Friday, May 30, 2008

Experiencing our first Troy Night Out at the Pod

On the last Friday of each month the city of Troy sponsors "Troy Night Out." This is an opportunity for downtown art galleries, eateries, night clubs and various boutiques and other businesses to stay open later and wine and dine the public. Many daytime office workers will stick around into the evening hours and walk the city blocks that comprise the downtown business/arts district. The Pod is situated on Fulton St. in the heart of downtown Troy. Tonight was our introduction into this monthly happening. Business was a bit sparse but the conversations going on outside, as we sat along the avenue and enjoyed the balmy spring weather, made it worth the effort to stay open later.

I am reminded of Paul, who entered the business community as a tentmaker, along with his friends, Priscilla and Aquila. He did this for at least three reasons that I can see.
1) Even back then a call to ministry did not pay a lot, so he needed a trade to support himself so that he would not have to rely upon the money the churches had raised for his support. Like many pastors and missionaries today, he was bi-vocational from time to time
2) He learned to be content, whether abounding or abased, yet he needed something to do during his ministry down time. Hanging out with his friends and plying his trade provided an outlet for this purpose.
3) In addition to providing a source of income and an opportunity to hang out with Priscilla and Aquila, it also gave him and insider's perspective of the business world and direct access to the business community (aka marketplace).

The Pod has provided all of the above for this church planter from Troy, N.Y.
1) an opportunity to be bivocational, doing something that I have a passion for; culinary arts. Jesus is my first passion, my wife and family are my second passion, my CORE Church family is my third passion. However, like many Christ followers, I have a fourth passion. For some it is golfing or tinkering with cars or something else with moving parts, for me it is creating art from food.
2) Something to do in my ministry down time. I have finally figured out that church planters are allowed to do other things besides plant churches; actually, the "other things" often provide fuel for passion and make life interesting. As we become engaged in these "other things" we meet people along the way who also have a passion for the same things and it gives us open opportunities to share our first passion; our relationship with the living God.
3) opportunities to hang out with the business community, as an insider. Not only business people, but artists, musicians, city apartment dwellers, college students, etc.

In my ongoing effort to know Christ and to make Him known I am finding new open doors for effective ministry. Praise to the One who called me and gave me the passion to "Go therefore" as well as the passion to please the palate with culinary delights.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Conversations are flowing at the Pod.

It has been nearly two weeks since the Pod opened and we are continuing to meet many of the folks who live and/or work in downtown Troy. From cab drivers to office workers, artists to fellow entrepreneurs, some great conversations have started. While not advertising the Pod as a ministry of the CORE Church of Troy, a few patrons have recognized me as the "pastor from that church on Sixth Avenue." Having been born and raised in Troy, it has been good to reconnect with people I grew up with, went to grade school with, etc.

Today some great opportunities opened to me to enter into spiritual conversations with a few people. One man in particular saw my Bible on one of the tables, which I had left there from my study time (which I sometimes do during down time). He asked if he could read it while eating his lunch. This is why we are here in downtown Troy--the reason for renting a storefront and opening a coffee house. In our ongoing committment to living out the great commandment and the great commission, God is meeting us with innovative ideas, while keeping Him at the center of it all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Everyone loves a parade

Like many cities and towns across the US, Troy celebrated Memorial Day with its annual parade, followed by a free picnic sponsored by the Lansingburgh Veterans club. It was great to watch my own family march with Boy Scout troop 611 and Cub Scout Pack 5. Additionally we saw many of our neighbors and friends enjoying the afternoon's festivities as our community honored its US Armed Forces veterans.

Letting God lead instead of me

I've been on this kick lately where I want to take the reigns of my life and control them; that is, to the ministry God has called me to, as well as my entire life. Actually this desire pops up frequently. I often find myself wanting to manage the big dreams (aka vision) God has given me. I came across one of my life verses today in my devotions.

Proverbs 16:9 says,
A man's heart plans his way,
but the LORD determines his steps (ESV)
We plan the way we want to live,
but only God makes us able to live it. (The Message)
I find myself dreaming and making many plans, yet failing to seek God's will in the midst of it all. This verse from Proverbs brings me back to reality; that I can make all kinds of plans, but only God's will prevails. I can try to control my own life and frustrate myself in the process. Really what Jesus asks of me is, "deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." What I've been doing instead is nearly the opposite.
At the Whiteboard Sessions in D.C. this past week, Darrin Patrick spoke on idolatry being the root sin that all sin derives from. Idolatry is simply anything that is contrary to God and His will. We all have idols, whether we realize it or not. We all have someone or something that captures our heart and desires. What is it that we live for? What gives our lives passion and purpose?
This is true in my life as much as anyone else's. For the past three years I have been in love with the idea of being a church planter, of being the catalyst behind a new work in my city. Lately the Pod Coffee House has become my idol. I have become so consumed with the big dreams God has entrusted me with that I have lost focus on the "Dream Giver." I am finding that it is possible to idolize the very visions God gives us, to the point where we want to seize these divine opportunities and manage them, leaving God out of the picture, or on the sidelines ready to seek advice from when we need it.
If Jesus is not at the center of my life...If I am not passionately pursuing Him...If I am not speaking to (prayer) and hearing from Him daily (Bible) then I have slipped into idolatry, because if God is not in control of all of me, including my hopes, dreams and plans, then He cannot direct my steps. If, however, I surrender it all to Him daily, then the hopes, dreams and plans I have will be established by Him. I am then more like a satellite, open to receiving Divine signals from the Great Dream Giver.
I am finding that I cannot compartmentalize my life and allow God to control the portions that I allow Him to. He wants all of me or none of me. In Revelation He says we are to be "Hot or cold" and that He spit out those who are lukewarm. Me? I want to be red hot...on fire! That will not happen if Christ is not my Core.
The Core truth of The CORE Church of Troy is that Jesus Christ is the Core of everything we are and do.
Today I resolve to live out that truth. Please pray for me and keep me accountable!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Week 1 at the Pod

The Pod Coffee House officially opened for business Monday, May 19th.

