Category Archives: new life fellowship

Why I’m Leaving New Life Fellowship

Beginning empty-handed and alone, frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are God is with them. – A Tale of Three Kings

*Update – The above sermon was preached on my last Sunday at New Life Fellowship, April 17th. I shared how painful, but hopeful, it’s been for me to leave.

As many of you know, this week is my last week at New Life Fellowship.  I’ve been a part of the staff team for the past ten years, and it’s been quite a remarkable journey.

Here’s a timeline of my roles there:
2001-2002 – Intern
*2002-2004 – Outreach Director
*2004-2005 – Young Adult Pastor
2005-2008 – Community Pastor
2008-2010 – Associate Pastor/Teaching Pastor
2010-2011 – Senior Associate Pastor/Teaching Pastor

*I was also in seminary during this time.

Heres a picture of me at the Bowery Mission during the summer I decided to move to NYC.

I’m so grateful for so many of the people I’ve met and served with along the way – everyone from former and current staff, elders, deacons, volunteers, and small groups folks. You guys are heroes to me. As with any church, it’s not really about the building, it’s the people. And at New Life, it’s full of incredible people – children, youth, young adults, families, marrieds, singles, and the elderly. It makes me tear up just to think about how meaningful these relationships have been for me.

As an attempt to clarify what’s happening.  I wanted to write this post to answer many questions I’ve fielded over the past few weeks. Please keep in mind these are my responses alone – I simply wanted to share from my perspective. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

1. Why are you leaving?

Ultimately, Tina and I felt like this was the right time to leave as God was stirring something new in us.  The NLF staff team is more than capable (along with some tremendous volunteers that include our elder board), and we felt like God was stirring us to move forward in other ventures.

In some respects, this decision doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – I’ll be unemployed and I’ll be leaving an incredible team and church.  However, I think this decision-making process over the past year has been a result of really trying to discern and follow God’s lead.  It’s crazy enough that it must be God (or, at least I sure hope so)!

Here’s a timeline of our decision making process:

May 2010 – I first mention to Tina the possibility of moving on.  We begin praying.
Sep 2010 – I first mention to Pete Scazzero the possibility of us moving on.
Jan 2011 – Meeting/speaking with different coaches, consultants, therapists, and mentors about this pending decision.
Mid-Late Jan 2011 – I meet with elders to share with them how Tina and I are leaning toward leaving.
Feb 15, 2011 – I give my final decision to the elders and lay out a timeline for informing folks about my departure.

2.  Where will you be going?

We’re not entirely sure just yet, but we’ll definitely be in NYC in the Fall.  I hope to visit and learn from other churches.

From May-June we’ll be in Korea, and from July-August we’ll likely be outside of NYC as well (likely Houston).

We hope to use this summer as a time of discernment, rest, and prayer.  There are a couple of opportunities before us in Fall 2011, and we want to prayerfully consider what to do next.

3.  Why leave when you are uncertain about your future?  Why not wait until you figured that out first?

I must admit, this was largely due the advice we received from different consultants at the time (around January).  Now that we’re leaving, we can see the wisdom in leaving earlier rather than later.

First, on a personal level, since God was working in me and allowing me to dream about other possibilities, I would not have brought my best energy to our team and our church if I hung around any longer.  Now that I’ve been in this “goodbye” period, I really see how this is the case!

Second, on an organizational level, the longer I stick around, the more awkward and difficult it is for others to move forward and step into leadership.  The sooner I leave, the earlier people can step into all that they’re called to do and lead.

I originally thought May would be a good time to leave and hand things over, but logistically, Tina and I had already planned a trip the first week of May to Asia, and so we thought it would be weird to go on vacation, come back, and still be saying “goodbye”.

We wanted to go through this season of Lent at NLF though, a very appropriate time for grieving.  Easter could have been our last Sunday, but as silly as this sounds to me (because this departure can in no way “take away” from the unsurpassing power and joy of resurrection), we did not want to be a distraction on Easter.

4.  Are you starting a church somewhere?

No, not yet.  Although we’ve given church planting some serious thought and it sounds really exciting (and part of our future someday by supporting at the very least), it would take some time before it was actually launched.

You will certainly hear about it if we decided to start a church.      

5.  What’s happening at New Life to fill the void?

The leadership team (elders and staff) are going through their next steps right now.  I’ve given recommendations, but now that I’m leaving, I haven’t been a part of some of these larger decisions.  It’s been difficult for me to dis-engage, but I know it’s best for the organization.

