Small Is Big, Slow Is Fast: Living and Leading Your Family and Community on God's Mission

Small Is Big, Slow Is Fast: Living and Leading Your Family and Community on God's Mission

by Caesar Kalinowski


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310517016
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 10/28/2014
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Caesar Kalinowski is a church planter, missional strategist, coach and one of the founding leaders of Soma Communities ( and the Executive Director of the GCM Collective. He is a spiritual entrepreneur and an avid storyteller. He has worked in over 17 countries around the world including Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Burma, India, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic. He has been married to Tina, his high school sweetheart, for 28 years; they have three children, Caesar IV, Christin and Justine.

Read an Excerpt

Small Is Big, Slow Is Fast

By Caesar Kalinowski


Copyright © 2014 Caesar Kalinowski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-51701-6



Several years ago I was having the rockin'est year in business that I had ever had. Our publishing company was growing exponentially, and I had the financial freedom to finally bless my family with a few long-desired upgrades in life. I had quite a bit of time and the flexibility to travel internationally, doing some pretty amazing work in Africa and Asia by helping deliver the gospel and much-needed relief to those suffering religious persecution or pinned down under the weight of war.

It was a good time in my life in pretty much every way—all great.

That's when God stepped in and messed everything up.

At forty years of age, and with everything going perfectly (according to my sovereign plans), I heard God speak very clearly to me, telling me that I was to become a pastor. "A what, Lord?" It's not that God spoke to me audibly that day, but it was pretty close. The clarity with which I heard his voice, and the subsequent confirmations that happened almost daily, only clarified his call on my life.

"But I'm not a pastor!" I said to him. I had never been to Bible college or seminary. I had zero professional training. I had no desire to wear a suit, slick back my hair, and steer a pulpit every Sunday for the rest of my life. Besides, what church would hire me? Despite my objections, in faith I dutifully responded, "Yes, Father, I'll be a pastor ... if that's your will for my life. But you'll have to work out all of the business stuff I'm committed to, and oh yeah—show me where I'm supposed to pastor too."

Through a series of crazy moves that felt like miracles, within ninety days I was completely removed from my responsibilities within our company, was receiving a pretty fat severance check every month, and was now free as a bird to be a pastor. There was only one problem—I wasn't one yet. No one had called me anywhere or had yet offered me a position at a church. My wife, Tina, and I had been involved at a very large church in the Chicago suburbs for over nine years, and we were both super-involved in the local and international ministries of the church, but there were no job offers there, no one asking me to help the team "pastor up."

I know this, because I asked them.

Their laughter and the polite way they said, "No thanks, Caesar, you're probably not a good fit on our staff ... (pat, pat on the back)," left me with very few options. And it also left me wondering if I had just screwed up my family's life and driven us off a cliff.

Not sure what else to do, I set to work remodeling my basement and found that I had plenty of time to talk to my heavenly Dad about what all he was thinking. Ninety days later (again) to the date, I received a call. It was the executive pastor of our church, and he wanted to know if I was free to come in and have a talk with our senior pastor: "Jim wants to talk to you about that job that's opening up for a communications director ... it's a new pastoral position we're creating."

Boom! That's my opening ... Come on, Lord!

And it happened. I was hired on full-time, at my own local church, as the pastor overseeing all communications. I worked with a large staff and volunteer team. Soon I added the title of "Missions Pastor" to my job description and even got to preach on the big stage once in a while.

Real pastorin' stuff.

For the next three years I learned a lot about local ministry as I pastored in this church context. I will be forever grateful to God and the staff I worked with during those years. My life, character, and theology were shaped in profound ways during that time, and yet I still wondered, was this the call I had heard from God? Was I living a transformed and eternally purposed life?

After a few years, I began to chafe a bit, wondering if Jesus had died on the cross so that a few chosen people in a church service could "do" the ministry while pretty much everyone else just sat there, passively and silently watching. Was this what God had in mind? Was this the hope we had for growth and maturity as a follower of Jesus? Was the highest goal for most of my friends to become an usher in the church building ... to someday ush with the best of them?

Around this time, I was doing some traveling overseas, and I read and re-read the book of Acts. A very different picture of the church emerged, one that was strikingly similar to what I was seeing and experiencing as I traveled outside the United States. The way that Jesus taught and lived with his disciples, and how they in turn lived, looked a whole lot more like what I was seeing in Africa and India than it did in my own life and church back home.

I wondered what it would be like to live in real community with others, not just saying hello to them once a week and shaking hands. I wondered what it would look like to intentionally disciple each other to greater faith in Jesus, living together as God's missionary family, here in my own neighborhood.

There was one huge problem in all of this.

I had zero not-yet-believing friends. In fact, I hardly even knew my neighbors. I was too darn busy pulling off all the programs that went on throughout the week (after week after week) at the church building.


Wait a minute, that doesn't make sense! If I and a handful of other pastors and leaders in the church are supposed to be role models for the rest of our people, showing them how to live and make disciples as Jesus did, shouldn't pastors have loads of not-yet-believing friends? Shouldn't we be rock-star disciple makers, living the same way Jesus and his disciples did?

