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Thanks for visiting ShawnStutz.com. Visit the pages above to see how I strive to love the Lord my God with all of my Heart, Soul, Mind, & Body.

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A Social Media Experiment

So over the last week I initiated a social media experiment. In short, I quit caring about Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (or as I’ve come to jokingly call it: InstaTwitBook). I didn’t post my feelings. I didn’t update my status. I didn’t add any pictures to the photosphere. I just disconnected.

I’ve been feeling the need to do so for awhile now, but a fasting challenge in the media realm, partnered with a few other circumstances made it the right time. It was different. I felt strangely unaware or uninformed about what was going with others around me. I didn’t know when people celebrated or were sad. I was out of the loop, or so it felt. However, the strangest part was that I didn’t mind.

Now don’t get me wrong, I care about the lives of people that I see during the week (or those that I miss from previous seasons of life). Caring was not the issue, it was close communication that became the focus. Social media offers a method of communication that is in a way real. And yet you don’t have to be present with the person to participate. I’ve engaged in both trivial and heavy conversations via social media while watching football, cooking dinner, and even while commuting (don’t text and drive, let Siri help). I was participating; however, I wasn’t truly present.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the lack of same space-ness is my appearance doesn’t matter. There have been times that I’m not even out of my PJs or showered or presentable. I couldn’t pull that off at the local coffeehouse while chatting. Someone would ask me if I saw a mirror recently. There is so much lost in talking when there are no cues about emotion, body posture, and all the other non-verbal realities of communication. So much of communication is what isn’t being said. That’s lost in the cyber world.

Sadly, I came to realize that I needed social media, specifically Facebook, to get in touch with certain people. The reason being was I had established a strong part of our relationship under the premise that Facebook would be a major touching point. We do that a lot don’t we? It’s that way either out of convenience or laziness I think. We say things like, “Text me” or “Facebook me” instead of “Hey, let’s do lunch or grab a coffee.” It’s easier to toss our feelings into cyberspace instead of sitting with someone and seeing where the choose-your-own-adventure or face-to-face conversation take us.

Where does all this contemplation leave me now? I don’t know. I’m torn about how involved I want to be with InstaTwitBook. Part of me wants to stay in touch with others, especially those so far away. But the joy of real present-in-the-room relationship is lost. I know I definitely haven’t been nor do I ever want to become a Facebook stalker. So what do I post? I don’t know. The life of a person not cataloged on Facebook, what is that anymore? Our whole life, from photos to philosophical musings, has been captured via a timeline. This digital diary will become our abbreviated version of a memoir someday; our very own book of Chronicles.

All that said, I don’t know where to go from here with these thoughts. I just know that right now I’m very mindful about what gets posted. Plus I know that I desire real relationships. So until I come up with something new to post, this blog post will do.

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In the way of life update, I have been active. The reason that I haven’t been writing much for the blog is because I’ve been working on the book. The progress has been great. I’m really making my way through this project– and it’s much harder, bigger, and joyful than I expected. I am still on target, I believe, to have a rough, rough draft come Christmas. Please pray for me in this.

I’ve also been riding a lot, feasting too much, enjoying football (I get to go to a UT VOLS game this Saturday and sit the Sky Boxes– that’s how we roll, thanks to Michelle’s boss at work), watching the kiddos in soccer, reading some good books (posts to come I promise), planning a third ministry leader retreat called (re)new, serving the church, and training of course. This month I will also start free-lance writing for a high school sports magazine in the area. That should be fun. Writing and sports, how could that be bad?

There are so many dreams swirling in my head for the future that I can’t contain them at times. However, it’s one day at a time. I pray for my growing kiddos– that’s wonderful and worrisome to watch. I stand amazed at my wife excelling in her work, finishing her degree, and just being her. I enjoy the fellowship of the saints with whom I worship weekly. And I have some pretty cool dogs. Oh, and did I mention it was fall? Fall is B-E-A-UTIFUL in East Tennessee!

That’s a quick life update… bad grammar and all!

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Cruise On…

I’m stoked to be going a cruise this Saturday. This will be the first cruise I (and we) have ever taken. We leave from Florida and head for the soft sandy beaches and clear waters of the Bahamas. It’ll be tough, but I’ll do my best to remain calm and take it all in (wink, wink).

I’m looking forward to resting and experiencing adventures with my family as well. We haven’t really had this kind of a vacation before; leaving the country, leisure, just us four. I hope that it will be the beginning of many more to come. God has been so good to us this last year and we have so much to be thankful for!