You can trust that many committed and godly people will continue to serve New Life Fellowship.  If you’d like to find out what’s happening next, I believe Rich, Jackie, or Pete would be the best ones to contact.

6.  Did the leadership team have anything to do with your departure?

No and yes.

No, in that this was our decision alone.  Everyone else wanted us to stay.

Yes in that leadership was part of the discernment process… I had been talking it through with key folks since September, and these discussions helped me process what God was doing in us.

7.  You seemed so excited about the future of New Life.  What happened?

I’m still excited about many of the good things happening at New Life.  It’s actually quite painful to grieve that I won’t be part of it this next season.

In some respects, I’m proud that I was able to really pour myself out the last year while we were pondering this decision.  We care so much about the church, and I’m glad that that shone through to others.

Again, this is a big faith step for us, and we’re trying to listen to God’s call as closely as possible.

8.  Can we still keep in touch?

Yes!  You can hit me up on facebook ( or twitter (  I will be taking a break from social media for the summer (May-July), but you can still add/follow me there and on this blog.

Some have asked if I even have an email address not associated with New Life, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure yet which one I’m going to use.

When it comes to pastoral stuff like weddings, funerals, counseling sessions, visitations, and the like, I’m taking an indefinite break from those types of things.  I’m not sure how long the break will be (because those are elements of being a pastor that give me life), but yeah, for now you can contact New Life for those things.

9.  Will you be preaching anywhere?

I’ve gotten this question from a few folks, and the short answer is that I will be preaching and speaking at different venues, but not at a regular place for now.

I’ve turned down a lot of engagements over the years because of Sunday commitments, but I’m much more open to accepting some of those requests now (I’ve already accepted one engagement in DC in August and then another in the Ithaca area in September).

Tina and I are coming up with some expectations and boundaries when it comes to speaking at different places, so it will likely be in moderation.  And, as usual, we’re partial to anything in the NYC area (or Hawaii – lol).

We are looking forward to visiting other churches around NYC, though.

10.  How’s Tina doing?

At the risk of speaking for my wife, she’s doing quite well, considering I’ll be jobless and we’ve had lengthy discussions about kids in the near future.

She’s excited about this new season for us, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the strength, courage, and faith that Tina has modeled and demonstrated to me over these past few months.

She is as lovely as ever, and that’s a hard thing to say considering she’s been as lovely as lovely can be the past three years that we’ve been married.

Highlights from February

It’s been a fast and fulfilling month.  I have much to be grateful for as you can see in the following list.

Some friends who joined us in watching the Packers beat the Steelers. So gratifying.

1. The Packers Winning the Super Bowl - If you were to ask me at the beginning of the season which team I’d root for to win the Super Bowl, I would have said the Packers.  I know, I know, I’m still working on the Jets being my team, but Aaron Rodgers and Jahvid Best (former Cal players) are easily my favorite players in the league.

I was so happy for Aaron Rodgers and Packer nation, including Carl and Chris Park.

2. Extraordinary Seminar with Ron Vogt on “Bearing the Cross: Being Real and in Relationship. Ron has influenced me greatly, and to hear some of his latest reflections felt like drinking from a deep well.

3. Seeing Peter, Jenny, and Eli on President’s Day Weekend.  I couldn’t be happier to see them.  Seriously.

4. Reading Tim Keller’s newest book, King’s Cross. The book is quite splendid – I simply pause, ponder, and soak in the beauty of Christ at the end of each chapter.

5.  Seeing Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Kenneth the Page (I don’t know his real name) filming an episode of 30 Rock in Long Island City. NYC is the coolest city in the world.

It was quite random to see them filming, so I just parked and Kimberly Jones and I kept inching closer and closer until one of the crewmen asked us to go to the other side of the street.

I’m pretty sure Tina Fey said “hi” to me with her unassuming glance.

6.  Retreat-ing with 43 others last weekend. Highlights included: Worship in Singing times (thanks Craig and Heriberto!), Shaming Shame rituals, Bearing One Another’s Shame, Taboo (Unlimited Passes, Stool, Menus or “Men use”), Raw and Honest Conversation, Hitch, Conversations about Awkward Christian Dating, Sweet Clementines, and quite simply, Connecting with some really wonderful people.

Good Times in Bloomingdale, NJ, minus a few friends who missed the picture.

