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There is a Life of Power we can Hardly Imagine

Are you worn out with the Sunday morning routine? Feel like there must be more to the Christian life than committee meetings, worship services, and sitting around in a circle discussing our feelings? Are you hungry for a faith that leads to concrete acts of love? In a culture so hostile to genuine community, what would it mean to be part of an organic whole, a very real and tangible body of Christ?

This March 13-15, we’re going to find out.

Seeds of the Kingdom

Christianity was never meant to be a mindless habit. Jesus’ message wasn’t a set of religious beliefs that we could either accept or reject. The point of our faith isn’t to build a new religion based on Jesus. We are invited into nothing less than a radical, life-altering friendship with Jesus himself.

This is a whole new way to live. The way of Jesus digs down to the heart of our existence and exposes what is really true, authentic, life-giving. It uncovers the dark, hidden parts of our lives, bringing everything into the light.

This new way of living is something that sneaks up on you. It’s easy to miss this quiet revolution amidst the noise of the daily grind. This hidden kingdom has the power to transform our lives forever.

We can experience this sneaky, subversive kingdom together.

The basic building blocks of this new way of living are already present. We don’t have to go looking for some utopia out there. The kingdom of God is within us, among us, present with us when we seek it together. The seeds of the kingdom are already planted; we just have to make space for them to grow.

This spring, we’re welcoming the wild growth that the Holy Spirit has sown in us.

We don’t have to live our lives in maintenance mode. We can let go of the fear and guilt that hold us back from real joy. There is an alternative to the religious wheel-spinning that so many of us are trapped in. Jesus is alive, and he’s ready to unleash a movement the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Are you ready for this?

Consider yourself invited to the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Spring Gathering. March 13-15, 2015. Barnesville, Ohio. Join us as we explore what it means to lead lives of courageous transformation in community. Discover a movement of the Holy Spirit now, in our day, that promises real change in the midst of stuck-ness, real hope in the midst of despair.

Save the date. Tell your friends. Register now, and let us know you’re coming.

Related Posts:

We’re Gathering Momentum – Are You In?

When we Pray, it Boils

Why sometimes Failure is the greatest Success

Rocket Launch

It was five years ago this month that Faith and I first held a meeting for worship on Capitol Hill. There were four of us, all twenty-somethings, gathered together in the conference room of the William Penn House. In the silence of that time of Quaker worship, I couldn’t imagine the kind of journey I was embarking on. I had no idea how this simple idea of starting a Quaker Meeting would change my life forever.

The last five years have been deeply challenging. There have been many points when I’ve wanted to give up more than anything. We’ve seen this community flicker and almost wink out several times. Yet, through it all, the dogged voice of the Spirit has always been present with us. Like a little terrier that chomps down on your leg and won’t let go no matter what, that still, small voice within has stubbornly refused to release us from the call to this work, this place, our people.

It turns out that the hound of heaven knows what he’s barking about. There’s power in persistence. There’s a quiet dynamism in endurance. Something incredible is unlocked when we commit ourselves unreservedly to the mission Christ gives us – no matter how crazy, unrealistic, humiliating, or even boring it seems.

There is a hidden power that comes to our aid when we patiently endure. This power doesn’t guarantee success; it promises nothing, in fact, but our daily bread and the chance to do it all over again tomorrow. And when the call is unrelenting and success seems far off, that quotidian bargain just has to be enough.

Amazingly, it is. For the past five years, we’ve experienced just-in-time delivery of the spiritual and material support that we’ve needed to sustain this work. There have been so many moments when I’ve felt like I couldn’t go one step further, but when I nevertheless put one foot in front of another, a way appeared out of no-way. The waters part, and I have what Deborah Saunders calls a Red Sea experience.

I recently read an article about a startup computer game company that crashed and burned. The project was a total failure; the product, a flop. The team mostly disbanded, except for a few core folks who sensed that there might still be potential in some of the material they had worked on together.

