Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our Dilemma

Three years ago my family and I said yes to the opportunity to return to Troy and start a new church. We prayed long and hard and then stepped out in faith and went to the place we believe God was showing us. We came to Troy and immediately had a church building available to us. In fact, the plan was for us to re-start a dying baptist church, recontextualized for inner-city ministry. The church building and parsonage were transferred over to us to begin this new work. We immediately got to work assessing the condition of our century old church building. While being structurally sound, we soon learned that the buiding needs a complete interior makeover; new electrical service, updated heating and plumbing systems, as well as roof repairs and extensive renovation of basement floor and walls. We began tearing out old, warn out carpeting, flooring, and room dividers in the basement/fellowship hall. We painted the sanctuary and part of the fellowhip hall and put in new indoor/outdoor carpeting. We had the roof patched, replaced plumbing and heating pipes, put a new sump pump in the kitchen and a new electric service meter.

At the same time we got busy doing outreach in this distressed community and started to develop a small, but growing congregtion. At one point we were running 35-40 in our worship services and had seen some amazing doors open to us. In February, 2006, another neighborhood church gave us a vacant lot, located across the street from our church building, and we began sponsoring and hosting community events, cookouts, block parties, concerts, etc.

The fruit of our labors has been a few people (wish I could say a lot) committing their lives to Christ. We baptized one young man and are now getting ready to baptize a few more.

Needless to say all of this has not come without struggles and spiritual warfare. The greatest struggle has been the condition of our church building; making timely repairs and maintaining insurance. We are at a point where we can't find an insurance carrier to underwrite our building because of its present condition, unless we immediately address cited repairs. The building needs new electrical service to replace the grossly outdated, inadequate service that is now there. Also cited as issues of concern are the heating and plumbing systems, which we have done repairs on, but are old and need to be replaced. The overall condition of this 10,000 sq.ft brick elephant has rendered it unsafe and unusable. We would need to raise approximately $25,000.00 to address just what needs to be done to make it safe and functional and probably closer to $50,000.00 to put the building in pristine condition.

Dilemma: What to do with this building. Do we abandon this debt free, tax exempt property and go elsewhere? Even if it cost $50,000.00 to address all repairs/renovations, we could not buy or build a new facility for less than twice that (unless we purchase another facility that needs a lot of work). We could abandon the building altogether and rent a nearby storefront/warehouse for $800.00 per month, plus utilities, at least temporarily until we determine what to do with the church building. The ideal plan would be to build a new facility on our ministry lot, which would cost, at minimum, $150,000.oo (for a one story modular unit placed on a poured foundation ). We have a few more options we are praying about. Through all of this we are convinced that God has us where He wants us, and we will not allow our dilemma to stop us or slow us down. We will continue, by the grace and provision of God, to do the work He has called us to.

If you are reading this post and feel led by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, please do!
If you are led by the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers and provide financial assistance to help us, you may send your tax deductible gifts to;
The CORE Church
36 109th St.
Troy, N.Y. 12180
Ear mark for building restoration

Thursday, September 18, 2008

am I dreaming too big?

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 320-21) NLT

I see people giving their hearts to God
Reaching up to their Creator
As He reaches into them
They, in turn, reach out to others who are sad, broken and hurting.

I remember the days of my own brokenness
And how my gracious and merciful God reached down with His saving hand
He delivered me from the path that leads downward
And set my feet on solid ground

I was a broken soul, searching for someone, something to fill my emptiness
Someone to come and cure my aching, lonely heart.
Then He came and rescued me,
Filled me with new life and set me free

Now I have new dreams of lost, broken, hurting people
finding their way back to God.
I don't dream about buildings or boards, religion or programs
Just people giving their hearts to God

Am I dreaming too big? Am I just a daydreamer with his head in the clouds?

All I want in this life is to know God deeply and intimately and to show His love to others; to be His light in the midst of a dark and dying world, and instrument in the hands of the Master, fit for His use.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Coming of Age

At the age of 45 I'm starting to get the point that God did not create us to be cookie cutter Christians, but created each of us uniquely. I'm on that part of this journey where I'm learning to be the me God created me to be. I think that is what God wants to do in each of our lives. he has a specific plan for me that only I can fulfill. As Mark Batterson writes and speaks about, the stuff that happened in my life before I came into a personal relationship with God matters. Reminds me of Joseph in the book of Genesis; all of the things that seemed to happen to him by chance or by the hand of others intending harm and God used it all for Joseph's good. All of that stuff God used to prepare and refine Joseph, and so He uses the seemingly disconnected events of our lives to connect us to His plan.

