Elder Transition

Next Sunday, we'll officially kick off our annual Steward Team transition process. Steward Team is a community of elders that is made up of men & women who steward the holistic cultivation of The Open Door Community by listening for God’s dream for us and our context and mobilizing us to participate in His dream coming true (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).

Our elders serve for a three-year term and then cycle off.  This process is intentionally regenerative as it reminds us of our work to continue cultivating followers of Jesus.  Kara Lynch and Charlene O'Brien (2 of our original elders) will be cycling off the team in August.

Here's the road ahead:

  1. Next Sunday, June 1, we'll explore the role of eldership at our gathering and officially launch the process.
  2. On Tuesday, June 10, we'll do a communal day of fasting & prayer that will conclude at Brendan & Emily's home for prayer, silent nominations, and dinner.
  3. Nominations can be emailed to Emily anytime between June 1 and June 15.  Nominations conclude @ 6:30pm on June 15.  Please include your nomination's name and 3 reasons why you feel he or she is a viable candidate for Steward Team.
  4. On Wednesday, June 18, a team of leaders will process Open Door's nominations and make a recommendation to Steward Team.
  5. Our current Steward Team will begin conversations with candidates in July.
  6. 2 new elders will be commissioned in August.

The beauty of this process is that it creates a communal space for us to listen and be formed together.  I greatly encourage you to participate in it.

I pray a blessing on you and on us as we continue to become a worshiping family on mission.

Yours, Jer

Lent Project: Extra's Purge Resources & Ideas

On Sunday, April 13th, we'll launch the final of The Lent Project's 6 Practices of Intentional Denial: The Extras Purge. During this week, we're inviting our community to take an inventory of all of your belongings.  How many extra coats, shoes, appliances, electronics, shirts, pants, dishes & pans, etc. do you have?  Face your excess and live generously as you purge your extras.  Perhaps you could initiate an exchange with other friends, donate your extras or give them away.  Perhaps you could pool your extras together with those in our Circle and host a garage sale.  Perhaps we could take an inventory of the surplus of Open Door’s extras so that we could meet tangible needs of those within Open Door as well as those we’re connected with.  If money is raised, what will you do with it?  How could you pool it together with your Circle to invest in the flourishing of others?

Here are some creative ideas for what you could do with your extras:

  1. Host a garage sale by yourself or coordinate one with your Circle or your neighborhood.  Pool the proceeds together with your Circle or others and contribute it to a kingdom-weaving cause that you believe in.
  2. Donate your extras to the local Goodwill, Walnut Creek Presbyterian's Deacon's Cottage, or St. Paul's Trinity Center.
  3. Combine your extras with others and host an exchange or imagine a 2nd-hand boutique experience in collaboration with an organization serving the poor that you believe in. (i.e. The Michael Chavez Center serving Mexican immigrants on the Monument, City Team or Bay Area Rescue Mission serving the homeless and formerly incarcerated, or New Day for Children serving recently trafficked young women.)

An ODC Story: Bekah Polzin on Majority World Diet

We're officially half-way through The Lent Project.  This 6-week journey of intentional denial is unearthing parts of us that are unsettling as well as inspiring new, simpler and more generous practices that we could integrate into our everyday lives.  In this reflection, Bekah Polzin reflects on the experience of Week 3's Majority World Diet where, for 5 days, we stood in solidarity with the majority world by eating oatmeal for breakfast and rice & beans for lunch and dinner.  Thanks, Trade As One, for the incredible resource! Here's Bekah's reflection...

I’ve never fasted or practiced giving up food. I’ve never eaten a specific diet for a period of time or done a “cleanse” of any kind. This week I learned that I’m not that good at it. I prefer to eat what I want, whenever I want it. It was a reminder of the privileges I have and a quick way to gain perspective.  

It didn’t take me long (like, by lunchtime day 1) to realize that I think about food a lot. It didn’t surprise me to read a “Trade as One” email informing us that on average we make 227 decisions about food in ONE day. We are consumed with food.

What should I make for breakfast? What do the kids want? Should I get a cappuccino today? Should I just make a coffee at home? Regular or decaf? I’m so hungry – I need a snack. I’m getting a chill, maybe I’ll have another cup of coffee. What should I make for dinner tonight? I need to go to the store, what food do we need? And on and on.

What became clear to me throughout the week was the correlation between being fed by worldly things and being fed by Christ. Its true, God created us to need nourishment. But like many other things in our lives, food becomes the focus and not God. When the week was over and I finally ate a substantial meal, my first thought was, “I want more.”

