Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Heart For The City?

On a blog that I now frequent (Ed Stetzer's blog), I came across a series of posts entitled "You Can't Love A City If You Don't Know A City." I have been in Richmond now for a month, and I have tried to do all I can to "get to know Richmond." As many of you know I lived in Chicago for ten years. During that decade, especially following my urban ministry training at Moody, I devoted myself to learning Chicago. Dr. Fuder challenged us to not only be passionate about exegeting Scripture, but also about exegeting neighborhoods, cultures, the city, etc. My learning never stopped in Chicago! I anticipate that my "city education" will be ongoing here as well.

I (along with my teammates) have been visiting various ministries and social service agencies (rescue missions, transitional housing, health clinics, recreation centers, etc.). I have been researching and reading all I can about the history of Richmond. I have tried to get my hands on local newspapers. Wherever I visit, I try to ask a lot of questions. I even find myself taking drives just to observe different neighborhoods, or trying different routes just to see new scenery.

Richmond is a unique city. It has a population of about 100,000 people, yet it is very close to too larger urban centers (Oakland & San Francisco). It is also surrounded by smaller cities, which almost seem to be viewed as "greater Richmond." It is diverse - approximately 40% Latino, 35% African American, 20% white, 5% Asian (with a growing Asian and Southeast Asian population). Yet within this diversity there is not much segregation along racial lines. Although, there are neighborhoods within the city that are primarily low income and primarily upper class, it seems as if the majority of the city is mixed income. It is a place of great beauty (natural beauty and beautiful people). It is also a place of challenge and pain (homelessness, violence, crime, etc.). The city's slogan is "Richmond: A City of Pride and Purpose."

As I continue to learn and build and learn some more, I have been challenged by something the Lord has exposed in my own heart. We (the pastors) have been telling the church body that we love Richmond, and that we - as a body on mission - have to love our city. However, the Lord has challenged me with a convicting question "do you really love ALL of Richmond"? You see my heart gravitates towards the more "challenging" areas of the city - ie the Iron Triangle, North Richmond, etc. I love building with, listening to, praying for, and learning from homeless men and women. I am excited and passionate about engaging the public school system and contending for educational justice.

Yet, if I'm honest when I say I "love Richmond" the affluent areas of Point Richmond and Hilltop aren't included in that statement. My heart doesn't break for the residents of Richmond who seemingly "have it all together" externally, yet are lost apart from Christ. I am asking God to break my heart for the whole city.

I want to have the same compassion for the prostitute and the professional. I want to be burdened for the homeless man and the "high up" executive. I'm asking God to break my heart for the muslims who attend the mosque at the end of my street, the first and 3rd generation immigrant, the politicians and the powerless.

I'm thankful that God has highlighted this blindspot in my heart. I'm asking Him to continue to stretch me and break me in this area. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Discipleship Through Dance

This is actually my second post about the D3 Movement, but I just have to talk about it one more time! Below is a video of my good brother, Mike Avery, and two of his young apprentices, Devonte & James. Mike is using a God given talent and passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ. It is more than just dance classes/instruction. Mike is spending time with young men, teaching (Doctrine) and modeling (DNA) the truth. Discipleship is not just taught (Doctrine) it is also caught (DNA).

I'm proud of my brother Mike! Check out this video...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

God Is Compassionate

I had the opportunity to preach for the first time this past Sunday morning, in my new pastoral role at Living Hope Neighborhood Church. I really enjoyed this opportunity to share this message. I am excited to see what God is going to continue to do in and through His Church here! Although Sunday's message wasn't recorded (because it was an outdoor service), we do upload our sermons to our web site each week, and you can listen to them here.

God Is Compassionate

Luke 10:25-37 “The Parable Of The Good Samaritan”

What is compassion?
Compassion = splagchnizomai (splock-knee-zho-my) is to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)

Compassion is derived from the Latin words “pati” and “cum,” which together mean “to suffer with.”
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.
Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears.
-the above were taken from Henri Nouwen

Compassion is to feel someone else’s pain in your heart.” – Pastor Ford

Compassion starts in our eyes --- we see someone in need
It then moves into our hearts --- we feel the pain of others
It then compels us to move our feet ---we act on what we have seen and felt

Compassion is risky, messy, and requires sacrifice!

(1) A Compassionate God

a) The Compassion of His Character
-Exodus 3:7-8; Jonah 4:11; Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14/Mark 6:34

b) The Compassion of the Cross
“Jesus is the Great Samaritan” – Tim Keller
-John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 5:8

(2) A Compassionate Church
In order for us to move with compassion we first must be moved by the compassion of Christ. The compassion he showed on the Cross for us, should compel us to show compassion to others.

