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Gospel Reverb – Can I Get a Witness? w/ Terry Ishee

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This month, our host, Anthony Mullins, welcomes Terry Ishee. Together they unpack the May 2024 sermon pericopes. Terry is the Executive Director of Forge America, a community of practitioners cultivating practitioners who join the everyday mission of God. He’s also the co-founder and an executive coach at Sequoias Coaching & Consulting.

May 5—Sixth Sunday of Easter
John 15:9-17, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”

May 12—Ascension Sunday
Luke 24:44-53, “Can I Get a Witness?”

May 19—Pentecost
John 15:26-27; 16:4-15, “Truth-Teller”

May 26—Trinity Sunday
John 3:1-17, “Born Anew”

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Program Transcript

Can I Get a Witness? w/ Terry Ishee

Welcome to the Gospel Reverb podcast. Gospel Reverb is an audio gathering for preachers, teachers, and Bible thrill seekers. Each month, our host, Anthony Mullins, will interview a new guest to gain insights and preaching nuggets mined from select passages of Scripture in that month’s Revised Common Lectionary.

The podcast’s passion is to proclaim and boast in Jesus Christ, the one who reveals the heart of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And now onto the episode.

Anthony: Hello friends and welcome to the latest episode of Gospel Reverb. Gospel Reverb is a podcast devoted to bringing you insights from Scripture found in the Revised Common Lectionary and sharing commentary from a Christ-centered and Trinitarian view.

I’m your host, Anthony Mullins, and it’s my joy to welcome our guest, Terry Ishee. Terry is the executive director of Forge America, a community of practitioners, cultivating practitioners who joined the everyday mission of God. He’s also the co-founder and executive coach of Sequoia’s Coaching and Consulting.

And I spent a year learning and gaining new insights from Terry as he coached me in church planting. And it just seemed every conversation we had an “aha” or sometimes the “oh,” which could be really valuable to my participation in the Lord’s ministry. Terry is married to Amy, and they have [a daughter] and he lives in Texas. Big football fan.

Terry, thanks for being with us and welcome to the podcast. And since this is your first time on Gospel Reverb, we’d love to know a bit about your story. And how you are participating with the Lord these days.

[00:01:44] Terry: Thank you, Anthony, for having me on. I love you; I love your tribe and I love your people.

And it’s been fun to get to meet several of your pastors and leaders from around the country. And man, it’s just a joy to be here with you today.

[00:01:58] Anthony: Awesome. Our some of our listeners will be familiar with Forge America and some won’t. You’re the executive director. So, we’re going to go straight to the source.

What is Forge America? And what is the organization’s relationship with the church?

[00:02:13] Terry: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, Forge America is actually a part of a larger global movement. Forge Global is an organization where we hold the missional incarnational impulse of Jesus and kingdom movements. We hold that up. We champion that.

And so, we exist in eight countries around the world. Forge America is about 14 years old, and I’ve served on the team for about 13 of those years. And where Forge intersects with the church, we really believe in a practitioner way of community.

And what we’ve discovered, especially in the West where we’re seeing church decline — and I’m sure that we don’t need to go into all of that and all the issues that where we see ourselves in the current landscape of a church in America — but what we’re trying to do is recapture a practitionership, an apprentice style of discipleship, where we are seeing ourselves one in the image of God.

But also, we’re the sent ones of Jesus. And just as the Father sent the Son, the Son and Spirit have sent us to be his ambassadors, to his advocates, to be the hands and feet to be love manifest in the world. So, we actually come alongside church leaders and organizational leaders and help them actually cultivate this type of practitionership, this type of disciple making.

And Forge is an organization where no one does Forge full time, which I find to be just a fascinating thing in my own life. And so, I you mentioned Sequoias. I do a lot of coaching and work outside of Forge. Forge kind of is the big paradigm shaping organization. I work with a lot of people who are wrestling with the big picture piece. Sequoias really serves as an organization that comes along in the implementation piece. And so, Forge is very much a visionary type organization; Sequoias is very much an integration implementing type organization.

And then I’m also a pastor. I’ve been a pastor for 27 years. I’ve planted five churches, and as a church planting catalyst, I’ve worked alongside 150 plus church plants and church planters. And that’s just been a joy.

And I am a pastor; I’m a missionary in my everyday life, and that is my primary thing that I give my energy and time to. And everything I do with Forge, everything I do with Neighborhood Church Collective, and everything I do with Sequoias is an overflow of that practice. And so we are, I’m very much a practitioner first type of guy.

[00:05:09] Anthony: Yeah, that’s encouraging to hear because we’re going to talk Scripture and theology, but if it’s disconnected from the actual work of the church and the life of the body, something’s missing, right?