The game was still definitely dead in the water; they had no hopes about salvaging that project. Yet, there was something of value that remained intriguing for these developers: a tool that they had created to facilitate communication within their team. This tool, called Slack, is now a billion-dollar company that’s re-defining online business communication.

Slack’s story inspires me. It feels like our story, too. In this journey to develop a new kind of Quaker-Christian community, we’ve failed a lot. I’ve personally crashed and burned more times that I’d like to admit. But each time, there has been something worth saving. I’ve learned something very valuable from every challenge.

In five years of repeated disappointments and re-doubled efforts, I’ve acquired a deepened sense of realism, sobriety, and flexibility. I’ve gained a patient endurance I never knew I was capable of.

I’ve also learned to be really dumb! What smart person, after having fifteen rockets blow up on the launch pad, keeps trying to fly to the moon? But that’s just what Friends of Jesus are doing. We just keep designing new rockets to see what will fly. At the end of the day, we may just end up with a more colorful explosion, but we learn a lot in the process.

That’s the exciting part. Just like the makers of Slack, we’re discovering that the next big thing is probably going to be found along the way. The project is not always about what we think it is. The thing is not the thing. At the end of the day, what’s most important is the ethos of dynamic shared learning, collaboration, and off-the-walls innovation that we’re developing together.

We’re assembling the tools that help us do the work. We find ourselves drawn into a network of friends and allies that the Holy Spirit is gathering to accomplish something new. We’re invited into an adventure far greater than anything we ever imagined when we were first starting out.

You are invited. We want you to be part of this learning, growing, crashing-and-burning process. We need your participation, your gifts, your insight and vision. The Friends of Jesus Fellowship is just a little seed beginning to sprout. There’s lots of room for new shoots and branches, audacious little leaves seeking the sun.

We’ll keep failing. Our rockets will continue to explode in mid-air. And we’ll watch it together. We’ll take notes, and next time we’ll blow up differently.

Do you want to be a part of this launch team? Do you want to participate in the dynamic collaboration, shared learning, and experimentation that we share in together?

You are important. Your gifts are important, and they’ve been given to you for a reason. How is the Spirit calling you to use these gifts to create a flourishing community that can grow like mustard seed and bless the world around us? How can we learn and grow together?

Related Posts:

Off the Treadmill, onto the Cross

Marks of the Resurrection

We’re Gathering Momentum – Are You In?

Dear friends,

The Friends of Jesus Fellowship has been holding regular gatherings in Barnesville, Ohio – one in the fall and another in the spring – for several years now. These gatherings are times for encouragement, equipping, and to be reminded that we are all part of a greater whole. We are members of the living body of Christ together, and wherever we gather is a beachhead of his kingdom. Small and scrappy as we may be.

Something amazing is emerging. A new life and energy is bubbling up. New possibilities beyond what we can see now. We’re being broken open to God and one another, creating space for real transformation.

At our Fall Gathering this month, the power of the Holy Spirit was active and present with us, causing stirrings the likes of which I had never seen among Friends before. We experienced an atmosphere of deep worship and prayer, facilitated through shared meals that we prepared together, singing in a variety of styles, and teaching on our theme, Go and Make Disciples!

The question of how to make disciples was a timely one for us. We are beginning to dig deeply into the practical work of inviting, accompanying, and equipping others to walk in discipleship to Jesus. Holding beliefs about God is relatively easy, and having transcendent peak experiences even more so, but steadfastly choosing to follow Jesus through the highs and lows, through assurance and doubt, is a tall order. Yet, for those of us who are being drawn together as Friends of Jesus, this is a challenge we feel compelled to embrace.

We are not alone. Jesus walks with us in a tangible way. He is teaching us to be a supportive fellowship, sustaining one another in this life of adventure and holy surprises. We come alive as we accept the challenge. The power of the Spirit fills us with joy and peace that can transform lives.

