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.

Monday Brief

Highlight of the week:

Definitely our Sr. High Service Project Weekend. I really believe in the purpose of this weekend and look forward to doing more. Will blog about this more but this year we did a worship service at the Good Shepherd Mission in Paterson, NJ then spent a couple hours afterwards hanging out with the men there. Served at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in center city Philadelphia with Evan’s students at Great Valley Pres. That evening went Bethel Church in Philly to hear Shane Clairborne. The kids connected with a lot of what he said. Still waiting for them to digest it all bc I am eager in hearing their thoughts and reactions. Sunday, we worshipped at the Well in Feasterville (where Todd Hiestand and Gary Alloway serve at) then went and at cheeseteaks (at Pats because they let me order in Arabic).

Book(s) I’m reading (and not reading): Rediscovering Paul for the emergent conference. Which I literally read 2 pages since last week. Read the Relational Way and finished up Community 101. This week I hope to read 2 more pages of Rediscovering Paul.

Podcasts I’m digging: Relevant Podcast as always. Fermi Project with Christopher Silber (on screenwriting) and for the first time listened to two fantasy football podcasts. A complete waste of time since both my teams sucked this week. Fortunately, one of my opponents must listen also because his team sucked a little worse. Something(s) that blew my mind: Came to the realization that I might as well run for Vice President one day too. Looks like anyone can do it.

Ministry update: Needing to get the ministry calendar ready.

What I am procrastinating on:  The ministry calendar.  My basement.  Need to get a new desk for my workspace.  Need to clean the area before getting the desk – Argh.



At the Princeton Seminary Library

Earlier this week I was at the Princeton Seminary Library.  Although I was never a student, this has become a special place for me.  I served at a church for 5+ years in the Philly suburbs and Princeton was about 20 miles away.  Because my wife and I had different days off and I had a need to get out of the house, I’d spend the day at the library and at Small World Coffee.  I later resigned that church and took a break in ministry to focus on finding a position that would be a better fit and a time of healing and renewal.  (Don’t read that assuming that I was not pursuing God’s will, but you’d have to know me to understand how I use that type of language but I digress).  As I was looking for our next ministry, I spent even more time at PTS library.  I especially loved the periodical room and all the various places to study.   Between its size and not being a student there and therefore not knowing anyone, I ended up reading a lot.


Not an exciting post but it was a good day for me to be back there.  These days I use the Starbucks, Borders, and the libraries at Nyack Bible College and at Alliance Seminary.  It’s not the same but it’s different season and it’s been a good one.

Monday Morning Brief on Tuesday Night

Highlight of the week:  Our Biblical Seminary Bus Tour.  Went to see ministries serve the larger community in Philly.  (I keep meaning to blog about this.

Book(s) I’m reading: Finishing up Community 101, Reading Paul for the emergent conference.  Beginning the Relational Way tomorrow.

Music I’m digging:  Honestly, I’ve enjoyed my first few listens to the new Chris Tomlin cd.  If you know me, you know that I like to tease about Tomlin but here’s the thing.  If this wasn’t Tomlin’s voice, I might be really excited about this album.  Given that I cannot really forget that it’s Tomlin (like not imaging a pink elephant in my mind), I can say, “Hmm.  Not bad.”  What a snobby disclaimer to say all that, huh?

Something(s) that blew my mind:  $700 billion dollar bailout.  It just sounds crazy.

Ministry update:   Getting ready to go Sr. High Service Project Weekend with Evan’s students. Men’s mission in Paterson, NJ, serving at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in Philly, Shane Claiborne, worshipping at The Well (where Todd Hiestand and Gary Alloway serve), and …. Cheesteaks.

Reflecting on the 'debate' between Christopher Hitchens and Lorenzo Albacete

Monday, my friend (I only have one – the jr. high youth pastor who is also named Tim.  Yep, I have to employ people for them to be my friend. And yes, he was required to attend with me and drive with me). Anyway, we to a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete.  It was a free event at The Pierre Hotel in Manhattan sponsored by the Templeton Foundation’s “The Big Questions” Series and the Washington Post’s “On Faith” program.  I received the invitation through Socrates in the City.  The debate lasted for a little over an hour and was moderated by Sally Quinn of the Washington Post and Jon Meacham from Newsweek.

The Monsignor began by expressing the admiration he had for Hitchens and that he liked his best selling book, God is Not Great. I thought this was a nice gesture but as the debate developed, his extreme kindness got frustrating for me (and for many others).  The problem was the Monsingnor kept agreeing with Hitchens.  At first I thought he was being polite, then I speculated he might be “ropa-doping” him Ali Style and was about to counter him with some great upper cut point – but that never happened.  Now, I don’t want to see something that belongs on the Jerry Springer show but this was not an interesting debate.  Nor did it seem interesting to Hitchens who eventually tried to push the Monsignor to a point of difference.  Finally after Hitchens dropped the F-bomb the Monsignor told him not to be flippant (as Hitchens accused him of being earlier in the debate).  It was a great stand that lasted a little longer than an agnostic’s prayer.