Special shout out to Dr. Jay Feld, therapist extraordinaire, retreat speaker, and dear friend.  It’s hard to believe we’ve partnered together for this retreat  for six years straight.

Thanks for sharing, Jay.

10 Reasons You Should Come to NLF’s New Year’s Eve Bash

I’ve written before about our New Year’s Eve Parties here and here, and I’m obviously a big fan of getting together, eating delicious international fare, then working it all off with dance lessons, singing, playing games, listening to good music, singing some more, dancing some more.

Doing all of the above in the name of “cultivating a deep spirituality with God” is always a good thing.

Anyhow, I thought I’d add 10 more reasons (in no particular order) you should come out to our party tomorrow.

1)  Where else can you get to eat bulgogi, samosas, fetticini alfredo, jerk chicken, and spanish rice and beans in the same meal? And THEN, eat some pad thai to round out the meal…

Worship at New Year's Eve - easily my favorite part of the night.

2)  We have a stellar lineup of performers this year at our Coffeehouse – New Life’s very own Judea Costes, Henn Sie, Cate Song, and Abbey Hoffman. They’re worth the admission price alone!

3)  We can all do the Electric Slide and Cupid Shuffle again, led by the hip-shaking Mike Park and Rich Villodas. Does this ever get old?  Probably.  But probably not.

Where else can you experience the Cupid Shuffle led by Mike and Rich? It may not be synchronized, but it will be fun!

4)  Our Hip Hop Lessons will be given by talented and experienced instructor Susan Maysonet (one of NLF’s very own). She will also be leading our Family Dancing time as well!

The dreaded dancing circle actually works on New Year's Eve at New Life!

5)  The dreaded dancing circle, found in most wedding parties and impromptu dance parties, are actually a chance to showcase some of NLF’s extraordinary dancing talent.

6)  You’ll have a chance to join in the longest dancing train you’ll ever experience.

Seriously, will you ever be part of a longer dancing train anywhere else?

7)  The worship experience is incomparable. There’s something about ringing in the New Year with family and friends singing at the top of our lungs about the faithfulness of God that is unlike any other feeling in the world.

8)  You never know what interesting characters and costumes you’ll see now that it’s 80s night.

By popular demand, it's 80s night tomorrow night.

9)  We will likely have a time of silent reflection during our meditation time. Who says it’s loud and rowdy the whole time?

10)  It’s a chance to hang out with kids, youth, parents, grandparents, singles, couples in a fun, delicious, and warm atmosphere.

Fun times for the whole family!


Doesn’t this all sound so spiritual?

You can register at the door tomorrow night.  More information can be found here.

Feel free to invite family and friends!

Sidenote:  If you’re in Manhattan and would prefer another party, I’d highly recommend Restore’s New Year’s Eve Gala to support a fantastic cause.

One of the Privileges of Being a Pastor at New Life Fellowship

In the flurry of Christmas parties and potlucks, I was called in for jury duty last week.  Interestingly enough, the interruption to my schedule felt like a respite from all the usual December end-of-year activities.

In my prior experiences with jury duty, I’ve never been called in beyond the waiting room, so I was surprised and anxious when I got called into a courtroom with a number of other potential jurors.  In fact, I was in the first group sitting in the jury box, and it was certainly an honor to hear from the judge about our legal system and the role we would play as jurors.

If you’ve ever been on jury duty, you probably know that there’s a vetting process that each juror has to go through under the watchful eyes of the prosecutor and defense attorney (as well as all the other complementary participants in a courtroom).

Potential jurors are asked to answer a litany of questions, some of which are similar to the following:

What’s your occupation?

Are you related to or know anyone involved in law enforcement?

Have you ever been the victim of a crime?

Do you know anyone who has been accused of a crime?  What’s been your experience with people in law enforcement?

First off, it was so cool hearing about the disparate backgrounds and occupations of my fellow potential jurors.  NYC is definitely a melting pot.

Despite the ethnic differences of our jury group, it was customary to hear others answer “no” to a majority of the questions related to knowing people who have been in law enforcement or been accused of crimes, etc.  Usually, the answers were “yes” to one or the other – do you know more law enforcers or more criminals?

When it came time for me to answer questions about my job and various relationships I have with people, I shared that I was a pastor who had a broad range of relationships with people from different walks of life.

Unlike most of the other potential jurors, I was one of the few people who said “yes” to almost everything.  Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney narrowed their questions to me specifically after the general questions were asked.

The two sides asked me (not in exact terms):

- Can you tell us about your interaction with police officers?