So the bags are packed, house/dog-sitter is prepped, clients been told, stomach empty enough to fill on the boat all week long (with salad of course, big laugh). Yes, I’m in vacation mode!

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Some Tough Questions!?

Indented below is a quote I ran across the other day while reading. I quickly shared the words on facebook, but the heart of it has lingered for awhile now. It paralleled my morning’s passage of scripture (also indented below) so well that I couldn’t escape the fact that this pairing was something the Lord wanted me to give special attention.

Basically, after reading the quote and the passage of scripture, these are questions I keep wrestling with:
* How risky, how missional, how incarnational is my life?
* How often do I huddle among believers and talk of those without hope in Christ verses huddle with the hopeless and talk about why I believe in Christ?
* Why is it that Jesus so confidently and intentionally spent time among the “sinner” population and I hesitate to think what the “holy-ies” might think if I did the same?
* Have I accepted, from Jesus, a mission so radical that it would make the kingdom of darkness tremble or have a accepted a mission so meager that only the little kingdoms we call “our” church would smile at my progress?

These are tough questions for me right now. Give these powerful quotes a read for yourself. See if the questions above don’t rattle you a bit:

“The cross must be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan they had to write his title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At this kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse and soldiers gamble, because that is where he died and that is what he died about and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.” – George McCloud

Jesus said it this way: “And the scribes and the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.””(Mark 2:16, 17 ESV)

Let me hear what you think…

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Yes, another slew of quotes from yet another recent read. You may desire a bit more colorful writing or wittiness in this blog but this will have to do. Besides think of all the time I’m saving you by providing great selective Cliff Notes to these books.

This block of quotes has been taken from Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal. McNeal is a great prophet to American believers, especially the Baptist denomination, about fresh movements of God and the often time sluggishness of the church. This book addresses specifically missional communities and changing the scorecard for what we call church.

“Missional is a way of living, not an affiliation or activity.” … (about church:) “The result will be that within a few years, it will be impossible to think of church the way we used to, as something we “went to” or “participated in” or “joined” or “attended.””

“We must change our ideas of what it means to develop a disciple, shifting the emphasis from studying Jesus and all things spiritual in an environment protected from the world to following Jesus into the world to join him in his redemptive mission.” – p. 10.

“The typical clergyperson is groomed to do project management (yes, even the sermon is a project) and perform religious rites, not develop people. And if truth be known, many leaders do not give themselves to developing other people because they have never had it happen to them. Leaders will have to travel a steep learning curve to move away from the activities and behaviors that support the program-driven model.” – p. 11.

Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch: “The missional church… will be an anticlone of the existing traditional model. First, rather than being attractional, it will be incarnational” – p. 23.

“… the missional church is the people of God partnering with God in his redemptive mission in the world.” p. 24. (As Chuck Miller likes to say: “We must first learn to be the people of God before we do the work of God.”)

On the topic of the church being present in the world: “Our thereness is what the world needs. It needs the church to be there, addressing every brokenness caused by sin, reflecting the heart of God to the world as partners in His redemptive mission.” p. 25.

What I call a sad representation of what it means to live a gospel-centered life: “The idea of what it meant to be Christian became synonymous with what it meant to be a committed church person. Further, the measure of personal devotion to God was the degree of one’s separation from the world outside the church. This meant centering one’s life on the church and its activities, usually pulling away from people who weren’t willing to do the same. The primary focus of evangelism was converting people to the church culture.” p. 43.

“Our acts of service and love, not our oratorical brilliance and institutainal success, will intrigue people with our message. Jesus followers live the truth; they don’t just study it. Because of this, others are invited into truth and life.” – p. 57.

A convicting thought: “We do not share the heart of God with the world because we do not have the heart of God.” – p. 91.

On helping others grow: “Maturation is messy. It takes time. It doesn’t occur linearly. Maturation occurs in an atmosphere where accountability is expected and practiced. … The truth is that people need help debriefing their lives. They need to examine their experiences to learn from them. The goal of debriefing is to help people make sense of what is going in them and around them (spiritually).” – p. 100-101.

“All life activity is considered kingdom investment.” – p. 107.

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** Next I hope to review and share quotes from the following book: An Unhurried Life; Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Play by Alan Fadling. Alan is a great friend and I’ve been blessed by his ministry and his writing through the years. You should pick up a copy. I know you’ll enjoy it too!

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The Church Planter

Yet another book, and a few more quotes. These are taken from The Church Planter; the Man, the Message, the Mission by Darrin Patrick. The book as a whole was pretty good, the first portion entitled the man being the best. Oh, and I thought the cover was really great too. However, I’ve heard your not supposed to judge a book by the cover.

