Saturday, December 27, 2008
We arrived at Albany's 2nd annual Winterfest 2008 in plenty of time to grab a decent parking spot (ended up on Monroe St.) and make our way to the Palace Theater to check out the 1:00pm show featuring American Idol season 6 finalists, Blake Lewis, Chris Sligh and Brandon Rogers. We each had our favorites. Mom thought Brandon Rogers stole the show. Dan and Jake preferred the beat-boxing/rapping/electronic sounds of Blake Lewis (cool last name, BTW, but no relation that I know of). Chris Sligh was my favorite of the three, with his crisp, clear vocals and faith induced lyrics, as he sang his recent radio hit, "Empty Me," along with a few additional original songs. All three turned in incredible performances.
We then made our way to Academy Park where we partook of some free ice cream and Dan and Jake tackled the climbing wall. They each had quite a few turns and both made it to the top at least twice. We followed this up with Mr. Twisty and his little dog, Izzy, performing their kid's magic show. Coffee and cookies at Starbucks was too good to pass up (not free of course). Then it was on to the Crowne Plaza Hotel where we encountered one of Bronx Zoo's featured artists/performers, Christopher Agostino and his Transformation Face painting, as he transformed Dan and Jake's ugly mugs into works of art. The evening winded up with a reprise performance from Idol 06's Lewis, Sligh and Rogerson stage in front of Albany's city hall, and then some awesome fireworks. Upon our return home to Troy we grabbed a bite to eat at Capital Region's famous/favorite, Hot Dog Charlies. What a great time we all had!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I commented on this post and thought I'd add a few thoughts of my own here. The theme of Kevin's post is to not get discouraged if we are are only reaching one or a few at a time for Christ.
As I commented on Kevin's blog, I sometimes get caught up with the success of certain church planters who are seeing thousands coming to their gatherings, while some (like my family and me) strive to reach a few at a time. In the nearly 3 years my family and I have been in Troy we have seen quite a number of people come and go; a few of them we have led to Christ. Our most visible fruit is in the number of neighborhood children we are reaching for His kingdom. Some once said, "you can't build a church w/kids...they don't tithe." Yet, from our perspective of planting a church in a distressed, low income, inner-city community that is 95% residential, with many single mothers and even more young children, we are ecstatic when even one of them joins our fellowship and comes to a saving knowledge of Christ through faith. As some have said, "It takes many different models/types of churches to reach different types of people." What works for Rick Warren in the sprawling California suburbs won't work for the CORE Church of Troy.
Church planting among the urban poor and marginalized (so I am learning) is one of the toughest Kindgom assignments to carry out because it takes a long committent centered on building relationships with people through hands on ministry. That means assessing the community's greatest unmet needs and then meeting those needs as God provides. In many urban/inner-city settings, the lack of basic needs amongst people who live here is a reality; food, clothing and sometimes shelter are things which many of us take for granted, yet for a large number of people living in these places it is a daily struggle. Children who live in these households are among the poorest of citizens. They can't work, unless they are teenagers. They can't vote. They really have little or no rights as citizens and through no fault of their own they are living in an environment filled with urban blight, drug dealers, street gangs, prostition, absentee/slum landlords,etc. So for us to be standing in the gap for these great kids is a no-brainer. We recently baptized two of these kids that are being discipled through the ministry of the CORE Church, which we count as victories. And the seeds we are planting now in the lives of these kids will lead to some great fruit in their lives, both now and as they grow and mature.
We are seeing new doors for effective ministry open to us because we have been faithful with a few things as God has given them to us.
Yes, I am willing to walk along the shoreline and throw a few starfish back to safety, as I am able to. Well I save them all? No! But I can do my part, as God has equipped me
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Watching the Kids have fun!
Friday, December 19, 2008
I am also thinking about a young boy named Zachary who is gravely ill and has undergone numerous surgeries and procedures, in an attempt to bring about some healing. He has another surgery scheduled in the coming new year. My wife works with this Zachary's dad at UAlbany. We have prayed for him numerous times and the kids at church thought it would be nice to make him some cards and things out of paper. My wife placed them all into an envelope and this morning we mailed them.
I'm thinking about the snow that is piling up outside my door. While I whine and complain about having to go out and shovel, there are plenty of folks (some living very nearby) who are unable to get out and do the same.
I'm thinking about the time we will spend with family enjoying the holiday season when, for some people, this is a dark and lonely season filled with pain and bad memories.
I'm thinking about my children, who will be opening presents on Christmas day when, in these trying economic times, some families will not even have food on their table.