The fact that you’re focused on practitioners is a beautiful thing. So let me put you on the spot. If somebody wanted to find out more about Forge or Sequoias or the neighborhood organization you mentioned, how would they find you?

[00:05:34] Terry: Yeah. So forgeamerica.com is the website. If you’re looking for some tangible practical tools, forge.teachable.com has our membership portal. It’s where people who are part of our tribe that are like, hey, this is how I’m actually cultivating. This is where our resourcing is found. It’s where our training is found, but forgeamerica.com, forge.teachable.com — lots of great information.

And there’s some great freebies. And so, you don’t — we try to be a very generous organization. That’s the beautiful thing about not having full-time staff is you have low overhead, so we’re able to give away quite a bit and be generous with the church. And that’s a great place to find that.

And then Sequoia’s coaching and consulting. One of the things we found out when we named our organization, Sequoia’s, we actually got it from Wendell Berry’s poem, where he’s speaking in Mad Farmers Manifesto [sic] [Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front], where he says, “Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.”

And so, we love this idea of lasting impact, that what you do today can have an impact a hundred years from now. Sequoias, those redwoods take forever to come to full maturity. And so, the picture of lasting impact was really a big part of why we named it Sequoias.

The problem with that is Sequoias is a hard word to spell. I think every vowel that exists is in that word. And so, on a day-to-day basis, I can’t remember the order of those vowels. And you can find us online at bigtrees.cc. Yeah, if you know how to spell sequoias, you can find us at sequoias.cc for coaching and consulting, but you can also find us at bigtrees.cc. And there’s lots of information; it shows the 50 plus organizations that we’ve had the privilege of working with in coaching. And yeah, that’s how you can find us.

[00:07:32] Anthony: I’m glad Sequoia is not a wordle word five letters, because I would never get there. I’d never spell it. That’s right. And thank God for Wendell Berry. Any guy that’s from Kentucky he’s a good guy.

All right, let’s get to it! Here are the lectionary passages we’ll be discussing:

John 15:9-17, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”

Luke 24:44-53, “Can I Get a Witness?”

John 15:26-27; 16:4-15, “Truth-Teller”

John 3:1-17, “Born Anew”

Our first passage of the month is John 15:9-17. I’ll be reading from the Common English Bible. It’s the Revised Common Lectionary passage for the sixth Sunday in Easter, which is May 5.

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.

Terry, if you’re exegeting and preaching this sermon or a sermon from this text, what’s going to be your big idea or your central theme?

[00:09:37] Terry: Yeah. Man, this is such a wonderful passage. And I love that it’s love. I think you can’t look at this passage and not really let your theme be this idea of love and to embrace and receive the love of the Father. I think is often missing in the church today, especially in the West.

I think we carry so much shame, and we carry so much baggage from our own lives that sometimes receiving the love of the Father is really difficult. And then that’s the idea of remaining in love. How do we actually remain in love? It’s a big deal.

And then out of that — like I said, I’m a big action guy and so super pragmatic. And so out of receiving the Father’s love, finding those postures of remaining, and keeping place with love because God is love, right? He is love, loving to us. And then out of that, what does it look like to love each other just as we have received the love from the Father?

And so that’s, I think that’s where I’m camping. I want people to understand that at the end of the day, your formation, your discipleship, your worship, it should all be moving towards developing this sort of love that when we are in circumstances, when we’re in life, how do we respond to the world around us?

I find myself struggling with this at times where it’s easy that someone will say something, or someone will do something and it’s inconvenient to myself. And so, do I have a sharp response to that? Or am I able to actually absorb that and respond in love? I’ll give you just a quick example of this.

Recently, me and my wife, we went and did a little date night last week. And we went and saw the new Bob Marley movie, which is, it’s pretty good. I really enjoyed it. And it’s “One Love.” And so, there’s lots of concepts in talking about love and the bigger picture and a that whole thing.

And there was a couple that was behind us and they — Anthony, I’m not kidding, man — they talked the entire time. And it was one of those things where there’s some people, they have — they’re just so clueless to the volume of their own voice. They thinking they’re whispering and making little comments, but they’re talking full volume.

And I can sense my wife next to me, who’s just — she’s boiling. I can feel it. She’s like, oh my gosh, she’s so [inaudible]. My wife has such compassion and is such a rule follower that anytime anyone inconveniences — like her whole life is to not inconvenience people. She just wants to honor and love people so well, but sometimes in the pursuit of, in the idea of inconvenience, she cannot be loving at times because just like you’re inconveniencing people; you’re wrong.