Still working on a few final touches, assembling some bar stools, etc.

Dave's homemade Chili is a hit.

The Pod saw a modest start in its first week of operation. However, people are starting to get the idea that there is a new coffeehouse in town. A few people have caught onto the idea that the Pod is not merely another coffee house, but is here for a greater purpose.

The purpose for starting “The Pod” is not merely a business venture for a church planter with an entrepreneurial gift, nor is it a secondary thing or something to fall back on. It is continuous to the church planting vision that God has placed within my human brain. The concept of connecting with regular, everyday people away from the church building has become a priority in my life. The Pod Coffeehouse incorporates the idea of being missional and incarnational in an urban setting, in the business/arts/college community of our city. This downtown storefront provides a “third place” for meeting people, entering into conversations and establishing relationships.

We have been communitcating with several local musicians who would like to come and play at the Pod. Stay tuned for the Pod concert series as well as open mic nights

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day

My family and I took a drive from Troy to Schenectady today, first of all, to show our support for our favorite band, 4ever1, as they brought their music ministry to City Mission of Schenectady.
Secondly, to spend some time at City Mission of Schenectady, where I was blessed to serve on staff for eleven wonderful years. In the summer of 1995 God opened the door for me to serve in the men's shelter of this amazing ministry and allowed me the privilege of working along side of some incredible men and women as we ministered to Schenectady's poor and homeless community. It was at City Mission that I came to realize God has called me and shaped me for inner-city ministry. It was also at City Mission, in the fall of 2005, that I met our worship leader, Donna Walsh, and her band 4ever1, around the same time God had opened another door for my family and I, as we moved from Schenectady to Troy (located about 25 miles east of Schenectady) to plant the CORE Church of Troy.
It was a blessed day to spend time with some old friends (a few of whom are pictured above) and to see the newly refurbished City Mission. Praise God for executive director Mike Saccocio and his amazing staff of dedicated men and women who continue to serve the Lord faithfully, as they reach out to the poor and homeless in Schenectady, N.Y.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Feeling the pinch

While driving home from the Whiteboard Sessions I found myself in NYC, on 95 North, approaching the GW Bridge, in the middle of gridlock traffic, at 1:30am, while bridge maintinance work was going on. I was positioned with several large 18 wheelers, buses and other large vehicles surrounding me, with no way to nudge my way out of that mess, so I just went along for the ride. It took what seemed like forever to get through the toll booths and make my way across the bridge so that I could connect with 87 North enroute to Troy, NY. Thank God for His mercy upon me, that I didn't panic. What truly amazed me was the way traffic flowed, even at a snail's pace, with hardly any room between lanes. Everyone just moved along so smoothly, like a symphony. No fender benders at the hands of those who take it upon themselves to own the road which, in NYC, is almost everybody on the road. Anyway, Great to be home. Great conference. I enjoyed every part of it, including the drive home.

Driving Home

I wish I could say the drive north, from Reston, Virginia. to Troy, New York , went as smoothly as the drive down, however it was anything but that.

WiBo ended just after 4:30pm, as scheduled. Many folks lingered for a good hour or so after the last session just to chat, exchange contact information, etc. Having driven through D.C. several times in the past, I remembered what the traffic typically looks like during that hour of the day on the capital beltway, which tends to be bumper to bumper. With that in mind I purposely stuck around for what I was intending to be an hour or so. I got a bite to eat at a place called "Cosi," then made my way to Hyatt-Regency's parking garage to retrieve my vehicle. By this time it was almost 6:00pm. Being somewhat exhausted from the trip down, followed by eight hours of non-stop lectures and snack breaks (lots of brownies, muffins and coffee) I decided to take a brief cat-nap before heading North.

I closed my eyes for what seemed to be a moment and when I awoke it was a few minutes before seven. That hour long nap did me a world of good as I began the long trek home. I exited the parking garage and I was on my way.

