Thursday, January 31, 2008


Today was a day of sweet victory for my son Dan and 103 0f his classmates.

Just got back from my son's 5th grade D.A.R.E. graduation. For those of you who aren't familiar with this vital program, it is a class that is conducted by local county sheriff's departments in conjunction with local elementary schools. The purpose of the class is to teach kids about the dangers of using drugs, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco products; especially cigarettes. Through reading,writing and hands on learning, the kids get a good dose of reality into the world of tobacco and substance abuse.

The goal of the class is to instill a sense of respect in the kids for their own bodies, so they will say no to harmful substances that can cause irrepairable damage to their bodies.

Deputy Phelps is our school's DARE officer. In his own words, "If my role in this program can help kids know how to make responsible decisions about their own health and their own bodies then I will have done something meaningful with my life."

I was thinking about this and how it relates to a Biblical view of life. Paul wrote, in his letter to the church at Philippi,

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) NLT

It certainly is a true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable thing to teach our children about the realities that exist around them in their everday lives. It is sobering to think that children as young as 5 0r 6 years of age are already experimenting with harmful substances. I have learned to appreciate men like Deputy Phelps who see the value of educating children to make good decisions that go beyond the four walls of their elementary school. Life can be a dangerous journey, but with men like this, the ride will have less bumps in the road.

Indeed, it was a sweet victory, and I was savoring the moment as my son and his classmates each received their completion certificates. It is reassuring to me to know that my son and his classmates have a little more knowledge to help them through this life.

My prayer is that this new found knowledge will arm them against the drug dealers they will, at some point, face as they move on to middle school, and then on to high school. It is certainly an excellent and praiseworthy goal to aim for.

My Daily Summit with the Living God: idols

Set free, by the grace and the power of God, from a life dominating vice that had grabbed ahold of my life.

Today in my daily summit with the Living God, I came to Psalm 54. What a powerful prayer.

Psalm 54 NLT

For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time the Ziphites came and said to Saul, “We know where David is hiding.” To be accompanied by stringed instruments.

1 Come with great power, O God, and rescue me!
Defend me with your might.
2 Listen to my prayer, O God.
Pay attention to my plea.
3 For strangers are attacking me;
violent people are trying to kill me.
They care nothing for God. Interlude

4 But God is my helper.
The Lord keeps me alive!
5 May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them.
Do as you promised and put an end to them.
6 I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you;
I will praise your name, O Lord,for it is good.
7 For you have rescued me from my troubles and helped me to triumph over my enemies.

Here David was hiding from Saul, and others who were plotting against him knew where he was hiding and went and told his chief adversary, Saul, who was intent on hunting David down and killing him.

I was thinking about this Psalm and asking the same question I usually do; "How does this apply to me in my daily summit with God?" And here is what I came up with.

God has, and continues to, come into my daily life with great power. He has rescued me time and time again from the power of my chief adversary, the devil. He has rescued me from my days of living on the streets and from the vice of pornography that had gripped my soul and had formed a stronghold that I just could not break free from. This stronghold held me captive for many years until I realized the truth. Pornography had become my idol. When I came to this reality, and confessed it in my heart and mind, and laid it down at the foot of the cross, the Lord lifted this stronghold from me. Pornography no longer has control of my heart and mind, the Holy Spirit does.

The truth is, pornography had become my idol and I learned to make excuses to protect my idol and to rationalize in my own human mind that I need this in my life to get by. I was convinced that I had an "addiction" and that addiction became my excuse. "It's not my fault, it's my addiction." The blame, then, goes outside of me to the outer problem.

Sound familiar? That was Eve's downfall in the Garden of Eden. The forbidden fruit became her idol, as she took her eyes off of God and began to lust after that which she knew she could not have. Not only did she go down, but she dragged her husband into her idolatry. Of course, Adam could have said, "Stop, wait a minute, this ain't right. God said no, so we must honor His command." Adam bit into that piece of taboo too, and the rest is history.

There is something in our human make-up that causes us to foam at the mouth for the things we know are harmful, risky, or otherwise just not good to pursue.

Satan has used these taboos from the beginning to lure mankind away from God and to themselves, then they become easy prey; play toys for the devil's mischievous game. Vices, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, the loveof money, even food, and yes, I have to throw my own idol of choice (The big "P" word that noone like's to talk about but wishes would just go away) in with the rest of these tools of the devil. That's what they are, tools, devices of the devil, used by him to lure us out, by playing with our own natural desires. You see, the devil is not God. He can't enter our hearts and minds, yet he does know our weaknesses; that is, the weaknesses that exist within every person. So, he dangles the forbidden fruit in front of us. What was that fruit for Adam and Eve? We don't know what vice or tool it was, but they all have the same evil objective, which is to draw our hearts and minds away from God and our pursuit of reaching the top of God's holy mountain.

So, who or what do you turn to for comfort and escape from the stress and concerns of life that drag you down?

Is it a liquid idol, sold legally in any store you may walk into? Take one down down, pass it around, and forget about all of your problems.

Maybe it's drugs; legal or illegal. At first you just experimented to fit in with the crowd, but you soon learned that there was an escape from reality and the problems of life, so you experimented a little more, until the next high wore off, so you went deeper into bigger and better stuff, until you could no longer say no.

Is it the vice of gambling; the rush of adrenaline you get as you place your next bet or scratch off your next lottery ticket?

Maybe it's a relationship, or at least the one you're currently in, because the last one just didn't do it for you.

Perhaps it's pornography. It started as something seemingly innocent; a young boy, peaking at his dad's stash in the garage. Then it became more frequent as you moved into adolescence, and couldn't help but notice the alluring covers of the magazines that are conveniently placed within easy view at the local convenience store. Then puberty came and you discovered a new idol to go along with the images that now invaded your mind at random. Then you went off to college, and had plenty of time by yourself, and instant access to any woman you want, that is, in cyberspace. By the time you reached adulthood, this idol had become so strong that you just could not break free from it, so you eventually gave into it and started calling "it" and addiction. You desparately want to break free from this hideous monster, but you can't, because it's an addiction.

If you are reading this and recognize some of these idols, because they have affixed themselves to you, there is hope. Look up, take your idol to the foot of the cross and lay it down...and leave it there. Then you will be able to see God's holy mountain and you will be able to begin climbing to new heights, without a gorilla on your back weighing you down.

Go ahead! Reach out! Trust the One who bruised the head of the serpent; the One who will crush every enemy and stronghold that comes against you.

If you need any help along the way, send me an e-mail and we can pray together.

Life 101: my church planter training started in the streets.

I'm really getting into this whole facebook/blogging thing. I've been at it for about a month now. Actually, the blogging venture started about a year ago, although I was posting rather infrequently and wasn't quite seeing the value of the whole deal. Although there was no $$$ involved, I had this belief that I was spending way too much time on the internet (actually I do spend too much time on the internet). Over the past month or so I have seen the blogging light, so to speak, as I have been reading scores of entries from other bloggers. It seems like everyone is blogging these days and that everyone is also on facebook--great way to connect with people of similar interests.