I'm thinking about an illegitimate baby boy, born to a teenaged mother. Having nowhere to go, they found shelter in a stable. The King of kings and Lord of all, came to earth and took on flesh; to give us His hope, His peace, His joy and His love; gifts we won't find wrapped under a tree, but in the eyes of those we reach out to with the same gifts He has given to us, and in our own hearts as they become enlarged by the Spirit that dwells within us.
What are you thinking about this Christmas?
- I'll be getting plenty of excerise without having to drive to Gold's Gym, because my wife doesn't see the sense in spending hundreds of $$$ for a snowblower
- my 2 sons are now old enough and big enough to grab shovels and join me (quality family time)
- lots of snow makes for some great sledding, snowboarding and youth group fun time after church
- Provides plenty of excuses for downing gobs of hot chocolate
- with all of the extra time off from school for the kiddies, the snow gives them something to do besides hang around inside the house all day, playing video games and watching TV
Perhaps you have your own list of perks that come with a bountiful snow fall. Add a comment and tell me what they are
Monday, December 15, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
*Please join us in this wonderful celebration as we share with our children that the love of Christ is greater than any gift that comes from under a tree.*
When: Sunday, December 14th
Time: 2 pm – 5 pm
Where: Troy Boys & Girls Club
1700 7th Ave
Troy ,New York 12180
Music provided by 4EVER1
*Everyone is invited to join our banquet and time of gift-giving.*
As a Toys for Tots distribution agency, we will be giving out toys to those that signed up with Pastor Willie Bacote.
Questions: Call Willie 518-421-5222
Or ~ email - email@example.com
A recent report released by the U.S. Agricultural Department stated that close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately even before this year's sharp economic downturn. The department's annual report on food security showed that during 2007, the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than 50% above the 430,000 in 2006 and the largest figure since 716,000 in 1998.
Overall, the 36.2 million adults and children who struggled with hunger during the year was up slightly from 35.5 million in 2006. That was 12.2% of Americans who didn't have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.
The article cited above appeared in Leadership Journal's weekly e-publication. This article was drawn from a recent study released by US Dept. of Agriculture. There are plenty more similar studies that have been released in recent years, but all one really needs to do to see for themselves is spend time in an inner-city community where the statistics take on names and faces.
One would think that in a nation as prosperous as ours, that such statistics would be non-existent, or at best minimal. However, some experts say current statitistics are grossly underestimated because many families, for various reasons, avoid reporting their lack of food or resources to obtain food. The unfortunate victims of poverty and hunger are children.
Rev. Willie Bacote and I have seen these statistics first hand, as the number of children and adults attending our three day a week Feed-a-Kid community meal has continually increased. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we experience a full house at the CORE Church, as we and The Missing Link Street Ministry have partnered together to providing hot, nutritious meals for neighborhood children and their families. Despite the cold, winter temperatures outside, many families are still braving the weather and traveling (mostly by foot) several blocks to the CORE Church to paerake of these meals. Winter has not officially begun. The colder it gets outside, the more it will cost families and senior citizens to heat their homes, leaving less money to put food on the table. No doubt we will see the need for Feed-a-Kid increase.
Please continue to pray for Feed-a-Kid and the efforts of Missing Link Street Ministry and the CORE Church of Troy to reach out and serve the "least of these" who live in the inner-city of Troy, NY.
Please pray also about how you might help us help our neighbors with your best financial gift.
Feel free to contact Pastor Willie Bacote or Pastor Dave Lewis anytime!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
As I was walking back to Penn Station Tuesday afternoon, I noticed that a part of the rythm that flows amongst the crowds of pedestrians is an occasional brushing up against or bumping into one another. I noticed this happening frequently, and that people just keep on walking, without stopping or even looking up. I was bumped into a few times myself (I was both the bumper and bumpee at various intervals) as I made my way along the noon hour foot traffic. I brushed up against one young lady who had passed by me, going in the opposite direction, and apologized immediately afterward. She then slowed down her pace as bit, turned her head and smiled back at me, all the while continuing to walk.
I got to thinking afterward. How often does anyone stop and excuse themselves after literally coming face to face with a fellow pedestrian? How often do I take for granted the value of those two words, "excuse me" and a smile? How seldom do others hear it; especially amongst a sea of faces and strutting pedestrians, all with a destination? Maybe that's why she turned and smiled, as brief as it was.
The theme of this year's conference was, "Collaboration," which was broken down into seven sub-categories or facets of collaborating for effective church planting in urban settings.
It was a blessing to hear how God is moving in NYC, Northern NJ, Boston, Providence, Montreal, etc. and to share my own stories of church planting in NY's capital region. I met Torli, a refugee from Liberia, now living in the Boston area, who has an incredible testimony and ministry there. We also heard from Dominic Jacob, a church planter/missionary, reaching out to muslims in Queens, NY (considered to be the most ethnically diverse city in the US). Hearing their stories of hardship and persecution, along with our conference session speakers, was a tremendous blessing indeed.
