A Living Waters Update

Click to go to details page for our Living Waters Group.

Dear Friends and Family,

In John 4, Jesus interacts with a Samaritan woman and reveals Himself as the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus draws the woman into conversation by telling her about the “living water” He offers. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). The woman expresses her desire for this “living water,” and Jesus begins to minister to her regarding her sexual and relational brokenness. In a sense, Jesus is telling her that her brokenness points to what she is truly needing from Jesus. As Jesus reveals Himself to her, the Samaritan woman believes and starts witnessing to her village. Through her testimony, many encounter Jesus and come to believe in Him.

One thing that is striking is that Jesus offers the Samaritan woman the living water before she has everything pulled together. Jesus offers her healing and freedom, despite the fact that she is not morally perfect. The minute she receives Jesus as Messiah, she begins to overflow into the lives of others, calling them to encounter Jesus too. Before she is fully healed, she is already being the good gift she was made to be.

This passage, as well as John 7:37-39, gives name to the Living Waters program. Living Waters is a discipleship curriculum that seeks to bring members of the Body of Christ into deeper relationship with, and experience of, God. In this curriculum, a Christian is someone who is already fully accepted, fully loved, and fully valued by God through Jesus Christ. From that place, a Christian begins walking in the fullness of what is already true about them (set free from the law of sin and death, a new creation, a beloved son or daughter, etc.).

This is a stark contrast to how many Christians approach God and walk out sanctification, as I can personally attest to. So often we believe that God will only truly accept us or like us once we have gotten over sinful habits, or have healed from past hurts, or renounced lies and agreements we have made with the enemy. This is a bottom-up approach: we get cleaned up or fixed up, and only then can we believe God is really okay with us. Scripture, however, reveals that in Christ, Christians are already fully accepted, forgiven, and made new. From that place of a new identity, we walk out our healing journeys in order to experience more of the fullness of God than we already have access to through Christ. This is the top-down approach: we are already made whole in Christ. We now walk in Him, experiencing that reality of wholeness and agreeing with Him about who we are.

Jean M., who recently stepped down from the Living Waters Coordinator position, has counseled the Living Waters’ leadership team on this subject. We believe God has something new He is wanting to do, and we sense that this is tied to emphasizing the top-down approach. In this group, we don’t approach people by shaming them and focusing on their brokenness. Instead, we talk with participants about brokenness, wounding, and lies so they can see who they already are in Christ. We focus on what is true and help them learn to hear what God is saying to them in prayer and in the Bible. They are already filled with the living water. We come alongside to help them step into the reality of their adoption into God’s family, as well as work through anything that keeps them from experiencing this.

Living Waters will be meeting for 18 weeks on Thursday evenings starting September 9, running through January 27, 2022 (with breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas). The group will meet from 6:30pm to 9:00 pm. The format includes worship, teaching, time to process, and small groups. The cost is $220 and includes your book. Anyone who would like to dive deeper into their relationship with God is welcome to apply! If you have questions or are considering applying, please click here for more information and a link to the application. You can also email us with any questions. Applications and a small deposit are due August 29 so we have time to meet with each person prior to September 9. We don’t turn anyone away because of inability to pay, so if you are interested in a scholarship, let us know!

In Christ,

signature

Renewal, Reflection, and Repentance

water splashing into cupped hands

And He who sits on the Throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’.” (Rev.21:5a NASB)

There is a lot to absolutely love about that declaration from God! However, I think the present continuous tense that’s used—the “am making” part—is a bit of a challenge for  me. To be honest, I would rather God say, “I will make,” or “I have made.” I would rather have God snap His fingers and then everything changes at once. This present and continuous process is tough work! Yet, this is exactly what we ought to think of when we hear the word “renewal.”

Renewal

If you’re like me, renewal usually sounds like something so positive, uplifting, and even fun! It is all those things, but this process of making things new is not all warm and fuzzy feelings. After all, part of “all things” includes you and me—broken, willful, and sinful humans—and all we make and do. Implicit in this idea of renewal is that there are things that are not as they should be. To be made new means something needs to change, and change is almost never easy.