I am a church planter and lead pastor of a new church plant located in upstate, N.Y. I have found this new facebook/blogging venture to be a great tool for connecting and networking with others who are engaged in the church planting conversations that are stirring around us. As such, I have purposely reached out to others who are involved in some facet of church planting. One of the common realities I am encountering is the fact that the majority of those I have met are half my age or within a few years of that range. Not that I am old, but, if I go by average life span figures, I have passed the halfway point. Yeah, I'm about to cross the half-way bridge from 40 to 50, on my way to the fifty yard line.

As I look at some of the profiles of some of the church planters and pastors I have met and realize most of them are age 25 or younger, I think back to when I was that age. I certainly was not pastoring a church, nor did I have any interest in starting one. In fact, I rarely set foot in a church in those days. My twenties were spent on the streets of the same city I am now planting a church in; actually, in the very neighborhood I lived in as a kid, and again as a young adult, and now again as a middle aged husband and father of two active young boys.

God must really have a sense of humor because the church building we inherited from the former Sixth Ave Baptist Church is the same church building my cousins and I used to throw rocks at when were kids. I can remember an older, gray haired man yelling at us a few times as we hurled rocks, aiming for the church steeple. Legend has it that the reason there are now screened frames on the outside of the stained glass windows is due to the fact that three young boys used to throw rocks at the building back in the early 70's.

As I think back to my twenties phase, and further back to my boyhood days, I recognize that all of that was a part of God's plan for my life. The same streets he rescued me from are the same streets He, in His sovereignty, has sent me back to. While I often find myself envying guys that are half my age, who are starting and pastoring churches, I am also becoming more thankful to God for those years I spent on the streets. Someone once said that we are more likely to reach those we are most like; well if that holds true, and I believe it does to a certain extent, then I am most likely to reach men who spent their young adulthood wandering the streets, or men that are now in their young adulthood, who are wandering the streets aimlessly, trying to find themselves and getting lost along the way.

My point is this: We can't count out what we may consider to be the bad years of our lives, because God most likely planned for those years to happen.

As Joseph declared to his scheming brothers in Genesis, "What you intended for my harm, God intended for my good." Paul later wrote in Romans,

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28) NLT

Urban Church Planting

Yesterday I was reading Kirsten Strand's Community 4:12 blog.

Community 4:12 is an outreach ministry of Community Christian Church of Naperville, Illinois, which brings compassion, social justice, and community development ministries to under-resourced communities.

In her latest blog entry, Kirsten shared about an opportunity for her and CCC of Naperville to join forces with Christian Community Development, as they seek how to "merge these two arenas so that we can create a single movement that is about reaching cities for Christ in a holistic way."

It is such a great testimony when the church and other para-church ministries and even non-religious not for profits can come together. The potential for impacting a community is much greater with a combined effort. I love what CCDA does in that they are serving as a bridge between the church and community development. Even unchurched people appreciate seeing a community revived and restored, and it becomes a great way to show the grace and love of God to a lost world.

I am thinking we need to have our own urban church planting summit here in New York's capital region. I attend a one every December in NYC, but we need to focus on our own urban areas upstate. Urban church planting is growing as our cities grow in population and become more ethnically diverse. There are new challenges to be embraced by urban church planters if they are going to reach urban communities. Working with CCDA and other community minded ministries is a great way to maximize our efforts and truly make Christ's name known in our cities.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Visiting with Stephen Lazorischak of Ukrainian Ministries

Stephen Lazorischak (blue coat on the left), associate pastor Ron Blanchette, along with my two sons, Daniel (right) and Jacob (red coat on the left).

Stephen is a church planter/missionary, originally from Latham, NY, now residing in Ukraine. Steve has been serving the Lord faithfully in the Ukraine for ten years. He is home for a visit until April. We caught up with Steve on Wednesday, 1/30, for a bite to eat and some catching up. The CORE Church is reaching outside of our own city to Eastern Europe, as we support Steve and his church planting endeavors amongst the Ukrainian people. Steve is doing a tremendous work at his church plant called, "Living Word," located outside of Kyiv in Kirovograd.

Stephen has a great testimony of how the Lord has used him to build a church from the ground up.You may contact Stephen by e-mail: to find out more about his church planting ministry in the Ukraine.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Do you remember the old Sesame Street song, "Who are the people in your neighborhood?"

The song would play, then we would be introduced to a few people we might see in our own neighborhood; the postal carrier, the policeman, the grocery store clerk, etc. The purpose of this regular skit was to teach children that everyone has a job to do and that we are all valuable in what we do.

I was thinking about this song and what it looks like, for me, as I ask the question, "Who are the people in my neighborhood?"
  1. There are the policemen staked out at either end of our block, watching and waiting for the next drug deal to go down.
  2. There are various deliverymen servicing the few remaining corner stores. They drive in, do what they have to do, and leave as quickly as they came.
  3. There is a lonely man, standing at the bus stop, waiting for a ride to nowhere inparticular.
  4. There are a few old ladies who can't afford to sell their homes and move, so they stay in their homes, with their doors locked and their shutters closed.
  5. There is the gangbanger and the drug dealer about to throw down, as they seek to claim these streets as their own territory.
  6. There is the truant officer, looking for another kid who has been skipping school so he can take care of his sick mom who has been out on another drinking binge.
  7. There is the city code enforcement officer, placing a condemned sign on yet another old, delapitated building.
  8. There are a few people, a faithful remnant, praying and hoping for better days ahead.
  9. Then there is a guy who calls himself a, "Church Planter,"trying to get a handle on all of this for the purpose of infusing a message of hope and peace.
  10. And the triune God--Father, Son, Holy Spirit--in the middle of all of this, stirring up new vision and new hope.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Listening to the voice of God before the voice of men

Two and a half years ago I was praying over the opportunity to return to the inner-city Troy, the very neighborhood I lived in as a kid, and had sought the advice of many people. Most of them thought I was getting myself in over my head, that it would take much resourcing and funding, and that I should think twice about taking my family into a dangerous neighborhood, to an empty old church building that needs a lot of work, with no money,no congregation, etc.

A few of these well meaning people were pastors. However, it was the advice of one older, wiser pastor, who I respect very much that convinced me to pursue what I believed God was calling me to. He told me to "Listen to the voice of God before the voice of men," and, "Wherever the Lord guides, He also provides." A few other godly men have encouraged me along the way, but those words of advice still ring in my ear as a reminder of who I serve and who it is that sent me.