I left this city conference armed with the reassurance that the CORE Church of Troy is moving in the right direction. We have been doing a little bit of collaborating ourselves. It is imperative for the overall success of an inner-city church plant to collaborate with other local churches, social service agencies, schools, colleges and campus ministries, local businesses and community leaders, for the purpose of having a wider impact, as they strive to make Christ known in the heart of the city.
I sent back my response and thought it would maka a good blog post. To any of my church planting brethren who are questioning God and struggling, I hope this helps!
When I shared the vision God had given me for planting an inner-city church among the poor and marginalized with the senior pastor of the church my wife and I had been members of, he basically told me I was nuts (not in those exact words but the sentiment was there) and refused to get behind us, beyond praying for us that is. he said my vision was "too big and too ambitious" and would take funding and resourcing beyond what he was able to justify.He basically felt I'd be better off staying with them and discovering my SHAPE for ministry.
I went home that day, numb and dejected, and prayed all night. I could not sleep. Then something got into me (some people call it Holy Spirit unction) as I wrote a four paged letter to that pastor, telling him why I had to pursue the vision God has given me. Why? because ultimately it will come down to me being faithful and obedient to God, who had entrusted me with this vision...not that senior pastor, but me!
So, by faith, I obeyed and went to the place God had shown me...and I haven't looked back.
Brother church planter, if God has given you vision, then you must go! regardless of who agrees with you or gets behind you. It will be hard work. There will be sacrifices. You will even feel like giving up (many times). But when you know that God has given you a burden and vision, then also know that He will follow your faithful obedience with His provision. Watch and see the things God will do; things that will go way beyond anything you could ask for or imagine (Eph. 3:20). That's a verse for guys with "big, ambitious dreams."
At least once a week I get frustrated and want to give up, but I know, at the core of my being, that God has spoken to me...and that this is one hill I will die on!
What keeps it real for me, brother church planter, is the fact that the vision and mission belong to God, not me. He is merely entrusting me with it. What will I do with it? Will I invest it and gain interest, or bury it in the sand until He returns. What separates church planters from senior pastors,aside from the calling and gifting of God that is? They are willing to take huge risks for Jesus and His mission, even at the expense of being laughed at and called a fool by those whom he thought would receive the vision and rejoice with him.
At the end of this earthly existence I long to hear my Father say, "well done, good and faithful servant..."
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I think way too many churches try too hard to "be missional." They fail to realize that being missional is not a program or something to try out. It is simply about living as missionaries, as sent people; living in the community as the salt and light Jesus calls us to be. Some folks think being missional merely means getting out and serving the poor and homeless. While that is a part of it, it is not the only quality of being missional. My understanding of missional is living in the community, being an active member of the community, developingreal friendships with unchurched people who live in the community. Jesus said we are to be in the world, but not of the world. Living in the world as ambassadors of Christ implies that we are a sent people with mission and a message!
I think, also, too many church planters (myself included) spend way too much time focusing on what others are saying and doing, instead of spending time on their knees, in the word, and out in the community God has sent them too, and letting Him shape His church according to the context and needs of that community. Currently I'm going ga-ga over Shane Clairborne's ideas on building a "community of hospitality and peacemaking." (from the intro to Claireborne's newest book, "Becoming the Answer To Our Prayers.")
There's much to be gleaned from the great missonal thinkers and leaders of our day, but Jesus (in my opinion) is not looking for or impressed with cookie cutter churches. I can't do what Dan Kimball or Shane Clairborne or Rick Warren have been called to do. I can only do what Jesus has specifically called me to do in the community He has sent me to. We all have a common calling in the great commission, but every community is different, and every person is unique. I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, perhaps I'm simply reminding myself of what my calling, vision and mission are.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Eph.3:20)
Those who are willing to let go of what they know and trust God to do what they cannot fathom will not only see lives transformed for His kingdom, but will see His "kingdom come and His will be done,on earth as it is in heaven." That will result in a transformed (renewed) community as people's lives are transformed. The real work is in sticking out in a tough neighborhood, when it seems like we're not making much progress. We can't measure success by the number of people who walk through the doors of our relevant, new experience, emerging churches, but in the lives that are transformed.We can't always see how we have effected a person's life. But when we do...Oh what a blessing! When I see people I am discipling reaching out to their neighbors with the love and grace of God, that is success. That is what we can pass on. That is what will transform a community, a city, a region, etc (Acts 1:8)
- We have since obtained liability and property insurance for the church building
- We have had part of our roof repaired (the section that was causing the roof to leak) Thank you Mike Martin for helping us
- repairs were done to a radiator that had developed a steam leakand was causing our boiler to shut down
- Some plumbing repairs have been done, which have solved some problems for now.
