Entering the Threshold

[Thresholds] constitute the connective tissue that helps bind or separative activities and segue from one space to the next…Thresholds and Transitions mark changes in mood, tempo, and subject matter as people move from space to space. (Scott Doorley & Scott Witthof in Make Space (40).

Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me. (Revelation 3:20, Jesus speaking to the Laodicean church)

This summer is a threshold season for Open Door. June marked the beginning of this threshold with a season of sending. This summer we’ll continue to journey through the threshold. 

While Open Door moves through this threshold, you're probably experiencing a threshold of your own (maybe more than one!). Job transitions, moving, navigating relationships, saying hellos, saying goodbyes. Sometimes it can be helpful to name transitions and thresholds out loud: 

"Hi, my name is Dave, and I'm in the middle of _____. It's something of a threshold I'm moving through."

At Open Door, we care and devote ourselves to the cultivation and formation of followers of Jesus. As each of us, individually, is constantly in formation, so our community, the Open Door family, is in constant formation. As we explored during The Immigrants’ Journey, movement and change is intertwined with life - we follow and are formed by a God who moves!

Just as a seed’s journey is one of small and microscopic transformation before life-giving blossoming and fruitfulness, so we seek constant transformation, individually and collectively, into the image of Christ. 

Our name - Open Door - points to the reality that what we do together is navigate life’s thresholds. I’m grateful and excited to navigate these thresholds with you all as we seek to receive and extend the unfolding story of God’s good news in our lives and in all the places we live, work and play!


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?)

Brian Jones on Why Selah Matters

As our annual Selah retreat draws near, I am reminded of how essential extended time in community with others is to our Oneness.  It's as though the Spirit does something profound in us as we simply unplug from the pace of our everyday lives and retreat together in an incredible place.  Selah is our annual community-wide retreat that takes place in the scenic Marin Headlands.  It's a weekend filled with friend-making, delicious food, playfully competitive games, breathtaking hikes, and much more.  It's an experience carefully designed with just the right amount of structure that is fit for the entire family.  Click here to read more about Selah and/or to register. Brian Jones is one of the biggest, most outspoken ambassadors for Selah.  For him, this is a weekend intentionally set aside to encounter God and each other.  He wouldn't miss it and he doesn't want you to either.  Take a read of his impassioned plea:

Let me read your mind…

It’s too expensive – I can’t afford it.  It’s too long.  I’m really busy right now.  The weekend is my only chance to catch up on stuff around the house.  I can’t stand “bunking” with a bunch of other people in a large room on a small bed.  I’m introverted – being around a bunch of people I don’t know makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t really know people at Open Door, I’d be by myself – who would I talk to for two days …  I’ll go next time.  I’ll go when I have more money.  I’ll go once I know people better.

These are myths, deceptions deliberately put in your mind by the Enemy.  Not outright lies, mind you.  He knows those would be readily identifiable and overcome.  But these myths have seeds of rationality behind them, are thus believable, and therefore become “truths” to us.

For example, “It’s too expensive.” or “I don’t have the money for it.”  Myths.  We all have money for things that we prioritize.  I see and hear it every day.  And so do you.  If it’s a priority, if it’s emotionally important or significant to us, we find the money for it.

Selah matters because it is a declaration that our lives and choices will not be dictated by the concerns of this world or by the myths and deceptions of the Enemy, but by the Values of the Kingdom of God. 

Selah is a necessity because it is in this brief weekend that we get to experience the blessing and privilege of living in community as illustrated in Acts 2 & 4.  As Jer might say, “we flourish because we are dedicated to the flourishing of others.”

If nothing else, Selah is a choice to sacrifice what I want, what I think is best for me, or what is comfortable for me, and to focus on benefiting others.  It’s a tangible, actionable way to walk in the way of being a disciple of Jesus by laying myself and  my personal concerns down.