Reproducing Leaders and Locations

We have been actively engaging our community with the gospel for nearly two years and are beginning to see some fruit. We knew coming into this that there might be slow growth in the beginning stages. For one, we are planting a church among poor and marginalized people, in the midst of an economically and physically depressed neighborhood. Secondly, the church building we inherited from the former Sixth Avenue Baptist Church is in much need of renovation and repair. The building is structurally sound, but it is showing its age at nearly a century old.

We have obeyed and gone to the place God had shown us, even though we had no idea how all of this would turn out. Two years ago I returned to Troy (the city I was born and raised in) with nothing more than vision from God and faith a little bit smaller than a mustard seed. Over the past two years the Lord who sent us has also supplied us with so much more than we could have ever asked for or imagined (Eph. 3:20).

With all of that said, we are now seeing the real fruit of our labors as new people are coming into our community of faith. One in particular, a 40-something year old man named Ron, we are now training to be our first small group facilitator. Ron has a deep love for the word of God and a burden for seeing lost people find their wayback to God. We are blessed to have him and his family with us. Up until now it has been me, our associate pastor Ron Blanchette (not the same Ron as above), and another member of our leadership team, John, who have been leading our small groups. We are now beginning to reproduce leaders.

Additionally, we have had a few college guys coming to our fellowship gatherings. One in particular, a young man named Aser, has "Student Ministry Leader" written all over him. In the coming weeks I will gather up enough nerve to ask this young man to consider joining our leadership team as our leader of student ministries.

God has also given me vision for reproducing locations. I have had a burden for Schenectady, N.Y. for some time now. My wife and I lived there for twelve years. We still own a home there which we are renting out.

Additionally, I am thinking about North Troy, also known as Lansingburgh. This is a neighborhood 26 city blocks in length and nine blocks deep that is 90% residential. It is mostly comprised of middle class working families (much like my own family). There are the usual mainline denominational churches present in Lansingburgh, along with a fundamental, KJV only, Baptist church, with a pastor who either scares people into making salvation decisions or scares them away, mostly the latter. The Lansingburgh community is a bit different than the neighborhood the CORE Church is targeting.

The people living in this north end of the city of Troy are more financially stable, yet many of them don't know Jesus Christ personally, and there's not one church or church planter among them that has a burden and/or passion for seeing them experience a true, personal relationship with the living God. Well, that is until now.

So, please keep us in prayer as God gives new vision

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Daily Summit with the Living God Blog

I have started an additional blog to supplement this one.

Man! God has been speaking to me and filling me with great thoughts, all themed around this vision of Mount Zion, God's holy mountain, and our upward walk with Him.

This will be an ongoing devotional,as the Holy Spirit guides me.

Check it out at

Homelessness and hopelessnes abound!

"We don't have to go to a third world country or a big inner city to find homelessness, poverty, sex trafficking, lonely people, hungry people..."

The above was excerpted from Jay Hardwick's blog, as he commented on "What keeps me awake at night."

I can immediately identify with Jay's entire piece, in particular with the quoted portion above. My small city of 48,000, here in upstate N.Y., has its own share of homelessness, poverty, sex trafficking, lonely people, hungry people,etc. Wherever fear and hopelessness abound, there is homelessness and a host of other outer issues keeping them company. The "problem" that is common to those we would like to wish didn't exist is that they have lost hope. No hope = no desire to improve one's life.

What does hoplessness look like? "This is all I am worth. I will never do any better. I might as well crawl into a hole and die."

Those who are caught up in the viscious cycle of homelessness have lost hope. Some have tried everything, within their human ability, to pull themselves up, only to get knocked back down again. Others don'teven try anymore because they feel that it is pointless. Many times their is a prevailing vice that has formed a stronghold on a person's life that they just can't break free from, which keeps them focusing on themselves and their problems instead of looking up.

What they need to see is, as Sanctus Real sings, "The face of love" in us, as we become the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of a broken and scarred world.

My Daily Summit with the Living God: all that I have belongs to God.

In my devotions today I was reading through Acts 4 when I came across this particular passage.

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. (Acts 4:32-35) NLT.

In my daily summit with the Living God money and possessions can keep me from moving upward towards the summit of God's holy mountain. Materialism leads to greed and selfishness, as it did with Ananias and Sapphira, whom we read about in Acts 5. Instead of being united with the rest of the body of Christ, they conspired to lie to them and say that they got less for the sale of their piece of land than they actually did. Their sin was not in what they gave to the church, but in the way they did it. Peter corrected their erroneous assumption that the church wants all of their money.

God owns everything anyway and He gives me control over that which He has entrusted me with. The core issue is not how much will I give to the church and keep for myself but, who does it all belong to in the first place? If it all belongs to God, and he is merely entrusting me with a certain portion, should I allow greed and selfishness to keep me and my family from reaping the benefits of proper stewardship?

It's also a matter of focus. Where are my eyes and my heart focused? Am I looking out for myself, or am I truly sold out to Christ and His kingdom?Am I looking towards the summit of God'sholy mountain, or am I content with the miniature kingdom I've managed to build for myself here on this earth?

The early church, as recorded in the book of Acts, did not take vows of poverty or anything like that. They simply had a different focus. Their eyes were fixed on a kingdom whose builder and maker is God.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How is God shaping your understanding of the way He works in life and ministry?

A few years ago I was slapping myself wondering what God is preparing me for. I had gone to seminary, had candidated at several churches that were searching for pastors and had even thought of going overseas (Ireland) to join God on mission. Nothing seemed to be opening to me. However, as I persevered, trusting that God has a purpose for me, He began to flood my mind with fresh vision for planting an inner-city church. He then brought me to a place to apply the vision.

Two years into this church planting endeavor I am beginning to see how God uses everything from our past to bring us to where He wants us to be. Nothing was a coincidence or happened by chance. Every chapter of my life was designed by God to prepare me for what I am doing now. He will indeed take us to new heights, if we will let go and let Him be God.

Rethinking Children's Ministry

The CORE Church of Troy has seen great success, so far, in the area of children's ministry. From our regularly scheduled CORE/kids events, to our weekly kids church, we have connected with kids in our neighborhood to the point where they are telling their friends, and more kids are coming.

We knew when we came to this neighborhood that a quality, well organized children's ministry would be essential to reaching our community. We did not expect to have the kind of success we have experienced in the two years since we started this new church.

We have been taking a look at how we can effectively do kid's ministry that will be attractive to the kids involved, as well as their parents, while at the same time not burning out adult volunteers. Our approach is to be highly relational and less program oriented.

What does this look like? On Sunday mornings, as we are getting ready to start church, these kids just start showng up. At first I was thinking we should start a Sunday school class before church. I tried out the idea, only to learn what I thought would happen. Kids don't want to sit around in a class room and listen to a 44 year old man tell them stories with flannelgraph figures. So, I simplified it. We just hang out and chat and get to know each other. We play board games, watch some videos and read a Bible passage together. It is amazing how quickly these kids pick up on the complex Bible stuff.