What we still need and are praying for
- funds for continuing renovation of our basement/fellowship hall, which are now using three evenings per week for our Feed-a-kid community meal ministry, at which we are feeding many neighborhood children and their families, as well as hosting many community outreach events. This room, while partially usable, needs a new floor. The walls need to patched in some spots and then primed and painted. This 3,000 square foot room is vital to our inner-city ministry efforts.
- Electrical service needs to be overhauled. The last updates were done in the early 1970s. Some of the remaining electric service is very old and does not meet current city electrical codes. Recent inspections and estimates from local, certified electricians have revealed to us the reality of replacing, or at least seriously updating out current service.
- Our boiler, while being functional, needs some servicing and updating
- additional interior renovations. The ceiling in one of our hallways needs to be pulled out and replaced due to previous damage caused by roof leaks. Also, the part of the ceiling in our sunday school/children's church room has to be replaced, which also fell victim to the same series of roof leaks.
If you are led by the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers and provide financial assistance to help us, you may send your tax deductible gifts to;
The CORE Church 36 109th St.Troy, N.Y. 12182
Ear mark for building restoration
(original post from September 10th)
Three years ago my family and I said yes to the opportunity to return to Troy and start a new church. We prayed long and hard and then stepped out in faith and went to the place we believe God was showing us. We came to Troy and immediately had a church building available to us. In fact, the plan was for us to re-start a dying baptist church, recontextualized for inner-city ministry. The church building and parsonage were transferred over to us to begin this new work. We immediately got to work assessing the condition of our century old church building. While being structurally sound, we soon learned that the buiding needs a complete interior makeover; new electrical service, updated heating and plumbing systems, as well as roof repairs and extensive renovation of basement floor and walls. We began tearing out old, warn out carpeting, flooring, and room dividers in the basement/fellowship hall. We painted the sanctuary (with a lot of help from friends at West Lebanon Baptist Church and Westerlo Baptist Church) and part of the fellowhip hall and put in new indoor/outdoor carpeting. We had the roof patched, replaced plumbing and heating pipes, put a new sump pump in the kitchen and a new electric service meter.
At the same time we got busy doing outreach in this distressed community and started to develop a small, but growing congregtion. At one point we were running 35-40 in our worship services and had seen some amazing doors open to us. In February, 2006, another neighborhood church gave us a vacant lot, located across the street from our church building, and we began sponsoring and hosting community events, cookouts, block parties, concerts, etc.
The fruit of our labors has been a few people (wish I could say a lot) committing their lives to Christ. We baptized one young man and are now getting ready to baptize a few more.
Needless to say all of this has not come without struggles and spiritual warfare. The greatest struggle has been the condition of our church building; making timely repairs and maintaining insurance. We are at a point where we can't find an insurance carrier to underwrite our building because of its present condition, unless we immediately address cited repairs. The building needs new electrical service to replace the grossly outdated, inadequate service that is now there. Also cited as issues of concern are the heating and plumbing systems, which we have done repairs on, but are old and need to be replaced. The overall condition of this 10,000 sq.ft brick elephant has rendered it unsafe and unusable. We would need to raise approximately $25,000.00 to address just what needs to be done to make it safe and functional and probably closer to $50,000.00 to put the building in pristine condition.
Dilemma: What to do with this building. Do we abandon this debt free, tax exempt property and go elsewhere? Even if it cost $50,000.00 to address all repairs/renovations, we could not buy or build a new facility for less than twice that (unless we purchase another facility that needs a lot of work). We could abandon the building altogether and rent a nearby storefront/warehouse for $800.00 per month, plus utilities, at least temporarily until we determine what to do with the church building. The ideal plan would be to build a new facility on our ministry lot, which would cost, at minimum, $150,000.oo (for a one story modular unit placed on a poured foundation ). We have a few more options we are praying about. Through all of this we are convinced that God has us where He wants us, and we will not allow our dilemma to stop us or slow us down. We will continue, by the grace and provision of God, to do the work He has called us to.
If you are reading this post and feel led by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, please do!
If you are led by the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers and provide financial assistance to help us, you may send your tax deductible gifts to;
The CORE Church
36 109th St.
Troy, N.Y. 12182
Ear mark for building restoration
Monday, November 24, 2008
But is that enough?
Is that a Biblical quality?
Certainly, being friendly is not a bad idea. In fact, I would probably not like it if I visited a church that was cold or less than friendly towards visitors.
However, friendliness, in itself, does not demonstrate whether or not a local church is a healthy,growing church.
