “technique of doing church.”

The Gospel shared is the Gospel lived. So, to share that story in a radically attractive way (evangelism) will require us to ask, “How are we–together interpreting our world and responding to it by the truth of the Gospel?” 

When people begin to encounter other people who are walking by the Gospel, they might see forms of church that are familiar to them but they will be drawn to the story because they see others who have authentically entered it and are taking it seriously.


Part one of this 5-part evangelism series can be found here: Living by the Other Story

Here below is a link to a very good article on communicating the Gospel in considerate and contemporary ways. It runs parallel with what I’ve shared above.

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A Nip of Newbigin: Living by the Other Story



The word “nip” in its noun form means a “taste” or “swallow”. I had to come up with a word that complimented minestrone, you know what I mean? I hope you can digest my weak and enigmatic sense of creativity.

So, with that out of the way, I enjoy reading the writings of Lesslie Newbigin. If you haven’t heard of him before, he was a missionary-theologian from Britain to India during the mid-1900’s. Lesslie passed away in South London at the age of 88 in 1998 but left behind a plethora of insights on the church and mission.

This is the first of five quotes that Lesslie wrote about evangelism and the thinking of the “re-evangelization” of Europe. I think these nips would apply to any secularized, Western culture. They’re quite good and I wanted to share them here on HM. 

Evangelism is not the effort of Christians to increase the size and importance of the Church. It is sharing the good news that God reigns — good news for those who believe, bad news for those who reject. Evanglism must be rescued from a Pelagian anxiety, as though we were responsible for converting the world. God reigns and his reign is revealed and effective in the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As we grow into a deeper understanding of this fact, as we learn more and more to live by the other story, we become more confident in sharing this reality with those who have not yet seen it.

~ L. Newbigin, A Reader, p. 234

To nuance more of what Newbigin is saying, living by the other story is really understanding the active reality of the Gospel story in everything we do. The Gospel is the living word, daily impressing itself upon us, and the very light by which we see, interpret, and respond to our world. The more deeply we submerge ourselves into it, the more confidence we’ll have revealing it. 

I liked that line about a Pelagian anxiety. I was taught to live in that panic at one time. What I realized through living the other story was that you don’t have to sell the Gospel, you just have to say it.

More Shared Life or Shared Meetings?


So, you’re a part of a small group where you’re developing friendships, sharing the Word together (sometimes sweet; sometimes dry), and you may even be eating a meal together. Aaaaannnd… that’s about it. You generally know everybody’s story so you’re churning the weeks by where on one hand, you have your small group time (call it whatever you’d like) and on the other hand, you have the rest-of-your-life. And the problem is that both hands rarely come together.

So, how does a group that is more or less stuck in meeting mode go deeper and become missional?

Here are two practical tests or objectives to help a small group become a missional community that is sharing more of life together instead of just sharing more meetings.

  1. Your meeting times are one-of-the-things you do together in Christ — not the only thing you do during the week together (ie. one of two meetings you attend).
  2. When your group shares more life together outside of a weekly gathering than you do during a 2-3 hour gathering.

Shared life, therefore, is the ordinary and every-day things that you do with the purpose of including others and utilizing those times to talk about and see the extraordinary Christ in the ordinary routines of daily life.

Green Gate: A Pilgrim Minestra




I frequently use the word “minestra” interchangeably for the concept of community. The idea is a community in the mix of life. With that in mind, each year I read something new about the Separatists of the 1600’s known as the Pilgrim Fathers. And, with today being Thanksgiving, I learned about a Pilgrim Minestra that I thought would go well for this blog.

The band of Separatists were led by a pastor named John Robinson. The Robinsons would travel to Leyden (Holland) to seek religious freedom from penalty and persecution. As their young family arrived in Leyden, one of the great burdens they encountered was to have a place where their community could share life together. Here is a description of their deep Christian community at a special place called Green Gate:

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Incident, Coincidence, Pattern


How do you know when to encourage or confront someone — or both — “encouragingly confront” them? What is a good guideline for how patient we should be with each other in this holiest of minestre called the Church (this new city)? How tolerant should we be when somebody near us makes-a-bigga-messa (or even a little one)?

A number of years ago, I was reading the musings of a Jewish rabbi who was counseling his readers with practical wisdom about how people should respect one another. I wish I had saved the article because one of the first nuggets of wisdom that he gave was for young men to never argue with somebody more than 20 years their senior. This has proven to be good advice in my own life. Apostle Paul said to entreat them as we would a father.

The second golden nugget that has stayed with me and been repeatedly tested is the principle of an incidence vs. a pattern. When someone spills the milk, you have an incident. If later, they spill the milk a second time, that’s a co-incidence. However, if the person wastes a third glass of milk in a relatively brief period of time — that’s a pattern — and you might have to tell them to hold it with both hands. The rabbi’s practical advice was to be patient before responding to determine whether you had an incident on your hands or a developed pattern. When you can determine that there is a destructive or inappropriate habit in a person’s character, then you’re going to need to put it in check.

The wisdom of the axiom is that younger leaders and ministers (and I would include the parenting of children and leading of a home or a position at work) often face the desire to instantly correct something that they perceive is wrong; thus forcing the person to cry over their spilled milk and not helping them by being patient or forming their character. 

This is a general guideline. I understand that there are times where immediate and decisive action must be taken on a discovered incidence (which might already be a hidden pattern) of behavior. I know that there are moments which arrive where we have to warn even against a coincidence (a repeat). At the same time, we need to be careful about how we treat one another in everyday life things. Grudges are often born out of the pettiest of things. We will hear things like, “Do you know what she said about me?”  She said are the operative words there. Is she continually saying? We need to fight-off and dig-out the seeds of resentment and absorb, yea, cover a multitude of incidents with loving patience. Christ is our model and gospel identity our guide.

“Encourage one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ…”  Hebrews 3:13-14a

“For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’.” Romans 15:3


Hardwired for Small Groups


Here’s a quote pulled right out of a good book that I’d recommend by Andy Crouch called Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling:

“Anthropologists speculate, in fact that we are hardwired for small groups–that human beings are simply designed to operate in a village, even if that village exists in the midst of a vast metropolis or on computer servers that host a million other villages simultaneously…

…every cultural innovation, no matter how far-reaching its consequences, is based on personal relationships and personal commitment. Culture making is hard. It simply doesn’t happen without the deep investment of absolutely and relatively small groups of people. In culture making, size matters — in reverse. Only a small group can sustain the attention, energy and perseverance to create something that genuinely moves the horizons of possibility…To create a new cultural good, a small group is essential. And yet the almost uncanny thing about culture making is that a small group is enough.”

— pages 242-243

In this closing section of his book, Crouch shares the genius behind the model that Jesus utilized of gathering the groups of 3, 12, and 120. I couldn’t help but think of the role that this pattern plays when it comes to the development of the church and its always-new, redeemed culture of a city-on-a-hill. Crouch makes some brilliant insights in the book, and if you’d like a copy, you just need to click on the picture of the globe in this post to order one.