Let the children come unto me, and forbid them not

Today I had a neat experience while picking my kids up from school. My two sons attend our local public elementary school. As usual, I picked them up after their acivities.

As I got out of my car and approached the school, two boys, Robert and Angelo, who had recently been coming to our church greeted me. A minute later, Angelo's younger sister, Brianna, came out of the front entrance. She flashed me a huge smile and waved to me. Then my two boys came out, and suddenly I found myself in the company of a half dozen kids. One boy, Robert, didn't have a ride home, as his mom was running late, so he got in the car with me and my two boys and we drove him home. As we were driving the five or so minutes from the school to this boy's home, I was listening to a Jeff Deyo CD that I had popped in. Robert asked one of my sons, "what kind of music is that, I like it." Dan went on to tell Robert, "It's a Christian worship CD." So, Robert and my two sons started talking about the difference between worship music and rap artist 50cent. It was a sweet conversation going on between three kids. My boys were sharing their faith in their own way, through their own choice of music. Dan and Jacob have acquired a taste for some of dad's music. They particularly like Toby Mac.

I was thinking about how many kids that have been coming to our worship gatherings at the CORE Church of Troy. The church building we inherited is located in a neighborhood that is 95% residential, meaning there are a lot of kids hanging around this densely populated, inner-city neighborhood. Some of these kids have been showing up regularly at our church. There are some Sundays, like yesterday, when the kids out number the adults. We have embraced this open door for ministry. My wife, Brenda, has accepted the invitation by our core group to lead our children's ministry. This is a great fit because she has a love and a burden for children. She has been actively engaged in some form of children's ministry since she was a teenager.

We thought and prayed about the potential of having a thriving children's ministry and what that will look like. Ask anyone who is familiar with Troy's North Central/South Lansingburgh neighborhood, and they will tell you that children's ministry is desparately needed. Many of these kids, as we have learned, come from broken homes. Many of these homes are led by single moms who work and don't exercise the supervision and discipline that these young children need. If we, as a local church, can play some small part in seeing that these kids are cared for, we will have accomplished more than we can imagine.

I'm Pumped: Whiteboard is coming and I'm going!!!

Two weeks ago, while on Ben Arments blog, which I found through Matt Morgan's Whiteboard Facebook group, I learned about the Whiteboard sessions that will be taking place on May 22nd in the Reston, VA/DC area.

Here is a brief description of this conference,which appears on Whiteboard's website:

Strategy + Ministry
The Whiteboard Sessions is about the power of an idea in its raw, most conceptual form. One simple idea could forever change your life and ministry. We’ve invited 8 of the most inspiring leaders in ministry to share one compelling idea in just 30 minutes each. They come from different ministry circles and use a variety of methods, but they all have one thing in common: a love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a desire to see lost people reached. You will be stretched by their thinking and challenged by their insights. The very idea you resist could be the key to God’s future for you. Who knows, you might even find confirmation for the dream God’s already revealed to you. But whatever the reaction, one thing is certain: you will never be the same.

From the first moment I heard about this conference I was hooked. When I learned that Ed Stetzer and John Burke are two of the eight speakers who will be presenting their ideas on church planting, I began to druel even more. I have heard Stetzer speak while at at least four conferences I have attended and had a chance to meet and chat with him when he was in Troy, N.Y. back October 2006 at an Acts29 boot camp hosted by Terra Nova Church. Ed Stetzer serves as the director of missiology with Lifeway Resources and is, without a doubt, the leading thinker of our day in the incarnational/missional church movement.

Ed also happens to be a fellow native New Yorker, but I won't let that sway my opinion of him (Go Bills and Sabres).

I have yet to hear John Burke speak, but I have read his book, "No Perfect People Allowed." In this book John speaks of developing and maintaining a "come as you are" environment in the local church. He speaks from personal experience as he sought a way to reach the inner-city people of Austin, Texas, in his endeavors to plant Gateway Community Church. In the midst of his church planting effort, he sought to bridge the gap between the church and the people who were coming to Gateway's gatherings, with messy lives intact. I'd have to say, of all the books I have read over the past year or so, "No Perfect People Allowed," has impacted me the most. I am planting a church in one of the darkest, most depressed communities in New York's capital region. Burke's practical advice has already been put into practice at the CORE Church of Troy as we welcome Christ seekers with open arms, messy lives and all.

I am also looking forward to hearing Perry Noble, Darrin Patrick, Mark Dever, Vince Antonucci, Mark Batterson and Tim Stevens speak. These are all men who are leaders and practitioners in the emerging church movement. I am looking forward to gleaning as much wisdom as I can from these men of God. I am also looking forward to meeting many others who have caught the church planting bug.

There is a movement sweeping around the world. I, for one, believe this movement will be the cause of a worldwide revival. I am happy to be called at such a time as this, and to contribute to the conversation that is taking place, as I join God on mission

If you haven't yet registered, I would encourage you do so today. Whiteboard will sell out quickly, There are only 700 seats available. If anyone from the Capital Region of New York is planning on going, we can certainly car pool. I am planning on driving down myself. I will leave late on the evening of May 21st, it is about six to six and a half hours to drive from Albany. Join me, and we can sing silly songs, like kids on a campng trip.

Whiteboard's website is

My Daily Summit With the Living God:snares and pitfalls

I was reading Psalm 51 in my devotions today. It is my first time reading it in the New Living Translation. I have found one way to keep my daily devotions fresh and interesting, that is to go through my new daily reading plan by utilizing a different translation. The past two or three years I have been reading through the NIV. Now I am focusing my reading plan through the NLT and The Message.

As I was reading through Psalm 51, I began asking how this applies to my own daily summit with God. My journey with God I have begun to see as a daily summit. Not only am I walking with God, but it is an upward walk towards the summit of God's holy mountain, referred to often in Scripture as "Zion."

As we all know, Psalm 51 is David's famous prayer of confession and repentance, after Nathan the prophet spoke to him regarding his sinful acquisition of a woman named Bathsheba. David saw her and lusted for her, to the point where he plotted and schemed his way into her bedroom, by sending her husband to the front line of battle, where he was killed, therby making Bathsheba a widow and available for the taking.

In my own daily summit with God I had to ask myself where Psalm 51 fits into my upward climb. And here is where it applies:

Snares and pitfalls will pop up along the way, as we continue on our upward journey toward the summit of God's holy mountain; the devil will make sure of it. As the old saying goes, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Here David was the leader of Israel, a man after God's own heart. Yet, his own heart became consumed with unbridled lust.

As each of us reaches out towards Mount Zion, we will each face our own snares and pitfalls which may trip us up. In our daily walk with God there will be peaks and valleys. However, the snares that are set up by the devil will take us to places we had not anticipated on going to. That's the way sin and temptation work. David, in his position of power and authority was not immuned to the attacks of the devil; neither are you and I. Lust is a powerful weapon of the enemy, because it comes from within our own natural human make-up.