The Pod Coffee House is my entry into the real world. The idea is to connect w/people in every day life outside of the four walls of the church building. We tried doing a coffee house at our church but were drawing mostly churched people. having a background in restaurant management and an itch to move outside of the box of "church as usual" I stepped out in faith, invested my own$$$ and opened a full fledge, non-franchised, independent, for-profit coffee house. We don't hide the fact that we are a Christ-centered coffee house, but neither do we broadcast it. No programs, agendas, committees, board of trustees; just a guy who loves God, great company and decent cup o' joe and wants to share that w/others. Where else will we meet pedestrians on the crossroads of life?

Friday, September 12, 2008

had to post this: from Dave Cowan, Elevation Church, Phoenix, AZ

It wasn't that long ago that adult film star Crissy Moran gave up the life she knew. She said goodbye to working in the porn industry and said hello to a life in Christ. Since then, Crissy has been working to help those still trapped in that life. It was in early 2008 that she found a chance to return to film, this time with a message. "Oversold" is a short film adaptation of the Biblical story of Hosea. Set in the present, the story walks the viewer through the struggles of Sophi, a stripper trying to break out of that life. Sophi meets and falls for a Pastor, Joshua. Their two worlds collide and they are forced to deal with this fallout. How do people treat a pastor that loves a stripper? Do people ever really accept the stripper into the real world? Is this life imitating art or the other way around? In this piece, Crissy tells us why she chose to make "Oversold" her first film after leaving the adult business.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My take on integrity

I recently started reading Mike Foster and Judd Wilhite's book, Deadly Viper Character Assassins. This is a great devotional book for men that deals with the life issues that rob men of their integrity. I highly recommend this book for your men's gatherings and leadership training.

So far I have gotten through Chapter 1, "Character Assassin Creep."In this chapter the authors point out how little things, like the faulty rivets that sank the Titanic, can become big things if left unchecked; things like cheating on income tax, telling little white lies, stretching the truth, etc. can lead to character assassination and totally ruin a man's reputation.

An older, wiser pastor once told me, "Integrity is who you are when noone else is watching." His words came to mind as I was reading about "Character Creep."

Hats off to Mike Foster and Judd Wilhite for a great book that I will be using for our own men's gatherings.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Responding to Deadly Viper/Judd Wilhite post

I never saw the necessity for a big bang, show’em what you got event. I have seen a few new church plants take this approach; only one that pulled it off successfully. I think the draw back for me is that we would put a lot of time, money and energy into a big launch event and then not deliver thereafter. I really don’t think we need to put on a big event like that; instead, we chose to put that money into sustainable, long term ministries that will serve real needs within our community. I’d rather be known in the community as the local that loves and serves people than the local church with the next big thing. That, to me, speaks volumes to the community I’m endeavoring to reach.



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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Feeling the cost of following Christ

For nearly three years we have been camped out in this inner-city neighborhood, faithfully serving and waiting upon the Lord for His provision and increase. This has not been an easy road, in fact, it's been the hardest road I've walked so far. Many times I have felt like giving up. God has provided our every need and I'm trusting that he will continue to.

The source of my frustration has been the century old church building that was given to us. While the building is debt free, it is showing its age. The condition of the church building is continuing to deteriorate. With the funds we have been able to raise we've been able to do some work. However, the entire electrical service needs to be replaced, as it is very old and barely meets code. The plumbing and heating systems also need to be upgraded. There are also needed repairs of the roof, a portion of the kitchen, as well as the fellowship hall floor and walls. We would need around $50,000.00 to make the building safe and functional.

Another issue that we have struggled with is the lack of mature adult believers living in this distressed inner-city neighborhood. While some of them are believers, they are, for the most part, nominal Christians. I truly believe the church is not the building, but the people of God, living in and serving the community, and inviting people into this community of Christ followers. But what, exactly, is this community to look like? What qualifies a person for entrance? Do they have to come to the church building to be considered members of this community? We have many children coming through our old church doors, which we have welcomed and embraced. We have gotten to know some of the families of these children. While they are comfortable with their children (or grandchildren) coming to our church, and have a basic belief in God themselves, getting them to come to church has been a challenge.

I guess in some ways I'm still operating by the old school, open the doors and invite them in, approach. While we have made some great strides to intentionally do ministry outside of the four walls of the church building, there is still this facilities based mindset I am contending with.

We are at a crucial point in our ministry here where we have to decide if it is cost effective and a good use of finances and other resources to continue using our present church building or abandon it and find other suitable facilities. We also own a vacant lot, which is about one-third of an acre and large enough to accomodate an adequate ministry facility.

