March 8 Steward Team Update on Staff Transition

no_photoSteward Team Update on Staff TransitionMarch 8, 2015

Out of our living room conversation on February 26 regarding Jer’s transition came a few questions and comments that we would like to address. This blog will be the first of many in the months to come to update you on the transition and upcoming hiring. Our goal is to be transparent and communicate all that we can in a timely fashion. In this first post, we would like to highlight four specific questions that arose at and after the Living Room Session:

During this transition, what will communication from Steward Team to the community look like?

  • An update from Steward Team will be posted on our blog within a week following each Steward Team meeting (twice a month). This update will focus on our current process and key information our community should know. A link to the post will be found in the Pulse.
  • Monthly up-front updates will take place in our Gathering. The audio will be captured and posted to the blog.
  • Questions or comments about our staff transition can be sent to Ben Johanson ( We will set aside time each meeting to discuss these, and any other, questions/comments that have been brought to our attention.

How did the decision to call Dave as Directional Leader come to pass?

  • Steward Team & Hiring Team knew Jer was considering a transition in the coming years and thus both teams considered each candidate for the Pastor of Community Formation with this in mind. During Dave’s hiring process, Jer’s eventual transition was communicated and he accepted his position with this knowledge.
  • When the timeline of Jer’s transition became clear, a discernment process for Dave and Krissy, Steward Team and staff began in which we prayed and discussed Open Door’s next directional leader. Dave’s skills, passions, embodiment of family and previous experience led to a shared conclusion that Dave’s leadership is what we are seeking in the next season of Open Door.
  • In light of this decision, Steward Team wrote a letter inviting Dave to become our next Directional Leader. The letter affirmed Dave’s call to Open Door and spoke of his leadership up until this point as well as what we see in his future.
  • A transition timeline has been discussed with Dave assuming more of the responsibilities of the Directional Leader over the coming months and a formal commissioning on June 21. Jer will be sent by the community the following week (June 28).

What are your next steps toward hiring?

  • Heidi Brandow is in conversation with Dave and Elizabeth to develop staffing options. The next steps are as follows:
    • Heidi met with Dave and Elizabeth this past week (week of March 2) to develop two or three staffing recommendations, taking into consideration our current staff’s strengths and the present and growing needs of Open Door.
    • During Steward Team’s meeting on March 16, Heidi will present the recommendations.
    • After our meeting, Heidi, Dave, and Elizabeth will meet again to discuss and refine the recommendations.

Where are we at financially?

  • Because of the community’s faithfulness we are able to have these transition conversations unconstrained by our financial situation as we have been operating in the black for the fiscal year.
  • We will be putting new avenues of communication into place to provide financial updates to the community. Our intention is for the information to be accessible both on our website and in our Gathering.

Any questions or comments can be sent to Steward Team’s next meeting is on March 16. Stay tuned!

With gratitude,

Ben, Brendan, Rebecca, Alison, Tony and Heidi

Jer, Open Door, and a New Season Dawning

Open Door family, If you didn't receive a letter in the mail and weren't present for this Sunday's Gathering, please read the letters attached below from Jer and Steward Team.

2015 Transition Letters (from Jer and Steward Team)

The audio from Sunday's family meeting is available as well:

[audio mp3=""][/audio] Please join us for the upcoming Living Room Session (February 26, 7-8:30pm at the O'Briens - 41 Mayo Lane in Walnut Creek) or be in touch with Steward Team or staff if you have any questions!

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire

20150104_coin_blogAs we've moved through Coin, we pointed to a few books as helpful resources and catalysts for thought and conversation. This week, I (Dave) will be posting a few thoughts from these books and summarizing the contribution they make to the wider conversation about following Jesus with our money in an economically-driven world. If you've picked up either book or have thoughts on what's posted here, please jump into the conversations (in the comments section below, over email, or a cup of coffee!). William T. Cavanaugh is a Catholic scholar who teaches at DePaul University in Chicago and has written extensively about formation, liturgy, and the way we are shaped by the culture that surrounds us. His book Being Consumed is an incredibly helpful guide for thinking about how we're shaped by economies and what faithful discipleship looks like in the 21st century world. It's a bit heady at times but constantly moves back to practical, everyday questions, examples and stories of an economic way of being faithful to God in the world.

Freedom and Desire

In Being Consumed, he addresses the way capitalist, consumer-driven economies shape and form those residing within it. He explores the ideology of free-market economics, and suggests, contrary to their name, free-markets are not actually free. Because they create, shape, and perpetuate desire in such a way that maintains a certain status quo, their end goal is freedom, but only in a very limited sense of the word fitting within the market-shaped and -enforced rules and norms of society.

In contrast, Cavanaugh explores the work of early Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo, who (Cavanaugh suggests) names that true freedom is "fully a function of God's grace working within us. Freedom is being wrapped up in the will of God, who is the condition of human freedom" (8).