What would our lives look like if we thought about Christ 227 times a day? Or instead of planning the next dinner party to perfection, we sat in prayer and invited God to be in our conversations around the table. Or instead of buying the 18th Starbucks for the week, we share the love and bought one for someone unable to treat herself, or use that money to support a greater cause. 

I was struck by this verse during this process:

My friends, do not be surprised at the terrible trouble which now comes to test you. Do not think that something strange is happening to you. But be happy that you are sharing in Christ's sufferings so that you will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. 1 Peter 4:12-1

What If we each brainstormed 227 ideas of how we could intentionally love God by loving others through preparing, serving, or sharing food? Imagine the creative ways we could bring glory to Christ!

Teaching ReCap: 3 Critical Questions on Cross-Shaped Living

Last Sunday, Daniel and I paused our movement through the book of Philippians in order to interact with 3 critical questions that have emerged for us:

  1. What does Cross-Shaped living / Kingdom Citizenship really look like for us?
  2. Why are we convinced it's a better way to live?
  3. How do we live this life in a healthy and sustainable way?

We each interacted with the questions in the form of personal stories, but here are some of the main teaching points that emerged:

What's it look like?

  • As an academic, a theologian, and a New Testament Professor, following Jesus for Daniel often takes the form of writing and teaching.  Numerous times has Daniel felt compelled to offer content that will, no doubt, push existing paradigms beyond their current limits and invite his readers & students to spend their lives of the flourishing of others.
  • As an experimentalist, activist, envelop-pushing, rip-tide surfing pastor, following Jesus for me often involves entering the voids and, while there, waging peace.  The voids tend to be places where more is broken then whole, where injustice is rampant, and where the Story of Jesus is neither being lived nor narrated.  When I invite other people with me and when I talk about my experience of following Jesus within other communities, existing paradigms are pushed beyond their current limits and those who are with me and/or listening begin to spend their lives on the flourishing of others in creative, costly ways.
  • Our shared learning: Jesus has wired us differently to follow Him differently.  This is a liberating, beautiful, strategic reality.  Rather than having to follow Jesus like someone else follows Jesus, we simply need to learn to tune our ears to the voice of the Father and live, empowered by His Spirit, what we hear Him say.

Why are we convinced that the Way of the Cross is a better way to live?

  • Because spending our lives on the flourishing of others turns out to be the most full, complete, whole way to be human.
  • Because the joy found in contributing to the flourishing of others far outweighs the upwardly mobile journey of our careers.
  • Because God raised Jesus from the dead.  That means that the story doesn't end with a life ends in resurrection.  God is continuing to fix a broken world and He invites us to join Him in the adventure.  If that's so, then intimacy with God is found not only as we sit in silence, but also as we walk the Way of the Cross with Him.

How do we live the Way of the Cross in a healthy, sustainable way?

First, it's important to point out a couple of key ideas around Jesus & sustainable pace.

  1. Jesus compels us beyond comfort, but never calls us to an unhealthy pace.  Bottom line: following Jesus, while the best possible way of life, is often uncomfortable because God is committed to our becoming more like Jesus.  In order to do that, He needs to till out of us the parts of us that don't look like Jesus.  This is uncomfortable.  What's more, crosses aren't comfortable.  When we spend our lives on the flourishing of others, it's often both exhilarating and uncomfortable (perhaps this is the fullness Jesus refers to in John 10:10?).  In our experience, following Jesus becomes unhealthy when we make it about "me" rather than "Him" and "others."
  2. "Discomfort" and "fatigue" are NOT synonyms of "unhealthy."  So often, it seems, we've come to understand an experience of discomfort (or inconvenience) as unhealthy. Is this a first-world problem?  In response, we set up "boundaries" to prevent us from feeling uncomfortable (or inconvenienced).  The same could be said about how we interact with anything that causes us fatigue.  Bottom line: As mentioned in #1, following Jesus is neither comfortable nor easy: we're going to be uncomfortable and we're going to feel fatigue...but we'll also experience a deeper sense of identity, purpose, and community than when we sit behind boundaries that might be unnecessary. (Disclaimer: boundaries are good and necessary, but are intended to keep us healthy rather than to separate us from the formational experiences that will likely cause discomfort and fatigue.)