What was that I wanted to see?  A debate or a discussion or  something that combined wit and courage.  As a new friend pointed  out, the idea of debates are outdated.  He may be right, however  couldn’t we manage some kind of intelligent discussion with sharp  and articulate disagreement?   Certainly I did not have some deliusion  that the guy would be so good that Hitchens would fall on his knees  and repent but was hoping for a discussion.  In the future, I’d be  interested in seeing a guy like Hitchens “discuss matters” with a guy like Tom Wright.

Reflecting on Rick Warren's Visit to NYC

Today me and our jr. high youth pastor went to see Rick Warren at the New York City Cultural Center in Brooklyn.  Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing.  I love the guy named “Rick” who has the last name “Warren”, while I am cautious of the brand of Rick Warren.  I think he’d say the same on a good day. 

The event promoted the New York City Leadership Circle and a bunch of other things.  For instance, (in case you haven’t heard), Warren is promoting a new movement called, “40 Days of Love” and he preached a sermon to us on the topic.  Honestly it was very good.  Of course it was, after all, you don’t get to me “Rick Warren” the brand by not being good. 

I couldn’t help but like him. He’s got personality, gives off a down to earth quality and is prepared to speak on the topic of choice.  He’s interesting, inspiring (and now I’ll use any word that doesn’t begin with letter ‘i’), and seems to enjoy what he’s sharing.  To contrast that with other leaders who seem to be annoyed that they have to explain these types of things to their audience.  They tend to come across as condescending.  And miserable.

This launched quite a few thoughts.  Like what makes someone a mega-church pastor?  Is it calling, talent, pedigree, money, education, the right people around you (social pedigree), circumstance, vision, etc?   I have nothing against who God sets up in the places He desires to.  However, I get frustrated with the “game show” senior pastor, if you know what I mean.

In the course of this morning, Rick spoke of Saddleback and several huge surrounding churches.  He mentioned Greg Laurie and plugged his event at Madison Square Garden in October.  This got me thinking, how we do not have nearly the East coast equivalent o mega-churches led by iconic pastoral figures.  I think the two most popular North East Coasters are Tim Keller from Redeemer and Joe Fosch from Calvary Chapel.  In the South, there are probably more but I can only think of Andy Stanely.  Anyway, this got me thinking why and the differences between the Northeast and California culture.

I am concluding that it has to be more then the Jewish and Catholic strongholds in the Northeast.  Some of it has to do with our elitism, lack of hospitality, the northeast pace (yes I realize other parts are busy too but here they call it the New York minute and until they change it to the Milwaukee minute, you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt), and I don’t know how much of it is spiritual warfare. I’d have to do some more thinking about these things but it got me concerned in a weird way.  I don’t want more mega-churches, in fact, I think they’ll be sorta of a dinosaur eventually except for the mega-mega churches but that’s another story.  I think I became concerned that more mega-churches will form in our area.  Everything always starts in California right?


My Monday Brief

I’m not really sure how the Monday Brief got started.  I saw Marko doing it on his blog and so does Jake Bouma. (I really should introduce myself at some point to him.  I have poor online manners. However, unlike Jake, I am not posting a picture of men’s tighty-whities on my blog.  It’s a weird policy I have – lol).  Anyway, I liked the idea, so as a good youth pastor, I’m stealing it. 

Highlight of the week:  Apple-picking with Susan, Nathan and some great friends.  Aside from trips to grandparents, that may have been our first family outing.  It was Nathan and my first time apple-picking.

Also, attended the second last game at Yankee Stadium. (It was the last day game if that’s special.)  Great game, robinson Cano 2 out, walk off gw single with bases loaded

Book(s) I’m reading: Community 101, Creating Community by Andy Stanley for school. Reading Paul by Michael Gorman for emergent conference. 

Music I’m digging:  Sigur Rios – Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust but I have no idea what they’re saying.  They could be beautifully praising pollution for all I know.  I still agree with my teen-age self, “I don’t care about the words, I like the music…”  (Yes, I care about words too.  It’s why I don’t like country – lol)

Something(s) that blew my mind: The Miami Dolphins  beating the New Enland Patriots easily.  What a difference a year makes.

Ministry update: Pretty good start for Sr. High.  Just hired new part time jr. high pastor and he’s fantastic.

Seminary/ordination update:  Seminary going well.  Just started second year (one more to go).  Biblical Seminary was kind enough to help sponsor our emergent midatlantic conference with Peter Rollins. 

Looking forward to: the fall in general.  Some great events/conferences coming up. Even cooler – Nathan is going to be crawling soon.    