And so, we’re sitting there, and I found myself getting frustrated because movies are like, that’s my spot. Like, this is where I connect with God. And I just remember sitting there and that idea is you know what? I’m, just going to absorb this. I’m going to, yeah. Is it frustrating? Is there something inside of me that wants to stand up and look behind them? Hey, I’m six foot, 280, man; I’m a big guy. I need you to be quiet right now.

Like everything inside of me wanted to do that, but no, that’s not love. That’s not what Jesus would want for me. And so, are we able to, in circumstances, absorb the things that frustrate us? Absorb the things that make us want to operate and respond out of our own worldly flesh and to say, you know what I’m going to respond in love?

I’m going to love; I’m going to love others because Jesus has loved me. And if I were in a movie theater with Jesus, I would probably talk and annoy him too. And he would show me love. And so, in that moment I got to actually exercise my faith and show love and be generous.

And when the movie was over, we made eye contact with the couple. And I just put a big smile on my face, and I hoped my presence and my smile would just be a sense of blessing to them. Hey, you’re good. You’re wonderful. You are loved.

And it was great, and it didn’t take anything away from the movie. It actually enhanced the movie for me because it was a reminder that we’re to be a people of love. And so that’s where I would take that.

[00:14:09] Anthony: I would have stood up and said, get behind me, Satan! Because Jesus has done that. So right. You’re a better man than me. That’s for sure.

It states in verse 16, the Lord chose us. And He loves us, verse 9. And so, we are empowered by the Spirit to produce lasting and sustainable fruit. And that matters to God. So, Terry, talk to us about the long haul of discipleship in a world that frankly values the next shiny object, what’s going viral, quick fixes.

Talk to us about lasting fruit.

[00:14:44] Terry: Yeah. I think lasting fruit is something that’s not talked about enough. And we live in a world where the fruit we actually discuss are — we talk about the fruit of Mother Teresa, and we talk about the fruit of Hudson Taylor, and we talk about the fruit of these giants in the last 50, a hundred years of the church.

And we look back and we talk about the heroes of the faith, and we speak of their fruit. But man, I think there’s something that we miss about this idea of fruit that is happening slowly over a long period of faithfulness. I think it’s Eugene Peterson who uses that phrase “a long obedience in the same direction,” right?

And so that’s one of our themes for this conversation. And I think that’s what we have to get back to. I think when we think about lasting fruit, I’m not looking for guys and gals who just get up and do these grand slam, home run type things. But what does it look like in my every day walking around, my sleeping, eating and breathing life to be faithful, to be formed into the likeness of Christ? Will I actually submit and surrender my life to practicing the way of Jesus to be shaped and becoming like him? And will my life exhibit fruit from that journey?

I’m a firm believer. I think Jesus keeps it pretty simple that if we would simply be with Jesus over time, the more we spend with Jesus, the more we spend with Father, Spirit, and Son we will become like God. We’re pre-wired, right? We were created in the image of God.

And so that’s actually a more natural progression and direction for our lives. The problem is we don’t often prioritize that space of being with God, like that taking time to just to sit and be silent and maybe even at times find a little bit of solitude and just be with God.

One of my favorite passages is just simply, “Be still and know that I am God.” And so, I will find myself — and I tried to do this every day, where I just sit quietly. And I redirect my focus, my senses on the fact that God is with me right now. And even as we have this conversation, as you’re in Raleigh [NC], I’m here in Austin [TX], God is with both of us right now.

He’s in this moment. And as you’re listening to this and you’re on the podcast, whether you’re sitting at your desk or you’re driving in your car or wherever you might be, God’s presence is with you. And all we have to do is take our crazy focused attention and direct it towards his presence.

[00:17:57] Anthony: Yeah. And we’re there with him.

[00:17:59] Terry: Yeah.

[00:17:59] Anthony: Yeah. Amen. I have been rereading a book from Julie Canlis and she makes the statement, “All of life is spiritual. Work. Bearing children. Hobbies. Friendship. Repairing gutters. Commuting. This is our worship – the offering of our everyday stuff to God.” [A Theology of the Ordinary]

And the powerful formation of that is when we recognize that. That even as I’m podcasting, I’m sharing this with the Lord who is present, as you mentioned. And that is forming.

And I love that book that you referenced from Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. And frankly, lasting fruit, that slow fruit doesn’t look very impressive always, right? But it’s the accumulation, over time, of it. We look back and we go, oh, there’s wisdom. I see God at work there.

Let’s pivot to our next pericope of the month. It’s Luke 24:44-53. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Ascension Sunday, which is May the 12th. Terry, would you read it for us, please?

[00:19:02] Terry: I’d be honored to.

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.” 50 He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. 53 And they were continuously in the temple praising God.

[00:20:03] Anthony: I can hear Kirk Franklin in my head chanting, “Can I get a witness?” Yeah, and Jesus said you are witnesses of these things. But I’m curious; maybe we don’t have a full comprehension of what it means to be a witness. Is it just seeing the goodness of God?