Selah is a non-negotiable for me.  It’s a unique opportunity to build life-sustaining friendships, to get to know others on a deeper level, to step away from the noise of everyday life and hear what God is saying – and in so doing, to refocus, get recharged, encouraged, and re-energized. 

***My hope is that you will go.  If you’re on the fence, my hope is you will choose to go – or at least find me at the next gathering and talk to me about your hesitation.  If you’ve already chosen not to go, my hope is that you will reconsider – prayerfully ask yourself why you’re choosing not to go…and if it’s based on your wants and needs over the needs of others who just might need you to be there that weekend.***

I know one thing for certain.  If we’re serious about being disciples of Jesus it means we must be a community that is united and considers the needs of one another above our own needs.  Selah is a perfect springboard for making what we’ve been dreaming, visioning, and talking about a reality.


A Circle Story: The Practice of Listening

Circles are Open Door's way of tangibly training people in the Way of Jesus.  These are the primary spaces in which we become equipped & mobilized into God's reconciling mission of Restoration.  Our Circles take on myriad forms and themes, but a few of things remain the same in each: (1) they are all oriented around the life and teachings of Jesus; (2) they create space for shared life and belonging to occur; and (3) their impact is beyond those who are a part of the Circle.  Learn more about Circles and/or find a Circle by clicking here.

Deborah Benzuly is in a Circle of dynamic women who have chosen to enter into an extended journey with God, each other, and others.  In this guest post, Deborah reflects on one tool that has been especially transformational for her and for those in her Circle.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) I haven’t completely understood or internalized this verse until I entered into a Circle with some amazing women a few years ago.  My original intention was simply getting to know a few other women believers...I had no idea what was in store for me. We've been on a journey through life together: relationships, children, jobs and school. We’ve experienced God’s amazing healing and cultivation in each woman, a true testament to God’s work in us all.

Transformation is what we're about. We have all assumed a posture of growth, to be accountable to one another, and to speak truth and encouragement to one another.  This has not come about naturally, but with intention and purpose from everyone in the group.

It is because of this that I have personally experienced a closeness with these women that I could say I’ve never experienced before with friends.  Each woman brings a unique gifting to the group that I benefit from on a regular basis.  With Kelly, I learn the power of empathy and compassion for myself and for others. Kate has taught me the importance of rest and tangibly incorporating a Sabbath on a weekly basis.  Ashley constantly shows me to embrace God’s love and joy through daily life.  And I have challenged the group to bring learning and ideas into tangible action. Lastly, I have learned how to hear God’s voice and the presence of the Holy Spirit from Melissa.

Melissa has always been the one in the group that seemed to naturally channel the Holy Spirit in forms of encouragement, prayer, images; you name it.  We often joke that she has a direct line to God. She quickly debunked the myth that she was the only one God was speaking to. She normalized her ability to clearly hear God’s voice and speak truth and grace into each one of us into something that we could do too. She framed it as a skill, rather than a gift, as it is something she has learned and has practiced on a regular basis.  It was then that we all had to experience this for ourselves.

We asked Melissa to lead a night of teaching us how to hear for God’s voice. It may sound silly, but the thought of sitting still and silent for more than 2 minutes hoping to hear something was anxiety provoking.  My relationship with God had to this point been one of prayer, however not a conversation. It was during this night that Melissa taught us how to listen for the Holy Spirit.  She walked us through a process of prayer, of breaking any agreements we may have with the Enemy, and asking God what He wants us to hear from Him.  She encouraged us to write anything we heard, saw, or felt, with no censor and no scripting. Then she cut us loose.  In the next 30 minutes, I couldn’t stop writing.  I can only best explain it as an outpouring of love, encouragement, and challenge from God in the form of images, reference to specific scripture, and an audible voice that sounded so much like a loving and tender Father.  When we circled back as a group, I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing, and crying.  It was as if I finally listened and God couldn’t stop talking. I had a direct line too, just like Melissa, and that was worthy of celebration, laughter, and tears.  For it was there all along, I just needed to learn how to listen.

