Three Disciplines for Network Maintenance

Networking always offers surprises and new opportunities for learning.  This week I launched my book, The Kingdom Net:  Learning to Network Like Jesus, at a national church conference, where I also attended an alumni meeting for my undergraduate alma mater.  Right away as I walked into the meeting, Danny Duvall—one of my era’s football heroes and a first-rate student and preacher—stepped up and greeted me.  Danny has had a great career as an evangelist and pastor, and I felt pleased that he immediately knew me and had kept up with my career trajectory.  As students, we ran in different circles and probably never had even two or three conversations despite taking a few classes together.  But we immediately re-connected as friends, 30 years after graduating from college.

After teasing me about setting the curve on Greek exams too often as a student, Danny asked me if I had discussed Paul’s use of the word katartizo in the book.  He referenced Ephesians 4:12 where it says God has given the church apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”  Danny explained to me that katartizo refers to the “mending of nets” and that Matthew 4:21 uses it to describe James and John mending their fishing nets.  I had to confess that this little pearl from the Greek had escaped my attention (and Danny must have noticed that he had just aced the real-life Greek test I had flunked!)  Very nerdly of me.

The translation “equipping the saints” suffices nicely to convey the meaning of Ephesians 4:12, but by not looking at the fishy connotation of the Greek original, I lost the “net” work connection.   Katartizo means “to complete thoroughly, i.e. repair (lit. or fig.) or adjust:—fit, frame, mend, (make) perfect, [perfectly] join together, prepare, [or] restore.”[1]  Galatians 6:1 uses it to exhort us to restore Christians who have fallen into sin.

Just like Christ calls the “executive officers” of the church to katartize the Church, he calls people in any field of work to serve as menders and equippers of the Kingdom Net.  As we “perfect,” “complete,” “mend,” “weave,” “fit,” and “restore” our networks, we keep the conduits of the Kingdom open.  We keep God’s fishing net ready for the water, ready for a catch.

The work of fishers mending their nets provides a powerful metaphor for network maintenance.  As Danny pointed out to me, the main tasks of net maintenance after a day’s fishing include:

(1) cleaning,

(2) mending, and

(3) folding

Cleaning removes weeds, sticks, bones, rocks and other garbage from the nets.  Mending repairs the torn places, so valuable fish will not escape from the net.  Folding prepares the nets for easy deployment on the next fishing session.  Wise Kingdom workers will develop the same disciplines for maintaining their networks.  The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus offers detailed advice for network maintenance.


Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.

Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington.  He is the author of Your Deepest Dream:  Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net:  Learning to Network Like Jesus.  Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at


[1] Strong, J. (2009). Vol. 1: A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (40). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Truly Hopeful Travel

In 1881 the great Robert Louis Stevenson said, “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor.” With all due respect to that much-celebrated novelist, I’ve never read a dumber idea.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a happy, hopeful traveler. I am always ready to get back on the airplane, behind the wheel of the car, on board a train or boat or ferry. I’ve never ridden on a Segway scooter, but I suppose I’d even shoulder that indignity if it meant getting where I was going faster. But there has to be a destination in mind. Traveling just to travel is a wanton, ridiculous idea.

Similarly, I love to work. Most of the time, the things I’m doing at work are more interesting to me than my hobbies like golf, marathon training, or genealogy. I put in lots of long days and never feel like it’s a burden to go to work. Work is worship. Work is fun. But work is not an absolute value. You have to be working for something. The myth of Sisyphus is an ancient illustration of the agony that pointless labor represents. Look it up.

Last Sunday, I got up at 5:30 a.m. to run a marathon in Washington, DC. I traveled hopefully to the starting line. I should have taken the shuttle instead of dopily following the walkers, and I wound up walking a couple of miles before the marathon even started. As things turned out, I had to walk another 3 to 4 miles after the race ended. Then, because of the hurricane, I had to jump on a plane almost immediately after taking a shower and fly back to Seattle, through Dallas. Finally, I drove home on a wet highway and almost had an accident when I hit a flooded low area. I got to bed at 5:30 a.m.

It was truly a marathon day. The only thing that kept me going hopefully on the race course was the idea of arriving at the end. The only thing that kept me walking hopefully to my lodging was the idea of a warm shower. The only thing that led me hopefully to the end of eight-hours of flight, stuck in a middle seat, was the hope of arriving. When I got home, arrival was the sweetest thing that had happened all day.

Stephenson’s silly comment fails to grasp the very nature of hope. Hope that has no object is a cruel lie. Work that has no external reward saps all of the pleasure out of labor. Praise God, though, that we do not labor or travel as those who have no hope. When we walk in God’s dream for us, reality will always be better than dreaming.