I am at a point where I have run out of anwers. I am totally dependent upon God and His provision. Our core team has slowly been dismantled. We have endured some fierce struggles and spiritual warfare. I have thought several times about giving up and walking away from all of this. But then I am reminded of the children who live in this neighborhood. If we pack up and go, like a few other neighborhood churches have already done over the past decade (including the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church whose facility we took over) who will be here to stand in the gap for these great kids?

I am still convinced, now more than ever, that God has sent us here. I am trusting in Him for His provision and His strength. I know He will provide where He guides. So here we will remain. We will continue to serve God and to develop a missional community that is indigenous and incarnational.

If you feel inclined by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, we would certainly appreciate it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Suffering from "I-can-handle-it-on-my-own-itis" syndrome

Today I was twittering about my ordeal with my local Ford dealer and trying to get my wife's car inspected and the "Check Engine" light that was preventing it from passing inspection, and the mechanic's offer to run diagnostic tests and so on. Dave Webber added as few posts worth of advice. We exchanged a few posts when he had made a great point about asking someone for help, like someone in my congregation who may have the time to stop by and take a look at it. I had to admit, Dave got me!

Why don't I stop and ask others for help more often? Perhaps they're too busy with their own problems, or maybe it fails to come to mind because I'm too focused on solving my own problems. Most people would appreciate being asked to help. Have I robbed them of that opportunity to show kindness?

Maybe next time I'll think of asking a friend or neighbor for help, or maybe not if I allow my stubborn human pride to get in the way.

So many conferences, so little time

I have attended several conferences this past year, including Exponential 2008 in Orlando and the Whiteboard Sessions in D.C. and I've received invites to at least a half dozen other conferences; Catalyst in Atlanta, SPUR Leadership conference in Austin, TX, CCDA conference, and so on; not to mention a few local and/or regional conferences. I've been to a few Promise Keepers conferences in the past and I heard about the "Manly Man" Conference, which was hosted by Celebration Church, Green Bay, Wisconsin last month. I've been tempted to register for and attend some of these conferences, but my budget just won't allow it. I was thinking of hosting a conference here in upstate New York. What should my theme be? Who should I invite to speak? Who would travel all the way to Troy, NY to attend this conference?

Don't get me wrong! I love conferences. I love the fellowship and the opportunities to meet certain leaders in ministry. I enjoy listening to top notch speakers and musicians who are invited to speak and/or play at these conferences. I can say that I've learned a thing or two from each conference I have attended. Is there such a thing as conference overload? How many freebies can I fit in my luggage? How many contact forms should I fill out? How many e-mails and phone calls will I get from conference sponsors afterward, offering me everything from free website development to coaching, printing, fund raising help and ministry marketing tools? How much will I spend on books, DVDs, CDs and other cool stuff that I can probably get through Amazon or my local Christian bookstore?

You may see me at a conference near you...or maybe not.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What does "Way outside of the box" mean?

A facebook friend sent me a wall post, stating that we, the CORE Church of Troy, are doing something "way outside of the box." I got to thinking about that. I know that this man meant it as a compliment, as if to say what we are doing is risky and on the cutting edge. Another friend, here in Troy, New York, said we're ministering "on the fringes."

While we find ourselves "way outside of the box" and "on the fringes" we have met with what seems like more than our fair share of opposition and misunderstanding along the way. Some have said that we are "to loose" and "lacking in organization."

I have found myself agreeing more and more with men like Brian McLaren, Alan Hirsch and Frank Viola (to name a few). The church as it is and has been for thousands of years has missed the mark. The church, for the most part, has left her first love in favor of forms and structures of institutional religion, which is what Jesus came to set us free from (among other things). There is no freedom in man made structures and forms. Jesus came to restore mankind's broken relationship with Almighty God and to invite each of us to enter into that personal relationship; that holy priesthood; with the living, triune God. There are many individuals who have given of themselves selflessly and sacrificially in service to God, myself included. For the most part, I would say that these same servants realize they are serving God and not an organization, yet much of that organizational structure has been ingrained into us through church tradition and culture. When I say that the church has missed the mark, I mean the church as an organization with business like structures; board of trustees, 501c not-for-profit status, etc.

What does it mean for those who choose to take Christ up on His invitation?
  • It means living outside of the box of religious traditions, structures, organizations, etc.
  • It means living on the fringes and reaching out with the love and grace of Jesus Christ to "the least of these."
  • It means that my idea of what church is and was meant to be will be radically challenged as I draw closer to the One who died to set me free.
  • It means that my new life in Christ will shake other people up. Some will get me and appreciate me, while the majority will accuse me of being nuts, weak, or out of touch with reality.