First bit of tension: catching the tail end of rush hour traffic heading out of D.C. It was bumper to bumper for at least a half hour as I made my way toward 276 North. Then another bout of gridlock traffic on 276. After what seemed like forever I finally made my way to 95 North and it was smooth sailing for the next leg of the journey; until I got to the Delaware Memorial bridge and traffic began to slow down again due to some road construction. I got through that mess and continued on my journey. By this time I was operating on auto pilot due to exhaustion. As I made my way to the NJ Turnpike I pulled into the first rest stop I came to, got a snack and a cup of coffee and decided to take another brief nap before continuing the drive through New Jersey, enroute to Troy. Well, once again my cat-nap ended up being an hour plus in duration. It was now approaching 11:30pm. I called my wife to let her know that I'b be home a little later than I had planned on. I then proceeded on my journey through the Garden State. Somewhere along the way I was supposed to exit the Turnpike in order to avoid NYC traffic and I failed to do so. I did end up driving through the Big Apple via 95 North. As I approached the G.W. Bridge I hot another road block--literally. Road construction on the bridge had narrowed the traffic flow down to one lane, making it an hour long adventure just getting onto the bridge, then shelling out $8.00 for the toll and driving at a snail's pace to reach the other end of the bridge. It was now nearly 1:00am and I knew I had at least two and a half hours ahead of me on 87 North. Being dog tired, I pulled into another rest stop on 87, got another cup of coffee and caught a half-hour nap; this time it was the intended half hour that I dozed off for. I did make it home safe and sound at 4:15am.

What happened to sessions 5 & 6?

Good question. Here's the deal!

Session 5 was led by Mark Dever, followed by John Burke with session 6. About five minutes into Dever's presentation nature made its call and I made my way to the men's room. Got back from the men's room only to find out I had lost my WiFi signal. Took a few minutes to reconnect and by that time Pastor Mark Dever was almost finished with his half-hour time-slot.

I did get enough from Dever's message to identify his compelling idea which was: Preach God's word faithfully and He will draw lost people to Himself.

Dever was followed by John Burke. I started out good with Burke, tapping away on my laptop when, about ten minutes into his message I lost my internet connection. After several attempts to reconnect I was still unsuccessful so I switched to Microsoft Word and did manage to jot down a decent outline, which I will post later.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Session #8: Ed Stetzer

Ed has planted churches in New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia and transitioned declining churches in Indiana and Georgia. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed served for three years as a seminary professor at the Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and has taught at 15 other seminaries. He is currently the Director of Lifeway Research and Lifeway’s Missiologist in Residence.

Compelling idea: moving through doubt to faith

Thomas the doubter is best known for asking questions and being a skeptic, yet went further to spread the gospel than any of the Apostles. Church history holds that Thomas traveled as far as India w/the gospel.

Most pastors/church planters go through seasons of doubt.

Thomas was honest enough to ask the questions and make his doubts known. He was willing to believe, yet he just didn't get it...and he was willing to admit it to Jesus.

If we as ministers would be honest with our doubts and times when we just don't get it we would so happier. The Christian life is not marked by continual happiness. There is trauma and stress and miscellaneous events of life that spring up.

God is not disappointed with our questions. We need not fear when questions and doubt creep in.

John 20 -

God is in heaven, not to ensure that we have our best life now, but to save lost people through His Son's sacrifice on the cross, so that they can have eternal life with Him.

Thomas doubted, he asked questions, and he came to faith as he declared, "My Lord and my God."

Session #7: Perry Noble

Perry is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church ( in Anderson, South Carolina. NewSpring's story is unique. In only seven years, the church has grown to 7,500 people gathering in a rural county of only 175,000 people. Perry is one of the most gifted communicators and teachers in the country. Don't let his redneck persona fool you—his biblical wisdom and leadership insights exceed his years. And just when you think the story is all about generating a good laugh, Perry unloads a new dose of truth and life application intended specifically for you. Perry wants his daughter, Charisse, to cheer for Clemson while his wife, Lucretia, hopes she'll love the Seminoles. You can read all of Perry's unfiltered thoughts about life and leadership at

Mark 3:13-19

Understand our calling
Understand what is important - sometimes we can be so focused on ministry that we forget what is important.

Four things He called them for
1. That they might be with Jesus...being with Jesus is the first and foremost priority Passion comes from spending time with Jesus...14a
2. That He might send them out to preach: called to preach the good news about Jesus Christ; not politics, not social justice...14b
3. That they might have authority...15a...they had
authority over demons. Never apologize or be afraid to walk in the authority God has given you;
4. Protect yourself from temptation. Judas didn't finish because he fell to temptation. Satan wants to sift you like wheat.

Session #4: Darrin Patrick

Darrin founded The Journey in 2002 with a desire to plant a church in the heart of Saint Louis, Missouri. Darrin is Vice President of Acts 29 Church Planting Network, and serves as the executive director for another church planting movement called 360-St. Louis, a network, which joins the church and the business community in planting gospel-centered churches. Darrin's passion is to equip the church to live the gospel in the world. He is working on his first book, The Man, The Message, The Mission. Today, The Journey runs four services across three campuses, and continues to aggressively plant churches in St. Louis and beyond.

Romans 1:18ff

Compelling Idea

Falling into sin/idols

An exchange of our object of worship...Genesis 3. Adam exchanged worship of God for his own agenda. Instead of worshiping God he worshiped something else; something else captured his heart and his desires

John 21; Little children, keep yourselves free from idols. John is summarizing his message of loving God. The opposite of loving God is idolatry.

Anything can become an idol...ANYTHING! Person, place, position, even ministry and church planting. Anything that takes priority over our relationship with God is idolatry. Every sin comes from idolatry. Idolatry is not merely a sin like lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Idolatry is the root that sin and rebellion grow from. We will worship something/someone...God or someone/something else. Most of the time we are clueless to our own idols. We're quick to point out everyone else's, but we are often blind to our own idols.

