Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August Praise & Prayer

(Atop Mt. Sacajawea with Jordan, Aryianna, & Eddie Longs)

Praises (We praise God for...)
(1) A refreshing time of ministry and vacation in Montana! I shared some reflections here and here.
(2) We have a renter for our condo in Branson! Also, we have a closing scheduled for our condo in Chicago on Thursday morning!
(3) An amazing eye screening ministry during mid July (you can see the write-up here)!
(4) The completion of the first phase of our gym rehab at the church! We put a new gym floor in and painted all of the walls!
(5) Josie just accepted a part time physical therapy position with a Bay area company!
(6) A new partnership developing with the Richmond HS football team! We will be hosting team meals and doing chapel talks for the varsity team.

Prayer Requests (Please pray with us...)
(1) That we would enjoy, delight in, and rest in God.
(2) For our condo closing in Chicago on Thursday morning.
(3) For wisdom as Josie balances 2 part time jobs, online class, and ministry involvement.
(4) For our upcoming eye glass pick up day and AWANA carnival on Saturday August 25th. We are praying that we would be able to build new relationships with families on this day!
(5) For Josie and I as we begin an online Biblical training program called the Downline Institute (you can see the write up here).
(6) For the upcoming team meals/chapel talks, and that our church would be an encouragement to the coaching staff and players.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back To School

This coming school year Josie and I are going back to school! Beginning the first week of September, we will be students in the Downline Ministries online institute. It is a 9 month program with four hours of class time each week. Here is a brief description of the program from their web site:
"Downline is a ministry that exists to equip and unleash Christians in the area of disciple-making. One of the great tragedies in our day is that tens of thousands of Christians sit in churches week after week without Christ’s vision and strategy for impacting the globe. Downline seeks to come alongside churches and aid them in the training and equipping of that army to march. ONE of the avenues through which DL accomplishes its mission is a nine month intensive training program for clergy and lay leadership called the Downline Institute. The Downline Institute's purpose is to equip these lay leaders for multiplicative, multi-generational impact through disciple-making."

We are both very excited to have this learning/growing experience together. Over the course of the year we will cover 3 main units: an overview of the Bible, disciple making, and Biblical manhood/womanhood. Our homework assignment each week will be to teach someone else what we have learned in class that week. Our prayer is that God will grow us both as disciple makers as we dig into His Word together this coming school year, and as we continue to invest in the lives of others. Please pray for us as we begin this journey.

Below is a video that further explains the Downline Institute...

Downline Ministries from Downline Ministries on Vimeo.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mission Cultivates Community: Montana Gleaning #2

Another thing that I have observed through my ongoing relationship with brothers and sisters at Springhill Pres is that "mission cultivates community." I have seen this happen at their church over the years through our interaction with them. Each year a group of families from their church are mobilized to participate in our week together. They open their homes and they open their lives to us (and to youth from Chicago and next year youth from Richmond). This mission each summer has energized the congregation. In addition, it has brought the congregation closer together. They plan the week together. They pray for the week together. They serve together over the course of the week. Afterwards, they debrief and celebrate what God has done together. Mission pulls us together.

This has been the testimony of Christian Layman Church as well (the church who collaborated with us on the eye screening). One of their key leaders shared with us that prior to engaging in the eye screening ministry together there was very little genuine community at their church. Most of them simply "did church" together without "doing life" together. Then 3-4 summers ago they began doing the eye screening in collaboration with World Impact. The eye screening ministry energized and mobilized their church. Nearly the whole congregation rallied around it. This mission cultivated community amongst their church. Mission bonded them together. They had served "in the trenches" together, and in the process had become a tight knit family.

There is a danger in our churches (and small groups) today of simply becoming Biblical consumers. We come together to receive great messages and great lessons. We may even take intentional steps towards building community towards one another. However, if we do not go on mission together (and consistently do ministry together), our efforts towards community will often fall short and remain shallow. I think we see this clearly in the early church in the book of Acts. They experienced counter-cultural community in the midst of life-giving, risk taking mission. I pray that we would see this happen more and more in our churches.

I would love to have some interaction on this. Any thoughts?

Discipleship, Music, & Crossing Bridges

Today I received an email from Moody Bible Institute (where I attended graduate school) that highlighted one of their students who is actively serving in ministry in Chicago. The student highlighted happens to be my former roommate, co-worker, and brother CW. I just wanted to share the write up that is included on Moody's web site as well. Check out the write up below...