We have heard the message that we can only baptize others if our own lives are cups running over, splashing those around us with love and grace. It is only when we are being filled by the whole-grain goodness of the living gospel that we can share it with others. When we die to ourselves, we discover a way to new life in Jesus.

We can invite others into this new life.

I want to personally invite you to attend the next Friends of Jesus Gathering, which will take place this coming March. If you’ve been thinking of Friends of Jesus as a community out there that doesn’t include you, think again. Something new and exciting is happening here, and everyone is invited to participate.

Are you ready to be part of a movement that rekindles the fire of the early church? Do you long to be filled with the same audacious joy and power that the early Quakers (or Methodists, or Pentecostals…) lived in? Do you feel the Spirit’s call to participate in this new thing that is emerging in our time?

You are invited.

More details soon.

In hope and peace,

Micah Bales

Put on Your Sweater and Hang on to Your Hat! – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #66

Dear friends,

Here in Washington, DC, the weather is telling us that fall has just about arrived. Before I break out sweaters and jeans, though, let me take a moment to share what’s been going on with me and the Friends of Jesus community in the latter half of this summer.

The last month and a half has been very full in every way: with ministry, work and family. Compared to some other summers in recent memory, my schedule for travel has been relatively tame. Nevertheless, I still managed to make some significant excursions outside the Beltway. In addition to a midsummer visit to Philadelphia to encourage the Friends of Jesus community there, I was able to participate in the Northeast Christ-Centered Friends Gathering at Powell House, a Quaker center in upstate New York. The gathering was truly blessed, and I was humbled to be among so many women and men who are working to share the good news of Jesus among Liberal Quakers in the Northeast United States.

I was also able to make a trip out to Wichita, Kansas, to visit family and friends there. It was a fairly brief visit, but I was glad to be able to connect with a few folks from Great Plains Yearly Meeting, as well as with Jerry Truex, a dear friend who serves as pastor of Mennonite Church of the Servant. I am so impressed with the vital ministry being sustained by my friends in Wichita, and my heart aches to be among them, even as I know that God has called me to settle in the Washington, DC region for the foreseeable future.

This summer has been very typical in some ways, yet in other ways it has been quite strange. I’m used to all my spring routines breaking down each summer, only to be replaced by new patterns in the fall. The difference this time, though, is that I didn’t have to leave home to make it happen. This deconstruction of my ordinary routines has taken place here in situ, amidst the familiar surroundings of home.

To give just one example, my life was delightfully disrupted by a visit by Tyler Heston and Hye Sung Gehring. Tyler and Hye Sung spent six weeks this summer serving as interns with the Friends of Jesus community in Detroit, and by all accounts had a blast. I am so grateful that they are part of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, and it was great to spend almost a week with them as they swung out to the East Coast. Tyler will be spending the next year finishing up his undergraduate degree in Memphis, while Hye Sung will be out in Portland spending a year with Quaker Voluntary Service. I’m really excited about the friendship and collaboration in ministry that we are developing with these two very talented and big-hearted young men.

OK, now that I’ve filled you in on summer, I’m ready to put on my hoodie and tell you about what’s on deck for this fall. As the air starts to change, so does our program. The summer was extremely informal for our community here in DC, and we gathered in many different ways – whether grabbing tacos on H Street, cleaning up Shepherd Parkway in Southeast, or gathering for a low-key Bible study. As we move into fall, our plan is a bit less free-form and slightly more methodical, but we hope to maintain a posture of experimentation and freedom in the Spirit of Christ.

We’ve got several ways we’re looking to engage in the coming months. Let’s go from smallest to largest:

On the small end, we’re launching several Life Transformation Groups (LTGs). These are groups of 2-3 people who gather each week to confess sin to each other and practice intercessory prayer for a few people that members of the group would like to see come to faith in Jesus. During the week, members of the group read a large amount of Scripture, allowing the biblical witness to speak into their lives. We hope that our LTGs will be a practical support for members of our community who want to go deeper in exploring what it means to be disciples of Jesus in the most practical sense, allowing relationships of accountability – to Christ and to one another – to transform our lives.

