Monthly Archives: November 2012

People Can’t Imitate Your Intentions


This is a guest blog from my friend Ben Sternke – His blog is my favorite on the the entire world wide web!

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned through being involved with 3DM is that imitation is a vital component of discipleship. It’s not enough to give people the right information and then send them straight out from there to try to implement it. There is a necessary experience of imitation in an apprenticeship environment that must take place.

When I first heard this, I instantly realized I was really good at giving people the information, but I was not very consistent in providing people with an example to imitate. I realized that people couldn’t imitate my intentions, they can only imitate my actions, which meant I had to lead by example or I was never going to make a disciple.

So we’ve slowly been developing new rhythms in our life that we can invite others into, so they can “imitate us as we imitate Christ.” My friend Jason Smith asked me awhile ago about what these rhythms looked like, and I promised him a blog post on it! Here we go.

The rule of life we follow shapes our lives and our community around three relational priorities:

  • UP – with God, expressed in passionate spirituality.
  • IN – with the church, expressed in radical community.
  • OUT – with others, expressed in missional zeal.

I’ve organized the specific rhythms under these three categories. These rhythms are flexible, and obviously some have changed temporarily to aid the process of grafting together with another church in our city, but this gives you a general picture of what we’ve been doing for the past year or so in our Missional Community.

Passionate Spirituality (UP)

  • Family prayer, morning and evening. Not too many people join us for this one, of course, but simply having a time of prayer with our family twice a day provides tons of fresh stories to tell others about how Deb and I are seeking to disciple our children. And sometimes people do get to join us, which is always lots of fun. Sometimes it goes well, other times it’s a struggle, but the fruit comes from the consistency of the discipline over time.

  • Community worship and prayer, Sundays. Every Sunday we gather with our Missional Community for a time of worship, Scripture and prayer together. Sometimes we gather in a worship celebration with other MCs in our network, other times we gather as a MC in a home or around a fire, but once a week we are intentionally engaging in communal worship, Scripture reading, and prayer for one another.

  • Prayer furnace, once a month. Once a month we gather on a Friday evening to spend an extended time in worship and prayer together, allowing our faith to rise from the needs within our MC to the needs of our city. We pray kingdom-oriented prayer for our city and region, inviting anyone in who wants to join us. Sometimes we have 5 people, other times 50, but again it’s about the consistency of the discipline over time.

Radical Community (IN)

  • Eating with others, at least once a week. We try to have someone over to eat with us at least once a week. Some weeks we eat with others a lot more, but we try to make sure it happens at least once a week.

  • Intentional proximity. This is more of a long-term thing, but it is something we take seriously. One of the families from our community recently moved into our neighborhood, and we’ve found an exponential increase in our ability to really be in community with them, simply because of their geographical proximity. It’s worth prioritizing when thinking of where to live.

  • Economic sharing when possible. We had some friends move in down the street from us, and we’ve been trying to be intentional about sharing resources together. For example, we share a lawn mower. We are looking forward to more of this kind of sharing in the future.

  • Parties, once a month or so. We try to make sure there is some kind of “fun” happening once a month that we can invite others into. Sometimes it’s a bonfire, sometimes it’s movie night, sometimes it’s guys’ night out, sometimes it’s girls’ night out, etc. Informal time for people to connect.

Missional Zeal (OUT)

  • Intentional mission, once a month. Our MC plans at least one explicitly mission-oriented activity per month. Sometimes it’s a prayer walk, other times it’s a game night at a homeless shelter for women and children, other times it’s kickball in the park to invite neighbors to… the important thing is keeping a foot on the “mission gas pedal” because our overwhelming tendency is to turn inward.

  • OUT focus at MC gatherings. We try to constantly bring our focus back to an outward posture in our MC gatherings, whether it’s by training people practically in evangelism or recognizing “people of peace,” or by going for a quick prayer walk around the neighborhood, or by simply having a brief time of explicitly outward-focused prayer, or by having people share stories of breakthrough in evangelism or loving their neighbors.

Those are the basic rhythms it seems we’ve attempted to create. I’d love to hear from you, though:

What are the rhythms that you have sought to implement in your disciple making?

Ben + Deb Sternke live in Fort Wayne, Indiana with their kids Ethan, Raina, Ella, and Sydney. The Sternkes direct spiritual formation and discipleship efforts at a church called Grace Gathering, which is beginning to function as a network of mid-sized missional communities in the Fort Wayne area. They also coach church leaders from all over the U.S. through 3DM, and have a background in church planting and worship ministry.



Anchor Points – Ski Trip Dec 12-16 – Sign Up Now

Hebrews 6:19
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.



Lots of exciting announcements around here recently!  Here’s the next one.  We have officially launched a new ministry called Anchor Points!

Our first trip is Dec 12-16 in Massanutten Virginia – If you are a young adult or college age student you can register here:

After working with college students for the past 15 years we have realized a few things.

