Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My take on urban renewal

I think we, the church, can do our best work one person/one family a time, by addressing their physical/material and spiritual needs. If we take seriously the mandates of Jesus to love and minister to "the least of these" we will unlock the door to blessings untold.All of heaven's resources are available to those who are willing to trust the One who said, "Go therefore..."

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Eph.3:20)

Those who are willing to let go of what they know and trust God to do what they cannot fathom will not only see lives transformed for His kingdom, but will see His "kingdom come and His will be done,on earth as it is in heaven." That will result in a transformed (renewed) community as people's lives are transformed. The real work is in sticking out in a tough neighborhood, when it seems like we're not making much progress. We can't measure success by the number of people who walk through the doors of our relevant, new experience, emerging churches, but in the lives that are transformed.We can't always see how we have effected a person's life. But when we do...Oh what a blessing! When I see people I am discipling reaching out to their neighbors with the love and grace of God, that is success. That is what we can pass on. That is what will transform a community, a city, a region, etc (Acts 1:8)

Check out The Urban Loft

The Urban Loft Renewing the City

The Urban Loft is a central gathering place for missional leaders, church planters, artists, musicians, thinkers, and activists

Sean is onto something here. Check it out

Timeless Experience

I saw the following ad description, recently, on Google,"Discover a new church experience, Modern Music-Life changing teaching."

I suppose such an ad appeals to some people, but what does is say to the unchurched/non-Christian population? I think such an ad will attract the "bored with church as usual" crowd. It may even draw a few unchurched people. Is it the same old church experience with a new twist, or is it something totally new and radical? Is there really any such thing as a "new church experience" from a Biblical standpoint?

Let me say that the church does need to do something different. But new? If, in this ad, the advertiser means simply a new, relevant way of looking at the timeless truths of Scripture and how to be the church, as opposed to going to church, then it may be a good ad. But, if they are really saying, "We're newer and more modern than the church down the road" then they are merely interested in drawing a crowd. But from where? What will they do with people who come for the new experience, modern music and life changing reaching? Will they disciple them and send them out, or keep them in and entertain them, pass the collection plate, start new programs, etc? After awhile the "new experience" will become the "church as usual experience" and the crowd of forever searching church hoppers will move on to the next "new experience."

I think people need something deeper than the next new experience. I think this is why many people have left the institutional church and why church membership nationwide is continuing to decline. I know that I, for one, am searching for something deeper. It won't be found in the church building, the programs, the "new experience, modern music and life changing teaching," well, perhaps in the life changing teaching (depending on how it is presented). What I'm searching for can and will be found in an ever-growing relationship with the living, triune God.If the church with the "new experience, modern music and life changing teaching" is committed to this end; that is, raising up an army of Christ followers who love God and their neighbors, and then sending them out to turn the world upside down, then it doesn't matter how they package their brand of church.
What will draw the unchurched? The Holy Spirit. I'm all for being relevant and with the times. I'm a huge fan of the internet and the social media fetish that seems to be sweeping across the globe. But, we still need to connect with people on a personal level, and then connect them with Christ, on a personal level.
I think I'll call this the "Timeless Experience."

Update on our Dilemma

This is a repost and an update. We have made some progress since I posted this back in September. Here are some recent developments

  1. We have since obtained liability and property insurance for the church building

  2. We have had part of our roof repaired (the section that was causing the roof to leak) Thank you Mike Martin for helping us

  3. repairs were done to a radiator that had developed a steam leakand was causing our boiler to shut down

  4. Some plumbing repairs have been done, which have solved some problems for now.

What we still need and are praying for

  1. funds for continuing renovation of our basement/fellowship hall, which are now using three evenings per week for our Feed-a-kid community meal ministry, at which we are feeding many neighborhood children and their families, as well as hosting many community outreach events. This room, while partially usable, needs a new floor. The walls need to patched in some spots and then primed and painted. This 3,000 square foot room is vital to our inner-city ministry efforts.

  2. Electrical service needs to be overhauled. The last updates were done in the early 1970s. Some of the remaining electric service is very old and does not meet current city electrical codes. Recent inspections and estimates from local, certified electricians have revealed to us the reality of replacing, or at least seriously updating out current service.

  3. Our boiler, while being functional, needs some servicing and updating

  4. additional interior renovations. The ceiling in one of our hallways needs to be pulled out and replaced due to previous damage caused by roof leaks. Also, the part of the ceiling in our sunday school/children's church room has to be replaced, which also fell victim to the same series of roof leaks.