 I am so thankful for Melissa having shared this experience with us and tangibly showing and walking us through listening for God’s voice. This has become a regular practice for me and continues to deepen my relationship with the Father. I am so grateful to be in a group that learns from one another, sharpens one another, and loves one another.

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

Our Next Season: Migration & Expansion

We are a family of sojourners, learning to walk in the Way of Jesus for the good of the world.  That means that we're a community of wanderers united under the authority of Jesus and empowered by His Spirit to be agents of restoration and reconciliation in the spaces we find ourselves in. Our work is to cultivate followers of Jesus who are Rooted in Christ, Woven together as Family, Extenders of Sacrificial Love, and Cultivators of others to be & do the same.

We affirm the value of intellectual instruction in the Way of Jesus while recognizing that to truly become men and women who are Rooted, Woven, Extending, & Cultivating, we must migrate beyond intellectual instruction to experiential training in community with others.

Our model for this is Jesus who invited a community of people to apprentice Him.  He instructed and then demonstrated what he just got done teaching. He released His 'in-process' community to go and imitate what they'd seen and heard, and then brought them back together for evaluation and coaching.  Eventually, after the resurrection, He commissioned and released them to go live and narrate the Gospel in the spaces they lived, worked, played, and beyond.

It was slow, earthy, and organic.  It was inefficient by our standards, but wildly effective.  Over time, God began flipping the world right-side-up, one life at a time and thru those changed lives, heaven & earth began to be woven together again.

Our dream is to participate with God in the weaving of heaven & earth together again in the East Bay and beyond.  Fueled by this dream & His Spirit, our next season of ministry will include a MIGRATION and an EXPANSION.

Our MIGRATION is beyond cultivation primarily through our worship gathering to include cultivation through experiential training in community with others.  We want to see every man, woman, & family connected to Open Door engaging in life on mission in the Way of Jesus with others.

For some, this might look like inviting 2-3 core friends (gender-specific, mixed-gender, multi-generational, or life-stage) to co-create & commit to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, & Cultivating practices.

For some, this might look like discovering & turning toward those whom we live in neighborhood & proximity with and co-creating & committing to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating practices.

For some, this might look like discovering & turning toward those whom we share vocational space with (i.e. downtown SF, downtown Oakland, etc.) and co-creating & committing to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating practices.

For some, this might look like discovering & turning toward those whom we share play space with (i.e. parks, gyms, arts, running/cycling/swimming, etc.) and co-creating & committing to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating practices.

For some, this might look like discovering & turning toward those whom we share a similar passion with (i.e. local injustice, global injustice, fair-trade, sustainable living, urban farming, etc.) and co-creating & committing to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating practices.

For some, this might look like participating in a mentor-guided core group who, together, co-create & commit to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating practices.

For young families, this might look like turning toward other young families and co-creating & committing to a set of Rooted, Woven, Extending, Cultivating practices.

Our MIGRATION from cultivation primarily through our gathering to include cultivation through experiential training in community with others is the richest, most transformational environment there is to be found by The Father, to be formed into the image of Jesus, and to practically join His Spirit in what He's already doing in the East Bay & beyond.

Our EXPANSION is in regards to our paid staff.  We are seeking to build a lean, diverse, focused staff of coaches & equippers who resource and guide the holistic cultivation of our community.  Currently our staff is made up of Jer (Full-Time Directional Leader) & Elizabeth (Half-Time Worship Leader).  Our hope is that by January, 2014, we would be able to expand our team to include an additional staff person who will bring perspective, experience, & diverse gifting into our migration.

Don't let this MIGRATION & EXPANSION happen to you.  Join in the process through prayerful presence & courageous generosity.  Please join us at our gatherings over the next couple of weeks (7/21 & 7/28) to pray with & over The Open Door Community and the East Bay & Beyond.