Recapping our Service Project Weekend Post II

This year we went wanted to go to Philly for a number of reasons.  But before we set out to the place allegedly referred to “The City of Brotherly Love”, we did a worship service at the Good Shepherd Mission in Paterson, NJ we on Friday night.  Our new Jr. High Youth Pastor, also named Tim (we have heard all the jokes) led worship, a student gave a reading and one of our shy freshmen girls summoned the courage to share what the Lord was doing in her life.  I preached a sermon on unity that was an extension out of what we’ve been speaking about in youth group.  Our unity must flow within us as a youth group and beyond us throughout the Body and outside the Body.  Following our time of worship we spent a couple hours afterwards hanging out with the men there listening to their stories and enjoing each other’s presence.  


Recapping our Service Project Weekend Post I

Sr. High Service Project Weekend was a good thing. I hesitate to use phrases like “great success” because of what that sort of language implies to me but it went very well. I really believe in the purpose of this weekend and look forward to doing more. Prior to my arrival at this church, each quarter the youth group went to some kind of camp which is fine and all but it seemed a little overplayed to me. Add that we have been trying to do service projects for the longest time but getting students to commit to the calendar was a difficult thing especially since we have weak culture of service. So as we have been trying to create a missional culture, we’ve also combined the idea of getting out of the area and doing service projects.

Last year we did various things in the New York City area like cleaned off the shelves at a soup kitchen in Harlem, helped with a children’s Halloween alternate activity at a church in Queens (while promoting the church’s health clinic!), put on a worship service at a Jewish nursing home (we told them we were Christians) and the Good Shepherd Home in Paterson.  This year we changed it up a bit.  So, here are some posts and thoughts.

Reflecting on the Suburban Christian Seminar – Post 2

One of my regrets that I hope to remedy one day is that I wished we had lived in the city.  City living is tough since it’s pretty expensive, less space, more potential of crime, pollution and other variables. 


However, I’ve always liked the idea of living in a city, walking, taking subways, etc.  Living relatively close to NYC allows me to enjoy parts of this from time to time, but there are many times that I wished that I could wake up to the grandeur of the city.


But I live in the ‘burbs, in a fantastic parsonage that our church has provided us.  I’ve been thinking about one of things that Su said in his seminar at The Well.  The ‘burbs needs people.  Had I not gone to the diner this morning, I would have spent the entire day with people I know.  In fact, people I know quite well.  That’s life in the suburbs.  This is partially why I enjoy doing work at Starbucks.  In fact, at Revelation Generation, a guy recognized me from Starbucks.  We had one of those, “How do we know each other moments?”  Fortunately I live in the suburbs and I only go to a few places – lol.   This part of my life needs to be improved.  


Tall Skinny Kiwi asks, Should Evangelicals "Unload the Slackers"?

On Tall Skinny Kiwi’s fantastic blog, Andrew asked this question from this article by Christine Wicker.

I appreciate the discussion that Christine brings (and thanks Andrew for posting) though I haven’t figured out the conclusion she calls for. Perhaps I should read the book. As individual believers and as a Church, we should take notice of some of these points.

Regarding the “unload the slackers” comment, first, to those who might be bothered by being called “slackers”. Can we as the Church really be offended? As a Church, are we giving our best to the glory of God and to the world?
Personally, I am not able to defend this accusation. 
Do not get me wrong, I love the Church. I am humbled that I am a part of it, that I serve it, and I believe in it’s hope but I will not lie for it. We are not being faithful with the opportunities we’ve been given, nor are we being faithful with living out the gospel. We are slackers.

I read the comment as motivational hyperbole rather then a call to literal action. First how would you actually unload the slackers? By excommunicating them or firing off a warning shot by issuing an ultimatum? Second, who are “they” because if I am honest with myself, I’m being asked to condemn myself. Thirdly, if we had a “how”, and a “who”, can we be faithful in our Christianity and actually dismiss those who are not performing spiritually up to this newly agreed upon par? We must always carry our weaker brothers and sisters, serve them, lead them, confront, reconcile, pray for them and realize that many times WE are the weaker.