If you are led by the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers and provide financial assistance to help us, you may send your tax deductible gifts to;

The CORE Church 36 109th St.Troy, N.Y. 12182

Ear mark for building restoration

(original post from September 10th)

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

At the same time we got busy doing outreach in this distressed community and started to develop a small, but growing congregtion. At one point we were running 35-40 in our worship services and had seen some amazing doors open to us. In February, 2006, another neighborhood church gave us a vacant lot, located across the street from our church building, and we began sponsoring and hosting community events, cookouts, block parties, concerts, etc.
The fruit of our labors has been a few people (wish I could say a lot) committing their lives to Christ. We baptized one young man and are now getting ready to baptize a few more.
Needless to say all of this has not come without struggles and spiritual warfare. The greatest struggle has been the condition of our church building; making timely repairs and maintaining insurance. We are at a point where we can't find an insurance carrier to underwrite our building because of its present condition, unless we immediately address cited repairs. The building needs new electrical service to replace the grossly outdated, inadequate service that is now there. Also cited as issues of concern are the heating and plumbing systems, which we have done repairs on, but are old and need to be replaced. The overall condition of this 10,000 sq.ft brick elephant has rendered it unsafe and unusable. We would need to raise approximately $25,000.00 to address just what needs to be done to make it safe and functional and probably closer to $50,000.00 to put the building in pristine condition.

Dilemma: What to do with this building. Do we abandon this debt free, tax exempt property and go elsewhere? Even if it cost $50,000.00 to address all repairs/renovations, we could not buy or build a new facility for less than twice that (unless we purchase another facility that needs a lot of work). We could abandon the building altogether and rent a nearby storefront/warehouse for $800.00 per month, plus utilities, at least temporarily until we determine what to do with the church building. The ideal plan would be to build a new facility on our ministry lot, which would cost, at minimum, $150,000.oo (for a one story modular unit placed on a poured foundation ). We have a few more options we are praying about. Through all of this we are convinced that God has us where He wants us, and we will not allow our dilemma to stop us or slow us down. We will continue, by the grace and provision of God, to do the work He has called us to.
If you are reading this post and feel led by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, please do!
If you are led by the Holy Spirit to answer our prayers and provide financial assistance to help us, you may send your tax deductible gifts to;
The CORE Church
36 109th St.
Troy, N.Y. 12182
Ear mark for building restoration

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is being a "Friendly" church enough?

In a conversation about what is most important in drawing people to your church, many have said, "being friendly to the unchurched and/or first timers is most important."

But is that enough?

Is that a Biblical quality?

Certainly, being friendly is not a bad idea. In fact, I would probably not like it if I visited a church that was cold or less than friendly towards visitors.

However, friendliness, in itself, does not demonstrate whether or not a local church is a healthy,growing church.

People at the local Elks lodge or VFW are friendly, but do they love God and love their neighbors? Are they willing to love others the way God loves them?

A local church can be very friendly, but are they merely a glorified social club, or are they a unified body of believers who live, breathe and move together in such a way that people people are drawn to them and compelled to be a part of their fellowship...not just because they are friendly, but because they have something that goes deeper than that; a deep rooted, vibrant connection the Christ, True Vine(John 15:1ff)

Something greater than each of us happens in a healthy local church that cannot be explained or experienced outside of the body of Christ. When we come together, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, the bond of love and grace extends beyond ourselves and the power of God is demonstrated in ways we cannot imagine.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Why is it, when I'm doing the right thing, bad things happen?"

I met up with a family in my neighborhood today, whom my wife and I hadn't seen in awhile. They had been a part of our fellowship, joining us occasionally for Sunday gatherings and various outreach events that The CORE Church had sponsored and hosted. We had gotten to know them and had begun developing a relationship with this single mother and her children. Then, almost suddenty, we lost contact with them. After many failed attempts to re-connect with them, we decided to leave the issue in God's hands. We continued to pray for them and had bumped into others who know them, from time to time, who would fill us in on how they are doing.

Today, as I was bringing bread and milk into the church (a local convenience store chain, Stewarts Shops, has been giving us products that they pull from their shelves yet still have several days left before their code date expires which we in turn distribute to families in the neighborhood) I saw this woman and one of her daughters as they were walking past the church. She stopped and we talked for a bit. She shared with me the mess her life has turned into, and that she had not come around because she didn't want to burden us with her problems. Also, she had been working overtime at her job and between work, kids, housework, etc., she has been physically exhausted.