May we be a Church that is known in the city of Richmond for our Christ-like Compassion!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Glen Kehrein"s "The Stuff Of Urban Ministry"

One of the most impactful classes I ever took at Moody Grad school was "Urban Anthropology & Sociology." It was co-taught by Dr. Fuder, Moody's former Urban Ministry Director, and Glen Kehrein, long time Executive Director of Circle Urban Ministries on Chicago's west side. The Lord really used this class to give me a passion and desire to learn cities: their history, cultures, political systems, city systems, etc. At the time I felt (and I still believe) that EVERY Moody student should be required to take the course, regardless of their major.

During one of our last classes together, Glen shared his Top Ten List, entitled "The 'Stuff' of Urban Ministry. I recently found my notes from that class, and was greatly encouraged by it as I am seeking to learn my new city, and asking God to break my heart for Richmond. I thought I would share these valuable insights from Glen, one of my heroes in the faith.

The "Stuff" of Urban Ministry Top 10

(1) Personal Integrity
-be totally honest with yourself and others
-personal honesty & time will lead to trust

(2)Spiritual Commitment
-Pray, understand God's heart, and follow it

-Know yourself in order to build God's Kingdom not your own
-Sacrifice = to give up a lesser value for a greater value

(4)Personal Support & Accountability
-From spouse & committed friends

-Learning from experience without quitting
-Faithful to the calling throughout ups and downs

(6)Define your vision (it is a process)
-Find out where you are going
-Mission + Philosophy(Theology) + Strategy = Vision

(7)Commitment to relationships over structure
-Structure is not the engine, nor is it the caboose either

(8)Resources follow commitment
-People give (time, talent, & treasure) to what they believe in.
-People give resources where they see commitment.

(9)Education (degrees, pedigrees, & OJT's)
-Spend your life learning, formal & self study

(10)The "Need" does not dictate "the Call"
-Even Jesus didn't do it all and get it all done...and He was God

Please be praying for Glen and his family as he battles cancer. He continues to give updates on his treatments as well as what God is teaching him on his blog.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bye Bye Bye

Some of you may know that it has always been a dream of mine to sing in a boy band. Well, at my YAFR (young adult fellowship) going away bbq I had the opportunity to perform one of my favorite N'Sync songs with some of my close friends. Hope you enjoy it...

With a little bit of practice, I think we can do something more like this...

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

September Praise & Prayer

I have decided that each month I am going to post a praise and prayer blog entry. This will be a way to chronicle how God is at work throughout the year! It is also crucial for me to have people praying with me and for me as I begin this new season of pastoral ministry. Here are my praises and prayer requests for this month...

1) Engagement!
On the evening of Sunday August 21st I got engaged to Joanna "Josie" Albright! I still can't believe it! Lord willing, we will be getting married in early November!

2) The Move
After 36 hours of driving, we made it safely to Richmond, CA! I am thankful for all of God's provisions throughout this time of transition.

3)New Church Family
I am really thankful for my new church family at Living Hope! They have welcomed me with open arms, and many of them worked hard to get my home ready.

4)New Ministry Team
I am thankful for my new team here who I will be serving with and doing life with. These brothers are going to sharpen me, encourage me, and hold me accountable.

5) Saying Goodbye
-The Sunshine staff gave me two wonderful send-offs. We went on a Spirit of Chicago cruise on Lake Michigan as a staff. They also had a going away party at Sunshine on the Thursday evening before I left. It was a very emotional night for me, and I will never forget that time and the words of encouragement that were given.
-My young adult ministry at Christ Bible Church also threw a send-off bbq for me. It was a great time with my friends, and I left feeling very encouraged!

Prayer Requests
1) Moving Josie
Lord willing, on September 29th I will be flying to Branson. We will be driving a moving truck from Branson to Richmond, departing on Saturday October 1st. Please pray for safety and for provision with all of the moving costs.

-Pray with me that the Lord would give me new discipleship relationships in Richmond!
-Also, pray that I would consistently continue to check in and encourage the young men I was discipling in Chicago.
-One of my responsibilities at the church will be building networks with other social service agencies and churches in Richmond. Please pray that the Lord would give me favor and authentic relationships with community leaders.

3)Richmond HS
Pray that the Lord would give us open doors of ministry at Richmond High School!

4) Preaching Opportunities
I will be preaching at our church on Sunday September 18th and Saturday September 24th. Pray with me that the Lord would give me the words to say, and that Christ would be lifted high in my messages!