Romans 1: All of us/everyone lifts up something as more valuable than God. Paul addressed this reality and dealt with it. Paul exposed the what we have surpressed. What are you substituting for God in your life? Spouse/family, career, ministry, etc.

What do you worry about the most?

What do I rely on? What do I do to cope? What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about? What gives me self worth? What do I want to be known by, remembered for? What prayer, unanswered might cause me to turn from God? What gives me hope? What do I live for?

Root sin lies beneath the surface and causes sin to grow surface.

power, approval, comfort, control 4 prevailing root sins.

Focus on the root sins/causes and the surface sins will be cured

Session #3: Tim Stevens

As Executive Pastor, Tim directs the vision and values at Granger Community Church and helps plan for the future. He’s acutely tuned in to popular culture and is instrumental in balancing operations, building creative teams and inspiring artists to brand each message series and sharpen the weekend experience. For 13 years, Tim’s leadership has helped Granger connect with people who think church is irrelevant. He has done this through building teams and the creative blending of architecture, strategy and technology.

Compelling idea:
Reality #1...The church is not impacting the community
Reality #2...spiritual interest is growing in culture
The church needs to enter the spiritual conversations that are already going on outside of the church.

"Christ became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14 MSG)

Jesus used the culture of his day to reach the people of that day. If he were here, physically, in the 21st century, he would use images and illustrations from modern culture; pop music, movies, theater, internet and technology, art and architecture, literature, etc.

Acts 17

Paul on Mars Hill...used their own culture to reason with them.
Leverage the culture or risk loosing the culture around you. Leverage the culture or risk failure to impact the culture around you.

Session #2: Vince Antonucci

Vince is the founder and lead pastor of Forefront Church, an innovative church for the unchurched in Virginia Beach. Vince’s passion is helping people find their way to God and creatively communicating biblical truth.

Grew up with no exposure to church whatsoever. Thought religious programming was stupid and pointless. Opened a Bible for the first time while in college. His girlfriend gave him her Bible which she admittedly never opened. Vince was stunned with the "times and places" that appear in the Bible and began reading and studying, looking for evidence to discredit the things he had previously heard about Jesus. The more he read and studied, the more he became convinced that Jesus is real and that he needed to know Him personally. Started attending a church in Buffalo, NY

Vince's compelling idea/questions

1. How is it that he lived here in America for twenty years and never heard the gospel?
2. How can it be that there is an explosion going on with church planting, yet more and more people are not being reached with the gospel?
3. We are reaching people...just not reaching lost, unchurched people. Many churches are growing numerically, but mostly through transfer growth and very little through conversion growth
4. We must do whatever it takes, short of committing sin, to seek and reach the lost.

Jeremiah 4
matt. 9:35-38, Jesus was moved w/compassion for the harassed and helpless. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you."

Seek and save lost people...that's what makes God's heart beat. What breaks your heart?
Jesus was moved with compassion...what moves you? Are you going to the places where lost people go? What kind of bait do you use when you fish? Lost sinners liked Jesus and hung out with him? Do lost people like hanging out with you?

Session #1: Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson is lead pastor of National Community Church located in the D.C. metro area. NCC started with 3 people meeting in a public school. Their second worship service saw a meager 19 people in attendance. They are now worshiping in four locations and are reaching many unchurched young adults. In 2001 NCC bought and refurbished an old movie theater and converted into thier current worship and office space. NCC also operates the largest coffee house in our nation's capital.

Sharing from Isaiah 25, Mark Batterson compelled us to remind ourselves that we are all in the family of God, as different as we are, as different as our church plants are. We are all connected to and serving the same God. It will take many different kinds of church planters to reach many different kinds of people.

Our dreams are too small. Like Habbakkuk, get with God and pray regularly. God will reveal big dreams that will take a big faith to receive. We need to stop doing ministry out of memory and start shifting toward imagination. God is a creative God who gives men the ability to creative.

Starts with a dream that God conceives in the heart of a man. Big dreams are way beyond our ability to accomplish on our own, that will cause the dreamer to look foolish before men. When we pray God responds with big dreams and then gives the faith that man will need to see the dream come to reality.

Alive & Kicking at WiBo 2008

It's just after 9am and I'm worshiping with some 800+ church planters who are all here for the same purpose; to connect and share church planting stories and to hear from some dynamic practioners who are leading this church planting revolution that is sweeping across the US and abroad.

As I was waiting for the doors of the auditorium to open for seating a man who introduced himself as Mark Dever approached. As we waited in the mezzanine we struck up a brief conversation where we discussed a bit of our own experiences. Mark will be speaking later this afternoon. It was good to connect on a personal level with him.

Each speaker, including Mark Dever, will share a compelling idea that they are grappling with in their own field of harvest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Hoops We've Jumped Through

In the process of getting The Pod Coffee House up and running there is a series of hoops we have had to jump through along the way. Below are just a few of the more memorable ones.

The city government hoop, which has a series of smaller hoops to jump through; the building site plan review hoop, the zoning board hoop, the code enforcement hoop, etc.

The landlord hoop (we're renting the storefront where the Pod is located)

The IRS hoop (oh yeah, you have to get an Employer ID Number).

The New York State taxation and finance hoop.