People at the local Elks lodge or VFW are friendly, but do they love God and love their neighbors? Are they willing to love others the way God loves them?
A local church can be very friendly, but are they merely a glorified social club, or are they a unified body of believers who live, breathe and move together in such a way that people people are drawn to them and compelled to be a part of their fellowship...not just because they are friendly, but because they have something that goes deeper than that; a deep rooted, vibrant connection the Christ, True Vine(John 15:1ff)
Something greater than each of us happens in a healthy local church that cannot be explained or experienced outside of the body of Christ. When we come together, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, the bond of love and grace extends beyond ourselves and the power of God is demonstrated in ways we cannot imagine.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Today, as I was bringing bread and milk into the church (a local convenience store chain, Stewarts Shops, has been giving us products that they pull from their shelves yet still have several days left before their code date expires which we in turn distribute to families in the neighborhood) I saw this woman and one of her daughters as they were walking past the church. She stopped and we talked for a bit. She shared with me the mess her life has turned into, and that she had not come around because she didn't want to burden us with her problems. Also, she had been working overtime at her job and between work, kids, housework, etc., she has been physically exhausted.
She went on to tell me that she was doing the right thing. She had obtained employment in an attempt to distance herself and her family from public assistance. Her job is a good one that she likes, with decent pay and benefits for her and her children. However, just as she was starting to get ahead financially, paying off many of her debts, etc., Social Services cut her public assistance. Her food stamps are now a fraction of what she had been receiving and Troy Housing Authority raised her rent because she is now in a higher income bracket. She said to me, "Just when I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, they go and do this, and I am right back where I was three years ago." She went onto ask, as she began to well up with tears, "Why is it, when I'm doing the right thing and making good choices, all of this bad stuff happens?" I prayed with her and gave her some bread and milk, and shared a few of my own thoughts as to why bad things happen to good people. She seemed somewhat comforted as our conversation came to an end. She told me she would try to make it to church with the kids, but sometimes she has to work on Sundays. We may see them tomorrow or next Sunday. If we don't we will still love them and reach out to them. We will continue to pray for them and make sure they know God loves them.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I was goofing off on facebook and Twitter last night, while listening to the evening news, and then Letterman. I don't always stay up to watch Craig Ferguson. For one, his sense of humor is often vulgar (and I think he's usually half-lit when taping the show). Secondly, even though I'm somewhat of a night owl, I'm usually rubbing my eyes by the time Ferguson's show comes on. However, as I was messing around with my new social media fetish, I saw the tweets from Mark Lee, Third Day's guitarist, informing his fellow citizens of Twitterland of their upcoming performance on the show. Being only minutes away from airing, I decided to stay up and watch. I made it through Craig's opening monologue, and then laughed a bit to Larry the Cable Guy, and finally, toward's the end of the hour, Third Day made their appearance, singing their latest hit "Revelation."I enjoyed seeing and hearing one of my favorite bands as they rocked the house.
I got to thinking, afterward, about how many Christians would question their appearance in this worldly arena. However, I saw this as a great opportunity for Third Day to bring their light into the darkness of late night TV. I'm pretty sure C.F. and the audience (both live and in TVland) were listening as Mac Powell and company sang their song. Many of them may not have been familiar with Third Day, but they are now. Perhaps some of them were listening to the lyrics of "Revelation" and were compelled to look deeper within themselves. Maybe they went on the internet afterward and googled Third Day and found out they are a Christian band who use their gifts to serve the Living God. Maybe some found their way to Third Day's website and to their song lyrics.
Thanks Third Day for a job well done, and for shining your light on Craig Ferguson and the night owls who were watching!
I call this Prevision...Vision...Provision (not really ingenious, but it works)
Prevision = Burden; the time leading up to the vision. I think about the place and the people a lot. I pray a lot. Jesus told His disciples,"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are so few. Therefore, Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers.(Matt.9:37-38)
Vision = How I see this happening. I'm seeking out godly counsel. The process of obeying and going is also in this stage. I'm sharing my vision with others some catch it, some don't. The church responds by sending me out. There will also be opposition. The devil will make sure of it. People close to you may not see things the way you do and may actually hinder you or try to persuade you to reconsider. God is clarifying his vision and preparing you for the journey that lies ahead. You know, at this point, deep down inside, at the core of your being,that God has given you this vision. Now it's time to trust and obay
Provision = I'm in the geographical location God has given me both a burden and vision for. By faith, I obeyed and went to the place God showed me. Now I must wait, as Abraham waited in the promised land, for God's provision (Heb. 11:8-10). My part is to love Him and love my neighbors; to live as Christ lived, love as He loved and serve as He served, thereby making Him known to others, in both word and in deed. If I am doing this, church planting will happen naturally. God always provides wherever He guides.