1) – The fundamental principle of leadership is disruption but students are unwilling to allow God to disrupt their lives.  So we want to give students an opportunity to immerse themselves for a few days where they can receive bite sized pieces of discipleship.  We want to give students a chance to get away for a few days, laugh, worship and play with a group of believers and take a few moments to simply say to God my life is yours, this semester is yours, have your way with me.  We want to listen to God and come up with a plan for how we respond to him in the coming school year

2) – We retreat so we can advance.  John 15 teaches us that apart from God we can do nothing.  So we need to abide, then grow we need to rest and then work.  So we desire to slow our pace, to let God speak and to be still and know that He is God.  We do this not to escape our campuses or retreat from our world’s.  We retreat so we might advance when we return home!

3) – The presence of God drives out fear 70% of our college students will walk away from their faith between the ages of 18-25.  According to a recent survey, the number one reason students don’t live out their faith is because they are afraid.  We believe that the presence of God drives out fear!  We believe that God wants to give us all we need to bring revival back to our campuses.  We think that God still wants to use “ordinary and unschooled men” like us.  So we want to slow down and rest in our daddies arms so he can give us strength to live out our faith is a real way.

We desire to allow students through play & training to develop a plan for what it would look like for them to become a missionary on their campus, at their work place or in their context.  Join us as we learn to live from the hinges of life!

The TOM Project

For the last few months Sarah and myself and a group of friends have been dreaming about what it would look like to plant 100 churches on the 100 most influential college campuses in the US.  Well its happening, I’m so excited to be a part of this team & thrilled about the possibilities this holds for the kingdom!
This quote may explain best what I we have been thinking!

The main reason Christian believers today lack influence in the culture, despite their aspirations, is not because they don’t believe enough or try hard enough or think Christianly enough. It’s because they’ve been absent from the arenas in which the greatest influence in the culture is exerted. ~ James Davidson Hunter, To Change the World

So please check out this announcement from Mike Breen & the website for the TOM project we are thrilled to see God creating a movement of multiplying disciples and churches on the college campus!

If you are as excited about this vision as we are then there are 3 ways you can get involved:

1) – Training – If you have already planted or are working in an existing campus ministry and are looking for training then join us. We will discuss how to build a discipling culture, how to create a movement of  missional communities, and how to create sustainable economic engines to sustain ministry.   I don’t believe there is another training out there that is as effective and intentional for college pastors as these learning communities.  You can sign up here.

1st Learning community begins Feb 17-22 2013

2) – Future College Church Planters –  If you are preparing to plant or God is stirring your heart towards planting then why not plant on a college campus.  Move to one of our missional training centers, spend 2 years being trained in principles and practice.  Then we will send you out to one of the 100 most influential campuses in the US.  For more info on this training read here.  Contact me if you are interested

3) – New Thing Partnership – In order to pioneer new and exciting initiatives we believe we need to grab a group of pioneering leaders to join us as we seek to make this dream reality.  We are grabbing 6 to 8 church planters and giving them the best of both worlds.  They will receive all the training from TOM and they will also receive the brotherhood and coaching  throughout the year with the New thing Network. 

For us being a part of these 2 networks has allowed us to receive training and brotherhood in a way that has been amazingly beneficial.  If you are interested in joining this pioneering network through new thing contact me @

Oikos for introverts

Let me be really honest – I am a classic introvert.  I love a quiet corner, a good book and a few hours alone are often incredibly life giving for me.  So here is the dilemma, I am also a pastor!  I meet with person after person throughout the day & on most days people are expecting my social “A” game.   Our family has worked very hard to open up our lives to our church family, neighbors and a huge amount of college students who seem to just show up at our place.  Even when I want open up my life to my church family & neighbors I still sometimes find a tension that I need to live in.  My name is Ben and I am an introvert!

I am often asked by my fellow introverts, we are only 25% of the population, how do you operate as an extended family on mission, when your tendency is to want to be alone.  As a church, we believe that the model of new testament evangelism always operated in “oikos” or extended families sharing life.  That’s why all throughout Acts we see Paul going from “family to family” or “House to house.”  That’s why we see one person come to Christ, then an entire family follow, like Lydia & the Jailer in Phillipi.   Oikos, is an extended family sharing life and mission together.  Within this shared life we believe discipleship flourishes because it becomes less about a bible study that gives information, and more about a family unit that allows imitation.  here’s a great blog describing oikos from my friends at 3dmUk

So for the last 2 weeks our life has been crazy, the relational pace I am on would have killed me a few years ago, because I have been with people every night for 2 straight weeks.  We have had visitors at the house for the past 2 weekends, dinner guests nearly every night & late night meetings around the fire pit.  All of this is wonderful for my extroverted wife who gains energy from being around people but it can be challenging for introverts like me who at times become drained by people & gain energy by being alone.

So in the middle of this I am learning to be me “an introvert’ but also learning to thrive in our “oikos” family.

Here are a few things I have learned:

1) – Sabbath keeping makes me relationally strong – When I have healthy patterns of rest & work in my life, my strength is not gained or drained by people, because it is given to me by God!  When I am not resting, I become far more selfish with my time & I have far less to give others.  There is a very real reality that the call on my life at times is to be Gods spokesperson.  If I am not resting in Him, or finding my strength in him than all I am offering others is my leftovers.  When I live in the natural rythmn of rest & work I have much more to give because I am abiding in my father who gives me all I need for the mission he has called me to.