Privatizing that or is there more to it?

[00:20:22] Terry: Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic question. Again, I think we have to keep it simple. I think if you are born anew, if you are a follower of Jesus, if Jesus is king and Lord of your life, there has been something transformative in you, right?

God is doing a work in us. And that is something that we witness. And by faith, we witness who Jesus is, that he is the incarnated God, that he came and lived a life amongst us and lived it as perfect as you can. No one could live a better life. And even in spite of that perfect life of doing no wrong was found by man to be wrong and died on our behalf and in his death, not being defeated, rose again and ascended. Here in this passage, we see him returning to heaven, being taken up.

We are a witness of this. There is a tradition that we are a collective witness to who Jesus is and the work of the Father. I do believe that one, being a witness is a bit self-serving and I don’t say that negatively. It is good. I am grateful that I have eyes to see who Jesus is. That is a blessing and a gift from God. And I have people in my life who do not have that gift. That they, for some reason, they just cannot wrap their mind around the idea of Jesus as Lord, as Jesus as king. And my heart grieves for them. But I don’t think that witness stays there alone.

Being a witness isn’t for my own purpose, my own satisfaction, my own worth, but I am to be a witness for the world; I am to give a report of what I have seen, right? And here’s the thing. I think again, this is so natural in what it means to be human. I think the human experience is to be a witness because we give testimony to all sorts of things, right?

There’s not a person on this earth that doesn’t give witness to something. The question is what are you giving testimony to? And I’m not advocating that we just walk around and talk about Jesus ad nauseam. I don’t think that’s what Jesus would want.

But I think in our everyday life, are we able to attribute who we are and what we exist for? Do we give attribution? Do we give credit to who Jesus is in our life? Can we actually speak of the king and kingdom?

And yeah, so that’s my quick answer. I think we have to be active that it’s not just simply, oh yeah, I saw this, I received this and then it ends with me receiving. But I think there is a sense of receiving and now giving back to others.

[00:23:41] Anthony: Yeah, you mentioned it in one of the previous passages about, or the previous one about love. It moves. There’s a movement. Love cannot be static. It’s got to move toward the other. That’s what it always does. And witnessing, birthed out of love, has to move toward others, right? You can’t keep the story to yourself, man. What good is that? Share it with your lives.

Speaking of the Ascension, it’s often considered one of the big six of Jesus’ earthly activities: birth, baptism, transfiguration, death, resurrection, and Ascension. But it seems to me the Ascension is the one that’s a little bit overlooked and under discussed.

So, from your perspective, Terry, if you agree, why pay attention to Jesus ascending back to the Father?

[00:24:33] Terry: Fantastic question. I agree wholeheartedly and a little soapbox is going to pop out. So, if you want to get your preacher Kirk Franklin on, here we go. No, I won’t go there.

I think one of the reasons why we don’t discuss the Ascension as much is because you can’t talk about the Ascension without a commission, the ascension and the commissioning that Jesus has for us as the witnesses — John 20:21, as the Father has sent me, I now send you. Throughout all of Jesus’ life, he was hinting towards this idea that we are the sent ones that will go and bear witness into the world. That we will go from Jerusalem into Judea and to the ends of the earth.

That’s who we are. It’s part of our identity. We are both created in the image of God, but we are also created as the sent ones of God. And we don’t talk about the ascension because we don’t want to talk about the commission, at times, because the commission costs, right?

I heard someone recently was preaching, and I was fascinated. And at first thought I was like, oh, I got to wrestle with the theology of this. Is this correct? And I haven’t yet pulled away from it. I think it’s spot on. And what they were saying was Jesus’ work towards salvation is free. It costs you nothing except to receive it. It is grace and grace alone that we are found and made right with Jesus. But discipleship, obedience, apprenticeship to Jesus as king and Lord, that cost.

That’s the cost of taking up your cross, to deny yourself. And so, when we talk about the Ascension, it’s just impossible to talk about the Ascension and not talk about that. We will be witnesses.

And the beautiful thing about that is part of the Ascension is that he gives us this power. He gives us the Holy Spirit. We have not been sent to do this of our own accord or our own will, our own power, but that we have been supercharged through the Holy Spirit. That the Spirit is in us, dwells inside of us, and flows from us. And all we have to do is find where God is moving and working and join him.

And there’s something that just comes alive inside of us. And it doesn’t matter how charismatic you are on that scale, and that’s fine. But the Spirit is the Spirit. And so, if it moves you at one mile per hour, it moves you at a hundred miles per hour, it’s the same Spirit. And so can we give way to the Spirit and say, Lord, move through me as I just live an obedient life.