Most men can be swayed by the alluring, seductive advances of an attractive woman. Many men would say they would never allow themselves to get caught up in an adulterous affair. Yet, many good men have fallen because of their own ignorance to the reality of such lust and temptation and their failure to set-up and maintain a place to go to when such attacks occur. David often referred to God as his shelter, his fortress, his strongtower to run to and hide in times of dangerous trials. Yet, even David allowed lust too get the best of him, but it was not the end for David.

If a poll were taken, how many men would take a chance on an adulterous affair, even if there was a guarantee that no other person would find out? All it takes is one, "Yes, count me in," to trip a man up and cause him to fall deep into the pit of sin. The end result is a damaged reputation before God and men. David got more than he bargained for when he became consumed with lust and then gave into this hideous monster that had climbed onto his back. That is what can happen to me; to anyone who takes such a chance.

In Psalm 51, we see David moved with unbearable guilt before God. Even if no other person figured out what he had done in order to have the object of his lust, God saw it and spoke to him through Nathan the prophet. God took David to the proverbial woodshed.

In our daily, upward journey with Jesus Christ, dangers and pitfalls will come. There are times when we may get caught up. However, we need not let such falls defeat us. Like David, we can turn to God, repent of our sinful ways, and once again soar to new heights as the Holy Spirit guides us on the upward journey toward the summit of Mount Zion.

Finding my own voice

In my own experience I have tried, and failed, to style my own preaching after those certain men of God whom I respect and follow. It has taken me a few years to get past that and to trust the Holy Spirit to work through me. This has required some honesty and humility on my part as I realize it's not about making my name known, but Christ's name. God has some interesting things to say to the people in my world. I am beginning to identify with the prophets, as God spoke through them. He used their voice, but it was His thoughts and words they were conveying. When I humbly recognize this simple fact, it makes all the difference in the world. When I listen to His voice, I find my own.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 National New Church Conference

2008 National New Church ConferenceRick Warren to Join over 40 other speakers at Exponential!

Rick is one of the most influential leaders of our time. He leads one of the largest churches in North America, he authored one of the most popular books of our century, and he oversees one of the largest church-based networks on the planet. So why did he choose Exponential? Rick loves the local church and he loves to encourage pastors. Rick sees the value in connecting with over 2,000 entrepreneurial church leaders together in one place for the common purpose of starting new mission minded churches that impact the world.

Check out Rick's letter on his P.E.A.C.E plan:
"Dear Friends:
The P.E.A.C.E. plan is our strategy to have every small group in our church, and then tens of thousands of small groups in other churches, become engaged in solving the five biggest problems in the world: Spiritual Lostness, Lack of Godly Leaders, Poverty, Disease, and Lack of Education.
These giant problems are so big that neither the governmnent, nor all the NGOs (non-government organzations) can tackle them. There is only one group large enough to tackle these global issues- the Christian church in all its local expressions around the world.
Nothing else can compare to the distribution channel of the millions of churches around the world. Even in villages where you cannot find a clinic, a store, a school, or a post office, you can often find a church.
The PEACE Plan will address these five "giant" problems by Planting new churches... Equipping leaders... Assisting the poor...Caring for the sick... and Educating the next generation.
These problems, and the answers, are not new. But the way we intend to tackle them using the small groups of local churches in large numbers is revolutionary.
The bottom line is that we intend to reinvent mission strategy in the 21st century. This will be a new Reformation. The First Reformation returned us to the message of the original church. It was a reformation of doctrine - what the church BELIEVES. This Second Reformation will return us to the mission of the original church. It will be a reformation of purpose- what the church DOES in the world."

Rick is passionate about inspiring, encouraging, equipping and challenging church leaders. We are blessed to have him at Exponential. See for more information

Growing Up Catholic

I recently came across a book that I must recommend. You can't purchase this book through Amazon or any other book seller. It is only available through Tim Lott's Growing up Catholic website.

"I just don't feel connected..."
To be blunt, that phrase can best describe how a lot of Catholic church-goers feel today. Growing up as a Catholic myself, I believed my relationship with God was very real. Nevertheless, I found myself growing more and more discontent and feeling detached from the man-made church laws I had been taught. Going to church became mundane as I merely went through the motions not caring to attend mass regularly. Does this describe you, your family or a friend?
(Excerpted from Tim Lott's website)

I am planting a church in upstate New York which, like most of the Northeast, has a high percentage of people who identify themselves as Roman Catholic. This is a reality I must intentionally address as I seek to reach people living in my community. Having been raised in the Catholic church myself I have can identify with every page of Tim Lott's book. Many of the new people coming to our church have had a similar experience. This book is designed for group discussions and is perfect for conducting a small group or class for people who are questioning their Catholic heritage. The CORE Church will be starting its first Growing up Catholic small group within the next few weeks.

This book is an invaluable tool for church planters who are seeking to start new congregations in communities that are saturated with Catholics; many of whom feel disconnected from the religious tradition they were raised in.

Former Catholic, Tim Lott
Author of Growing Up Catholic, The Pursuit for Truth

Tim Lott and his wife Genora make their home in South Florida. He grew up as a Catholic and in 2003 became an ordained minister. Tim worked on staff at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, as the Director of Ministries, and at Community Christian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as the Minister of Involvement.

Tim started teaching the “Growing up Catholic” class in 2002 at Northeast. He has a passion for connecting people into the local church, assisting Catholics and former Catholics alike in discovering a better way to live life in place of merely going through the motions on Sunday mornings.

What is CORE?

What is CORE?

You might be asking this question, and with good reason.

Well, CORE represents several things; first of all, it is the vision God gave to me nearly three years ago, as I was getting ready to graduate seminary. I knew I wanted to plant a church, and I knew that I wanted to target a hard to reach, inner-city community. What the Holy Spirit began to form in my mind and in my heart was the way I would go about planting such a church. I had seen so many local churches just going through the motions of doing church. Religion and denominationalism had taken its toll on manyof these churches. I really wanted to plant a church that is raw; stripped bare of religiosity and denominational traditions and structure.

I had been engaged in inner-city ministry for a dozen years prior to this point in my life and really wanted to be able to reach the average person on the street with God's message of love, peace and hope. I had tried all of the usual seminary taught evangelism tactics and had read numerous books on different styles of evangelism, only to be left thirsting for a way to relate to people on a personal level about a personal relationship with a personal Savior. Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of great books out there on evangelism and missiology. I have gleaned much from the books I have read. However, I was simply praying and looking for a simpler way to reach people and build Christ's church.

Then one day I was helping my son, who was in 2nd grade at the time, with somehomework. He had to look up some words and write down what they mean. One of his words for that day was "Core." So, I helped him look it up in the dictionary, then helped him read the definition as he wrote it down on paper. Afterward it hit me. "That's the word I was looking for to describe the vision God had given me; getting back to the core of what matters; the essentials of our faith, back to the apostolic way of making disciples.