Connecting freedom and desire, Cavanaugh distinguishes between arbitrary desire and intentional desire. Arbitrary desire is desire for desire and consumption's sake (e.g. the economy is in trouble, buy something - anything!) or for a shallow end (I have a deep longing and no idea how to fill it, I'll try television). Intentional desire is shaped by a vision for the ultimate purpose or goal, a desire not divorced from a vision for greater/ultimate meaning and purpose.

Consumption and Participation

"Consumerism is an important subject for theology because it is a spiritual disposition, a way of looking at the word around us that is deeply formative" (35). Unique to our American context is detachment. As a country, we're more in debt than almost anyone else and, as individuals, we save less than almost anyone else. We continue to, ourselves, produce less and less of our own 'stuff' and instead consume what others are producing, and our system is designed such that those who are doing much of our producing are invisible to us.

Yet Cavanaugh recognizes "there is no question about whether or not to be consumer. Everyone must consume to live. The question concerns what kinds of practices of consumption are conduce to an abundant life for all" (53). So the choice is not whether we consume or do not consume. Instead, we must ask the right questions about what our participation and consumption in the world looks like.

Abundance and Our Place the World

Cavanaugh suggests our default way of interacting in the world is as a tourist - "detached from all particular times and places...[craving] what is different and authentic...the tourist can go anywhere, but is always nowhere" (74). In contrast to the always-but-never-present tourist, Cavanaugh points to the paradox of Jesus who is both fully universal and particular: "Christ is the infinitely integrating one who makes room in himself for everything truly human" (78).

Cavanaugh writes that, as followers of Jesus, "we cannot stand back from the world and survey it; we must simply take our role in the drama that God is staging and give ourselves to it" (81). We do not become fully universal/particular in the same way that Jesus is, but we point to him with actions that "'realize' the universal body of Christ in every particular exchange" (88). Examples given include types of co-ops, fair trade, and community-supported agriculture.

Miscellaneous Snippets and Quotes

What really characterizes consumer culture is not attachment to things but detachment. People do not hoard money; they spend it. People do not cling to things; they discard them and buy other things. (34)

Many people do not see their work as meaningful, only a means to a paycheck. One's labor itself has become a commodity, a thing to be sold to the employer in exchange for the money needed to buy things. For many people, work has become deadening to the Spirit. (38)

We desire because we live. The problem is that our desires continue to light on objects that fail to satisfy, objects on the lower end of the scale of being that, if cut off from the Source of their being, quickly dissolve into nothing. (90)

Possession kills eros; familiarity breeds contempt. That's why shopping itself has taken on the honored status of addiction in Western society. It is not the desire for any one thing in particular, but the pleasure of stoking desire itself, that makes malls the new cathedrals of Western culture. (91)

The Eucharist tells another story about hunger and consumption. It does not begin with scarcity, but with the one who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly...The Eucharist effects a radical decentering of the individual by incorporating the person into a larger body. In the process, the act of consumption is turned inside out, so that the consumer is consumed. (94-95)

Practices of an Abundant, Sharing Economy

Our word economy comes from two Greek roots: household and management. So 'economy' is rooted in the practices and ideas that help a household (a family) flourish. It involves money, but it's also bigger than money. Economy is about money, relationships, possessions, and more. 20150104_coin_banner The last two weeks at Open Door we've talked about the idea of an economic imagination - the realization that the 'economy' we exist in has a particular vision or imagination for 'the good life' or life's ultimate goals or purpose. That imagination will inevitably form and shape our everyday economic practices - how we buy and sell, where we choose to live, how we relate to those around us, etc.

Capitalism has a particular imagination (involving retirement, self-sufficiency, upward mobility) which lends itself to particular practices (investing, consumption, seeking promotions, etc.).

In the same way, Jesus invites us into a particular economic imagination. The 'good life' that Jesus invites us into (life 'to the full') is marked by a pervasive and holistic shalom, love of neighbor, faithful stewardship of what we've been given, trust and reliance on God's abundance, and a family formed around Jesus. 

This Jesus-looking economic imagination invites us to consider certain economic practices that move us deeper into this kingdom imagination.

This past weekend, we continued our conversations about money, economy, and following Jesus with a focus on naming some of these specific practices and action steps we can take as a family - particularly those centered around Abundance and Sharing/Community.

Here are a few of the practices we named to help us live deeper into a Jesus-looking economic imagination.

Practices of Abundance (Luke 12:22-34)

  • Meditating on Scriptural passages of abundance
  • Journaling a daily gratitude/thankful list.
  • Dwelling in our identity as God's beloved child.
  • Immersions into nature, recognizing that the God who holds together the world cares also for us
  • Picking up pennies and seeing them as symbols and reminders of God's abundance
  • Developing a baseline for what is actually 'enough' (based on global averages, actual needs, etc.) and taking an inventory of possessions and actions to simplify.