I think that’s how I see it, that I think the Ascension and commissioning are just so intertwined because it was his last thing said for us is that the Spirit is coming, it’s going to indwell in you, and from there you will go and be my witnesses.

[00:27:40] Anthony: Yeah. And that’s that word in the Greek and Acts 1, that you’ll be my witnesses. The word for witnesses, martyr, it’s martyrdom. You talk about costly! Like you were referring to, this will cost you your life and it will give you your life. Paradoxical. Absolutely.

And that makes for a great segue into our next Bible passage, which is for Pentecost. Jesus said, I’ll send the Spirit and the Spirit is sent. John 15:26-27 and 16:4-15. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Pentecost, May 19.

“When the Companion comes, whom I will send from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 You will testify too, because you have been with me from the beginning.

But I have said these things to you so that when their time comes, you will remember that I told you about them. “I didn’t say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go away to the one who sent me. None of you ask me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet because I have said these things to you, you are filled with sorrow. I assure you that it is better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, the Companion won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will show the world it was wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will show the world it was wrong about sin because they don’t believe in me. 10 He will show the world it was wrong about righteousness because I’m going to the Father and you won’t see me anymore. 11 He will show the world it was wrong about judgment because this world’s ruler stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. 13 However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He won’t speak on his own, but will say whatever he hears and will proclaim to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and proclaim it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine. That’s why I said that the Spirit takes what is mine and will proclaim it to you.

So, on this Pentecost, Terry, we celebrate the companion, the Holy Spirit coming to us to guide us into all truth. I’m going to ask you to get a bit personal here to testify. So how have you personally experienced the presence and the truth guiding power of the Spirit?

[00:30:12] Terry: Yeah. I’ve been a pastor for 27 years and I …

[00:30:21] Anthony: You’re getting old.

[00:30:22] Terry: I’m getting old, brother. I’m getting old. I started crazy young. I started crazy young, but I didn’t grow up in the church. But when I found the church, it was a Baptist church. And it’s a tribe that I love, and I try to love. Man, sometimes they make it really hard to love them.

And the Trinity for — and this is the old Baptist joke — the Trinity for the Baptist is Father, Son, and Bible. And that’s really what it feels like, right? It’s just study the Bible.

And so early on in ministry, the Holy Spirit was this real stranger. Of course, we acknowledged it as part of the Trinity, but it was the mysterious part of God. And we just left it at that. And then I’m casting a large shadow on a large group of people, but typically that’s the experience of that denominational life.

And as I grew in maturity and grew in my own leadership, I became more and more fascinated with the Holy Spirit. And by no means am I charismatic or I know I’m — it depends who you talk to, right? We’re all shades of different kinds of charismatic. But man, the Holy Spirit has been something in my life that has truly transformed and has made a significant impact on my spirituality. Of every discipline that I have in my repertoire — my daily, weekly, creating a rule of life and a rhythm of seeking to be with God — a silence and reflection on the Holy Spirit has been probably number two.

Man, someone, when I was a young kid — I started ministry when I was 19 years old. I joined a church planting team, and someone said, as a young pastor, I never wanted to come across as a moron or an idiot, which was just hard to do when you’re that young. Of course, you’re going to come across that way.

But someone said, Terry, God makes a promise. He says if you pray for wisdom, he will be faithful and give you wisdom. And so that is my number one spiritual practice is I plead for wisdom from God Father, Son, and Spirit. And I believe wisdom is a beautiful gift that God gives us.

And then right behind that pleading that almost, incessant pleading for wisdom — and it’s even a joke in my family. My daughter, like she’s contemplating dating some bonehead. And I just tell her, “You’re 18. I love you. You love Jesus. I know your life call, your core values, and who you are in the kingdom. Make wise decisions.” And they always make fun of me because that’s my go to: make wise decisions; make wise decisions. God will give you the wisdom to make a wise decision.

But second to that, making wise decisions, seeking wisdom, is I want to hear. I want to hear from God. I want to hear from the Holy Spirit. And so, I actually try to carve out significant time and just sitting still. I’m not the best meditator.

I’m not the best kind of silence person. My mind wanders and I’m all over the place. But one of the things that I’ve discovered is absolute silence isn’t the point. God wants that the journey that our minds go on when we sit and try to be still, Jesus just wants to jump in on that. The Holy Spirit wants to guide that and be in that. And so, I will carve out significant amounts of time to simply, Lord, what’s your next step?

And even Anthony, I don’t think I’ve even told this to you. So, I’ll tell you right here. My daughter is 18. She’s about to graduate high school and go off to college. And we’re going to be empty nesters. And so, we’ve been praying Lord, what’s next for us? So much of our ministry over the last 15 years has been neighborhood based and school based because we are highly missional incarnational people. And all of a sudden it feels like our neighborhood, we’ve lost more neighbors in the last three years than we had in the last 17.