The business insurance hoop.

The health department hoop.

The National Grid hoop (having heat and lights is usually a good idea)

The Verizon hoop (phone and WiFi are a must in today's urban marketplace)

Various additional hoops that I may have failed to mention.

Indeed this has been a learning experience and, at times, a hair pulling experience. Starting a small business is often a risky venture. It is good to see what every other entrepeneur endures on a daily basis. Along the way I have met some interesting people, fellow entrepeneurs who are also engaged in the small business world. They have jumped through many of the same hoops I have had to jump through these past few months.

In my endeavor to be a missionary in my community The Pod Coffee House provides a way for me to enter the marketplace and use the entrepeneurial gift God has given me, for the purpose of making Him known in the heart of the city.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Pod is Officially Open

Many of my blogging friends have been following the progress of "The Pod." This is a new coffee house to be located in the downtown buisiness/arts district of Troy, N.Y.

Well, the day has finally come for us to open our doors to the public. After jumping through several hoops to get to our grand opening, the Pod has officially arrived in Troy's marketplace. The purpose of the Pod is to provide a "third place" for people to meet and hang out and chat. Soon we will be offering some interesting Pod/small gathering events such as book discussion pods, music pods, poetry reading pods, chat pods, etc.

So stop in at 465 Fulton St. grab a cup of coffee and join a pod, or create your own.

"Where two or three are gathered in My name, there My Spirit will be with them." (Jesus Christ)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fascinating Indeed

All I can say is that my eleven year old son, Dan, was fascinated at finding this butterfly, fluttering about in our backyard.

And to think, not one of these creatures falls to the ground without God noticing. How much more does He care for us?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jamming with our favorite band

My family and I caught a great outdoor concert this past Saturday, May 10th. It was Waterford, New York's annual Canalfest. The band was 4ever1, fronted by our soon to be married worship leader, Donna. 4ever1's keyboard player, Joe, (pictured in the background at left) is the lucky man.

I have to say, I've seen these guys play many times but this past Saturday they sounded superb. It was a crisp, clear day. Many people were walking around the Waterford Canal, checking out the craft tents, flea marketers and food vendors, while listening to 4ever1 give glory to God with their music. I am a huge fan of 4ever1. Donna has been writing some incredible songs. "I Will Sing" and "The Lamb Upon the Throne" are two fine examples.

So, I say to Donna, Joe, Wayne, Jimmy, Scott and Maria, WELL DONE!!!

To my church planting and blogging friends, I say check them out at and at

Their latest CD, "Cloud of Glory" is available. They are currently working on their soon to be released "Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver."

Play Ball

Little League Baseball season is in full swing in cities and towns across the US. Troy, NY is no exception as my own two boys have donned uniforms and baseball gloves in exchange for the thrill of taking the field and cracking a few with the bat. It is a tremendous joy to watch Daniel and Jacob enjoying the game while learning the valuable lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship and discipline.

Dad has been blessed with the privilege of helping with coaching duties while mom enjoys watching her two little men learn and apply the rules of the game.

Being involved with community activities like Little League baseball, 4H and scouting serves several excellent purposes.
  1. Our children are occupied with activities they enjoy
  2. Such activities keep them busy so that they don't have a lot of idle time to just hang out with friends and get into trouble (although they still manage to find some time for this purpose)
  3. They are learning valuable lessons that will serve to mold and shape them as they grow and develop physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
  4. Being involved with community activities brings us into closer proximity to our neighbors whose children also enjoy these activities

I've noticed a sense of community that exists at our local Little League ball park. We are fortunate to have a chapter that is well organized. Many parents chip in to make this experience enjoyable for all involved; from coaching, to manning the concession stand, to helping with field maintinance, etc. Some make great sacrifices on behalf of the kids. My family and I spend a good portion of our day, every Saturday, at the ball park watching our kids play and cheering them on. At the same time we are establishing relationships with other families; all of whom are here for the same purpose. What a great way to be missional in our community!

Confessions of a day-dreaming introvert

Born October 27th, 1963, Troy, NY.
Born of the Spirit, Winter of 1984, US Navy, North Atlantic Ocean, Somewhere near Oslo, Norway, aboard USS Charleston LKA 113
Graduated Tamarac High School 1981
Schenectady Co. Comm. College 1989, Associates in Culinary Arts
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary 2005, Assoc. of Divinity

The first half of my adult life was spent pursuing a professional cooking career. In 1992 I surrendered that pursuit for a higher calling. I have since spent the past sixteen years pursuing that call. God has wired me for inner-city ministry and has gifted me as a visionary (aka big dreamer). He has given me a burden for people in the urban/inner-city neighborhoods who are struggling through life; be it addiction, poverty, lack of education and/or opportunities, misfortune, etc. these are the people God has equipped and empowered me to reach out to with His grace and mercy.