What is the vision God has given you?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I regularly subscribe to Christianity Today's Christian Bible Studies, which comes daily in my e-mail. Most times I quickly scan through them, but today's edition caught my attention, and I found myself reading and studying along with author Bob Sorge.
The topic of this study is learning the discipline of waiting upon the Lord. I won't repeat Sorge's article here, I'll let you check it our here for yourelf. What I will say is that I find myself rarely waiting upon the Lord. I pray, I read and study my Bible, I journal, and like most people I want to hear from God right away. I want Him to give me the answer to my prayers in my time. But, as Sorge points out, when we learn to wait upon the "Ageless One," we step into His timing and He gives us the patience to wait upon Him until He has mercy on us.
So, I beginning my own season of waiting, so that I can be prepared and equipped when the hand of God turns my way.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
1. economy (people just aren't eating out as much)
2. competition (at least a dozen coffee shops in downtown Troy competing for that RPI/Sage student population) Incidently, I heard through the grapevine that RPI is doing more to keep their students on or close to campus due to the rise in violent crimes against college students.
3. I have found that, although I love the idea of having a family business, God's business needs to come first and both were suffering due to the fact that I only have so much time in a given day.I may revisit the coffee house idea in the future and have kept some of the equipment for future purposes. It is a hard thing to juggle many things at one time, for me anyway. Some people are able to do this effectively, yet I seem to be one of those people that does well when focusing on one thing at a time. For me, I am content with facilitating a city missionary movement starting in the heart of a neighborhood most people would prefer to forget about or ignore.
Kids? more and more keep coming. We are exploring creative and effective ways to reach them and minister to them.
Grown-ups? well, let's just say they're not as trusting as the kids are, but we're making progress in connecting with some of them.
Pastor Willie Bacote and I have noticed an increase in attendance at our feed-a-kid community meals. Many of the families that come do so on a regular basis. We are getting to know them and they are getting to know us. As such, they are asking us to pray with them and for them. And through the Holy Spirit we are building bridges for the gospel, or onramps as some prefer to call them.
College kids? we have managed, by the grace of God, to connect with an RPI fraternity. They were looking for a community service outlet and we have the outlet for them to plug into. So far it's been a good fit! We're prayerful that God will shape these connections with the college student population as well as with families in Troy's inner-city
Monday, November 17, 2008
So often I am guilty of taking my Bible, along with my freedom to read and study it in peace, for granted. I keep this portion of Scripture that I found in my wallet, as a reminder that the freedom I have came at a cost. Now I realize that these burned pages are probably the remains of some kind of sick joke. But they are a nice reminder anyway!
I tweeted about this little episode on Twitter which also appeared on my facebook update, and the subject stirred up quite a bit of conversation about the parrallels of broken boilers to the issues of life, and the great sermon illustrations that can come out of that boiler/steam leak episode.
So, I may just have my next sermon series stemming from this.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
James' mother reported to us last night that James had some more tests and his doctors have said his tumors are gone! No surgery! GONE!
We could pass this off as coincidence, or, as his doctors will probably concur, a misdiagnosis. Or, we can believe that God heard the effective, fervent prayers of the righteous that were lifted up on behalf of this boy and that we all bear witness to a miracle; that God has indeed healed James.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday, October 26th we partnered with our neighborhood association for our third annual community harvest party. More than 5o neighborhood children and their families came and enjoyed some games, crafts and snacks, and pumpkin decorating. It is through events like this that we are able to establish connections with unchurched people for the purpose of making Christ known in the heart of the city.
Monday, October 27th In addition to our three day a week community meal, we were joined by Jerry and Candy Moyer, who brought their Jubilee Gang children's evangelism ministry to Troy and blessed our socks off with an evening of fun packed adventure. 39 children and several adults came forward at Pastor Jerry's invitation and prayed to receive Christ. Pastor Willie Bacote and I were brought to tears of joy at the response of these children (and adults) and the work God has allowed us the privilege of carrying out on His behalf. This is the crowning achievement for all that we do in the name of Jesus, for the glory of God almighty.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I am seeing The CORE Church doing more and more with Rev. Willie Bacote and his Missing Link Street Ministry. He and I have a common vision and passion for reaching out to Troy's urban poor. We have developed a relationship that is continuing to be shaped by the hand of God. He and I have spiritual gifting that compliments each other, while at the same time there are differences that God is working out in his time. Some would call such differences “barriers.” Barriers are nothing more than challenges that can be met and overcome through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. For one, there is a racial barrier. As much as I’d like to think that this is not an issue, there are thoughts and feelings on both sides that have been shaped by society, culture, life experiences and upbringing. Whenever people of different backgrounds and upbringings come together there will be challenges that must be addressed. By the grace of God these barriers will continue to erode, as he transforms us by the renewing of out minds, and the glory of God will be revealed.