So, whatever people say or do, for me or against me, let it be for the sake of Christ and His kingdom, which dwells in me.

Like Abraham dwelling in the promised land

I was reading Hebrews 11:8-10 today which says,

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

I got to thinking about my own call to ministry. We've been faithful and obedient, going to the place God had shown us. For nearly three years we have been waiting upon and serving the Lord. While we have seen great progress in this time, I sometimes find myself scratching my head, racking my brain trying to figure out God's plan. Where do we go from here? What is the next step in this journey of faith? How long are we to be here? What is the next piece of this church planting vision. A hundred ideas pop up in my head on any given week. I pray and ask God for discernment so that I can know what is from Him and what is simply my entrepeneurial brain at work. Proverbs says, "A man's heart plans his own way, but the Lord directs his steps."

I know this, yet I'm constantly questioning God, while waiting on Him for the answers. I know how Abraham felt when he arrived in the promised land, with his entourage, and waited upon the Lord for his next set of marching orders. One of the hardest lessons God has been teaching me is what it means and looks like to, Trust in Him with all my heart, leaning not on my understanding, acknowledging Him in all of my ways, so that He may direct my path (Prov. 3:5-6) which is one of my life verses, by the way.

I am at a point in this divinely assigned portion of God's great commission where it seems like not much is going on, like things have grown stagnant. Yet I know in my heart that God is moving and working at His pace, according to His will. As Abraham, along with his family and friends, had wait upon the Lord, so do I and anyone else who has heard the call to go to the fields of harvest. The old saying, "Hurry up and wait upon the Lord" is ringing in my ears. Actually, that was one of the lyrics from an old Petra song, "More Power To Ya."

Like Abraham, I know that there a place that I am longing for and waiting upon; a city which has foundations (Zion, God's eternal, holy city) whose builder and maker is God." I know that will require patience, diligence and great faith on my part, but isn't that what I signed up for when I said yes to His call?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Preach it Baby

Saw this on God Tube and had to share it

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Yes and Amen!

Today I was listening to Matt Redman's song, "Yes and Amen," from his Beautiful News CD and I got to thinking about what saying "Yes" to God looks like in my life. Here's what I'm thinking.

Saying yes to God has a cost
  1. Saying yes to God sometimes means saying "No!"
  • No to opportunites that may seem like good ones, sometimes even more appealing than what God has called me to
  • No to something easier or more comfortable
  • No to the idea of walking away or giving up

2. Saying "Yes" to God often means sacrifice

  • sacrifice of my hopes, plans and ambitions for what God wants to do in and through me.
  • laying everything down at the foot of the cross for the purpose of following Christ wherever He leads
  • Sacrifice of my time, energy, resources, family for His kingdom and His purpose
  • Saying Yes to God will cost everything I have.

3. Saying "Yes" to God means I may offend some people

  • Those who walk contrary to the will of God (ungodly)
  • Those who mean well but think I would serve my family better by choosing something else; something easier or less risky than planting a church in a "dangerous" inner-city neighborhood.

4. Saying "Yes" to God brings great joy and blessings, but not always obvious; especially when enduring great trials and struggles.

So, today I'm saying, "Yes and Amen!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jim and Laura Bird at the Pod Coffee House

On Saturday, August 30th, Jim and Laura Bird made their way to the Pod Coffee House where they played a two hour set of both original songs and cover tunes. Jim and Laura also participated in Reach the Streets 2008.

Wish I could say we had a great turn out, but downtown Troy proved to be less busier than usual, perhaps due to being a holiday weekend. We still enjoyed some great music and fellowship. Quite a few people walked past the Pod. Some stopped and listened for a minute or two before continuing on their way. A few stepped inside to listen.

As we continue in this "third place" venture, it is our prayer that we will connect with people living and/or working in downtown Troy, for the purpose of making Christ known.

Fun at the Fair

Took my family to the Schaghticoke Fair today. We always enjoy a day at the fair; ice cream, cider donuts, Philly cheesesteaks, fried dough, midway games and rides, animal shows, etc.
Highlights of the day included my niece, Stacy, partipating in the annual horse shows. She's been doing this since she was old enough to climb onto a horse. Now, at the age of 24, she's an old pro at it.
The demolition derby caught our attention, with three shows back to back. The sight, sound and smell of dozens of crashing cars, burning rubber and thousands of screaming fans was indeed a thrill to experience. My wife got her annual fix of fudge. The weather was spectacular and, once again, we bumped into quite a few people we haven't seen in awhile.
All said and done, we had a "fair" day...pun intended