What I learned was that the way the disciples of Jesus lived was not only in stark contrast to his own culture, but was upside down compared to everything else at that time, both Jewish and pagan. A pattern of teaching and living began to emerge that was profound, yet much simpler than I had seen or experienced in my own life. There was an "all in" nature to life in the kingdom of God, but the process for getting in and living out this life was somehow ... uncomplicated, less pressured and mustered up, less programmed. Jesus would hang out with and teach his disciples through short, simple stories called parables, life lessons that opened up their hearts and minds to a new way of living. A new way of being.

I wanted that. Everybody wants that. Or so I thought.


I began to hear people using a term that described the life of Jesus and his disciples—the way those first believers lived, as well as those who live like missionaries today. The word was "missional." Missional carries with it the idea that our lives should be radically oriented around the mission of Jesus, the same mission that he sent his disciples to replicate—making disciples who make disciples, as a family of missionaries, together. As we began to learn more about what it meant to live this way, Tina and I decided we would begin to gather up some of our closest Christian friends to eat meals together and discuss what it would look like for us to start living as a missional community, treating each other like family and inviting those whom God would (hopefully) call us to disciple to hang out with us and walk more closely with Jesus.

Maybe you've never heard the word missional before. Let me explain. "Missional" isn't a form of church. It's a label we give to the qualitative or descriptive aspect of how a church actually lives. To put it simply, it's about how much like Jesus people become and how much they influence, woo, and transform the culture in which they are placed. In other words, how "missional" you are is largely determined by the extent to which you and your community model the life, activities, and words of Jesus.

Sounds good, right? Our friends all thought so too. We were all excited to be missional, to live as a missional community. Excited, that is, until things progressed to where we moved beyond our weekly meal and discussion about being missional to heading out and building new relationships, serving those in need in our city ... actually going to make disciples. That's when everyone recoiled a bit.

"Hmmm ... This would mean that my schedule would have to change quite a bit. We're just too busy right now."

"Maybe in the winter, once we get past all of our kids' sports activities. We'll see then."

That's when it all fell apart. We pretty quickly disbanded our little "band of brothers" and, greatly discouraged, decided that this just would not work in the suburbs of Chicago.

I'll dig deeper into this experience later, but for now the point is that not everyone who was a Christian was willing to jump right into this new "missional lifestyle" with us. They all agreed that this was biblical, but their existing preconceptions of Christianity, the church, and their own priorities acted as a huge gravitational pull backward, away from a life where the priority and focus was living on mission with God. Apparently we still had a lot to learn about how best to implement Jesus' methods of making disciples.


There is a reason Jesus lived and taught in the ways he did. He wasn't random or cleverly trying to adapt to the local customs of his day. Yes, his methods were rooted in real life and they were immersed into his culture, but there was something far more eternal and subversive going on. Jesus was on his Father's mission, restoring all things to the way he originally created them to be. His life and teachings both provide the example for us and open up a new possibility—for people to once again live in a close relationship with God under his rule and reign. Jesus taught in parables that offered his disciples (and us) a pattern and a promise for life in the kingdom: "For who hath despised the day of small things?"

In Luke 13 we encounter Jesus explaining how the good news of the kingdom—what we commonly refer to as the gospel—works itself out, starting with the basic principle small is big.

Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches."

The pattern here is clear and simple. This new kingdom restoration doesn't start off big, with everyone jumping on board. Notice that Jesus tells us that the little mustard seed is first planted in the man's own garden. After it is planted, it grows into something larger, something that others can find their place in. There are many small steps on the journey to a kingdom life lived with Jesus on his mission. All of your steps will be baby steps at first.

The promise is also clear. After the good news of the kingdom takes root and changes your own heart, Jesus promises it will expand outward to include others. The seemingly small first steps you take to cultivate growth in your own life will grow over time and have a larger effect on others.

We are not called to build elaborate, structured programs and systems and then expect lots of people to come on in and fill them up for us. Instead, we are to plant small (gospel) seeds that will eventually grow into changed lives, changed families, and changed communities.

Small is big. That's the first kingdom principle that Jesus taught. But it wasn't the only one. Continuing with his disciples, Jesus taught them another kingdom code: slow is fast.

Again he [Jesus] asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."

The pattern: Like yeast, a catalyst for change and growth, the gospel begins to affect our lives slowly at first, igniting a change within us that influences every aspect of our existence.

The promise: The good news of the kingdom is about more than just our afterlife, what happens to us when we die. Christianity is about more than sin, heaven, and hell. Jesus' kingdom rule and reign is present now, and it transforms everything about us. It changes our perspectives and priorities, our motives and methods. Living on God's mission of making disciples is about small shifts in belief and practice that over time make a big difference. Just as a ball of dough takes time to rise, we need to be patient with God's process of change and growth in our hearts and lives.


There is an underlying principle in both of these parables, a goal that these two principles lead to: multiplication. The good news of Jesus' kingdom rule and reign is not just about the small changes in your life that lead to transformation over time, nor is it simply a matter of taking time and having the patience to do the right things. Both of these parables teach us that life in the kingdom always leads to multiplication. And multiplication always beats out hard work, sacrifice, and big goals and dreams, eventually changing the world.