She went on to tell me that she was doing the right thing. She had obtained employment in an attempt to distance herself and her family from public assistance. Her job is a good one that she likes, with decent pay and benefits for her and her children. However, just as she was starting to get ahead financially, paying off many of her debts, etc., Social Services cut her public assistance. Her food stamps are now a fraction of what she had been receiving and Troy Housing Authority raised her rent because she is now in a higher income bracket. She said to me, "Just when I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, they go and do this, and I am right back where I was three years ago." She went onto ask, as she began to well up with tears, "Why is it, when I'm doing the right thing and making good choices, all of this bad stuff happens?" I prayed with her and gave her some bread and milk, and shared a few of my own thoughts as to why bad things happen to good people. She seemed somewhat comforted as our conversation came to an end. She told me she would try to make it to church with the kids, but sometimes she has to work on Sundays. We may see them tomorrow or next Sunday. If we don't we will still love them and reach out to them. We will continue to pray for them and make sure they know God loves them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Third Day at Indiana University (go Hoosiers)

Third Day on the Late, Late Show

I happened to catch Third Day, last night, on the Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Thanks Mark Lee for the heads-up.

I was goofing off on facebook and Twitter last night, while listening to the evening news, and then Letterman. I don't always stay up to watch Craig Ferguson. For one, his sense of humor is often vulgar (and I think he's usually half-lit when taping the show). Secondly, even though I'm somewhat of a night owl, I'm usually rubbing my eyes by the time Ferguson's show comes on. However, as I was messing around with my new social media fetish, I saw the tweets from Mark Lee, Third Day's guitarist, informing his fellow citizens of Twitterland of their upcoming performance on the show. Being only minutes away from airing, I decided to stay up and watch. I made it through Craig's opening monologue, and then laughed a bit to Larry the Cable Guy, and finally, toward's the end of the hour, Third Day made their appearance, singing their latest hit "Revelation."I enjoyed seeing and hearing one of my favorite bands as they rocked the house.

I got to thinking, afterward, about how many Christians would question their appearance in this worldly arena. However, I saw this as a great opportunity for Third Day to bring their light into the darkness of late night TV. I'm pretty sure C.F. and the audience (both live and in TVland) were listening as Mac Powell and company sang their song. Many of them may not have been familiar with Third Day, but they are now. Perhaps some of them were listening to the lyrics of "Revelation" and were compelled to look deeper within themselves. Maybe they went on the internet afterward and googled Third Day and found out they are a Christian band who use their gifts to serve the Living God. Maybe some found their way to Third Day's website and to their song lyrics.

Thanks Third Day for a job well done, and for shining your light on Craig Ferguson and the night owls who were watching!

Where does vision come from?

For me, it started with a burden for the inner-city community I was born and raised in. After several years of preparation, God, in His time, followed that burden with vision as to how I will reach this community, then came the strategy that came to be known as The CORE Church. With all of that came His provision.

I call this Prevision...Vision...Provision (not really ingenious, but it works)

Prevision = Burden; the time leading up to the vision. I think about the place and the people a lot. I pray a lot. Jesus told His disciples,"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are so few. Therefore, Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers.(Matt.9:37-38)

Vision = How I see this happening. I'm seeking out godly counsel. The process of obeying and going is also in this stage. I'm sharing my vision with others some catch it, some don't. The church responds by sending me out. There will also be opposition. The devil will make sure of it. People close to you may not see things the way you do and may actually hinder you or try to persuade you to reconsider. God is clarifying his vision and preparing you for the journey that lies ahead. You know, at this point, deep down inside, at the core of your being,that God has given you this vision. Now it's time to trust and obay

Provision = I'm in the geographical location God has given me both a burden and vision for. By faith, I obeyed and went to the place God showed me. Now I must wait, as Abraham waited in the promised land, for God's provision (Heb. 11:8-10). My part is to love Him and love my neighbors; to live as Christ lived, love as He loved and serve as He served, thereby making Him known to others, in both word and in deed. If I am doing this, church planting will happen naturally. God always provides wherever He guides.

What is the vision God has given you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Season of waiting

The Secret of Waiting: Begin to view life from the perspective of the Ageless One. by Bob Sorge

I regularly subscribe to Christianity Today's Christian Bible Studies, which comes daily in my e-mail. Most times I quickly scan through them, but today's edition caught my attention, and I found myself reading and studying along with author Bob Sorge.

The topic of this study is learning the discipline of waiting upon the Lord. I won't repeat Sorge's article here, I'll let you check it our here for yourelf. What I will say is that I find myself rarely waiting upon the Lord. I pray, I read and study my Bible, I journal, and like most people I want to hear from God right away. I want Him to give me the answer to my prayers in my time. But, as Sorge points out, when we learn to wait upon the "Ageless One," we step into His timing and He gives us the patience to wait upon Him until He has mercy on us.

So, I beginning my own season of waiting, so that I can be prepared and equipped when the hand of God turns my way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Competing Opportunities

Had to close down the coffee house due to several reasons.

1. economy (people just aren't eating out as much)

2. competition (at least a dozen coffee shops in downtown Troy competing for that RPI/Sage student population) Incidently, I heard through the grapevine that RPI is doing more to keep their students on or close to campus due to the rise in violent crimes against college students.