Reflection

One of the silver linings of this last year is the time we have had for reflection. Particularly, I have done my fair share of reflecting on what is truly important for Outpost Ministries, what we could have done differently, and how to prepare for renewal. After all, God is certainly always pro-renewal. As I reflected on renewal, I started to see how one of its mechanisms is another “re-” word, repentance. I am seeing that in this renewing process, there is going to be a lot of repenting, both on an individual as well as a corporate level.

Repentance

I know that the word “repentance” can conjure up all sorts of images and feelings, but at its most basic, repentance really just means a change of direction. It’s a turning aside from one way and going another way. As an individual, I can confess I have made and will make many mistakes. The lyrics of Come Thou Fount summarize this well saying, “Oh to Grace how great a debtor / Daily I’m constrained to be / Let thy goodness, like a fetter / Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee / Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love!” As a son, brother, husband, new father, friend, pastor, director, and president, I am prone to wander—prone to stray from God’s renewing work—and I have needed and will need to repent.

As the leader of this ministry, I can also confess on behalf of Outpost corporately: we have and will make many mistakes. While God has and continues to use this ministry to bless many, I also acknowledge that we have made decisions that have hurt people. I don’t think it will shock anyone for us to say that we have taken wrong actions and handled some situations poorly. As we hear about these hurts and learn from the mistakes of the past, we are committed to repentance and moving in the direction of continual renewal.

God is Faithful

As I heard many times in chapel in my bible college days, “People will fail you. Organizations will fail you. But God is faithful!” As we turn and repent, God brings about the healing and the renewal. It is not something we can do ourselves. While I wish I could say I lead a perfect ministry, that is not what God has called me to. I am called to beckon people to trust in God alone, not in me nor in this ministry. By the same token, Outpost isn’t called to have people trust in us. It is called to point people to trust in God alone.

This trust in God alone doesn’t mean we don’t do all we can to align ourselves more with God’s character and plan. It’s in that spirit I want to introduce our newly articulated core values meant to foster this spirit of renewal.

Four Core Values—Honor, Humility, Honesty, and Healing

All four of these values relate to each other and must work together in unity in order to foster healthy community and ministry. While I could (and eventually will) write whole blog posts about each of these, for now I’ll just give a few sentences of explanation of what I mean by each.

  • Honor: This concept comes from Romans 12:10 (NIV), “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” It’s about holding others in higher esteem than ourselves, speaking well of them, and making sure our conversation is aimed at recognizing God’s image in each person rather than demeaning or villainizing them.
  • Humility: The greatest example of this is Jesus. Philippians 2:1-11 shows how the Son of God became a servant, obedient all the way to death on a cross. He wasn’t constantly crying out, “You got this all WRONG!” Instead He said, “Father, forgive them….” If Christ, who did no wrong, could act in such humility, how much more should we seek humility as fallible individuals and groups of human beings? Humility for us is an opportunity to connect with Jesus.
  • Honesty: This is more than not lying. It’s about walking in the light (e.g. John 3:21, I John 1:5-7). The goal is to be as transparent as possible so that we can have true fellowship with one another. Honesty is risky, and that’s why the other values must be present in order for this to be a safe and welcomed value.
  • Healing: The reason this ministry exists is for the sake of healing. We believe the words in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Now this verse is not meant to be individualized (this “you” in Greek is a 2nd person plural) and neither is healing. Healing happens in community. Community is messy. Still, we—as wounded healers—press on and see our need for healing not as a limitation or obstacle, but rather as an invitation and opportunity.

Embracing the Process

I share all of this because I really desire to see this specific renewal process come about at Outpost and TCJHOP. We do not need to fear honor, humility, honesty, and healing. Instead, we need to embrace these values and continually live them out. I am asking you all to keep us accountable in this work.

There are so many who are trapped in their sexual and relational brokenness with no hope for a way out or for transformation. Our work as a ministry is so important in this time, and in order to continue to do this, we need to continuously and consistently be on the path of renewal. Consistently humble in seeking the face of God. Continuously honoring of God and His image in others. Ever honest about our successes as well as our failures, and constantly growing in healing. Thank you for encouraging, forgiving, holding us accountable, supporting, and praying for Outpost and those it serves. My hope is that you will continue to walk with us as we consistently seek after true renewal for ourselves individually, as well as for our ministry and our world.