Along with the word"CORE" a strategy began to emerge, as I asked the Lord to show me what all of this is to mean.Core became my vision for helping people to know Jesus Christ at the core (center) of their lives and then make Him know to others.

You can read more about the vision and also the acrostic for CORE that spells out how we see our community of faith living out God's plan and purpose for our lives.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Can a church planter be "All of the Above?"

I was thinking recently about the above question that was asked of me. A friend of mine, who recently became the pastor of a well established, independent Baptist church, is endeavoring to learn more about some of the new buzz words in the realm of church planting. He had shared with me that he would like to lead his congregation out of the twentieth century, into our current, twenty-first century. He had been hearing a lot about the emerging church movement and some of the terms that have come out of this movement. We have met several times over the past year or so to discuss what all of this is and means.

I had to be frank with him, I am still on a learning curve myself. I have spent a considerable amount of time over the past three to four years attending conferences and reading many books, gleaning as much as I can from some of the leading thinkers in this emerging movement; guys like Alan Hirsch, Ed Stetzer, Dave Ferguson, Marc Driscoll, John Burke, etc.

As my friend and I discussed what it means to be missional, incarnational, relational, organic, indigenous, and emerging, he asked me a simple question that left me sitting speechless in my chair. He asked, "can't we be all of these things simultaneously, as we obey Christ's commands to love God and our neighbors, and then go and make disciples?"

Here was a man who admitted to knowing little to nothing about all of this stuff, yet he really got it.

There are so many discussions going on around the world today; at conferences, on blogs and you-tube, in seminaries and Bible colleges. Many of the conversations I have been engaged in seem to be so complex, with so many church planters trying to define who they are and what their new church will look like. Scores of books (some good, some not so good) have been and are being written on this emerging church movement.

Many church planters (myself included) are endeavoring to get a handle on this movement and how it applies to them as they plant missional, incarnational, relational, organic, indigenous churches that are culturally relevant and Christ honoring. Do we have to pick and choose what we will be as church planters, or will we simply be doing all of the above as we focus on the One who called us to His great commission and trust Him to guide and shape us into the leaders He wants us to become?

So, I think I will apply that simple question my pastor friend asked, as well as the obvious answer of to my own church planting endeavors. Instead of focusing on becoming missional, incarnational, relational, organic, indigenous and culturally relevant, I will streamline my focus and simply follow Jesus commands to love God and my neighbor, and go therefore and make disciples...excuse me...Christ followers

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meeting up with "an Emergent cohort for the Capital District of NY" cohorts

I recently met up with fellow church planter John Martinez for lunch at Lynn's Uptown Tavern, his favorite Albany lunch spot. Great little spot, by the way. If you're looking for a decent meal and are in the area, I would encourage you to check this place out...nothing spectacular, just a quaint atmosphere and good food and people.

John has started a new church out of his home in the suburbs of Albany, with the goal being to move to a space that is more condusive to church growth. His new church is called, "The Distillery Church."He describes it as an organic/emerging church.

I have been hearing and learning so much about the emerging/organic church and just couldn't turn down John's invitaion to join him and a few of his friends for an informal discussion on these very topics. They meet weekly at a nearby diner. It was great time of discussion and learning from one another. Along with John and myself, Curtis Klope and Scott Cogan were in attendance.The group is led by Curtis, a man who, like the rest of us, is simply exploring the new questions that are surfacing as we seek to plant churches in our respective communities.

It is good for me to know that others are wrestling with these new terms. What exactly do they mean? How do they apply to us? What about the other new buzz words; missional, incarnational, culturally relevant, apostolic, etc.

As we sat around the table at the 76 Diner, we all shared our own thoughts on these terms.We talked about some of the leading thinkers who are writing and teaching on these subjects; Alan Hirsch, Brian McClaren, Ed Stetzer, Erwin Mcmanus, Mark Driscoll, Doug Pagitt, etc.

Many questions, both deep and not so deep, were tossed around. There was a level of honesty and openness in our round table discussion that I haven't experienced in a long time. No question was tossed out. Some would be considered by evangelicals to be risky, even bordering on heretical. However, these were all questions that many church planters are grappling with in our day. We are all simply trying to get a handle on this emerging movement that is sweeping around the world, while attempting to plant churches in the communities God has sent us to.

I'm looking forward to futured discussions with my new emerging cohorts.

My Summit Experience with the Living God.

My Personal summit with the triune God began as I entered into a personal, vertical relationship with the Father, the Son, and theHoly Spirit. It began at the foot of the cross and culminates when I meet Him in the air. This is when I will reach the summit of God’s holy mountain. Until then I will continue to soar to new heights, as the Spirit of God lives in me and through me and guides me along in this journey called life.

Psalm 50:1-5

1 The Lord, the Mighty One, is God,
and he has spoken;
he has summoned all humanity
from where the sun rises to where it sets.
2 From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines in glorious radiance.
3 Our God approaches, and he is not silent.
Fire devours everything in his way,
and a great storm rages around him.
4 He calls on the heavens above and earth below
to witness the judgment of his people.
5 “Bring my faithful people to me—
those who made a covenant with me by giving sacrifices.”

My United summit with the triune God.
My vertical relationship with the living, triune God is best expressed in a community environment. There is unity in community. This is my horizontal relationship with the body of Christ, which is made possible as I connect with God on a personal level. I become absorbed into the bloodstream of the body of Christ. I become one with the triune God and the Church as I become grafted into the True Vine, which is Jesus Christ (John 15:1ff).

The cross represents these two connected levels of relationship.We cannot have one without the other. Jesus said,

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40) NLT

John later wrote,

11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14 If we love our Christian brothers and sisters
it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister
in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. (1 John 3:11-18) NLT

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New CORE Church of Troy sermon series: how to have a summit experience with the living God

Summit: the highest attained or attainable point

Summit then is a journey, a destination and a direction; a path that leads upward.

On a mountain, the summit is the highest attainable place; the tippy-top. For many years certain men have been captivated by the challenge of mountain climbing and the idea of reaching the summit of the globe. We have all read countless news stories of mountain climbing excursions into Everest, Ararat, the Rockies, etc. A few men have had the privilege of reaching some of the earths highest peaks. There is a desire in all of us to reach up; to soar above the horizon, like the birds in the air, rising above this ordinary existence on planet earth.

In a spiritual sense, it is the place we are all trying to reach, as we reach out to God. There is a great distance between man and God, one of mountainous proportions. Man has forever been trying to climb this mountain through religion and good works, only to find unforeseen challenges at each level of advancement. God has made it possible for us to reach the very top of His mountain, into heaven itself. Trying to reach the summit on our own is and endless, frustrating experience. However, as we come to know God and trust Him, He will show us the way to the top of His mountain.