Which perhaps may bring us closer to bringing goodness to the problem. Maybe we can confront the slacker-mentality in our churches by being more faithful, more loving, more sacrificial, and more Christ-like.

Missional in Suburbia Seminar with Al Hsu at The Well

Our young adult group read Al Hsu’s Suburban Christian earlier this year.  Though some of it was a little technical, most of us appreciated it and needed it.  (If you are don’t want something technical but want to begin this conversation, consider reading Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution.  If you’ve already IR, then consider Suburban Christian).

I appreciated the intro and he states up front that basically this is not an “anti-suburban” seminar.  So, If  you live in the suburbs that’s ok. You’re not selling out, Christians need to be everywhere.  Shortly after, Hsu moves into his thesis of redeeming the suburbs.

Hsu argues that living in the suburbs is very needed in fact.

      1. Sheer numbers – twice as many people living in the suburbs then city and country combined.

            Suburbia is actually bigger than Russia.

      2.  Given this, people in suburbia are increasing their influence on the shaping of society

One of the problems is that many live in the suburbs uncritically.

There are several comments that may give you pause such as the fair accusation that some suburban parents idolize their children.  Do suburban parents idolize their children more than city or rural parents or is this type of thought only an extension of the SUV soccer mom stereotype?  

Al asks questions and allows time for discussion between the audience and with him.  Driving is another interesting discussion.   

I recommend that you listen to the podcasts (appreciate the Well putting them up).  Available here.

You tube on Scot McKnight speaking on "Being Missional"

Found this because this gentlemen (Terry Chapman) left a comment on the Emergent Mid-Atlantic Gathering site.
You can check out his church site, Forked River Presbyterian Church.
From what I can see his church is exploring some missional opportunities and he provided a youtube link to Scot McKnight “Being Missional”.  Clip is from the Willow Creek Student Ministry Conference, “Shift”.
In the beginning of the 2 minute clip he says, 
“Jesus was missional. That’s the word. He was missional.  He saw others and to be missional means 
to be other-oreinted rather then self-shaped…”
He goes on to explain that we (the Church) are the presence of Jesus.
Easy introduction to the idea of missional living.  Also may help you explain to others what being missional is.

Are Great Adventure Trips Missional?

Yes they are! There are certain rides like Kingda Ka that are very much a spiritual experience. The speed, the anticipation, the relief that you are still alive – praise Jesus. Ever get to the top of a ride like Nitro (which is a fun stand-up roller coaster) and pray that everyone is doing their job? Similar to praying for the pilot and his family and confessing unconfessed sin upon take off, I am praying for the 17 year old operating the controls, the maintenance guy in charge of seat restraints and praying that the team of engineers are all happily married with well-adjusted children being and being fairly compensated.

In fact, the next time a roller coaster gets retired, I’m going to suggest to our elder board that we consider purchasing it and throwing it in the back of the church. Not so much to thrill teen-agers but to convict those older. Imagine sending up that guy who complains after every worship service or the “just a suggestion” lady (that suggests that you were a different person – LOL). We could strap them in, play sermons of kindness, edification, complaining, giving! And you don’t get off the ride until you repent (Now that’s a suggestion). Truth be told, that’s just where some people are at and I find it fun to joke about (You don’t expect me to take it too seriously do you? And this is a blog not Christianity Today).

But over to my context, I enjoy taking our students to things like G.A. One reason is because I am normal (somewhat) and I like having a good time. Among my concerns and frustrations with some parts of student ministry is this cool, fun Jesus thing. I guess that’s really a different type of post but here’s the issue with Great Adventure. These trips of become so cliché. We ask ourselves, how can a student ministry NOT go to an amusement park? It’s like a church without a cross in the sanctuary. Has anyone heard of such a thing? Yes in fact, we have. And there are many successful student ministries that have given up on trying to entertain their students and have focused more on ministering to them. And many more that are trying to find the balance in between (like ours).

What I like about trips like these is standing in line, talking (except when it’s ridiculously hot, which it wasn’t yesterday), getting to know students and leaders. Truth be told, I do feel closer to our students after these types of trips. Not really sure that counts as being missional though. Perhaps we should pick up the trash, free the dolphins and tigers, and evaluate their energy efficiency. But spending time conversing in the lines is better then turning kids loose in the park and deluding ourselves into thinking that this is youth ministry.