A Joshua Fellowship Update

Joshua Fellowship Logo

Dear Friends and Family,

Do we really want what we say we want? The story of Joshua in the Old Testament seems to ask this question. He is introduced, alongside Caleb, as one who encouraged Israel to go and take the promised land—despite what looked like insurmountable danger. Yet, that generation of Israelites decided they didn’t want what they said they did. They said they wanted freedom, then they complained and wished they were back in Egypt. They said they wanted the promised land, then they allowed fear to make them complacent in the wilderness. This is why—as Joshua was finally about to lead a new generation across the Jordan into God’s inheritance—God said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Like Joshua, the brave young men in Joshua Fellowship are choosing to trust God and His promises unto abundant life. This is why we call this group Joshua Fellowship. Often this trust comes little by little and with many reassurances from God. For example, Joshua hears God say, “Be bold and courageous,” many times in a short section of Joshua chapter one. Likewise, these men are certainly bold and courageous. In a world that says, “anything goes,” they are choosing to stand and fight for truth. I truly believe that these young men are future leaders in the Kingdom of God.

Many of these men face real struggles. Most (but not all) struggle with same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors, sexual addictions, shame, identity, and deep pain. However, I don’t see them as ones to be pitied for their struggles. Instead, I see them as part of God’s elite force that terrifies the kingdom of darkness! That’s because these men are real. They know what it means to suffer and yet still choose God. They have truly counted the cost and are not doing because it’s easy.

God has also been blessing Joshua Fellowship and drawing men from all over to Outpost. This is nothing special we’ve done—this newsletter is the closest thing we’ve ever done to marketing the group—but is truly God’s doing. I am very excited for what God is going to do in the lives of these men this summer, most of whom are new to Outpost. Please pray for these men to continue to stand firm and become faithful “warrior witnesses” for Jesus to this world.

CalebSpirit Update: A Letter From Dan

Dear Friends,

Happy Spring! This month we have a letter from Dan about another of our support groups, CalebSpirit.

Logo for CalebSpirit
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, 
I will bring into the land into which he went… Numbers 14:24 (ESV).

At Outpost, one of our chief aims is the release from slavery―not unlike ancient Israel. In our case, we aren’t slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but to same-sex attraction (SSA), or so it seems. Our enemy has no real claim to us, nor did Pharaoh have to ancient Israel. Nonetheless, Israel found herself enslaved by her worldly master. She was delivered by God in a miraculous series of events found in the book of Exodus. But en route to her destiny of freedom, she stumbled, and she grumbled. According to verse 22 of this same chapter, Israel had seen the glory of God and many signs. Seeing God’s glory and witnessing signs and wonders does not motivate obedience, and most certainly does not guarantee entrance into the Promise. That entrance requires something else.

Enter Caleb and Joshua. They trusted God to deliver them into the Promised Land, regardless the obstacles in their path. This is the essence of faith. It could be said of them—like it was said of Abraham—that their faith was accounted to them as righteousness (Rom. 4). They were saved (delivered into the Promise) by faith.

We call the group CalebSpirit because these men have “wandered in the wilderness” for a long time (40 years? Yes, perhaps!), and because they have seen the salvation of their God and believe in Him for their deliverance into the Promised Land. The men of CalebSpirit have a different spirit and are fully following the Lord. That does not mean perfectly following the Lord, but they have determined in their hearts to endeavor to imitate Christ throughout their lives, especially in regard to their SSA struggles.

We currently have ten men enrolled in our Tuesday night group where we are studying a book by Steve Gallagher entitled, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. Our weekly book-club-style discussions have addressed such topics as “Am I really enslaved (addicted)?”; “Why do I do the things I do?”; “What is at the root of my sexual sin struggle?”; and “How do I rely upon the Holy Spirit to overcome sexual sin in my life?”

Further, we engage as a fellowship of like-minded sojourners. We are in this together. We hold a retreat a couple times a year for concentrated prayer and fellowship. We also do fun summer activities together, like kayaking, mini-golf, croquet, movies, dinners out, potluck BBQs, holiday parties, biking, and even some travel. We attend conferences and seminars as a group. Finally, we hold one another accountable for our SSA struggles. The men of this group are forming a unique fellowship. Many of the men have been part of our group, or other Outpost groups, for over 20 years. This stability provides confidence and strength to the group.

If you are interested in this group, or know of men ages 45-70 who would be, please contact me at (763) 592-4700 x101. I welcome conversations anywhere along these lines.