The Bible reveals to us that heaven is a real, attainable place, a destination for all who will, by faith, enter in.

The Apostles had a summit experience with the living God as they walked with Jesus for three and a half years. During the time Jesus spent with His disciples, before He returned to His place in heaven, he showed them the way to a place that lies beyond themselves; a place they cannot see with their eyes or climb to in their own strength or best efforts. In order to find this place they would have to let go of their own understanding and trust in Him to lead the way. The gospels record the account of Jesus meeting these ordinary men in their every day lives and then showing them how reach this place called Zion. It begins within themselves, deep inside of their own hearts; the place that only God can see.

There is and old song by Petra that comes to mind. It is called “Road to Zion.”

Road to Zion ------
Words and music by Mike Hudson
Based on Psalm 84:5-7

There is a way that leads to life
The few that find it never die
Past mountain peaks graced white with snow
The way grows brighter as it goes

There is a road inside of you
Inside of me there is one too
No stumbling pilgrim in the dark
The road to Zion's in your heart
The road to Zion's in your heart

The river runs beside the road
Its waters living as they flow
In liquid voice the water calls
On thirsty knees the pilgrim falls

Sometimes a shadow dark and cold
Lays like a mist across the road
But be encouraged by the sight
Where there's a shadow, there's a light

Sometimes it's good to look back down
We've come so far - we've gained such ground
But joy is not in where we've been
Joy is Who's waiting at the end

Psalm 84:5-7 NLT

5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. 7 They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 2:2-3 and Micah 4:1-2,

2 In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 3 People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.

Proverbs 15:24,
The path of life leads upward for the wise That he may keep away from Sheol below.

God’s holy mountain, Zion, is the place where His glory dwells. Jesus came to lead the way to this eternal place. Through Him we may enter the path that leads to life, which leads upward into the presence of Almighty God. From the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, to our present day in 2008 A.D., man has been trying to reach this destination. That is why mountain climbing and space exploration are two popular areas of interest. We all want to see what lies beyond the highest peaks, and even further, beyond the stars and galaxies that stretch out forever above our small planet.

From Matt Redman's album "Facedown"

Lead Us Up The Mountain - Spontaneous Song
2004 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Lead us up the mountain
Lead us to the place Your glory dwells God
Lead us up the mountain
Lead us to the place Your glory dwells God

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Ministry Partnership Opportunity

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Hispanic church planter Miguel Estrada. Miguel lives in the North Troy community near our church building and is starting a new Hispanic congregation. He is in need of meeting space for his new church plant and called me to see if it might be possible for them to use our church building for this purpose.

I must admit that this an answer to prayer. We have been praying since we started our own new work in Troy that God would send someone who would be effective in reaching the growing Hispanic population that calls this neighborhood home. I am not Hispanic and do not speak Spanish. For me to try an reach these Hispanic people, in their own cultural context, would be a great challenge to say the least. Two years later and God has answered our prayer.

This new ministry partnership has not come without challenges of its own. Miguel is working with a denomination that differs a bit in doctrine than we do. They are Pentacostal, we are not. We had to ask some hard questions of each other in order to come to a agreement that works for everyone involved. After meeting and praying with Miguel, his wife, and the pastor of their sponsoring, we were satisfied with Miguel's vision and passion for reaching his own Hispanic people with the Gospel. We came to the mutual decision that we can work together and around our doctrinal differences for the common purpose of making Christ known in the heart of the city of Troy, NY.

As I think about what it will take to reach my city for the kingdom of God I had to ask myself if doctrinal differences will get in the way. If we agree on the major issues we can work around the smaller issues. Miguel will be much more effective in reaching his own people than I will ever be. Miguel has shared with me that the majority of Latinos are either Roman Catholic or Pentacostal. While I may not agree with some of their doctrinal positions or their style of worship, I do agree that there are lost Hispanic people who need to know that Jesus loves them and died for their sins. With that said, we will move forward in the bond of the Holy Spirit. When all is said and done, the only thing we will be able to say is, "My, look what the Lord has accomplished.
Please pray for us as we begin this new realtionship. We will be sharing our church building with Miguel and his congregation. We are anticipating a great harvest.

Looking ahead in 2008

Truly, 2007 has been a year of blessing beyond anything we could ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). I can’t wait to see what God will do in the New Year ahead.

Prayer requests for 2008:

Continued growth as we reach out into our community with the good news of hope and peace through Christ.

That we can begin and maintain several small groups within our community
CORE/essentials membership class

Baptism class

small groups

  • Discipleship essentials – a weekly topical study covering basic Bible doctrines.

  • Growing up Catholic – as we seek to make Christ known in the heart of the city, how can we bridge the gap between our new community church and the many disenchanted Catholics and ex-Catholics living in our community? This will be an ongoing, weekly study/group, designed specifically for those who have many unanswered questions about the Catholic faith. Using a book and study guide written by Tim Lott, who grew up Catholic and accepted Christ at the age of 38, after many years of merely “going through the motions” of church and religion.

  • Pure Reformation – this will be a weekly study/prayer group on sexual purity and the ongoing struggles that Christian men face as they seek to follow Christ. Using a book and study guide by the same title, we will meet weekly to pray together and discuss areas of struggle and temptation that men face every day.

Our ongoing Sunday morning Bible hour at 10:00am and worship service at 11:00am; that the Holy Spirit will guide us in developing a quality time of worship, teaching, fellowship and prayer; that the Holy Spirit will guide me in preparing timely, relevant Bible messages; that He will draw lost people who are trying to find their way back to God.

For our new relationship with Donna Walsh, our worship leader. God has been filling her with new melodies and lyrics. We truly believe God has sent Donna to us. Our prayer is that God will continue to use her at His discretion, for His good purpose.

For our ongoing relationship with our neighborhood association and city leaders. We desire to have a positive impact in our community. We will be much more effective as we seek to maintain a good relationship with our councilman, Mayor and key neighborhood leaders.

For God’s provision of finances and manpower as we continue with ongoing renovations of our circa 1913 church building.
Plumbing needs to be updated – restrooms updated and expanded
Electrical Upgrading – current system is old and inadequate for current usage.

Indoor ministry space– we have been working on the floor and walls of this large fellowship room for well over a year and are a little more than half-way finished. We are dreaming big over what we can do with this internal community space once it is finished. We are all drooling over the idea of a coffee house ministry, as well as many community outreach events and ministries we will be able offer.

Outdoor ministry space (formerly known as our vacant lot). As long as we continue to call it a vacant lot, that’s all it will be to us and certain city officials who would like to keep it on the tax rolls. However, we have big dreams for the usage if this external community space. We have already paved a section that spans the back side of the space, which will accommodate nine parking spaces. Also, this past autumn, three new trees were planted on the lot, courtesy of Capital District Community Gardens. This past summer we hosted our first ever block party, which took place on this exterior ministry space. This was a well attended day of music and ministry, organized by the CORE Church, Donna Walsh and 4ever1, and Victorious Life Christian Church. We are praying for the successful removal of this outdoor community space from the city of Troy’s tax rolls, so that we can put that money towards better things.