We’ve been in this house for 20 years. We’ve just valued incarnating into one place and sticking, staying put. And we’ve lost more neighbors in the last three than the first 17. Amen. And so, the neighborhood is turned over. It feels different. Almost feels like there’s a release here. The school, obviously we don’t want to be the creepy people that keep coming to school after your kid graduates, which those people exist. And so, we don’t want to be like that.

So, we’ve just been discerning and praying to the Holy Spirit. Lord, what’s next? What’s next for us? Where might you be leading us? And I carve lots of time out just to sit and listen.

And the Spirit has been so faithful that I can look back in my life. Every church plant that I’ve been a part of, the decision to start two separate coaching and consulting firms, joining Forge America 14 years ago, taking on the executive director role two years ago — every one of those moments, there was a season of just sitting in silence and just hearing like, Lord speak.

And if you were to ask: Terry, have you heard the audible voice of God in 27 years, 32 years of following Jesus? I haven’t, but have I felt the nudging and the prompting of the Holy Spirit? I hear it all the time. I feel it all the time. And it’s one of those things where I think it just comes to: can you sit still enough?

And again, it’s a presence issue. We have to enable — if you’re to be a great missionary, when we do missionary training, we want you to have presence with your neighbor. You can’t truly share good news if you don’t know what good news would be to them. So, you have to build a sense of presence. And in order to build a sense of presence, you have to build a sense of proximity, right?

I can’t know what would be good news to my neighbor, if I don’t know my neighbor. The only way to know my neighbor is to be in proximity to my neighbor. The same thing is true of the Spirit. We can’t expect to have presence with the Holy Spirit if we aren’t in proximity with the Holy Spirit. Now, I know that the Holy Spirit is with us at all times. And so, we are technically in proximity of the Holy Spirit all the time. But are we intentionally putting our minds on that proximity?

And so that has been a game changer for me. And for me, I really truly feel like every decision that I’ve made has truly been, and every blessing that God has bestowed on our family has been in cooperation with God and in seeking him and seeking wisdom from the Spirit.

[00:37:53] Anthony: Yeah, that’s good. I like that — proximity, the intentionality of that proximity. And with that proximity, in my mind, I’m seeing the picture in scripture of Jesus with Peter at Caesarea Philippi, where Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah to the world, and Jesus affirms him.

And then in the same scene, Peter’s opposed to the mission of God, therefore, the cross. And he says, get behind me, Satan. You’re like, Peter’s got to have whiplash. I just was affirmed and now I’ve been corrected.

And earlier I’d mentioned it comes with coaching the aha’s and the oh moments. And the Spirit is leading us into truth, meaning also revealing what is wrong in the world and what doesn’t look conformed in our lives to the Son of God.

Anything you want to talk about regarding that? How the Spirit is leading us into that kind of wisdom, the aha’s and the oh’s?

[00:38:56] Terry: Yeah, so repentance has been something that has been a bit of a theme in my life. A great friend of mine and actually the founder, one of our founders, a co-founder of Forge America, Alan Hirsch has written just a wonderful, beautiful book on this idea of repentance, reorientation. And it’s called Metanoia. And so, the metanoia moment is that pivot moment, that pivotal moment of turning.

And in my own life, I had a dear friend, Paul Gokey. He’s now in the Houston area. We used to early in our church planting journeys, we’d commiserate with one another because planting a church — which Anthony, I know you’re a church planter and you’ve worked with lots of them — it sometimes can be a very daunting and hard task.

[00:39:50] Anthony: Sure enough.

[00:39:51] Terry: And we would commiserate, and we’d sit, have lunch, and talk. And I remember one afternoon, we were sitting there just chatting and Paul had said, hey part of my life, I seek to live with an ongoing posture of repentance.

And man, that was a seminary class, that was a seminary degree in a conversation. It changed so much for me, how I viewed God, and how I view my response to God. And as we got into it and dug into it, it wasn’t an ongoing posture of repentance that he was beating himself up or constantly in confession of every little thing he did, but it was a posture of repentance or a posture of reorienting himself around Jesus as king.

And Lord, and when I began the task, the challenging task of, can I live my everyday walking, breathing, sleeping life, attempting to orient my life, to make everything the focus of my life, put on everything I see, put on the lenses, the glasses, the sunglasses, the lenses to see Jesus as king? Could I begin to live that sort of life?

And as I began that, what I found was this idea where you walk with the Spirit, and this ability to acknowledge the areas of my life where the world has won over the Spirit, and how do I begin to surrender that piece of me, that God might invade that part of my being and fully make me whole as he intends me to be.