A late night reflection on emerging church, power, and conversation …

Evan has a put up a reflection that starts with Phyllis Tickle, and continues by sharing his impressions of the emerging church movement, it’s effect on Christendom, power, and the Church itself.  I always enjoy talking to Evan so you might enjoy reading his post.

That said, I’m not sure I can commit to the reduction of “us versus them”.  One of the pleas of the postmodern mindset, is the idea of both or more and being careful of the idea of exclusivity.  As one who connects with the emergent church, I see it “many against us” while emergent-thinking types ask, “Why not us too?”.

Thus, I don’t see this as a fight for power.  Feel free to call me naïve.  Further, I think most who consider themselves to be emergent don’t want “power” in the traditional sense.  Influential, maybe, but only by those who want to be influenced.  Speaking for myself, I want to engage in conversation with whoever is interested in hearing my voice.  Either as a fellow child in the Lord or if one does not recognize themselves as a child of the Lord, then as whoever you’d identify me as.  Just like I am willing to listen and converse with the voices of others.  This is not universalism, and it’s only conversation and if we have such a great gospel, then let us refrain from only sharing it on our turf and terms. You can have the “power”, I just want conversation.  For the record, I have not interpreted Evan’s post to extend this far, he just got me thinking so do not read this as a rebuttal.

Back to the church context, Paul seems clear to me that we cannot all share the same convictions.  We don’t have to agree on even majority of our points.  (Certainly the essentials and I realize that we may differ on what we may identify as essential).  You don’t have to read my books either.  Frankly, I cannot see certain people reading writers like Jones, Pagitt, McLaren, (or even Bell!).  Emergent/emerging/whatever is not a new brand of evangelism but it is dialoguing with new people and some of them are people would have never stepped foot in my church.  Now, my brother Evan does not imply that he thinks this but I firmly suspect that others do.  Among the evidence is instead of brotherly discussion, many of us have been attacked, punished, and rejected as apostates.  That said, don’t try to burn my books either, just as I have never damaged a single copy of any of the Left Behind, Prayer of Jabez, or WWJD  books, bracelets, or refrigerator magnets.  For that, I think you owe me one.  

pssst – Christian shirts don't work

At the Revelation Generation music festival, I stopped by one of those Christian t-shirts tables.  Yeah, not sure I’m going to be able to stop once I start.  

First, I believe in righteous anger but I cannot tolerate the argument that this is a form of it.  Please comment/email me/contact me if you are the guy/girl who came to know Christ from reading someone’s Christian t-shirt.  I’m still looking for that story, “I was walking through the mall and this shirt read, “You think it’s hot here?  God.” and I asked the guy, “Dude, what must I do to be saved?”.  

Second, they only rally Christian  (Todd Hiestand has an interesting post regarding preaching) and offend the skeptical, the hurting, the marginalized and the normal.  

Third, though they’ve been out for years and years, the”attitude” shirts are too much of an imitation.  In a world without consequences, I would open up my own Holyster store so I could create these type Christian shirts.  They’d pretty much be the same type of shirts as we have now, but I’d market them like Abercrombie.  I’d employ Amy Grant’s strategy of “being sexy for Jesus” (Rolling Stone, June, 6, 1985) and have good-looking models with six pack abs holding their shirts that read, “Virginity is HOT”.  Maybe I’d even produce a teen coming to age movie, entitled, “He’s All That”.  I’d have the ‘t’s look like crosses.  Unsuspecting audiences would come expecting American Pie and we’d hit em up with uhhh … well … I’d have to pray about it but it would be a solid bait and switch which some consider to be great evangelism.  

Fourth, they’re usually lame.  

I present to you exhibit A:

You might ask, “What does this even mean?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked.  Please read the back of my shirt that has some Scripture and an explanation how porn “poses” as love but it isn’t really.  You see?  Now go and sin no more”.  Is that how you would actually speak to someone?  If so, you might want to rethink some of your social skills.

Here’s one that I thought was pretty good ….

until I read the back:

Should have just left the back blank.  The front actually has the potential to start meaningful conversation.  

Then there’s the pro-life shirts.  First, please know that I have very strong views against abortion.   However, if you have ever spoken to someone you love and respect (even if they are a stranger), some rhetoric, regardless of how clever it may be, is not helpful.

For example:

Could you imagine a pro-choicer having a shirt that says, “It’s a fetus – get over it!”???  I’d go nuts.  

What if someone walked around with an anti-capital punishment t-shirt that had a picture of a woman strapped to the electric chair with the fifth commandment over top of it, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”.  I may not go nuts but I think that shirt would be distasteful.

I want to be careful and not say, “We shouldn’t wear these shirts” because those type of statements, among many things, sound legalistic to me.  Perhaps we can put some different thought into what we wear (and don’t wear).