3. I have found that, although I love the idea of having a family business, God's business needs to come first and both were suffering due to the fact that I only have so much time in a given day.

I may revisit the coffee house idea in the future and have kept some of the equipment for future purposes. It is a hard thing to juggle many things at one time, for me anyway. Some people are able to do this effectively, yet I seem to be one of those people that does well when focusing on one thing at a time. For me, I am content with facilitating a city missionary movement starting in the heart of a neighborhood most people would prefer to forget about or ignore.

Kids? more and more keep coming. We are exploring creative and effective ways to reach them and minister to them.

Grown-ups? well, let's just say they're not as trusting as the kids are, but we're making progress in connecting with some of them.

Pastor Willie Bacote and I have noticed an increase in attendance at our feed-a-kid community meals. Many of the families that come do so on a regular basis. We are getting to know them and they are getting to know us. As such, they are asking us to pray with them and for them. And through the Holy Spirit we are building bridges for the gospel, or onramps as some prefer to call them.

College kids? we have managed, by the grace of God, to connect with an RPI fraternity. They were looking for a community service outlet and we have the outlet for them to plug into. So far it's been a good fit! We're prayerful that God will shape these connections with the college student population as well as with families in Troy's inner-city

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lost and found

My family and I visited Troy's Prospect Park a few weeks ago. While walking along one of the trails I found the remnants of a small Bible that someone had torched. As I picked it up my imagination got the best of me. I was thinking about persecuted Christians around the world and a testimony I heard, recently, about a man who was imprisoned for handing out Bibles. He shared how his Bible was confisctated as he was interrogated, then beaten and placed into a locked room. One of his captors burned his bible right before his eyes and then left him alone, with nothing more than a small window for light. He noticed, as he sat there, in that clold, almost darkened room, that a small portion of his pocket bible still remained among the ashes of his burned Bible. So he grabbed it and held onto it. He was released from captivity a few weeks later. He shared how that small piece of his Bible, just a portion of a few pages that had not burned, kept him going. He read those scriptures over and over, which gave Him strength and hope.

So often I am guilty of taking my Bible, along with my freedom to read and study it in peace, for granted. I keep this portion of Scripture that I found in my wallet, as a reminder that the freedom I have came at a cost. Now I realize that these burned pages are probably the remains of some kind of sick joke. But they are a nice reminder anyway!

the culprit

Just got finished fixing the radiatior in the men's room at the church. Apparently one of the boys had unscrewed a small pipe that connected the flow valve to the radiator, which caused the radiator to spew out steam, thereby turning the men's room into a sauna. This one small steam leak caused the entire boiler to shut down, thereby preventing heat from circulating throughout the building. I finally made it to Johnstone heating supply and described the missing part to the man at the counter. He disappeared for a moment and returned with the pencil-witdh pipe and connecting elbow. Along with a small bottle of pipe joint sealant, the total bill came to $8.01. I went bact to the church and within ten minutes fixed this seemingly small problem.

I tweeted about this little episode on Twitter which also appeared on my facebook update, and the subject stirred up quite a bit of conversation about the parrallels of broken boilers to the issues of life, and the great sermon illustrations that can come out of that boiler/steam leak episode.

So, I may just have my next sermon series stemming from this.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

church unplugged

Today at church we had to resort to using the old hymnals due to some electrical and equipment malfunctioning. Funny how we begin to rely on modern technology to help us in our worship services. I love to use powerpoint and all of that stuff, but it was nice to have "church unplugged" for a change. The kids loved it. The adults didn't mind it, and my wife being the somewhat traditional Baptist among us felt right at home. So, here's to the old hymnals and those age-old songs written by saints gone by. Blessed Assurance and Holy, holy, holy never sounded better than they did today comong from the mouths of babes

Thursday, November 6, 2008

dare we believe in miracles!

For the past several weeks we (including many of my blogging friends) have been praying for an 11 year old boy named James who had developed several tumors which his doctors believed to be cancerous after several rounds of tests. His mother had asked us to pray for him as he was facing some more testing and surgery to remove these tumors. A couple of weeks ago, at one of our community meals, we prayed over this young man; myself, Pastor Willie Bacote, and several others who were present. We prayed fervently and with great faith, believing that God can and does heal people.

James' mother reported to us last night that James had some more tests and his doctors have said his tumors are gone! No surgery! GONE!

We could pass this off as coincidence, or, as his doctors will probably concur, a misdiagnosis. Or, we can believe that God heard the effective, fervent prayers of the righteous that were lifted up on behalf of this boy and that we all bear witness to a miracle; that God has indeed healed James.