And that’s been a life-changing process. Do I do it perfectly? No. Do I struggle with it? Absolutely. But there is this sense of I’m going to give it the old college try. I just want when my feet hit the ground in the morning, I want to orient my mind: Jesus is King today, just as he was yesterday, and he will be tomorrow.

And so, what are the implications of Jesus is King and Lord of my life? What’s my implications for the next hour and trying to live life that way. And some might be listening to this and say, Oh my gosh, that sounds horrible. That sounds like a, such a burdensome way to live. And like you had mentioned earlier, it sounds like I’m giving up my life, but I have found so much joy and happiness and contentment in that very life that there is something freeing in knowing that in a moment’s notice, I can turn my attention to Jesus as king and say, “You are king and I am not. I give you my life, do with it as you see fit. Change me, form me, make me into the person you want me to be, Lord.”

And man, there is something so freeing in that because it’s not about me. It’s not about, Lord, what do you want me to do to change me? But it’s, Lord, you change me, you do it. I’m certain all he wants for me is to surrender. And so, when I can live a life of surrender of reorientation around him as king it’s been life changing. It has been the greatest sense of connectedness and intimacy with God that I’ve ever experienced.

It’s wonderful.

[00:43:21] Anthony: Yeah, that’s so good. I had a similar experience where my friend and brother said that exact same thing, that repentance is ongoing in life. It’s not a one and done scenario at all. And you mentioned Alan’s book, Metanoia, this whole changing of my mind, which changes my action.

And I find for me, Terry, that’s where the rubber meets the road when it comes to repentance. Does what I say have congruence with what I do? And generally, when there’s a disconnect there, that’s where repentance has to be once again offered up like, “Lord!”

It’s like somebody might ask me, are you faithful? And this is where Karl Barth helped me; it’s a spectrum. To the extent that I’m faithful, I’m faithful. Help me in my unbelief Lord, right? That is ongoing repentance.

Our final passage of the month is John 3:1-17. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for Trinity Sunday on May 26.

Terry, we’d be grateful if you read it for us, please.

[00:44:23] Terry: Yeah, absolutely.

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.” Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?” Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?” 10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

[00:46:18] Anthony: There’s a lot there and I’m not asking for a dissertation here, Terry, but the Trinity, in my mind, so often gets reduced to some abstract mathematical conundrum instead of a relationship. And so, on this Trinity Sunday, what would you say to the listening audience about the triune God?

[00:46:37] Terry: Yeah, this again goes into this crazy mystery of God in three persons. The way that I’ve been able to wrap my head — what little I can wrap my head around this wonderful, beautiful, mysterious thing — is that I really see it as a divine dance.

There’s this Greek term parakinesis [sic] [perichoresis] that speaks to the idea of a kinetic movement, right? And I’ve heard people refer to it as a divine dance where Father, Son, and Spirit dance in step with one another, that there’s a constant moving connection between the two.

And really the best way that I can wrap my head around this is that God in three persons speaks to us that we are to live life in community, that all of life is to be communal. This individualism which is tough in our current culture because we live in a highly individualistic society. But we weren’t created for individualism. We were created for a communal expression.

And just as Father and Son and Spirit surrender to each other, and they’re lockstep with one another as the best way to dance, to explain this kinesis, this kinetic movement is a dance that it is a free flowing, free formed version of movement. And it is the example that is on display for us beautifully for us to mimic. That as humans, as the ones created in the image of God, we are to mimic the way of God. And how are we, who are we in lockstep with in our life?

And so, the Trinity for me is a great, beautiful reminder of who am I choosing to dance with. Who’s on my dance card in my everyday life? Am I dancing with the right people? In the relationship with my wife, in the relationship with my daughter, what is that? What is the kinesis?

What is the kinetic? What does the movement, the relationship look like in that? Does it more represent the world, or would it more represent king and kingdom? The same with my neighbors and my coworkers and the people that I just spend time with, whether they are found in Jesus or not yet followers of Jesus. We choose to dance with the people around us that there’s this cosmic dance that is at hand.

And so, what does our dance card look like? Are we finding this beautiful rhythm that God has laid before us that we can be in sync with Father, Son, and Spirit? Or are we doing our own thing? Are we out of step? Are we choosing?

Are we going so freeform that it’s — I know, I love some jazz, but there are some like freeform jazz that’s just way out there. And is this pleasant to my ears? It doesn’t feel pleasant to my ears. It feels very weird. It’s all over the place. And sometimes we choose to live life where it feels so disruptive.

And that’s been something that’s been meaningful to me is looking at how Father, Son, and Spirit are interconnected with one another, one whole but relational.