5) Support Raising
I am still in need of monthly supporters. Pray that I would trust God to provide for my monthly support needs.

6) Making Disciples
-As a church, it is our hearts' desire to stay focused on our mission, that of making disciples. Pray that we would not become distracted from this, and that the city of Richmond would be impacted with the Gospel!
-This has been a violent summer in Richmond. There was a shooting again this past weekend. Pray that God's peace would reign here, and that our church would be active in working for the peace of the city!

Please let me know how I can be praying for you! You can email me at

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Pray for the Greigs

My good brother Allan and his wife Annie are currently in Swaziland serving the local church and local orphanage through the organization that Allan started, Africa Revolution (AR). AR currently has five interns serving and learning in community there!

I am excited about the things that God is doing in Swaziland and in and through the team of interns there. If you want to read more about AR or the work of the interns, check out the web site and blogs.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Words That Have Stuck With Me

At the end of July, I attended the Legacy Disciplemaking Conference in Chicago. I attended a workshop on church planting. I figured since I was going to work for a 3 year old church plant, it would be good to hear what these pastors from Atlanta had learned and what insights they would share. One of the pastors shared a simple statement that someone had shared with him before he began pastoring a church plant. The man told him, "In a few days people are going to begin calling you pastor. They are going to assume that you have an authentic walk with God." That statement is simple and yet profound. It has stuck with me ever since I heard it. As I begin to serve my new church as an undershepherd, the authenticity of my walk with Christ is crucial. It reminds me of other words of counsel that mentors in my life have shared over the years...

After college, I served as a program director at a Bible camp for a summer. When I was heading into that experience, my mentor at the time (Kelly O'Rear) shared, "Ministry is going to drain you. It is crucial that you drink deeply from the fountain (Christ and His Word). You cannot lead others where you are not."

During grad school my urban professor (John Fuder) used to emphasize the tension of "being vs. doing." He shared there will always be a tension during busy seasons of ministry between being God's man, and doing God's work. He asked the challenging question, "if you could no longer do ministry, would you still seek God's face?"

Most recently, my mentor and friend from Christ Bible Church (Russ Knight) consistently emphasized the importance to me of "being God's man." When I shared with him that I was moving, he again stated that regardless of geography or place of ministry, that being God's man is most important.

As I enter into this new season of ministry, I recognize the importance of guarding and developing my "first love." I want to be faithful to Him and to what He has called me to do. I know that if I follow close (Allan Greig), that ministry will flow out of that.

Pray with me that I would work out of rest in Him.

Friday, September 02, 2011

10 Year Reunion

This year marked our 10th year of the Montana trip!! I have had the privilege of being on every single trip, and have enjoyed every year! This year was our biggest group of students. We took both teen guys and teen girls, and we also took a group of "Montana alumni" - guys now in college who had gone on the trip before.

Although every year is different, the same thing happens every year! Let me explain. The beauty of the yearly experience between Sunshine (Chicago) and Springhill Presbyterian (Montana) is that it is cross-cultural, intergenerational, multi-racial, and cross-geographical (not sure if that is a word, but it is now!). For one week each summer, we do life together. We learn from one another. We pray together. We laugh together. We study the Scriptures together. We have amazing shared experiences together (mountain hiking, fly fishing, Yellowstone, camping, etc.) Our family bond in Christ takes the forefront!

Our teens our impacted in a powerful way. They enjoy seeing the different states, and experiencing a new place. It is a blessing to get out of the city for a week during the summer. They are also impacted relationally. Their host families become family. We are all impacted by the love and hospitality we are shown by those who host us. We also get the opportunity to experience God in a unique context, and return to Chicago refreshed and encouraged to follow Christ.

Those who are involved at Springhill are also impacted in a powerful way. Our teens faith challenges them. The host families also feel that family bond that develops throughout the week. They begin to view the kids they are hosting as "their kids." At the end of the week tears are often shed as we say goodbye and as we reflect on the week. The Lord has also used this week to encourage and challenge the Springhill church to live "on mission."

We are both better Christians and have a bigger view of God because of our partnership.

I am now on staff at Living Hope Neighborhood Church in Richmond, California. Therefore, I won't be making the trip from Chicago to Bozeman next summer. However, I have been invited to come out once again. This time I will be making the trip from the west coast to the big sky. Lord willing, in future years we will be bringing young people from Richmond to Montana to share this experience with long distance family from Chicago and Bozeman.

I am so thankful for this partnership in the Gospel. It has been such a beautiful thing. If the Lord wills, I hope it continues for many years!