Is VBS Missional?

A couple weeks ago, we had our Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church.  We did Group’s Power Lab – haha!  (you’d have to be there to get that).  For years I’ve been wondering the benefit of programs like VBS.  We all have stories of places that have done it wrong or made a mess of it.  That’s to be expected since there are literally thousands of churches that do it across our country and many more thousands throughout the world.  Forget those stories for a couple of moments.

If VBS didn’t exist, I think it would be something that pastors and church people would dream about.  Again, forget you know this thing called Vacation Bible School.  Imagine a week of having hundred or two kids running through your church hallways.  Imagine parents calling your church months before the summer explaining that they are planning their vacations around this week.  Imagine that many of them are not from your church.  Imagine each year many of your church kids further their understanding of the Gospel and many un-churched kids hear the Gospel (and many accept Jesus).  Imagine people throughout your congregation serving for a week inside your church.  In fact, some of them take vacation time to do this.  You could imagine so much more but you get the point.

If you are fellow frustrated/jaded skeptic/critic who loves God and Church so much and you just want more you probably share some of my annoyances.  For instance, are some VBS programs geared more towards the god of fun then the God of Love?  Yes.  Do we have some people that have no right working with children (not because they are abusive but because they do not have the foggiest concept of children’s ministry)?  Yes again.  Do some people (church and non-church) use VBS as free day care?  Yes but that’s not the worst thing ever is it?  (I mean don’t millions use Sunday Morning for things other then worship?  It’s not right of course, but we don’t cancel Sunday Morning Services do we?)

I think what I’ve been appreciating is the potential of this VBS that we sometimes take for granted.  We need to deconstruct it, reconstruct it and build upon it.  In many churches, VBS is the most missional event that happens all year.  

Jesus for President Tour in NYC

About two weeks ago, I went with the cool kids to see Shane Claiborne (among them was Thomas from Everyday Liturgy.  Check out his post here) on the Jesus for President Tour with Chris Haw at the Fifth Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue.  (Got excellent street parking too – it was such a good night).

It was very well done.  You needed to remember that it was a book tour thing and Shane and Chris gave a solid visual and oral summary of Jesus for President.  There were several excellent qualities about it.  One was its intention.  For me, I didn’t want to go to a political or an anti-political rally.  I appreciated how it was not a sermon, or even a spontaneous lecture.  It wasn’t about Shane or the Simple Way, it really was about the point of their book.  Second, Shane and Chris read from excellently worded scripts and had a keynote presentation on the screen above.  Intertwined was music.  But not Chris Tomlin music (although there’s nothing wrong with that), but instead an incredible folk band called the Psalters (who “sold” their cds for donations) that combined traditional, contemplative, and various other styles into a neo-folk style.


Among the things that I took from it was that this wasn’t a “Gen-X thing”.  It really wasn’t.  Certainly majority of the crowd were young Xers and older Millenntials but nothing was too edgy, or too “postmodern”, or whatever label you would slap on.  Nor was it anti-war rally exalting the virtues of pacifism and the evils of anything in particular.  Instead, it was a great reminder that politics will not save us. Most of us who showed up probably walked in with that assumption.  Let’s keep that in check so instead worship, serve, and love Jesus.  We ought to do our diligent part in working for the Kingdom here. 


Go see it if you can,

Among many places, you can buy the book here.

"What Makes a Church Missional" by J. Todd Billings

Our seminary cohort as this running joke regarding the word, “missional”.  

Of course we love the idea of being missional, but know that it’s entirely overused and afraid this buzz word becoming another cliche like seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, etc.  All  good ideas that had their value (and eventual shortcomings) by the way.


For those interested in the idea of missional church, here’s a decent article that was posted on the Christianity Today website.


“Some use missional to describe a church that rejects treating the gospel like a commodity for spiritual consumers; others frame it as a strategy for marketing the church and stimulating church growth. Some see the missional church as a refocusing on God’s action in the world rather than obsessing over individuals’ needs; others see it as an opportunity to “meet people where they are” and reinvent the church for postmodern culture.”


link here