Let me know which quote sticks out to you most. Reflect on them and pass them on. You might as well get some benefit from my reading!

“Unfortunately, you don’t need extraordinary discernment to realize that many churches have a pastor who is trying to lead people to a Savior he has yet to personally encounter.” – p. 22.

Puritan Pastor Richard Baxter writing to pastoral leaders: “If we forbear taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in their leanness, and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching: if the matter show it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for it.” Patrick… “In other words, not only can our people tell where are spiritually, but we are a pattern for them.” p. 61.

“Being a pastor/church planter requires three basic skills: leading, teaching, and shepherding.” – p. 67

“The gift of leadership is discovered and developed in the same way as other spiritual gifts… Even though it is the product of the Spirit’s presence and God’s grace, this gift requires diligence, faithfulness, hard work, and commitment to God’s purposes if it is to be exercised effectively.” – p. 75.

The why for Shepherding and Pastoral Care: “1) Because sheep are precious to Jesus, who purchased them with his own blood. 2) Because wolves are present and ready to destroy the sheep. 3) Because pastors will give an account to God for how they cared for his people. 4) Because hirelings abound in the church {workers without the heart of the shepherd basically}. 5) Because the more time you spend going deep in pastoral care with people throughout the week, the more you will know about how to contextualize your messages… on Sunday. 6) Because Shepherding humbles you.” – p 80-83.

“Good shepherds equip church members to shepherd one another in the context of small groups.” (not the ministry of small groups, but smaller groups of believers) – p. 87

From Dan Allender: “Leaders choose daily, but the real weight on their shoulders lies in the need to decide. And there are no easy decisions. To decide requires a death, a dying to a thousand options, the putting aside of a legion of possibilities in order to choose just one. De-cide. Homo-cide. Sui-cide. The root word fro decide means “to cut off.” All decisions cut us off; separate us from early infinite options as we select just one single path. And every decision we make earns us the favor of some and the disfavor of others.” – p. 98.

“Most people think that Christianity is spelled DO: they look at the Bible or the life of Christ, and they simply try hard to live like Jesus. Christianity is really spelled DONE: it is what Christ has done that enables us to live a life of obedience.” – p. 136

“The message of the gospel exposes our sin, but it does not end there. Kierkegaard once complained that the preaching he heard in his day was like someone reading a cookbook to a starving man. … We must also point people to Christ and the forgiveness and healing that he brings.” – p. 153.

“The gospel is the message of our mission, and contextualization is the method of our mission.” – p. 206.

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I’ve been reading a few books lately and thought I’d list some quotes that I found challenging. The first group of quotes are from the book entitled JESUS + NOTHING = EVERYTHING by Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham. It was recommended to me by a friend. Overall the book was good. The back half of it felt a bit repetitive but all in all it was a great focus on the gospel, centered around various texts from the book of Colossians.

Enjoy the quotes and let me know your favorites, thoughts!

the Lord…“It’s not your old life you want back; it’s your old idols you want back, and I love you too much to give them back to you.” – page 23.

“John Calvin famously said that all out hearts are idol-making factories. … We habitually look to something or someone smaller than Jesus for the things we crave and need. And none of it is ever large enough to fill the void.” – p. 40.

“Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game.” – p. 47.

“As A.W. Pink once wrote, ‘The great mistake made by people is hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.’” – p. 47.

“Millions of people, both inside and outside the church, believe that the essential message of Christianity is, ‘If you behave, then you belong’… that’s not what the Bible says.” – p. 53.

“Sometimes God puts us in a position where our only comfort comes not from what others think about us but from what God thinks about us in Christ– that we’re forever qualified, delivered, loved, accepted, forgiven, clean, and approved.” – p. 77.

“We’ll never really feel deliverance if we don’t first feel desperation. We’ll never experience the glory of real freedom if we don’t first experience the grief of our own slavery.” – p. 79.

“Idolatry, according to John Piper, is the ‘suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute.’” – p. 80.

“When it comes to drawing near to God and pleasing him, legalism insists that obedience precedes acceptance– that it’s all up to us. But the fresh breeze of gospel freedom announces that acceptance precedes obedience– that once we’re already approved and already accepted by God in Christ, we can freely follow God’s lead and grow in doing his will out of genuine gratitude for his amazing grace without any fear of judgment or condemnation when we fail.” – p. 97.

“William Temple once said: The only thing you contribute to your salvation and to your sanctification is the sin that makes them necessary.” – p. 103.