I have a partiular burden for children who, through no choice of their own, live in these same neighborhoods, born into situations and circumstaces that are beyond their control; born to single mothers, with no dad in the picture or, at best, minimal contact with their male parent. Children are among the most helpless of citizens. They have few rights. If someone employed by the government deems it to be in the best interest of a child to be taken from their home and placed in foster care with strangers, the child has very little say in the matter. Granted, many cases are warranted. That is not the basis of my argument here; just simply that children have little or no say in the midst of a crappy situation that they did not inflict or invite upon themselves. Some have said, "You can't build a church with children because they don't tithe." Yet Jesus said, "Let the children come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God"

I would consider myself to be a city missionary, as opposed to an inner-city pastor. I never really fit into the mold of traditional pastor. I have had a bad taste for "Church as usual" for many years and believe that many "churches" are just going through the motions of religion and tradition and maintaining as opposed to going out to where lost people are; in the pubs and cafes, in the schools and local fraternal clubs, in our neighborhoods and athletic leagues, etc.
God has been transforming me by the renewing of my mind. He is teaching me how to think like a missionary because that is what our day and time on this planet calls for.

God bless the vocational and bi-vocational pastors who are tending their sheep. I have been mentored by a few of them who are indeed among the godliest of men I have ever met. I have deep respect and admiration for the men who have sacrificed much to shepherd the flock God has placed under their care. Some shepherds are called to tend to the sheep in the sheepfold, while others are called to go out and search for the lost sheep, who are harassed and helpless, weary and scattered, like sheep without a lead them to the One True Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. I guess that is what we would call a missionary.

So, here I am in my own divinely assigned portion of the Great Commission, laboring in this field of harvest known as Troy, NY, planting a church among poor and marginalized people. Having never pastored a church, in the traditional sense, and having planted no churches previous to this present great commission endeavor, my family and I stepped out in faith and obeyed, and came to the place God showed us. We are two years into this great adventure called church planting, and I wouldn't trade it for all the riches this world has to offer. I have found myself in the middle of what God, in His sovereignty, created me for and has been preparing me for my whole life.

Alight Care Center Celebrates 9 years of ministry in Troy, NY

Alight Care Center's 7th annual "Making a Difference in Your Community" fundraising banquet was held on Monday, May 12, 2008 at Michael's Banquet House in Latham, New York.

Alight is a full service pregnancy care center that provides educational and support services to pregnant woman and families in Troy, NY. Alight's covering organization, Arise & Build Community Ministries, was incorporated in September 1998. Assuming the name of Alight Care Center For Women, their doors were opened to the public in February 1999. They are now known simply as the Alight Care Center.

I was blessed beyond measure to spend the evening celebrating with Alight's staff, volunteers and many supporters. Keynote speaker was Dr. Bob Paeglow, founding director of Compassion in Action/Koinonia Primary Care located at the Capital Region Prayer and Healing Center, a Christian ministry Dr. Bob co-founded with Reverend Peter Whitehouse. Koinonia provides primary care and mental health care to the poor in Albany's West Hill neighborhood and beyond.

Join with me in prayer for Alight's ongoing ministry in New York's capital region

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Birthday to my lovely bride

Today is my wife Brenda's birthday. I have been blessed to be married to her for the past 14 years and to have two wonderful sons with her. She is indeed a blessing that I often take for granted. She has a great gift for caring for others; especially children. God has a great way of matching us with mates that compliment us. An older pastor/mentor/friend once said,

"God created woman from man's rib so that they would be side by side. If He had created woman from man's head, then she would be above him. Had God created woman from man's feet, she'd be beneath him. But God chose the place closest to man's heart."

So, happy birthday sweetie.

Wanted: Prayer Warriors

As we seek to advance God's kingdom here in our assigned field of harvest we have encountered several needs that we are petitioning the Lord to address. One os for more laborers to join us here in the inner-city of Troy, NY. The neighborhood we started out in, North Central, is the most distressed neighborhood (economically and physically) in this city and one of the most distressed in all of New York's capital region.

Here is how you can help. Pray!

Prayer is the first detail to bring together. As Jesus told His disciples, "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers," so we would ask our brothers and sisters, wherever you are, to petition the Great Commissioner on our behalf. There are plenty of "harassed and helpless...sheep having no shepherd," (Matt.9:35-38) but we need more laborers. I would be more inclined to ask for prayer warriors at this point in time than for anything else; that God would send the right people for our inner-city community, or raise them up from the native soil.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Church planting initiative.

The CORE Church vision and territory are growing. From our humble beginnings in Troy's inner-city the CORE church has officially launched. In addition to our main campus in Troy's North Central neighborhood we are praying about additional campuses in downtown Troy (our next location to launch soon) , North Troy (Lansingburgh), East Troy (Albia) as well as across the Hudson river in cities Green Island and Waterford.

This new initiative is to be called "CORE: City Outreach through Renewal and Evangelism."
Dare we believe that God would use us as catalysts for a great urban church planting movement in the city of Troy, NY and throughout New York's capital region?
The CORE Church of Troy, NY is looking for a few ministerial interns/city missionaries to join us in the inner-city of Troy. All phases of urban/inner-city ministry; preaching, teaching, music, children, outreach, etc.. Could grow into campus pastor positions, as the Lord provides, for the right candidate(s). Called to inner-city ministry? Children's ministry? Worship/creative arts? Social justice/street outreach? Come and join us as God expands our ministry in the city of Troy. For more info regarding our vision, purpose, beliefs, church plamter assessment, etc. Contact us at 518-526-6079,

35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matthew 9:35-38) NLT

The burden and vision have already expanded. Please pray with us for God's provision for additional laborers to join us in this great field of harvest.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Grace = making allowances for human error

In the process of getting the Pod Coffee House up and running I have run up against several incidents of human error that have caused me to nearly loose my cool. After spending the past two days with plumbers who had installed our three-bay sink and grease trap, along with a smaller hand washing sink, I thought we were good to go. A code enforcement inspector came by yesterday and said we were good to go.