[00:50:16] Anthony: Yes. This next question I’m going to ask you, the answers can spark fighting words. And the question is this, what does it mean to be born anew or born again or born from above for you, Terry? What does this mean?

[00:50:34] Terry: Yeah, for me in the most simplest terms, it means I have surrendered control of my life from myself or from the world, and I’ve given it to Jesus as king.

And I was, [in] 1993, sitting on a stoop at a boys’ home. I grew up in a boys’ home from the age of 12 to 18. And I had a house parent who was a giant of a human being. [He] was like six foot six, six foot seven, just a huge human being. And because he was a huge human being, I respected him because I was a big kid.

And he would do these weird things that would just like, I don’t understand this guy. This guy cries when he talks about God. That’s weird. No one that big should cry because they talk about God. It didn’t compute for me, Anthony. I didn’t get it. And he would speak so softly about Jesus, but at the same time he was a man’s man, like he was like, I like this guy.

I’m going, if I could be like him, I’d be cool with that. But man, I had so much anger, I had so much frustration, I had so much just from my childhood that was so like inside of me, it was just insanely toxic. And I remember one night we were sitting there, and Howard came up to me and said, “Are you done? Are you done being angry? Are you tired of it yet?”

And just in a weeping voice, exasperation, “Yes, I’m done. I am tired. I’m exhausted from being angry at everything and everyone.”

And he said, “You can give all of that to Jesus, but you have to surrender your life to him.”

And that’s when I was born anew. That was my moment of being born again when, in that moment, said, “I can’t do this on my own. I’m trying to figure out life and I’m just doing it miserably, but I can surrender and say, ‘Jesus, you can make me new. You can make me you can make me a new creation.’”

And in that moment, and I truly believe I became a new creation, that the old in me had passed on, that passed away and that a new, a Spirit had indwelt [sic] in me and that a new creation, a new being had taken place.

And those next two years were just a weird journey towards discipleship and really towards — when I say Jesus became my Savior when I was 15 but he became my king and Lord when I was 17. And this journey towards discipleship was lots of questions, but that’s what born again to me means this idea that I was made new in Jesus because I surrendered to him.

I allowed him to make me new and his Spirit indwells in me and has indwelt in me since then.

[00:53:36] Anthony: As you tell the story about this giant of a human being, it reminds me of what we said earlier about testifying, telling the story, bearing witness to the goodness of God.

And I have found it’s really hard to do what you’ve never seen done, and the fact that he was willing to express to you, this is what it looks like. It’s a reminder: we all need mentors and guides in our life, right? Coaches, people that come alongside of us and say, ‘You know what? The Christ life, it looks like this. And you don’t have to carry this around anymore. You were never meant to carry that around.”

So, brother, I’m thankful for whoever that guy is. Howard, go, man And keep doing what you’re doing, Terry. We so appreciate your active participation ministry. You’ve been a blessing to me and I’m sure to many others. So, keep doing what you’re doing.

Thank you for being a part of this podcast. I want to thank Reuel Enerio, our producer, who does such a bang up job. There’s no way we could get this out without him, and my wife, Elizabeth, who does the transcription. So, you can see every word that Terry said. It’s going to live on in infamy. And you talked about how the things we do can have an impact a hundred years from now, so there you go, Terry.

But it’s been awesome, man. Thank you. And as is tradition with this podcast, we love to close in prayer. So, if you’d pray for our audience, we’d appreciate it.

[00:55:01] Terry: Yeah, absolutely.

King Jesus, we pause to just orient our presence on you and your Spirit as you work in and through us. Lord, wherever people may be as they listen to this, Lord, I pray a sense of an indwelling, that they would be so in key and in tune to who you are, who they are in you, Lord. And so, Lord, fill them up.

Lord, I thank you for those mentors, those guides who really exist in my life that have allowed me, as I apprenticed to Jesus, as I surrender to his way and practice his way, that they have served as guides and mentors and coaches to help me do that better. That as I spend time with you, Jesus, you have transformed me to become more like you. And Lord, that’s my prayer for everyone who is listening to this, that as they spend time with you.

Lord, that they would sense over a long period of obedience, they would be transformed. That Spiritual formation would occur, and they would walk in the likeness of who you are, and they would manifest love in every place and space that they take.

Lord, we love you. We thank you. Spirit, we ask that you would move in our church, that you would move in our world, you would move in and through every leader, that we might proclaim your goodness. We love you. We offer our lives as worship, and we give this to you. Jesus’ holy and precious name. Amen. Amen.

Thank you for being a guest of Gospel Reverb. If you like what you heard, give us a high rating, and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast content. Share this episode with a friend. It really does help us get the word out as we are just getting started. Join us next month for a new show and insights from the RCL. Until then, peace be with you!

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