Practices of Community (Luke 9:10-17)

  • Trusting you have something to offer to others (financial, relational, skills to share, etc.)
  • Offering an area of your abundance to the community (produce or flowers from your garden, time, skills)
  • Developing an infrastructure of sharing ("You need a power tool? I have a power tool you can borrow!")
  • Willingness to name what you need and what you have
  • Bringing meals to those with new babies, in transition or in crisis.
  • Believing God can do more with what you're willing to offer than you can imagination.

Taking steps of practice in these areas, I believe, will move us deeper toward the life that Jesus invites us into. These simple steps are the stuff of faithfulness in God's kingdom economy!

What other practices would you add to the list? How have you experienced growing depth towards a new economic imagination as you take steps of faith with our money, possessions, and resources?

How Have I Been Loved? (A Guiding Question for Practice)

A&P_webbannerAt Sunday's Gathering, we finished our Anchors & Propellers Series with a teaching on John 13:34-35. In John 13, Jesus invites his disciples to follow a new command to love each other. What's new about this is that nowhere does Jesus connect this command to the obligatory fulfillment of Jewish legal tradition or the sense that faithfulness to God is about checking off items on a divine to-do list. Jesus' command is rooted not as an obligation but as a response.

As I have loved you, love one another.

Jesus tells his disciples that he'll be leaving them soon - predicting again his quickly-approaching arrest and crucifixion. No longer will they be identified as followers of Jesus simply by walking around and sharing a table with him. Instead, they'll be identified as living life in the Way of Jesus because of the similar love that's shared within the family that's been crafted through following Jesus together.

If we are to live life in the Way of Jesus, this new command is for us as much as it was for the disciples Jesus spoke these words to.

As I have loved you, love one another.

Our first step, then, is to be clear on this question:

How Have I Been Loved?

How have you experienced the love of Jesus? What has it felt like? How has it reached your heart and your hands? How has it entered into your story and shaped your life trajectory?

This is a question worth asking, and a question that's worth asking through a variety of practices. This week, consider asking How Have I Been Loved? in a few active and intentional ways.

Contemplate the words of Scripture:

Read John 13. Read 1 John 4. Read 1 Corinthians 13.

How is the Spirit getting your attention through these passages? What will you do about it?

Practice Listening Prayer:

In a space of stillness and silence, ask God to bring to mind different ways you've experienced the love of God, the closeness of the Spirit, the intrigue of Jesus.

And then wait. And listen. Trust that God will speak.


Meditate on the ways you see the extravagant love of God when you look back on your story and look out to the world.

And then write. Draw. Paint. Photograph. Design. Carve. Script. Weave. Plant.

Consider how your creative act is a response to the creativity of our loving God.

Jesus invites us into the beautiful rhythm of a rooted, woven, extending and cultivating life. His invitation is rooted in a response to the love we've experienced, which is the source of the love we're called to extend into the world.

Thoughts? Stories? Questions? Ideas?

Introducing Anchors & Propellers

This Sunday, we launch a new teaching series!

Anchors & Propellers Texts that Ground us, Move us, and Leave us Undone

This series will focus on passages from the Bible that have been particularly formative for our community and explore how we understand God's story as we read the Bible.

Written in multiple languages by more than forty people, compiled over at least a millennium or two, read by people around the world in thousands of languages, the Bible has inspired incredible acts of charity and been used to justify horrific acts of destruction.

The Bible is messy. The Bible is confusing. The Bible is beautiful. The Bible is a gift.

Open Door is a Jesus-following, Bible-informed community. We see the Bible as authoritative and worthy of our attention; The Bible is helpful, trustworthy and true as we navigate life in the way of Jesus (II Tim 3).

God’s unfolding story is best understood by looking at the life and work of Jesus and considering how Jesus interacted with the Bible. Again and again, we see Jesus framing and interpreting and interacting and playing with the Scriptures (anytime Jesus says “you’ve heard it said...” or “it’s been written…”) in order to understand and teach beautiful truth about the world and work of God and to invite us into life to the full (John 10).

As we read the Bible from the vantage point of a 21st century Jesus community in the East Bay, we see certain texts rise up. These texts have played a significant role in the unfolding story of Open Door and continue to shape our life together moving forward. These texts are our anchors and propellers.

A&P_webbanner Like anchors, these texts ground us. They stabilize us in God’s story for us and for our place. They root us in God’s extravagant love made real in Jesus.

Like propellers, these texts move us. They lift us up and push us forward towards life in the way of Jesus as we dream about heaven and earth being woven together.

Functioning as both anchors and propellers, these texts leave us undone. They are both gathering and scattering, planting and pushing, rooting and extending, stabilizing and sending. They call us into question, setting our hearts on fire (Luke 24), while amplifying Jesus’ invitation ever-deeper into ‘life to the full.’

This first iteration of Anchors & Propellers will last five weeks, but we'll revisit this series again and again in the future as we continue to be shaped by the Scriptures as we follow Jesus together.

Let's talk about this!

  • What texts come to mind as you think back on the trajectory of Open Door?
  • How does this language (Anchors/Propellers) help us understand how the Bible functions in the life of our community?
  • How has the Bible served as an anchor and propeller in your story of following Jesus?