2) – Being in a family means sacrifice – At dinner tonight my son said, “I don’t want to eat dinner at the table with the family.”  I told him he didn’t have a choice that our family eats together. Sometimes being a part of a family means that you sacrifice for the good of the family.  Now there are a lot of things that we are very comfortable sacrificing for because we know they are worth the cost.  I workout (occasionally) because I know that its worth the cost, I sacrifice my desires for my family because I know its worth it.  I don’t think that our evangelical culture has learned that sacrificing for the sake of oikos is worth it.  Anything worth doing is worth sacrificing for.  Sometimes I sacrifice my comfort, my time, my efforts for my church family, they do the same for me, its worth it!  Call me crazy but it seems like Jesus lead the way in this by laying down his life for his family, we are called to do the same.  The benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.

3) – Leaders go first – An old boss used to say always that “leaders go first.”  They set the tone, they lead the way.  If we are asking others to imitate our lives than we have to ask ourselves some tough questions.  Do I only go first in areas of comfort or am I willing to go first when I’m asked to get outside of my comfort zone?  Is my home hospitable?  Do my neighbors see the love of Christ in us?  Do we throw the best parties in the neighborhood?  Jesus did all of these things.  We want to as well, which means I need to go first and model the way.

4) – Set Healthy Boundaries – I have to say no to people in my missional community, people in my huddle, people on staff and even our neighbors at times.  I say no when something is already planned, when my wife and I have a date, when the family is doing family game night.  Its easy to say no when your priorities are in line.  When they aren’t, you find yourself saying yes to the wrong things & no to the right things.  Its all about intentionality, if you don’t take control of your calendar someone else will.  I believe my calendar & my check book should be the two most important theological documents I write.  They should clearly say to anyone who sees them who I belong to.

This Generation & Tomorrows Bread







We just finished up  a series learning about the Lords prayer.  We landed on the simple verse, “give us this day our daily bread.”

There are 3 never failing constants in college ministry:

1) – Food helps – If you feed them they will come – Usually the awkward ones who don’t have $ but someone will come.

2) – Sex sells – If you talk about sex they will come & ask questions – College students like sex, also the sky is blue!

3) – Gods will is always discussed – Gods will, will consistently enter into your conversation as a college minister.  Whats God will for my relationship?  Whats his will for my career?  For my major?  For my lunch choice (Tom Chee coming soon)? The most common question I am asked by students is what is Gods will for my life.

Its as if every college student wants to decipher Gods will and then decide whether it lines up with their plans. If it does they get after it, if it doesn’t they begin trying to re-discover Gods will again.  For some this becomes a vicious circle of disobedience and the question we ask is why?  Why must this cycle repeat itself & how do we get to a place where we simply trust that God doesn’t call the equipped but that he equips the called.

What we have realized in the last 2 years is how many students are unable to move to where God has called them because they don’t just want Gods provision for today but they want tomorrows bread as well!
In Exodus 16, Gods people find themselves in the same place we find ourselves nearly everyday, they are struggling to trust God.  They are beginning to grumble, “at least in Eygpt as slaves we had 3 meals a day.”  They feel let down by God and as slaves they have learned to depend on themselves.  As much as they had cried out to him for deliverance and seen him work, they still struggle to trust him with their daily bread.  So God shows up again…….

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

Even when God requests that people only gather enough for the day many weren’t satisfied with today’s bread & wanted to grab tomorrow’s as well.  They weren’t content with today’s provision!  Ultimately,  they did not trust that God was good or able  because they had learned to trust in what they could see or do and not in who God was and what he was doing.
I have a close friend who adopted a young boy from Ethiopia, he is an amazing dad.  I’ve watched him love his kids, serve them, give himself up for them & protect & provide for them in  a way that is a great example for me & other fathers.  Even though he is great dad & even though he has always provided for his son.  His son will still at times take food from the cupboards & hide it in his room.  He will still throw an extra piece of dinner in his pocket for fear that his father won’t provide.  He has no reason not to trust his father, he always has food on the table, but still he wants to make certain he has a back up plan in case dad doesn’t come through.

It sounds silly on the outside but that is exactly how this generation treats God!

It as if God is our great back up plan if for some reason our dependence on ourselves doesn’t work out!

So this plays out in so many different scenarios but ultimately, it not only stops us from experiencing the full life with God but it stops us from pioneering new ideas and developing new frontiers in the kingdom.

When God calls us to something new he provides for that new vision.  But that provision is usually found in a day by day walking by faith not simply in one days provision.  I see far too many young people who don’t want to just know the next step from God, they want to know the 10 year plan.   Without the 10 year plan its as if we are often incapable of moving.

We have asked our church family to embrace a simple prayer everyday for the rest of the year.

“Lord give us eyes to see, and the courage to believe.”

Eyes to see where God is working, what he is doing, where he is asking us to move and the courage to believe that he will give us all we need for the journey!

Where are the areas of your life where you want tomorrows bread before you will move?

Where are you feeling stuck in your faith?

Could this be an issue of trusting in tomorrows bread instead of today?

What is the next step God is asking you to take?  Are you willing to trust him one step at a time?