What to Do When You Drop Your Banana

In Spanish there is a delightful proverb that is often repeated:  “Al mejor mono se le cae el banano.”  Translated into English, it means “Even the best monkey drops his banana.”  More specifically, the dropping of the banana is not exactly the monkey’s fault.  The syntax makes it clear that the banana falls out accidentally.  Bad things happen to the best people.  Sometimes it’s even their fault.

In pursuing our Deepest Dream, it is inevitable that even the best of us will suffer setbacks.  Reality is unpredictable, and sometimes the good die young.  We can never plan out our life in such a way that things never go wrong.  Even if we plan perfectly and God smiles on our efforts, we can occasionally spoil things by human error and sin.  As an old Scottish poem by Robert Burns goes, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
 gang aft agley” or in standard English, “they often go awry.”

Whether the dream gets off track through our errors or the vagaries of fate, the answer is the same:  either pick up your banana and wash it off, or pick another banana.  There are fresh bananas on the stalk.  Opportunity is not as scarce as a “failure mentality” would cause us to believe.  Faith and creativity can find opportunity in almost any circumstance, and God stands by to add revelation to the mix in ways that we cannot think or imagine.

What is the Christian’s Dream Role as a Citizen?

The word “city” first occurs in the Bible when it is mentioned that Cain, the murderer and accursed wanderer, built the first city. Cain wanted to avoid God’s curse that he would be a nomad, and built a city to provide refuge from those who might want to avenge the blood of his neighbor. And from that point until now, the rivalry between urban and rural people has continued.

Throughout the initial books of the Old Testament, God is always sought in remote rural places, while cities are depicted negatively—Nimrod’s Babylon/Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egypt. The tide doesn’t turn on cities until King David comes along and establishes Jerusalem as “Mt. Zion, the City of the Great King.” Unlike the leaders before him, David pulled the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Presence of God in from the remote places and put it in the very heart of the City.

From David’s Zion Theology, the picture shifts to seeing the eternal destiny of humanity as urban. The earthly Jerusalem falls into dishonor in Paul’s Allegory of Hagar (Earthly Jerusalem) and Sarah (Heavenly Jerusalem) and in John’s Revelation (Jerusalem as “Sodom and Egypt where our Lord was crucified). But the final revelation of our destiny shows God dwelling with the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem. Just as Christ redeemed our souls on the Cross, He has begun to redeem all of Creation. They City itself will be saved. God is not far away on some remote mountain, but dwelling in the heart of the City.

So what does that mean for Christians? Our task as citizens is not to reject the city as accursed and godless, but to recognize that we can move the city (society, nation, world) away from Sodom and toward the New Jerusalem. We can do that by bringing the Tabernacle into the midst of it. We can bring Jesus into the City. When we make God’s presence in the city real, we join with our Pilgrim ancestors in seeking to build a replica of New Jerusalem here and now.

One of our great American patriotic songs says, “O Beautiful, for Patriots’ Dream that sees beyond the years thine alabaster cities’ gleam undimmed by human tears.” I have no illusion that we will succeed in building New Jerusalem, as William Blake’s great patriotic hymn of England charges us to do. But in seeking to build replicas of it, we can succeed in bringing God into our cities and making them more like NJ (no, not the otherwise lovely New Jersey) and less like Sodom. That should be the Christian citizen’s dream—to bring God into the city.

Heaven is A City, not a Picture Show

“Our eyes will be forever fixed upon God,” I said in the previous blog post. I am completely convinced that the statement is true. Would you puzzle this idea with me for a minute?

Let no one misunderstand. When I say our eyes will be eternally fixed on God, I do not mean to suggest that Heaven will be some sort of eternal picture show where we are unable to move from our seats. Like most Evangelicals Christians, I’ve heard it said that Heaven is an eternal worship service. The older I get, the less attractive that sounds!

In the Asian religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as in Greek Platonism, the final state of humanity is absorption or “becoming One with the Universe” or something along those lines. In those systems, the end to which personal identity strives is its complete loss. When I say we will have our eyes fixed on God for eternity, I certainly do not mean to suggest that we will be absorbed into God and thus lose our identity. The Biblical doctrine of the resurrection of our bodies serves as the guarantor of our personal being and integrity in the end.

As I have often preached from Romans 12:1, our truest form of worship is not what we do in the exciting, symbolic services held in churches, but rather the daily living sacrifice of offering our whole existence (bodies) to God. It is our life in the streets, in the marketplace, at the workbench, at the dinner table, with our families, that constitute our “latreia logike” (Greek from Romans 12:1 that should be translated “true worship service”).