A slightly larger expression of our community this fall comes in our small groups. Here in DC, we’re expecting a group of roughly half a dozen folks to participate in an 8-week small group experience based on The Tangible Kingdom, a resource produced to help friends come together and discover what it might be like to live as a missional community. Our hope is that this experience might foster a deeper level of commitment and intimacy, together as friends and followers of Jesus. For more information about The Tangible Kingdom, check out the original book, and the TK Primer, which is the resource we’ll be using in our small group (a free sample of the Primer can be downloaded here).

In Maryland, we have a small group that has already begun gathering in Rockville, in the chapel of a retirement community where one of our members lives. By all accounts, it sounds like things are going very well so far. The format of the group is one of interactive Bible exploration, and our Maryland organizers hope that the small group will be a safe, supportive environment for both established Christians as well as those who are just curious about what the Bible has to say and how it might apply to their lives.

In addition to our LTGs and small groups, we are also planning to have a monthly worship gathering that will welcome folks from across the entire DC metro area. For those who are not familiar with our region, travel can be extremely draining and time-consuming, so once-monthly gatherings for the whole metro area seems like the most we can sustain right now as we seek to grow communities in more particular geographical locations. We look forward to these times of corporate worship as opportunities to receive spiritual nourishment from Jesus, and in that communion to connect more deeply with one another as brothers and sisters in him.

Please take a moment right now to pray for us in the following ways:

  • That our LTGs would cohere and become micro-communities where the Holy Spirit can truly do transforming work on each member of our community. That God give us new life and power to change as we become more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus.
  • For the presence of Christ to be felt in our small groups. That he would use each of our small groups to build up core communities in our two present geographical locations, giving us courage and boldness to become fishers of people.
  • That the power of God truly be felt among us in our monthly gatherings for worship, and that geography not hold us back from coming together as one church in the name of Jesus.
  • Finally, please pray that God will bless the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Fall Gathering. Pray for large attendance, powerful teaching, and a palpable awareness of the sweet Spirit who calls us to pick up the cross and become disciples of Jesus.

Thank you for your support – through your prayers, financial giving, and all the ways that you have been instruments of God’s care for this ministry. Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your friend,

Micah Bales

PS: If you haven’t registered yet for the Friends of Jesus Fellowship Fall Gathering, it’s not too late! Check out our promotional flier, register, and leave a comment on our Facebook page if you have any questions!

Something Is Shaking Loose – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #65

Dear friends,

I’ve been getting around this summer. I’ve done almost as much traveling in the last few months as I had in the whole year before that. So far this summer, I’ve taken multiple trips to Detroit, Indiana and Philadelphia. Reconnecting with my friends and fellow workers throughout the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, I’ve felt more plugged into the life of the whole body. As I grow in my role as a released minister with our geographically dispersed fellowship, I am both blessed and challenged by the work of nurturing our fledgling communities and ministries.

Friends of Jesus Fellowship is in a state of flux right now. It feels like all of our workers in all of our local and virtual sites are feeling something similar. Something is shaking loose. There is a new direction emerging, but it’s still not clear exactly where we’re headed. This can feel scary; we’ve invested so much work into the communities as we know them today. But we are also feeling a sense of divine accompaniment, trusting that Christ Jesus is walking with us, guiding us even when we can’t see the way in front of us. We would invite your prayers for our collective sense of clarity as a fellowship, and for the Holy Spirit to enliven and guide each of our local communities.

Here in Friends of Jesus – DC Metro Area, we’re experimenting with a variety of ways of being community together. Through cookouts, worship, service projects and spiritual exploration through art, we’ve tried a lot of different ways of engaging with God together. It’s still not totally clear what things will look like for us in the fall, but we have a sense of being scattered across our urban region. Christ is inviting us to re-focus on the simple, patient work of making disciples. Beyond all strategies and programs, this work of transformation and growth is our primary calling.