What a powerful testimony we will have as this ministry partnership continues to develop, as people of different races and cultures come together, in the name of Jesus Christ, and He is lifted up. Together we are planning some great community ministries, in addition to our ongoing, three-nights-per week feed-a-kid ministry. Our common desire is to see people’s lives transformed by the powerful hand of God. That includes the lives of two men called by God to lead such a vision. Even as ministry leaders God continues to transform and shape our hearts and minds individually, so that we can come together and serve Christ. He increases our capacity to love others, regardless of their skin color, cultural heritage, language, social status, etc. This demonstrates to those we are leading that God is at work in us, and that we are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.
Will you continue to pray for us as we serve the living, triune God?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
This hit home for me because my own two boys are 9 and 11 years old and are healthy.
Would you please make it point to lift this young man up in prayer (along with his mom and siblings).
Frank, a friend and licensed electrician, came and offered to look over our aging, ailing electrical system. After a thorough examination he was able to determine the cause of the problem and quickly fixed it. We are thanking our Great God for providing for our needs and sending Frank, along with another friend, Mike, a roofer by trade, who got up on our roof, found the cause of our leak and then fixed it. These and other building maintinance issues have challenged us as we have sought to be diligent and obedient in God's call to be His hands and feet, and bringing His good news of a risen Savior to harassed and helpless people.
If you feel led by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, please do. Additionally, if you'd like to help us serve our community and make Christ known, through financial giving and/or volunteering, please give us a call: (518) 526-6079 or send us and e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
May the peace of Christ rest upon you!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Several years ago I read a Bill Hybels book entitled Who You Are When No One's Looking, the theme of which is, choosing character over compromise. That book came to mind as I sat in the court room this evening, waiting for my name to be called. It may seem like a minor thing to lie my way out a traffic ticket, cheat a little on an exam, keep a wad of found money, etc. "Who would know," one might ask. But God sees and knows everything we think, say or do. So who am I kidding when I think no one is watching or no one will notice?
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This past weekend my wife and kids went on a weekend outing and I was left home alone. Having nothing on my schedule for Saturday evening, I decided to drive to Clifton Park to catch their 6:00pm gathering. They meet in a converted strip mall retail space, formerly home to a health club. The worship service was excellent. The band, fronted by worship pastor Kevin Brustle, sounded great. Then pastor Buddy came on and gave an inspiring, spirit-filled message from their current "PG:parental guidance required"series.
After the worship service I met up with Brian Howe, campus pastor and program director and Facebook friend. Brian gave me a brief tour of their Clifton Park facility...quite a set-up by the way.
It is exciting to see a vibrant new church like Northway grow and lead many to Christ. I am looking forward to getting to know more about Northway Church in the neat future. Pastor Buddy and Pastor Brian may see my ugly mug more frequently at their Saturday evening gathering!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
One of the earliest burdens God put on my heart, when we came to Troy in the spring of 2006, was the need for someone to stand in the gap for these great kids. Having been born and raised in this very community, God has sent me and my family back, to reach out to the kids and families who live here now. These same streets that He rescued me from are the mission field He has prepared me for and appointed me to.
After two and a half years of reaching out, we have reached a point where we have earned what is referred to in inner-city ministry as "Street credibility." This term refers to the point we've reached where children and single moms, homeless pedestrians, community leaders, etc., know us and trust us. This has become more obvious tome over the past several weeks, through a series of defining moments.
Today, for example, I was at the church cleaning my office (a chore I had been putting off all summer). I was really getting into it when I hear a knock at the side door of the church building. I looked out my office window to see who it was. It was Steven, a 12 yr. old neighborhood boy who has been fellowshiping with us since this past spring. I was going to tell him that I was alone and busy when I noticed that he looked rather depressed. I asked him what was wrong when he informed me that two older boys had threatened to "beat him bloody." He was also bored and wanted someone to talk to. I spent the next half hour listening to him as he poured out his thoughts. After our conversation ended, he rode off on his bicycle, and I went back inside and finished my office cleaning chore. I thanked God for the opportunity to chat with Steven and minister to him. I also asked God to forgive me for wanting to shrug Steven off, because I was busy with my own things.
I still have some cleaning left to do, but it will get done!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I see people giving their hearts to God
Reaching up to their Creator
As He reaches into them
They, in turn, reach out to others who are sad, broken and hurting.