Dan's Signature

A Banquet Recap: A Letter From Wendy

Dear Friends and Family,

Spring is here, our yearly reminder that God is in the business of renewal. Between the warmth of the sunshine and the cool cleansing of the rain, we see the wonder of new growth as the grass becomes green and the trees begin to bud.

What a beautiful picture of God’s work in each of our lives! How fitting, then, that we take time each spring to reflect on the ultimate gift of rebirth: the new life given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this year of illness, confusion, incivility, and even violence, the reminder of God’s heart for our redemption, renewal, and healing becomes even more precious.

I was reminded again of God’s heart as we gathered for our Spring Banquet. This was the first time in over a year that we were able to gather such a large group together to share a meal, worship in song, and celebrate what God is doing in and through the ministry of Outpost and TCJHOP. Most meaningful to me were the words of the song “Graves into Gardens”:

You turn mourning to dancing,  
You give beauty for ashes,  
You turn shame into glory,  
You’re the only One who can.  

You turn graves into gardens,  
You turn bones into armies,  
You turn seas into highways,  
You’re the only One who can!

Last year, we had to cancel the in-person banquet only weeks beforehand. Our lives and ministry changed drastically in order to respond to the pandemic. All that we had known and done before was re-evaluated in light of ever-changing information. Mourning, frustration, and anxiety were our constant partners.

Through it all, however, God was working in and through us. As each of the banquet speakers shared, I saw again how God meets us in the midst of our heartbreak to bring comfort, healing, and restoration. I was reminded of all the ways God had moved to provide exactly what the ministry needed this year to do the work before us. I reflected on the times when God met me personally to encourage and strengthen my heart when I felt overwhelmed.

Perhaps today you find yourself in that place of mourning and ashes. Maybe you feel as if your life is in the grave. Take heart! God is in the business of rebirth. No matter how large or small the hurt, God’s heart is to meet you in your pain and bring you comfort and healing (Matthew 11:28).

Perhaps instead you have recently experienced comfort and refreshment from Jesus. Maybe you have seen God move to resurrect a part of your heart. Rejoice! Now is the time to share your story with others and bring them that same comfort and encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:4).

As the world is renewed around us this spring, our prayer is that each of you will experience God’s healing and restoration in your hearts and lives. God is in the business of transformation! Let us celebrate what has already begun and watch with expectancy for the next stage of God’s transforming work.

Yours in ministry,

Wendy

PS:  We are so encouraged by your faithfulness: in prayer, in support, and in giving. Thanks to you we were able to raise just over $16,000 to help fund our 2021 vision. While we still have funding needs for this year, we’re grateful for your ongoing generosity and partnership. We trust that God will continue to provide as we move forward in ministry.

Elijah Company

Elijah Company is a prayer and support group for parents and friends that have loved ones who identify as LGBTQ.

Why is it called Elijah Company?

The name come from the last verses of the last chapter of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5-6a says, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.” We hope to see the spirit of Elijah be present through this group. One of the greatest horrors parents can face is watching their child wander from the Truth. Yet in the midst of heartache and what feels like devastating loss on many levels, there is hope. As hearts are healed, transformed, and turned towards our children, we wait in expectancy for the Holy Spirit to also turn the children’s hearts back towards their parents and—most importantly—back to their Heavenly Father. This is not limited to parents, however. As we are bonded together as one family through the blood of Christ, we can join hearts in praying for the return of all God’s sons and daughters.

If you come to Elijah Company, what could you expect to find?

You would find other parents who love and care with you about your son or daughter. You would find other parents who are further ahead of you in the journey of walking with a loved one who identifies as LGBTQ. You would find other parents growing in their own faith as they move along on this journey. You would find other parents who are learning what it means to walk in truth and love. You would find parents wrestling with situations and attitudes and searching for God’s answer. You would be learning that mercy triumphs over judgment.

What are some of the things we do in our time together each week?

Our time together is rich! We are family to each other. We listen to each other and are able to empathize. We point each other to the scriptures that sustain us, encourage us, and give us hope. And we pray for ourselves to become more like Jesus to our sons and daughters, not compromising the truth, but extending mercy.

We love the Lord. He is our Rock. We pray for our children and those impacted by sexual sin to be released and set free. We are the watchmen on the wall waiting for them to come home to the Father.