Even as Friends of Jesus is experiencing a sense of creative mystery, I’ve personally been experiencing a lot of growth in my understanding of the work I’m called to. A part of that has been in my professional life as Web & Communications Specialist for Friends United Meeting. This summer, I’ve been spending a lot more time out at the North American FUM office in Indiana, which has helped to deepen my sense of purpose and connection with this international association of Quakers.

I’m growing in my understanding that there is vitally important work for me to do as part of the FUM communications team, and I’m looking forward to the months ahead as we undertake a comprehensive campaign to strengthen the organization. Together, I believe that we can energize, equip and connect Friends across the planet, and – near and dear to my heart – here in our North American context.

Here are some ways that you can be praying in the coming month:

  • That God would energize and inspire Friends of Jesus – DC Metro Area to take risks and find companions in the way as we seek to make disciples in our local context.
  • That the Friends of Jesus Fellowship as a whole would feel Christ’s power and seek his guidance in becoming the beautiful bride that he is calling us to be. Let the Holy Spirit raise up new disciple-makers in each of our communities, teaching us to embody and share the good news.
  • That Friends United Meeting would be strengthened, both as an organization and as a worldwide body of dozens of yearly meetings from California to Cuba, Nairobi to New York. May God provide the funds, the staff, and above all the spiritual grounding that Friends United Meeting needs to fulfill its mission: energizing, equipping and connecting fellowships in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • That I would find the support and encouragement I need to sustain the work that God has called me to. May my family of prayer supporters, financial backers and ministry partners continue to grow through the unmistakable power of Jesus.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers, encouragement and love.

Grace and peace in the Lord Jesus,

Micah

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Releasing Ministry – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #64

It’s always revealing to take an honest look at the way we spend our money. It exposes our true priorities. We spend money on the things that we truly care about. Money is a powerful sign of what we value. Everyone understands the phrase, put your money where your mouth is. It’s one thing to say you believe in something; it’s another thing give of our time, energy, and financial resources.

Friends of Jesus is growing and deepening as a community, and we’re having conversations about how we use all of our resources – time, money, energy and love – to make the kingdom of God visible, to become friends of Jesus in every aspect of our lives. As we seek to be faithful in these conversations, we’re coming to some exciting conclusions.

We feel that God is inviting us to use our financial resources to actively release ministry among us. To this end, Friends of Jesus – DC Metro Area and the wider Friends of Jesus Fellowship are uniting to financially support the ministry that I am carrying out under their care.

This financially released ministry will encourage leadership development, creative outreach, care for the Friends of Jesus Fellowship as a whole, and a renewed engagement with the Religious Society of Friends. This is a ministry that calls us to lives of radical discipleship and love in the Spirit. In cooperation with the Friends of Jesus Fellowship, I will continue to encourage and seed new communities across the United States, and possibly beyond.

As we begin this journey together, Friends of Jesus has already made a substantial commitment to nurturing this ministry. In addition to creating the support structures necessary to provide logistical support and spiritual accountability, members of the Friends of Jesus community have already committed nearly 1/3 of the annual giving that will be required to sustain the ministry.

But we are still a small fellowship. In addition to the demonstrated commitment of our core communities, we need significant help from the wider body of Christ. We have faith that God will touch the hearts of many Friends as they become aware of the need to release this ministry from financial burdens. Are you one of those Friends?

Is the Spirit inviting you to become a supporter of this ministry? There are many ways to get involved, whether through prayer, participation in the community, outreach, or financial giving. We encourage you to:

I’m so grateful for those who have been supporting this ministry for years now with prayers, words of encouragement, and participation in our life as a community. Thank you for considering how you might be led to take part in the days ahead.