One more piece of the puzzle: the book of Revelation refers to the Church in Heaven, the Bride of Christ, as a City—the New Jerusalem. If we are to be a Bride, it is clear that we will live together in unity. If we are to be a City, it is clear that there will be a beehive of activity going on. A movie theatre or exhibit hall full of agape onlookers is hardly consistent with the metaphor of a city.

And so it would seem that while we will be unable and unwilling to take our eyes off the Heavenly Bridegroom, we will have our personal identities intact. And we will have things to do in the “economy” of Heaven. We’ll be a bustling city. And yes, it will be an eternal worship service, but not one in which we are fixed in our seats. No matter what we will be doing, we will always be simultaneously fixed on the Beauty of our Savior, conscious of God’s presence, and busy about enjoying it all.

How God Will Fix Our Eyes

Deep inside every human being is a dream of glory. Some might claim to want no glory for themselves. I understand and appreciate their humility. But every mentally healthy, spiritual sensitive human being in the world wants to be in the presence of glory. We want to feel the weight of glory for ourselves. According to Romans 8:18 that is God’s ultimate intention for all of us: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

The moment of our glorification will come when we finally stand in the full and unmediated presence of God. God’s glory that fills everything in every way will fill us as well. When we see God, we will see the source of all beauty, all truth, all fascination and awe. Everything attractive that we have ever seen in this life is merely derivative, a pale copy of God’s true beauty and glory. When we finally fix our eyes upon God, they will indeed be fixed, in both senses of the word. We will see clearly, and we will find ourselves unable to look away.

I recently heard a story about a missionary who was entertaining guests in America from the desert African nation where he had served. In their sight seeing, he took them to a huge waterfall, where they saw more fresh water than they had ever imagined could exist. After a while, he suggested that they should move on to the next activity, but they protested. “Couldn’t we just wait until it’s over?” they asked. They could not imagine that  the water would never stop flowing. Like that waterfall, God’s beauty will never, ever stop.

How will we ever look away from it? Every other thing will only be a tawdry copy of what we see in God. Perhaps some would think that they would eventually want to turn their eyes away to rest, needing a break from the unending display of dazzling delight. Yet that is folly also. God is revealed to be our perfect rest. There will be no more tiring, no wearing out, no decay or distraction. Whatever we require, God will be for us. And that is, at the end, my deepest dream.

How Oldies Can Remain Goodies

Today in the Northwest University Chapel, I watched men in their 70s completely capture the attention of college students in their teens and twenties. The Couriers, a Gospel Group still made up of three original members from 1955, sang music from a long-outdated genre to a crowd that has surely had very little exposure to their style. The result was a standing ovation in two consecutive chapel services. I was amazed and delighted!

I first heard the Courier’s signature song, “The Statue of Liberty,” when I was a teenager in youth camp in Alabama. I remember tears streaming down my face as I exulted in the glory of being an American (“I’m so proud to be called an American, to be named with the Brave and the Free; I will honor our flag and our trust in God, and the Statue of Liberty.”) Then the tears flowed thicker when the song turns to what Jesus did “on lonely Golgotha.” Maybe I didn’t fully understand the song at age 13 or 14, but I love the way it nails what it means to be an American, then turns and nails that to the Cross. Jesus trumps all nationality and ideology!

After watching those three genial gentlemen enthrall and entertain our students, I reflected a little on the question of how their music continues to communicate across generations. How can oldies remain goodies? Here are the secrets:

1. Young people like older people who like young people. Once you have given up on them, they’re done with you. Once you stop being able to appreciate their creativity, they lose interest in yours.
2. Oldies remain goodies when they are able to be completely genuine. Young people can spot a phony from miles away. They recognize phony faces on television and know the voice of a tele-phony from the moment their cell rings. Young people like authenticity.
3. The anointing never grows old. People who love God and are full of God’s Spirit will always have young people around them. Speaking in tongues is not nearly so good an evidence of God’s Spirit as speaking in love, and where’s God’s Spirit is present, God’s love flows like the oil over Aaron’s head and beard. How good and pleasant it is!

The Couriers continue to reach young people because they like them, the believe in them, they show them who they are instead of hiding behind a plastic façade, and they walk in the anointing of God. That’s how oldies remain goodies. When old men dream dreams, they ought to dream of remaining goodies, no matter how old they grow.