It is interesting to me that in Matthew's gospel, right after he records these two parables, he shows Jesus continuing on with back-to-back parables on how valuable the kingdom of God is:

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

After sharing these two short parables, Jesus wraps up his teaching time with the disciples by telling them a final parable about some fishermen who let down their nets to catch "all kinds of fish." This likely would have reminded them of an earlier time when Jesus commanded Peter and his buddies to throw out their nets after a long night of fishing. When they pulled the nets back into their boat, they were overflowing with fish to the point of breaking! The fishermen were amazed at this miracle, and it's almost as if Jesus is saying to them, "That's how I roll!" He wants them to understand that the kingdom life will always lead to expansion and abundance. He is saying to them, "Healthy things grow. They multiply. And that's how God has ordered all of life. And I am going to show you how to live this way and teach others as well."

In a later chapter we will take a closer look at how this principle applies to life in practical ways. You can and must learn how to seed multiplication into every area of life and mission if you are to truly live a kingdom life, one that "grows" to include many others.


What about my own story? Well, a year or so after our failed attempt at starting a missional community, God called my family to pack up and move out to Tacoma, Washington, to join our dear friends, Jeff and Jayne Vanderstelt, on a new adventure. The Vanderstelts had moved out to Tacoma to help start new churches, churches that more closely resembled the kinds of communities we had been reading about in the book of Acts. These were churches that followed a different pattern, one that was in line with this new recalibration of Jesus' teachings in our minds and hearts.

Jeff and Jayne had actually been involved in that first small circle of friends who had never cracked the nut on living missionally, and they were determined to give it another try. Tacoma is a city that has very few Christians, a place where a tiny percentage of the population even "goes to church," and as we settled into our new neighborhood we asked the question, "How would Jesus live here?"


Excerpted from Small Is Big, Slow Is Fast by Caesar Kalinowski. Copyright © 2014 Caesar Kalinowski. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Looking Back to Move Forward
Big Idea: A different way of thinking about the church. Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom mess with our modern day conventions and what we think it means to “be the church”, making disciples and developing leaders. Jesus lived with his disciples in a certain way, over a three-year period as he recalibrated their lives, giving them a new, upside down, perspective. The early churches that the disciples started were rooted in everyday life and naturally looked like the people and culture from which they emerged.

Chapter 2 – Me, Myself and Mine
Big Idea: Personal preparation for a life lived on mission. What are the idols of comfort, control, or fear that I need to die to in order to be prepared to live as a full time missionary in my context? We cannot affectively make disciples and start missional communities unless we can lead our own hearts and the hearts of our families to understand and embrace this lifestyle. With so many Christians coming from a “weekly attendance” mindset for church, with the rest of the week being “mine”, real change has to occur, and it starts in the heart. We’ll explore common sticking points and what to look out for...starting with the person in the mirror.

Chapter 3 – Gospel Motivation
Big Idea: Learn how to motivate others in ways that, over time, lead to life-long change. We’ll look at how the Gospel motivates us to consistently live life on mission by looking at the things we hold dear in life–where our affections and hopes truly rest. Do we understand and really believe a full and robust gospel message centered on our identity in Christ and the power and purpose of the gospel? This is a life changing understanding of how the gospel saves us and why the gospel saves us. Has the gospel changed our internal motivations to perform or be “successful for Jesus”? We’ll examine the truth about how God now sees us. And we’ll address the head/heart distortion: are we actually living out what we say we believe?

Chapter 4 – Saints and Sinners
Big Idea: Making friends with not-yet believers and engaging the culture. Often we can get stuck in a Christian ghetto of sorts where we seem to primarily hang out with our friends from church or just other Christians. And if we have any sort of relationship with people from work or school, they do not include a clear and intentional, yet natural, spiritual component and deepening trust. God has placed all of us in multiple environments where there are “men or women of peace” that are leaning into relationship–with us and with Him. I will share many ways to begin to build relationships that are filled with gospel opportunity that fit who we are. We will also explore how to truly love people where they are at in their spiritual journey regardless of how they respond to our faith and proclamations / displays of the good news.

Chapter 5 – Into the Fray
Big Idea: Moving from a circle of friends (believing and not-yet-believing) to starting a gospel community that lives on mission to a group of people in a specific context. I’ll give practical ways to identify who specifically this community might be on mission to–making disciples who make disciples . I will draw out the differences between missional communities formed around either networks or neighborhoods, looking at the rhythms of a new community that is increasingly living like a family of missionary servants: how often to be together, doing what, when and the ‘why’ behind all of it. I will point to several good and tested resources I have used to expedite certain aspects and learnings within community.

Chapter 6 – The Seed Principle
Big Idea: Seeding multiplication into everything you do right from the beginning. Healthy things grow. That is how God has designed all of life. Everything he created has the seed of multiplication built into it...plants, animals, humans, families, communities and the Church. But when it comes to discipleship and the

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