CORE/kids – we launched CORE/kids in 2007, with monthly outreach events designed for neighborhood children and their families. Our desire is to continue with this ministry and to build upon it.

Personal support through Missions Door. I am grateful to the Lord for all that He has provided, and will continue to provide, as we persevere in this calling. As such, I am praying that the Lord will provide the additional personal support that I need to continue, as I also raise my family.

Dreaming Big and Praying Hard

Charles Finney once said, "When you attempt great things for God, you can expect great results from God."

I was recently reading through Kirsten Strand’s “Community 4:12” Blog. Kirsten leads Community 4:12, a ministry of Community Christian Church (CCC) of Naperville, Ill, which brings compassion, social justice, and community development to under-resourced communities. CCC has adopted the inner-city community of East Aurora, as they seek to live out the Biblical mandate to serve needy, marginalized people. Kirsten has served as the catalyst in this community, through organizing servant evangelism and community outreach projects.

In her most recent blog entry, Kirsten included a hit list of big dreams she is praying for; things she would like to see happen in 2008. At first glance the list looks like wishful thinking, but, as the title of her post (Mountain Moving Prayers #2) suggests, her faith is not in what she can do, but in what God can and will do through her. I got to thinking about Kirsten’s Big Dream list. It’s not too much different than my own. Yeah our dreams are big, but God is infinitely bigger. We serve a big God who compels us to dream big.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Eph. 3:20)

Ephesians 3:20 is a verse that I regularly camp out in, because it tells me that His power is at work (within us), to accomplish all that He places in our human hearts and minds, and so much more; that combined with my life verse of Proverbs 3:5&6,

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Prov.3:5-6)

I am thoroughly convinced that what God desires to accomplish through us is far beyond anything we can rap our minds around. Many times I find myself trying to manage the vision God has given me, when He's simply asking me to be obedient and faithful and let Him do the rest. It is surprisingly refreshing when I am reminded that it is His church and that it is He who gives the increase.

I really appreciate reading about what Community 4:12 is doing. Our God is encouraging me through what they are doing; that others are successfully making His name known in their own community and if we (here in upstate NY) follow the example others are setting, we will see similar success as we make His name known here in Troy, New York. We truly reap what we sow. Dream big. Pray hard. Trust in the God who gives us big dreams, and wait expectantly to be blown away by what He will do with faith the size of a mustard seed.

Experiencing Facebook

For about a year now I have been hearing the buzz surrounding the internet's newest big thing,"Facebook." I was invited by my friend Pastor Derek Spain to join Facebook and become a member of his North Country Ministries facebook group. I was a little reluctant at first, thinking that it would be one more thing to keep me on the internet longer than I should or need to be. However, after signing up and exploring Facebook a bit, I began to see the value of being a part of this new craze. For one, I am fascinated over the idea networking with other Christ followers. Facebook has given us all an opportunity to connect in a way that we haven't been able to previously. Within the span of a couple of weeks I have been able to connect with many followers of Christ and co-laborers in the great commission. Some of these folks I have never met physically, yet we all share a common bond in the Holy Spirit as well as a vested interest in church planting and advancing the kingdom of God.See you on Facebook!

A New Understanding

This is the beginning of a great vision God has given me. No, nothing strange or cult-like, just a fresh understanding . As I recently began studying the book of Acts I have begun to see the story of the church unfold with new eyes. I have read Acts more times than I can remember. Most recently I began a new journey through the New Living Translation's version.

Two and a half years ago I entered the realm of church planting. Having never planted a church before I felt ill-prepared. However, there was vision from God, coupled with a burning desire to impliment the vision he had given me. So I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more for God to give me the confidence of those who have gone before me.
In November of 2005 my wife and I accepted the call to return to the city of Troy, New York, the place of my birth and youth, to start a new inner-city church in a neighborhood that had been largerly abandoned by the church. As we obeyed and went to the place God was showing us I began to seek a Biblical plan for planting and growing this new church, as such, the Holy Spirit has brought me back to the book of Acts, where the church began. As I stated before, I have read the book of Acts numerous times. I have read through it at least once since we came to Troy. However, I felt an urgent need to not only read through Acts again, but to embark on the most intense study I have ever undertaken.
As I started this new study of Acts I began to see it as more than just a narrative of the Church's infancy. The book of Acts is a journey. It is the story of a few good men, chosen by God to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Most of you are familiar with the book of Acts, so this won't be another running commentary; as if I could add to or improve upon the works of Matthew Henry and other scholars who have already provided us with an ample supply of explanation.
My goal in reading and studying the book of Acts, this time around, is to see church planting through the eyes of the Apostles and early church, and then apply what I see and learn to a modern, twenty-first century, Troy, New York context. After spending two years re-learning both the geographical and human landscape of Troy's inner-city I had reached a point where I began to ask God to show me how to build a church from the ruins of Troy's darkest, most depressed neighborhood.
The book of Acts is the next piece in the church planting puzzle God has given me to assemble. He has taken me back to the beginning of the church, to the very roots of the body of Christ, so that He can break down and destroy my previous preconceptions of who (not what) the church is and how the church functions. Like many church planters, I grew up with the notion that church is the place we go to to worship God. It is a building and an organization with structure. However, as I have entered the threshold of this new understanding of the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit has been empressing upon me that the Church was never intended to be what it has become. It was, from the beginning, a relationship with Christ.
In addition to this new study of the book of Acts, God has been preparing me through other means. I have been reading and digesting just about everything I can on missiology and the emerging church movement that is taking place globally. Leading thinkers such as Ed Stetzer, Tim Keller, Alan Hirsch, Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, Erwin McManus, John Burke, etc. have shaped my thinking and strategy to the point where I am beginning to think "Missionally," and "Incarnationally," In my own endeavor to plant a culturally relevant, Christ-centered, Biblically based, community of Christ followers.
The question that lingers in my mind during this new journey through the bookof Acts is,"How can I bring this new community of faith along in this journey?" There is so much being written these days on how to plant churches. It is mind boggling, to say the least, to keep up with it all. In the midst of my own spiritual and mental workout I am seeking a Biblically defined, simpler way to plant this church. I keep thinking about how Peter and John did it, and then Paul and his cohorts after that. Their journey is my journey; the same journey I would like to lead others on. They had a simple approach...Preach the gospel, reach for a decision, baptize new believers and assimilate them into the church, meet regularly for teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer. As they did this many miraculous, unimaginable things took place; to the point where everyone in the church was awe-struck. This resulted in church multiplication as people from the larger community were drawn to the smaller community of Christ followers. They began to impact and transfrom the community around them. All because twelve ordinary men said, "Yes, Lord! We will obey."