In hope and friendship,

Micah Bales

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Spring Is Here – Micah’s Ministry Newsletter #63

Dear friends,

It’s over. The darkness, the ice, the cold, the wondering whether winter will ever give way to spring; it’s all over. Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more, the sun came out, a warm breeze blew and the blossoms began to open with the promise of a new beginning. This is what spring feels like: a new year; another chance to play, learn, grow.

This is what spring feels like: A convergence of like-hearted friends from across the eastern United States – Indiana, Tennessee, Detroit, DC, Philadelphia, Missouri, and parts of Ohio. A gathering bubbling with hope for the new thing that we sense the Holy Spirit doing in our lives, our communities, and our neighborhoods. A circle of friends who are ready to take risks together. We’re embracing failure as a chance to learn, and watching for opportunities to multiply the ways we get it right.

At the Spring Gathering of the Friends of Jesus Fellowship this past weekend, we explored the ways in which we are called to live in the power of the Spirit. We faced our fears and need for security, our busyness and obligation, and the relationships that we are so afraid we might lose if we take the radical steps that we sense Jesus calling us to. We took a long look at the challenges before us, and then turned to God to show us the way of faithfulness, peace, abundant life in the Spirit.

A door is opening. We are arriving at a new moment of fresh possibilities. This is a time when the positive change and renewal that, though even a few years ago seemed impossible, are now emerging as the holy work of our time. Where the old structures have become empty forms, the Spirit is inviting us to imagine new ones. Where the last century’s ways of seeing, feeling, thinking, doing are breaking down and no longer seem to function, God is empowering us to look with new eyes, to have our minds renewed and our hearts filled with wonder and creativity.

We are entering a time period where God is making all things new, and will do so in outward ways that no one can miss. It is a time for the culture wars to cease, as we labor together in the way of Jesus, which breaks down the dividing walls between “Right” and “Left.” It is time for the pitched battle between generations to come to an end, as well. The opportunity of this key moment demands the full gifts, personality, and keen imagination of every generation – Boomers, Xers, Millennials, and those younger and older, too. We’re all in this together.

This is the invitation that we are experiencing as God gathers the Friends of Jesus, across geographical boundaries, (non)religious backgrounds, and generational identities. It is an invitation to speed up our experimentation and slow down our lives, to be present to one another and to the living presence of Christ among us. Emerging from an age of big words and timid action, we sense an opportunity to allow our actions to speak louder than words.

We are just beginning to awaken to this new opening. Jesus is once again gathering a people, a community that will have an out-sized impact on the world around us. Like leaven in the dough, light on a lampstand, or salt in a meal, we are being invited to make a little count for a lot. We can participate in the new creation that Christ is accomplishing. This kingdom is established through his love for us, our love for one another, and the love that we demonstrate to the people we encounter every day.

These are the first days of spring. It is a tender time, and we don’t always know what we are doing. But we are trying to stay humble, adaptive, and attentive to the gentle nudgings of the living Spirit of God. Trusting in her, we long to be the grass that emerges from beneath the snow, eager to greet the light.

Can you sense this new season? Is the snow melting where you are? How can we join together, to partner in this new time of growth in the Spirit?

Your prayers are an important way that we are connected together in this time of great change. Crisis and opportunity seem to go hand in hand, and prayers for both are greatly needed! In this season, please pray that:

  • God will kindle the hearts of women and men throughout our land to take up the work of establishing new communities and ministries that demonstrate the emerging kingdom. Let us be the tender shoots of Christ’s love that emerge in these early days of spring.
  • The Friends of Jesus Fellowship will be strengthened and knit together in the Holy Spirit. May each of our existing communities be built up and taught how to become fellowships that make disciples, not religious consumers.
  • Our communities be connected to and supported by the wider Religious Society of Friends, and the Body of Christ as a whole. May our efforts as Friends of Jesus have a positive impact in catalyzing renewal within the wider Body, as well.

How God is drawing you into this work of restoration and rebirth? Let us know how we can be praying for you in this time of new hope and promise.

In love and friendship,

Micah Bales