My friend, Jason Dukes, stopped by to answer a few questions for The Friday Five. Jason is the founder and senior pastor of Westpointe Church in Central Florida. Jason planted this church seven years ago and now they are experiencing great growth as God has blessed their ministry.
Jason has also had an influential role in creating the Restoration Concept, House Blend Cafe, the Reproducing Churches network, and the Church of West Orange. He is also the creator of humanitybeautiful.com, a website devoted to telling the great stories of God’s people serving on mission around the world.
Jason and his wife Jen live with their five children in central Florida.
1) You just returned from a trip to Israel. I’ve had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land myself. Can you sum up your experience? How are you different?
The experience of visiting israel was especially meaningful since it was my first time and since I got to go with my dad and my brother, with whom I am very close. I would sum up the experience in two words – near and tense. Near because the experience of seeing some of the settings from the Scriptures just made the whole story of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus be more near than ever, more real if you will. And tense because of the border tension as well as the tribal tension of the region. The thought of the Gospel being about reconciliation comes alive when you stand on the Mount of Olives and look through razor wire at the Temple Mount and see the Dome of the Rock along with tombs of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Pretty wild.
2) Five years ago, you planted Westpoint Church in Florida. How did God lead you to begin this ministry?
It was actually seven years ago now, but who’s counting. I may need to update my blog site if it still says 5. Anyway – we had never thought of starting a new local expression of the church. I was serving as a student pastor at the time and a friend called out of the blue to ask if we would consider being sent by the Florida Baptist Convention out to the west side of Orlando to start a new work in a new development out here. We agreed to do so and began cultivating out here in Dec 2003 and met for the first time with a core group in a living room in Feb 04. My wife and I continue to be on a journey that began for both of us before we married – trying to grow in wisdom with regard to the question “Who is church?” and trying to live as God intended her to live. We are trying to remember who God has declared us to be and be faithful to what He has already commanded – that’s Westpoint.
3) The motto of your church is the title of your new book, (also with New Hope Publishers), Live Sent. What does that mean exactly?
In my opinion, it is a metaphor for God’s intention for us – to live beyond self with Him on His mission to love and reconcile and restore (to make disciples). He is the sender, came as the Sent One, and now sends us (John 20:21). And Paul describes the church of Corinth as living letters in 2nd Corinthians 3. So basically I plagiarized Jesus and Paul. But it has been an effective metaphor for us to communicate the essence of daily life to people as followers of Jesus. That clear as mud?
4) Your book uses the metaphor of a letter. You say that every Christian is a letter from God. Can you explain that?
Here’s an excerpt from something I wrote that answered a similar question recently:
I have come to know God as the Sender. The Sender of His creativity when He spoke into existence an environment in which we could experience Him. The Sender of His love when He made even though He knew we would betray Him. The Sender of His mercy when He patiently unfolded a plan to redeem us. The Sender of His grace when He put on skin to restore us. The Sender of His Gospel when He launched a movement called the church. And thus, as His church, the Sender of you and me.
It was His intention. More than self-improvement religion, ours is a beyond-me spirituality where personal relationship and unconditional love blossom into the selfless mission that is to be our daily lives. We are a letter of His love. He even taught that we experience His love to the fullest when we are giving it away to family, to neighbors, to co-workers, into local community, and around the world. I am praying to be more and more mindful to live sent daily.
I have been compelled to tell the “live sent” story for more than seven years now. It has been a catalyst in so many lives around me and my family. People who have embraced the intention to live as God’s letter of love have come to know Him in more profound ways than ever before. Why? Because in living sent we have begun to live and move WITH Jesus, not just live FOR Him. And going on mission with Him is so much more abundant than just trying to be good for Him.
I hope you will be moved to move, too. Like Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As I have been sent, now I am sending you.” [John 20:21]
5) If you could give one piece of advice to pastors or church planters out there, what would that be?
Stop trying to grow your church and surrender the self-induced pressure that is killing you to do it. Plant and water. It is God who grows His church. If we take the blame for not growing it, will we take the credit when there’s growth? Moses had bad things happen when he stole some glory from God. Bad things I tell you.