Interpretating the Deep Dream

One of my favorite things to do is live translation (Spanish to English or the other way around). While I enjoy the challenge of simultaneous translation, it is not as exciting as live translation. What’s the difference? In simultaneous translation I am usually stuck in a sound booth, listening on headphones to an unseen speaker and offering an instantaneous translation for a remote people wearing headphones in the audience. Everything moves so fast there is no time to do anything but offer a rough, artless rendering of the message from an unseen speaker to an unknown audience. I enjoy the challenge of doing it, but I can’t say I really enjoy the translation itself.

Live translation is quite different. I am standing next to the speaker, who is usually known to me personally. I have time to hear the message, fully process it in a split second, and then convey it to the audience in the most artful language I can muster. I will move the same way as the speaker, using the same hand motions, the same pace and tone of voice. I’ll even borrow the same spiritual anointing. The experience is as intense as simultaneous translation, but infinitely more personal.

The key to being a great interpreter is to disappear. You want the audience to think that they are understanding the speaker without your help. Ironically, to accomplish that illusion, you have to become the speaker for them. If you don’t do everything the way the speaker did it, and if you don’t render the message with integrity, the audience will never forget about you and experience that magic of really connecting with the original speaker.

In interpreting your deep dream, it is important to recognize that God is the speaker, not you. As you live out your dream, you are interpreting to the world the message that God has given you for it. The more like God you are in expressing the message, the better you will render it. If you can be so in tune with God that you perfectly understand the dream, and if you render it to the world exactly the way God spoke it to you, an amazing thing will happen. People will sense that they are hearing from God through you. If you get it exactly right, you may even disappear to them at times. Interpret your dream to the world—the dream God gave you—and your life will become a message from God to a world that desperately needs it.

Terror and Dreams

As I write, American embassies in North Africa and other places are under siege by protestors and the threat of further violence. Just a couple of days ago, diplomats were killed by rocket blasts in apparently coordinated terrorist attacks. The question for a dream thinker like me is, “what is the relationship between terror and dreams?”

The answer is that there can never be a relationship between terror and deep dreams. By definition, dreams involving terror are nightmares, and there is no such thing as a deep dream based on fear. Just as “perfect love casts out all fear,” deep dreams cannot exist in a place where fear reigns. Since deep dreams are a gift from the God of perfect love, there is no room for fear in them.

The meaning of “terror” flows in two directions: we can be the cause of terror in innocent others or the innocent targets of terror from others. But no matter which direction the terror flows, it creates havoc on both ends. Those who are legitimate victims are killed, wounded, or intimidated. The illegitimate victims who perpetrate the terror bring shame, guilt, and damnation on themselves. No one wins. No one’s dreams are advanced. Only nightmares are shared.

No deep dream can be built on sin, shame, or guilt. You can never achieve your deep dream by hurting others. You can never get there by perpetrating injustice. The road to depth can never be travelled along the low road.

Did you get that? You can’t take the low road to greater depth.

Deep and Wide

When I was a child, my favorite hymn at church was a called “Deep and Wide.”  I guess I liked it because it had hand motions.  We would sing it and illustrate it with our hands that there was a “fountain flowing deep and wide.”  The meaning of the song was that God had provided, in the person of Jesus Christ, a fountain of salvation that flows deeply and widely.   No matter how deep in sin a person had sunk, God’s love could reach them and deliver them.  No matter how far flung they were in the world, no matter how far they had wandered, God’s grace could reach them.  I didn’t understand the concept when I was illustrating it with my arms in children’s church, but the older I get, the more it means to me.

People are deep and wide too.  Deep within us there is a dream that perfectly expresses our truest self, the person we were created to be.  The scope of the deep dream is indeed wide—it stretches across our whole life and touches everything we do.   It’s a good thing grace is deep and wide too, because people and their dreams need an all-encompassing reach of grace.

Some people may reject the idea of a deep dream.  They may think they are “self-made,” and some seek to “re-invent” themselves.  I have no doubt that effort makes a lot of difference and that we can indeed start over after making a mess of ourselves.  But I doubt that anyone is really “self-made” or that they ever really “invented themselves” the first time, much less that they can “re-invent” themselves.

We all have a destiny.  It is given to us by God, our parents, our families, our societies, and other forces over which we have no control.  Nothing that we can change is part of our destiny—only the things we can’t change.  I’m convinced that most of self-discovery is not invented by choices we make, but rather revealed by them.  I think the deep dream is a precious gift to us that we discover as we walk out our destiny and enrich it with our choices.

So go deep.  Discover your deepest self, your deepest dream.  Trace out its implications over the wide scope of your life.  And above all, lean into the grace of God that is deep enough and wide enough to fulfill you in every way.  (P.S.:  Reading my book will help!)