I remember the days of my own brokenness
And how my gracious and merciful God reached down with His saving hand
He delivered me from the path that leads downward
And set my feet on solid ground
I was a broken soul, searching for someone, something to fill my emptiness
Someone to come and cure my aching, lonely heart.
Then He came and rescued me,
Filled me with new life and set me free
Now I have new dreams of lost, broken, hurting people
finding their way back to God.
I don't dream about buildings or boards, religion or programs
Just people giving their hearts to God
Am I dreaming too big? Am I just a daydreamer with his head in the clouds?
All I want in this life is to know God deeply and intimately and to show His love to others; to be His light in the midst of a dark and dying world, and instrument in the hands of the Master, fit for His use.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The Pod Coffee House is my entry into the real world. The idea is to connect w/people in every day life outside of the four walls of the church building. We tried doing a coffee house at our church but were drawing mostly churched people. having a background in restaurant management and an itch to move outside of the box of "church as usual" I stepped out in faith, invested my own$$$ and opened a full fledge, non-franchised, independent, for-profit coffee house. We don't hide the fact that we are a Christ-centered coffee house, but neither do we broadcast it. No programs, agendas, committees, board of trustees; just a guy who loves God, great company and decent cup o' joe and wants to share that w/others. Where else will we meet pedestrians on the crossroads of life?
Friday, September 12, 2008
It wasn't that long ago that adult film star Crissy Moran gave up the life she knew. She said goodbye to working in the porn industry and said hello to a life in Christ. Since then, Crissy has been working to help those still trapped in that life. It was in early 2008 that she found a chance to return to film, this time with a message. "Oversold" is a short film adaptation of the Biblical story of Hosea. Set in the present, the story walks the viewer through the struggles of Sophi, a stripper trying to break out of that life. Sophi meets and falls for a Pastor, Joshua. Their two worlds collide and they are forced to deal with this fallout. How do people treat a pastor that loves a stripper? Do people ever really accept the stripper into the real world? Is this life imitating art or the other way around? In this piece, Crissy tells us why she chose to make "Oversold" her first film after leaving the adult business.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
So far I have gotten through Chapter 1, "Character Assassin Creep."In this chapter the authors point out how little things, like the faulty rivets that sank the Titanic, can become big things if left unchecked; things like cheating on income tax, telling little white lies, stretching the truth, etc. can lead to character assassination and totally ruin a man's reputation.
An older, wiser pastor once told me, "Integrity is who you are when noone else is watching." His words came to mind as I was reading about "Character Creep."
Hats off to Mike Foster and Judd Wilhite for a great book that I will be using for our own men's gatherings.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The source of my frustration has been the century old church building that was given to us. While the building is debt free, it is showing its age. The condition of the church building is continuing to deteriorate. With the funds we have been able to raise we've been able to do some work. However, the entire electrical service needs to be replaced, as it is very old and barely meets code. The plumbing and heating systems also need to be upgraded. There are also needed repairs of the roof, a portion of the kitchen, as well as the fellowship hall floor and walls. We would need around $50,000.00 to make the building safe and functional.
Another issue that we have struggled with is the lack of mature adult believers living in this distressed inner-city neighborhood. While some of them are believers, they are, for the most part, nominal Christians. I truly believe the church is not the building, but the people of God, living in and serving the community, and inviting people into this community of Christ followers. But what, exactly, is this community to look like? What qualifies a person for entrance? Do they have to come to the church building to be considered members of this community? We have many children coming through our old church doors, which we have welcomed and embraced. We have gotten to know some of the families of these children. While they are comfortable with their children (or grandchildren) coming to our church, and have a basic belief in God themselves, getting them to come to church has been a challenge.
I guess in some ways I'm still operating by the old school, open the doors and invite them in, approach. While we have made some great strides to intentionally do ministry outside of the four walls of the church building, there is still this facilities based mindset I am contending with.
We are at a crucial point in our ministry here where we have to decide if it is cost effective and a good use of finances and other resources to continue using our present church building or abandon it and find other suitable facilities. We also own a vacant lot, which is about one-third of an acre and large enough to accomodate an adequate ministry facility.
I am at a point where I have run out of anwers. I am totally dependent upon God and His provision. Our core team has slowly been dismantled. We have endured some fierce struggles and spiritual warfare. I have thought several times about giving up and walking away from all of this. But then I am reminded of the children who live in this neighborhood. If we pack up and go, like a few other neighborhood churches have already done over the past decade (including the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church whose facility we took over) who will be here to stand in the gap for these great kids?
I am still convinced, now more than ever, that God has sent us here. I am trusting in Him for His provision and His strength. I know He will provide where He guides. So here we will remain. We will continue to serve God and to develop a missional community that is indigenous and incarnational.
If you feel inclined by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, we would certainly appreciate it.