“Pascal expressed it well when he said that we should make people wish the gospel were true, then show them that it is.” – p. 125.

“Real slavery is living your life trying to gain favor; real freedom is knowing you already have favor– the difference is huge.” – p. 141.

“As John Bunyan memorably put it: ‘Run, John, run,” the law demands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. Better news the Gospel brings, it bids me fly and gives me wings.’” – p. 191. (not red bull, ha)


One Year In

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but you know how life goes. However, today I have forced myself to sit and type it out; process it. It make take awhile to read, so get a cup of coffee and your Bible.

It’s been one year and one month since I left California for the hills of East Tennessee. As big a deal as that was, for me the bigger milestone was, in obedience to the Father, stepping out of full-time paid ministry. For the last sixteen years prior to this one I have been immersed in the world of ministry events, congregation care, staff meetings, weekly teaching and shepherding. This break from the vocational norm has been very interesting on multiple levels, and it has a lot to do with identity.

For 15 years I was labeled as pastor, clergy, leader. And now I wear new labels, one such as layman, personal trainer, and “not from around here.” No, labels are not my identity. These external attachments are only descriptors of the stage of life I currently inhabit. However, wrestling to keep these words as external descriptors alone is tougher than I thought. I’m sure you’d agree that being identified in and by Christ alone is often a challenge.

I liked being on staff at a church. I liked being in a position to teach a regular crowd weekly and to shepherd them between the Sundays. I liked the ministry trips and adventures. I loved being asked for help, even though I then begged the Holy Spirit for answers to help the asker. I loved the thrill of intimate worship gatherings and of course the testimonies of true life change. How can one not love that?

However, I also didn’t like being on a church staff. I know what you’re thinking– “This guy is bipolar.” Well, I’m not. It’s just that there are moments of church work, on the inside of the machine, that aren’t always fun. I didn’t get pumped about meetings. I didn’t favor unrealistic expectations. I didn’t
enjoy the moments that felt far from my heart or far from the heart of the Great Commission. But that stuff happens. Pick any church and you’ll soon find adventures in missing the point.

Despite the delicate balance between ministry and machine, I loved it. I was good at it. It was all I was trained for. However, just like He often likes to do, God disrupted my calm with a furious squall and once again wooed me to walk, to trust, and to have faith. Don’t you love that about our God? I do. Well, I love when he does it to other people more, but you get the point.

So for the last year, I’ve been processing my identity, re-discovering my giftedness, examining my calling from outside the title of pastor, and all the while leaning on, and sadly at times against, the arms of our Great God. It has been a journey, both beautiful and dark. Yet I’m glad I took it. I could have rested in my position, in my salary, in my accomplishments and been okay. Stepping out in faith hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. It has reconfirmed in me that the ministry of the church is not to be done by paid professionals alone to the entertainment of the congregation. We are to truly empower the saints to the work of pastoral, elder, and overseer ministry. To me, that means I must be and elder everyday and walk alongside those who feel they aren’t, can’t, or shouldn’t be one. I must give them a bigger vision of Jesus’ calling to follow him daily. I will forever be an elder and overseer of His church — even if it means I’m disguised as a mildly-paid personal trainer.

I know that I am called to shepherd, teach, and empower the people of God. I would say we are all called to that task, but specifically the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit have embedded special talents in me that I am to use for the expansion of His glorious kingdom. And so, to the best of my ability I will use them. I will teach whenever able. I will whisper words of encouragement whenever possible. I will do my best with meager words to reveal a God bigger than what people imagine or currently know. And I will do it all with joy in my heart. 2 Peter 1:3-13 have reignited a sense of passion in my soul. Give it a read real quick… then continue. So as long as I dwell in this tent of body, I will do my best to remind you of the kingdom, the King, and your calling to both!

Practically speaking, our family has found a place of connection with the local body of Christ that fans this flame of godly and missional living. It’s refreshing to be with like minded people who long to see God and his kingdom made known. Additionally, I have found a new eagerness in my writing. There was a long season (longer than I desire to admit) where writing the book I’m working on felt like a chore. It was as if I was wrestling with God rather than listening to Him. And believe it or not, it’s hard to write and wrestle. So, with renewed focus, greater clarity and faith, I am embarking once again on the writing project. Pray for the rough draft to be completed by Christmas. That is doable I believe (unto us a book was born– is that sacrilegious? I hope not).

That’s my life as of late… heart, mind, and soul. I covet your prayers.

** Posts to come soon about books I have recently read. Oh, and I have no idea how to get rid of these ads below…. weird. **


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