Now for a couple of practices that help us stay healthy:

  • Rooted. It's in the daily practices of submitting to the King that we recognize (1) that Jesus is the Savior and that we're not and (2) that we are Beloved by God.  It's also in the daily experience of being Rooted in Christ that our lives are focused: we get clearer on the good and better than can be released so that can tend to what is best. (Ideas: Utilize a resource like Common Prayer for your daily readings and work in a prayer walk around your neighborhood or a wilderness wander in the open spaces once a week.)
  • Woven. It's impossible (unhealthy) to follow Jesus alone.  It's an incredible experience (healthy) to follow Jesus in a community of mutual interdependence.  Why? Because in community with others we (1) bear one another's burdens; (2) share in each other's joy; (3) discern what's best; (4) gain perspective; (5) evaluate pace; and (6) encourage rest.  (Idea: Ask Jesus this question: "Who am I supposed to be following You with?"  He'll likely answer that question with a couple of people.  When He does, ask those people to join you in the adventure of following Jesus. Use these two questions to seed our experience and conversation: (1) What is Jesus saying to me? (2) What am I going to do about it?)

What are Circles?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve gotten clear on the work of The Open Door Community: to resource the cultivation of Jesus Followers (Matthew 28). We’ve spent the last year discovering that a Jesus Follower is someone who is Rooted in Christ (John 15), Woven together as family (John 17), Extending sacrificial love (John 13), and Cultivating others to be & do the same (Matthew 28). We affirm that for the past 2 millenia, heaven & earth are being woven together again through Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Followers of Jesus.

The BIG Question is: “How will The Open Door Community resource the cultivation of Jesus Followers in 2013-2014 such that heaven & earth continue to be woven together in the East Bay & beyond?”

The Answer: 2 ways. (1) Through our ongoing weekly Gathering (5pm on Sundays) and (2) through Circles.


What is a Circle? A Circle is a community of people (1) oriented around the life & teachings of Jesus; (2) living out shared practices; (3) and guided from within. A Circle is a community of people who are intentionally seeking to integrate the Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Way of Jesus into their everyday lives. A Circle is a community of people who grow in trust & intimacy as they take risks together in the Way of Jesus.

Who Guides a Circle? Ultimately, the Spirit is our Lead Cultivator & Guide. But we also acknowledge that its the Spirit who inhabits & empowers humans to serve as guides for others. Thus, Guides are: Men/Women who are living out the Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Way of Jesus. Men/Women who walk slowly, with wisdom, & toward relationship. Men/Women who are in process, teachable, & committed to the flourishing of others. Men/Women who are empowering coaches.

How do I get into a Circle? Simply take a look at the list below and send an email to one of the Guides who will personally follow up with you. All Circles are open-invitation and all Guides are committed to your finding the Circle that will best resource your cultivation.

Circles begin the week of September 15th and vary in duration.

Clint & Heidi Brandow Type: Mixed (Life Stage & Gender) Focus: Following Jesus into Injustice When: Weekends (Day & Time TBD by the Circle) Where: 47 Dublin Dr., Pleasant Hill

Darrell Olson Type: Mixed (Life Stage & Gender) Focus: The Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Life When: Thursday evenings, Where: 630 Curtis St., Albany

Sandra & Kevin Ernst Type: Mixed (Life Stage & Gender) Focus: Sacred Space…Encountering God Together When: Thursday evenings, 7-9pm Where: 2986 Putnam Blvd., Walnut Creek

Jac & Jer Swigart Type: Mixed (Life Stage & Gender) Focus: Following Jesus in Neighborhood When: Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9pm Where: 2347 Pepper Dr., Concord

Rachel Powers Type: Women Focus: Listening for God’s Voice through Scripture & Living out what we hear. When: Thursday evenings, 7-9pm (Through October 10) Wednesday evenings, 7-9pm (October 16 & forward) Where: 1340 Springbrook Rd., Walnut Creek

Anthony Machi Type: Berkeley College, Grad, Young Professional Men Focus: The Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Life When: Friday mornings @ 6:30am Where: 2467 Warring Ave., Berkeley

Paulina Inzerillo Type: Berkeley College, Grad, Young Professional Women Focus: The Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Life When: Sunday evenings @ 8pm Where: 2430 Fulton St., Berkeley

Chris Schwass & Scott Parr Type: Men Focus: The Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Life When: Friday mornings, 6:30-7:30am Where: Scott's office @ 1801 Lacassie Ave., Walnut Creek

Tony Collins Type: Men Focus: The Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating Life When: Tuesday evenings, 6:30-9:00pm Where: The Pool House @ 1755 Trinity Ave., Walnut Creek