If you want to join us, we’d love to have you! To find out more, send an email to jmersberger@outpostministries.org

A New Mission Statement, But The Same Calling

Chrysalis and Butterflies

2020 was a year of change.

I know the illustration of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly can be overused. However, most of us were definitely in a type of cocoon this last year! Organizationally TCJHOP and Outpost had a similar experience. Amidst all the shaking, we got to ask ourselves, “What’s really important?” and “Who are we as a whole organization?” We eventually arrived at a mission statement that unites all the parts of our ministry:

TCJHOP exists to love God, declare freedom, and establish outposts of restoration for the sexually and relationally broken Body of Christ.

This is not a change in who we are or what we have been doing but a change in how we clearly communicate what we are all about. While I do not have the space to go into each part in depth, I do want to point out a few things in this statement.

Love God

Loving God is a broad concept, but for us at TCJHOP, we think of it as the beginning, end, and sustaining point of all our journeys. The love of God is what calls us towards holiness, loving God is our reward, and that reciprocity of love is what continually motivates us. This is why we have a prayer room—a place people can encounter God, receive His love, and love Him in return. Healing just doesn’t happen without encounter with God.

Declare Freedom

American culture has a lot of different ideas of what freedom means and entails. For TCJHOP, the freedom we are talking about is the one Isaiah 61 mentions and Jesus quotes at the start of His ministry. It is freedom from sin and not to sin. It is God’s restorative justice. That is the freedom we bear witness to and declare to the Church and the world.

Establish Outposts of Restoration

Just as Outpost Ministries is a ministry of TCJHOP, TCJHOP would not exist without Outpost Ministries. A ministry of outposts is central to our identity. What is an outpost? It is the furthest reach of a kingdom’s territory. In establishing outposts, we are targeting 1) those who are just defecting from the enemy’s domain and 2) those who are wandering to the outskirts of the Kingdom. We are and will be a frontline and semi-fringe ministry. Looking again at Isaiah 61, we see that God is a God of restoration. He is always looking to redeem and restore, as they are the essence of the Kingdom. All the enemy-occupied territory has been taken back. The Kingdom is not about conquering new land but restoring it to its rightful ruler. TCJHOP is seeking for every heart and life stolen by sexual and relational sin and brokenness to be restored to their True King.

Changes

In crafting this clearer mission statement, we also wanted to better integrate TCJHOP as a whole and show that we truly are one ministry in a united mission. In that same spirit, you may notice our newsletter changing its format in the coming months. Part of this change is so we can include all of our ministry partners in our newsletter updates and mailings. Another part is because some updating is overdue!

What Will Be Different?

We want to bring the most relevant content regularly. There will still be monthly newsletters. However, the majority of these will be shorter and focused on the main updates from our ministry. At the same time, we want to provide a deeper look into some of our specific ministry groups and events and will spotlight one or two each month.

Additionally, we know that our articles have been a source of encouragement for many. We still plan to have these articles but will be compiling multiple articles into a single document—a longer-form letter—which we will send out a few times each year. We hope these longer-form letters will continue to encourage and inspire you and that this format will make the newsletter easier to collect and refer to when needed.

In the midst of all this change, please be patient with us as we work out some of the details. We are so excited for what God is doing with TCJHOP and Outpost and His plan for the coming year

Merry Christmas From the Staff of TCJHOP and Outpost!

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son
from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Well, we’re almost there. Christmas 2020. This Christmas may feel very different than some of our other Christmases. It may be harder to see family (I still haven’t been able to even meet my in-laws in person!). While there are a lot of changes, the Truth and the reason we celebrate remain the same. Speaking of things not changing, I’m still a nerd as well as a pastor, so please bear with me as I talk a little about Greek.

The word “dwelt” used in John 1:14 is tied to the tabernacle. It could better be translated, “The Word became flesh and fixed His tabernacle among us.” This is meant to call to mind the time when God’s presence was in a tent in the wilderness because that’s where His people were. God’s character doesn’t change. Just as He was willing to dwell in the midst of His people in the literal wilderness, He desires to abide with His people no matter where they are. God has made a place for His people even on the outskirts, at the outposts, in the hard to reach places. He tabernacles with those that feel far away. As we remember Christmas, we remember our Savior laying all His glory and riches and privileges aside to be born into a barn because there was no room for Him. Christmas is the reminder that the Good Shepherd seeks us out to reside with us—not the other way around.