Today it was the county health department's turn to inspect our storefront turned coffee house. Come to find out, our plumbers failed to install the required air interceptors on each of the three drains on the three-bay sink. According to the health inspector:
  1. The plumber should have known to install these interceptors
  2. The city code enforcement officer should have caught this when he inspected the three bay sink
  3. We still can't open until this issue is resoved

I called the plumber, who can't come until Monday. So, a few more days of delay. But, we will still open for will just be a day or two extra.

Whose fault is it? I could point fingers. I could get angry. I could call the plumber and yell at him. But then there is grace. Jesus forgave my debt of sin, so I think I can and should overlook human error when it turns my way.

You may ask, "What does all of this have to do with church planting?"

Well, for one, I have access to a several new communities of people; the community of small business owners who occupy the storefronts that make-up Troy's downtown district.

There's Adam, a young man who opened "Oliver's Naturals" (an organic/Vegan eatery). Then there is Rick Brown, who owns a Jamaican/Caribbean restaurant a few doors down from the Pod. There are three ladies who work in a beauty salon next door to the Pod, and Mike and Sammy who work in the corner deli-grocery located at the end of out market block. Across the street from our row of storefronts there is a comic book and gaming store, where several people gather daily to trade comic books, gaming cards, electronic games , etc. Then there is the infamous "Night Owl News" which has graced the corner of 4th and Fulton for many years. Tucked in between these stores is the Fulton St. art gallery.

There are also the people who live in the apartments located in the three floors above our storefront...24 apartments in all. Two of the upstairs tenants that I have met so far; Scott ( a 38 year old, handicapped man who works at a nearby sub shop)., and Charles, a 43 year old taxi-cab driver who lives upstairs with his wife and 12 year old son.

God has been expanding the burden and vision beyond the North Central neighborhood we started in just over two years ago. I am excited to see what God will do through the Pod Coffee House as this church planter seeks to make His name known in the heart of the city.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A New View

I'm sitting here in the storefront that is to be the home of the Pod Coffee House. Today plumbers are continuing work on our three-bay sink and grease trap. They should be finished by the end of today. Then we can call city of Troy code enforcement and schedule our inspection so that we can officially open for business.

Jennifer, from Paychex, stopped in to give me an introduction and run down of the payroll service they provide. We had a nice conversation about church after she learned, that in addition to getting this coffee house up and running, I am also planting a church in the North Central neighborhood of Troy. I've also met Frank, a sales rep. from Sysco Foodservice, who has been sharing info on some great products we might want to offer at the Pod.

Through all of this I am learning how to think like a businessman. Having never planted a church before I am seeing some parallels between starting a business and planting a church. I am also seeing how every facet of our lives must be surrendered and connected to God. There is no way we can compartmentalize our lives and call ourselves true followers of Christ. Our personal, as well as our professional lives, must be led by Him.

Today I'm sitting here glancing out the front window, watching many people as they walk by on their way to lunch. There is a lot of new activity going on in our city Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is expanding and adding new dorms. Two new hotels are in the planning stage. God is in control of all of this, as we seek to follow His directives to "Go therefore and make disciples." The Pod Coffee House is the next part of this church planter's journey.

If you'd like to know more about the process please feel free to contact me.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Grace in the midst of chaos

One of the challenges we've been facing and dealing with regularly at the CORE Church of Troy is the large number of Children that seem to be drawn to our ministry. This past Sunday was no exception as a few new young faces came through our doors. It would be nice if these kids came well mannered and ready for church, but the reality is that for most of them it is their first exposure to church. An added challenge is that some of these kids come to church hungry; physically hungry that is. My own two sons take it for granted that they can have breakfast before coming to church. They are learning that not all children are that fortunate. Case in point; three girls came to church this past Sunday with popsicles in hand that they had bought at the corner store. My boys were upset that we would not walk across the street and buy popsicles at 10:00 am. We soon learned that the popsicles the girls had was the only food they had eaten for breakfast. One of the girls ( 9 years old) explained that her mom was at work and that she was on her own, with the help of a 12 year old baby sitter. The babysitter was with her when she came to church, along with her own little sister and thought it was okay for them to eat popsicles for breakfast, since she admittedly didn't know how to cook. So, Sunday school hour became breakfast time as well.

This past Sunday the children, once again, outnumbered the adults. Kids are telling other kids about our ministry and they just keep coming. It seems like this past Sunday all of the kids were super wound. None of them wanted to sit and listen. I stopped and prayed for a second for the grace of God to lead the way. It had turned out to be a nice, sunny morning after a chilly, cloudy start. So, we went outside where we tossed a nerf football around and played some other games as well. At the end of the Sunday school hour we had barely read a few verses of Scripture, but what we had accomplished I am now seeing the broader implications of. Most of the kids stayed for our worship gathering and had worked off enough energy to where they were able to sit and pay attention and participate. I am learning that these kids are watching us to see if we really care about them, or if we just want to get them in the door to preach to them. Spending that Sunday school hour playing games and laughing with them gave them what they were looking for. They are seeing that we do care about them; even when they are rowdy and acting out. Along the way God is teaching us how to extend grace and to simply love these kids for who they are, messy, chaotic lives and all. We expected, coming into this ministry, that it would not be easy work; that we would be forced to step out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to be used and stretched by the Holy Spirit. Children see through us for what we really are. Being transparent and authentic has not come naturally. God is showing us how to let go of what we know so that He can lead the way and grow His church.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Taking my Bible for granted

I received an e-mail, recently, from a facebook friend, Eddie, who is serving the Lord in the Middle East and is asking for prayers for the persecution they are experiencing and requested leaving the location of where he is out of any info that I'd be willing to pass along.