Reaching Urban Teens through Music and God’s Love

Anyone who meets CW Allen, senior Communications major, will hear about his heart for God and for the youth of Chicago. During his years at Moody, he has invested time and energy with Sunshine Gospel Ministries, located in the Woodlawn community of Chicago, showing the love of Christ to urban teens.

Besides working with the youth at Sunshine Gospel Ministries, CW is helping to start a recording studio as a part of the ministry. He believes that this new outreach will draw more kids into the center to hear about Jesus. This studio is a perfect ministry for CW because it combines his love of God with his passion for music. It also allows him a way to reach teens who might never otherwise learn about God's love.

He knows from personal experience that in addition to the obvious needs of these urban teens for safe entertainment and caring adults, their primary need is to know God and His eternal plan for their lives.

CW Allen grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Raised by parents who were addicted to drugs, CW did not know God or expect to have a future in ministry. It was only when an older cousin began spending time with him that the subject of his eternal future came up. CW is grateful to his cousin for sharing the gospel with him.

As CW grew in his love for God and developed his talent in music, he began to express his faith through writing and recording music. At Moody, CW realized that God had blessed him with a creative visual imagination, which led him to major in Communications.

He says he has found his courses practical and hands-on and says they have helped fill in many gaps in his skills. In addition, CW says his theology and Bible classes have deepened his grasp of doctrine. But he’s most grateful for the closeness he feels with his professors who care about him in a personal way.

"Once a professor pulled me aside and asked if everything was okay. I had been working 30 hours per week and was falling behind. I appreciated it a lot," he says. "It makes it so much easier to go to class with teachers like that."

Outside the classroom, CW focuses on bridging gaps between students from different ethnicities. As a leader of the student group Embrace, he shares with the Moody community about African-American culture and the issues students of color face.

"I have the ability to cross bridges," he says, "so I appreciate having time to spend with brothers and sisters who aren’t like me, because I’m not always going to be in an urban context. Moody has allowed me to meet different people and get to know them."

On Aug. 27, CW will begin the fall semester of his senior year at Moody. Will you join us in praying for CW, as well as the 3,000 other Christian ministry leaders who are preparing to start classes at Moody’s campuses in Chicago, Ill.; Spokane, Wash.; and Plymouth, Mich.? Praise God for these men and women who are committed to serving Christ and His Church around the world.

I am really proud of CW, and I am excited to see how God is going to continue to work in and through he and his new wife (teammate) Jacqui!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Retire Into Ministry - Montana Gleaning #1

In the above picture: one of my "retired role models" (he may be semi-retired) Joe Nelson

This was my 11th summer making the trip to Bozeman, MT and connecting with our family at Springhill Presbyterian Church. Each experience with our brothers and sisters at Springhill has been unique, and each trip has been uplifting in different ways. What I'm about to share is something that I have noticed each of the 11 years, but for some reason spoke to me louder this year then it has in others. The concept of "retiring into ministry" is something that I am seeing at Springhill Pres that I hope becomes normative in churches across the states. Every year I spend time with and get to know others who are in their late 50's, 60's, and 70's. They have retired vocationally, but they are now more engaged than ever in ministry. In other words they are no longer engaged vocationally or professionally, but they are very much engaged missionally.

Too often in our culture people reach retirement age and then "coast" for the last 15-20 years of their life. This is both expected and encouraged. The message/mindset seems to be "you worked hard all of your life, therefore you have earned the right to just chill." Sadly, this cultural norm has also become normative in the church. I don't blame this completely on cultural expectations however. I also believe our churches have minimized the involvement of more "seasoned" saints, in favor of more of a youth movement (we need both).

What I see at Springhill is retired men and women fully engaged in the mission and vision of the church. The main overseer of the "Urban Kid Ministry" that we participate in every summer is 72 years old and has been actively involved since its inception. I see retired brothers and sisters teaching classes, seeking to be an encouragement to college students, ministering at local nursing homes, serving on key missional activities of the church, mentoring young mothers and fathers (and encouraging younger married couples), and lending their business expertise to young "start-ups."

How does seeing this impact me?
1) I don't ever want to retire in the American Dream type of way. Lord willing, as long as the Lord gives me a strong body and a sound mind I want to run hard for Him. My older brothers in Montana have given me a model to look at and follow.

2) At the church I co-pastor I want to be intentional in pursuing multi-generational discipleship, mission, and community. A healthy church and community needs this.

(In this short video John Piper talks about abandoning retirement as the reward of your life.)