This is incredibly good news! Especially for those for whom our ministry exists. We are called to establish outposts of restoration for the sexually and relationally broken Body of Christ. Even as we feel like we are on the fringes of the Kingdom, we are reassured that it is in the lowly places that God chooses to dwell and manifest His presence.

Thank you for supporting this ministry as we continue to provide a place for the broken to encounter God’s dwelling presence, no matter how far off they feel. Thank you for helping establish this outpost of restoration.

Jonathan M., Outpost Director

Jonathan Signature

Giving: Obligation or Opportunity?

Click here to Donate to TCJHOP and Outpost

I don’t like talking about money. Most the time, I don’t even like thinking about it. And I really don’t like asking for it. I mean—who actually enjoys asking or being asked for money? (Spoiler alert, that’s what I’m going to do in this article.) However, the only way I’m able to do this–and in fact enjoy writing this–is because I now have come to realize I’m not trying to make anyone feel obliged to give. Rather, I get to present an opportunity for giving.

Sowing and Reaping

Sometimes I’m surprised at how much the Bible talks about money and giving. The apostle Paul is not shy regarding talking about or asking for money. In fact, there are two chapters in one of his letters that are basically a lengthy request for money. Paul makes this long appeal in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 about giving to the needs of the saints in Jerusalem. Usually only 2 Cor. 9:6-7 are quoted, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” However, there is a lot more to unpack in this passage.

Too often I’ve heard the “sowing and reaping” language being hijacked by proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” (Which I am really not a fan of…) Reading more of the surrounding context, this passage is not at all about how the givers can be rewarded for giving. Their reward was not to just “be blessed” in return or get some material dividends on this spiritual investment. Their reward is bringing about thanksgiving to God, as it says in verse 12, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Ultimately, then, God’s glory is the reward. Paul was inviting the Corinthians into this opportunity to be part of what God was doing and more fully worship and experience God’s goodness in their giving.

Burdens Or Blessings

This idea of opportunity versus obligation isn’t unique to giving. Unfortunately, we Christians do a great job of making burdens out of what should be blessings. For example, some people make their calling to ministry sound like such a burden! I get so frustrated when I hear others compare themselves to Jonah and talk about “running away from their call.” Like giving, ministry is a privilege not a compulsion!

Some of the best advice I’ve had through the years in considering my own call to ministry is (1) God doesn’t need you and (2) God will love you the same whether you follow your call or not. After all, God’s mission and purpose will not be foiled by my lack of obedience. My call to ministry, with all the suffering, pain, affliction, loneliness, ups, downs, in-betweens, and general craziness, is a gift and a privilege. I get to partner with God! If that’s all I get from ministry—i.e. my only reward is His being glorified—then I’m more than blessed. Likewise, when I give, my reward is God being glorified.

An Invitation to Give

I say all this to now extend an invitation for you to partner with us in what God is doing here at Outpost. Some of you are maybe feeling the Holy Spirit nudge you to give, and that’s great. Some of you maybe don’t feel any specific conviction yet simply want to give. That’s great too! If you can’t give, we understand and are not worried about it.

  • Do we need the money? Of course. Like many other ministries and nonprofits, giving has been less this year.
  • Do we need the support? Absolutely. This ministry for the sexually and relationally broken is one that faces attacks from many sides.
  • Do we need you to feel guilt so that you give? No. God is our ultimate provider. While your giving does help further our mission and ministry, ultimately it’s all about the result of thanksgiving and glory to God. Please do consider this opportunity to cheerfully partner with us toward the glory of God!

Give to the Max Day is Minnesota’s annual Giving Holiday. This year, it falls on November 19. Our goal is to raise $10,000. The giving opportunity opens at givemn.org/organization/TCJHOP on November 1 and goes through 11:59pm November 19. Each organization receiving a gift on any of those dates gets entered into a daily raffle for additional grants and prizes. There will also be special power hours on November 19 where additional prizes will be given. By giving at givemn.org/organization/TCJHOP, you help us to be eligible for these extra opportunities. Give to the Max is over for 2020, but you can always give on our website.