He was sharing with me how it is illegal to possess a holy Bible and that he and some friends were arrested for handing them out. He also shared with me how he was able to get a Bible to a man in prison and how this man was able to share it with the men he is imprisoned with by tearing out pages and handing them out. One man memorized all of Psalm 119, word for word, before he had to eat his page, or be caught with it and face punishment.

As I was reading this e-mail I started to feel guilty because I have at least a half dozen Bibles in my home and I have all I can do to stick to my daily reading plan. I find time to do all of these other things that are important and then try to squeeze my devotion time into a ten to fifteen minute span at some point during my day. I wonder how well I'd do if, suddenly, it became illegal in America to possess, much less read my Bible. I take such things for granted; the fact that we live in a free country where freedom of speech, religion, etc. are among our "inalienable rights."

Hearing Eddie's story caused me to stop and think and pray and to thank God for what I have and to pray for those who face oppositon daily simply for carrying a page of Scripture (not even a whole Bible).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pod Update:almost there!!!

We were hoping to be open for business by May 1st, which is today. However, a few delays have forced us to move our grand opening to May 9th. Our city's code enforcment guys are a little behind schedule due to many projects vying for their review and approval. A couple of things they would like us to do before we get our certificate of occupancy 1) add a grease trap to our required 3 bay sink 2) add a second bathroom to our one, unisex, handicapped access bathroom. We applied to NYS code enforcement for a variance on the additional bathroom and are awaiting their review and response. The city of Troy said we can open, pending the decision of the state office.

So, here I sit, wondering what valuable lessons I am learning in this process. For one, I am seeing what other entrepeneurs have to deal with on a daily basis. I am also learning that the world does not operate on my schedule. Additionally, I am learning to lean on God's everlasting arms; especially when dealing with certain city officials who get paid a decent salary for what they do, yet seem to take their sweet time in reviewing and approving work permits and certificates of occupancy. The fallen, human nature within me wants to call these guys on the phone and chew them out. Then the Holy Spirit says, "No, let's not do that. Let's give grace where we can give grace, and realize that city employees are no more human than you are."

Connecting with National Community Church/Ebenezer's
While at Exponential 2008 I happened to mention to a few interested people the vision of the Pod Coffee House. One church planter told me to "hook up with Mark Batterson." Mark is the founding pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C..

NCC recently started a coffee house called Ebenezer's which has become one of the most popular coffee houses in D.C. I did have an opportunity to meet Mark and speak with him briefly. He put me in touch with Michelle Warren who manages Ebenezer's. Michelle was gracious in responding to my e-mail with loads of information, from vision to menues to IRS tax info, hiring and training practices, etc, etc, etc. So, thank you Mark and Michelle for helping a us in this process as we seek to have a maximum kingdom impact in our own city.

What is our focus?

At Exponential 2008 I had signed up for the "Missional Church" main session. I was not sorry or dissatisfied with my choice. It was a great opportunity to hear from three leading thinkers in the realm of "Missional" church planting.

Ed Stetzer is a missiological genius. If you poked him he would bleed missiology. His thoughts on this whole concept are not new, they are Biblically rooted and go all the way back to the beginning. God is a missional God. He sent His Son, the Son sends us. Ed is not proposing some new model for church planting. He is simply calling the church back to its mission; to be the missionary that will go into the community and its culture and make Christ known.

Neil Cole says that small and simple is more easily reproducible than large and complex. He has proven this concept to be true as he has literally planted hundreds of smaller house churches and cell groups. Neil points out the obvious (what should be obvious) when he states that "where two or three are gathered, there I will be in their midst." Neil also proposes a decentralization of leadership within the local church, which allows the church to grow naturally (organic). Organic churches are self-supporting, self governing and self-reproducing. I can identify with this concept, It resonates with me. I can see gatherings of 12-50 being more easily reproduced. This cuts out the need for large buildings and large budgets, as well as being more relational. 10 gatherings of 50, spread out over a region would reach more people than one central gathering of 500.

Alan Hirsch is truly a prophet for our time and needs to be listened to.
I found Alan Hirsch's position on the centrality of Christology hitting a nerve in the core of my inner being. That is exactly what I've been thinking about these past three years as I have planted the CORE Church of Troy; getting back to that Christ centered focus.

The Pauline concept, For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.(1 Cor.2:2) cuts through a lot of arguments over theological and religious opinions. The people in my inner-city neighborhood need to see Jesus through the works of our local church. They need to know that God loves them and has not forgotten them. Thanks, Alan Hirsch, for confirming what I've been thinking and for adding your own insights.