When Temples Topple: God’s Unexpected Blueprint for Community

Open door with a glow of light through it from the outside

Back in January when we asked a friend (who lives in Wuhan) to officiate our wedding, we did not expect a virus outbreak to happen. We really didn’t expect this outbreak to affect the world the way it has, with some of us just now returning to limited church gatherings and others still waiting.

As we are navigating how, when—or if—to start gathering in-person for worship, many of us feel displaced. For those that have gone back, church looks a lot different than when we left it. The old normal seems like an increasingly distant memory.

The Israelites experienced something similar but to a much greater extent during their return from captivity. The temple that was supposed to be the center of worship for the God of the universe had been destroyed, and the Israelites were sent to Babylon. The books of Ezra & Nehemiah tell the story about their return to Israel. This return to normalcy was pretty anticlimactic, especially regarding temple worship.

But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.

—Ezra 3:12

Those that wept probably had in mind the stories of the temple’s dedication where God’s presence descended into the midst of Israel’s assembly. Yet, this didn’t happen for them. Yes, they were back in their land, and, yes, the temple was being rebuilt. But this seemed like a far cry from God’s promise of establishing His kingdom of perfect peace over all the nations. This shadow of the former glory prompted the question of whether that former glory would ever return! One thing was for sure: the pre-exile days were over, and there was no going back.

But God had something greater in mind. After all, His covenant was not with a building but with a community of people. A few hundred years later, Jesus—God Incarnate—was conceived and born into the world. He is the true Temple. After His death, resurrection, and ascension, this new group of believers are revealed to be the place where God’s Holy Spirit rests and dwells.  It is through this community that God sets up His temple, and it is to this community He entrusts His kingdom. God has always intended His creation to be His cosmic temple, and us humans to work as priests within this ultimate temple. [By the way, the people at the Bible Project can tell a lot of this with much cooler imagery, and it is worth looking up!]

So, why am I talking about all of this temple stuff? It’s because it helps us understand where we are in this season. I do not believe God allows things to happen arbitrarily. He knew this pandemic would happen and disrupt our old normal way of doing church. Instead of trying to go back to the “former glory” or mourning its loss like the repatriated Israelites, we should recognize that we are moving from one kind of glory to another. God has something greater in mind.

God has allowed what can be shaken to be shaken, so what is unshakable remains (Hebrews 12:26-28). We have the opportunity to ask ourselves: “What is the Church without a building? Do we see the Church continuing to live and thrive? Did we put more trust in our temples/buildings/programs than in the Living God?” The Church is ultimately a community of believers. All we need is two or three for Christ’s presence and authority to be in the midst of us. For me, this has been a sobering reminder that I have maybe put too much emphasis on our centralized gatherings. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to see believers together in groups, and I miss it! However, I fear I have leaned toward making the same mistakes the Israelites did. They focused too much on a physical center of worship and lost sight of the main mission, which was to be a light to the nations. The mission wasn’t to hoard God’s presence but to spread it far and wide!

A great irony for me is that being that light is what we try to emphasize at Outpost. Our groups are really meant to be a communitas (a temporary liminal gathering for the purpose of change) more than a permanent static community. Throughout Strive—our summer masculinity program for young men–we emphasize that the goal of healing is ultimately not for yourself, but so that you can return to your community as a good gift. And we have seen many men do just that. In fact, we have had four weddings of alumni this summer (my own included). Our mission is not to hoard what God is doing, but to multiply it.

Even as we think of more enduring communities, such as our local churches, we must realize that these are not meant to be permanent and static. Our Christian “temple worship” was never intended to be contained within four walls. Our churches—and our gatherings of even two or three—are ultimately transitional spaces leading into God’s Kingdom and the fullness of Jesus’ rule and reign over everything when He returns! We are the living Temple, and we are meant to grow and expand and see God’s presence spread across all creation and all spheres of society.

So when we think about community as Christians, let us not get discouraged by restrictions on how we meet or how long this will last. This is an opportunity to embrace a new kind of normal. A normal that truly realizes the priesthood of believers. A normal that fulfills our call to carry God’s presence to all people, all places, and all circumstances. That why we are called an Outpost. We stand at the farthest edges of the Kingdom, and we are seeking to expand that Kingdom into the hardest and darkest places of our world.