- Can you tell us about people that you know in law enforcement?

- Can you tell us about the trials of accused people that you knew?

I didn’t realize how odd it was to have such varied relationships, but in the course of the questioning everyone discovered:

- As a pastor of a church community, I know cops, defense attorneys, prosecutors from the DA Office, and other legal and security professionals.

- As a pastor of a church community, I also know people who have been victims of racial profiling, accused of armed robbery, accused of selling drugs, etc.

Of the groups mentioned above, they’re all folks I’ve met through New Life Fellowship.

People prosecuting and representing the state, people defending and the people being defended – they’re all friends and families who attend New Life Fellowship.

At some level, this might seem like an awkward dynamic.  At another level, it’s also quite beautiful.  Messy, but beautiful.

I count it a privilege to being a pastor in this community, and although some tend to think that religious people see the world through black-and-white, right-and-wrong lens, being part of such a diverse community has shown me that there are more shades of gray when it comes to the problems we all face.

And at the end of the day, these problems remind us that we are linked not by our perfection or our rightness, but by our common weakness, a weakness that calls for a better way, a better truth, a better life.

In other words, we all come together – prosecutor and prosecuted – because we’re all longing for advent.

I think that message will preach.  I think that community will preach, too.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus Christ

I’m Teaching a Class on Women in Church Leadership

If you’re part of our New Life Fellowship community, you’ve probably heard that I’ll be teaching a class on what the Bible says about Women in Church Leadership.  It’s a topic I’m particularly passionate about, mostly because it’s so relevant for today (being that women comprise large numbers of the Christian population around the world), as well as biblically fascinating (the topic requires a rigorous and intense study of Scripture).

As I’m gearing up for the class this Wednesday night, I thought I’d write some preliminary reflections on the topic.

1)  I Love the Bible - I truly believe the Bible is one of the most liberating texts ever, considering the context it was written in as well as its implications for today.

One of the coolest things about studying Scripture is pondering the dance between orthodoxy (right-teaching) with orthopraxis (right-practice).  The topic of women and their roles in Scripture deals with this very dance, and ultimately, the Bible espouses the inherent worth and honor of women as much as (or more than) any other sacred text.

2) I’m Surprised how Disinterested Men are in the Topic – Granted, this is more of a personal observation not backed by verifiable data, but here’s what I’ve experienced.

- In seminary, I took a class on Women in Church Leadership as an elective, and the class examined papers and books from the two most prominent positions today in American Christianity – Complementarianism (equal in personhood, different roles) and Egalitarianism (equal in personhood, roles based on gifting).

I couldn’t find the exact information about this, but I’d estimate that our seminary was about 80% male.

Meanwhile, it goes without saying that at least half (if not more) of the Christian population around the world is female.

One would think that what the Bible says about women in church leadership is of paramount importance.

The seminary class was comprised of 15 people total.  Of the 15 people, only two were men (I was one of them).

That’s a pretty wide disparity considering the overall makeup of our student body.

- When I’ve taught the class at New Life Fellowship, the same phenomenon happens – women are the primary attenders, and I’d say it’s probably a 10:1 ratio of women to men that want to learn about the topic.

I have my thoughts as to why the lack of interest for men (it makes sense why women would be interested), but still, I’m surprised.

3) I’m Bothered by the Regular Assumption and Charge that Egalitarians Do Not Rely on Scripture – I can only speak about this because I was a staunch Complementarian until I took the class in seminary.  I was well versed in MacArthur, Piper, Grudem, and others who insisted on the Complementarian position.  I too had an assumption that Egalitarians were not serious students of Scripture.

As a male, it was easier for me to make this assumption and be entrenched in a position without further reading on the matter.  (This isn’t true for all complementarians, but I would like to challenge some complementarians on this)

However, I was surprised and convicted when I started to read thoughtful Biblical scholarship on the topic from theological heavyweights like Gordon Fee, NT Wright, Walter Kaiser, Stanley Grenz, Aida Spencer, and Catherine Kroeger.

Meanwhile, I started to see how my own cultural presuppositions colored my complementarian view of Scripture (I used to think egalitarians were the only ones with cultural presuppositions).

After taking the class and devouring tons of literature on both sides of the issue, I found myself really convinced of the Biblical warrant for Egalitarianism.

Nowadays, I’m taken aback by some of the rhetoric of egalitarianism being a dangerous doctrine, particularly by the New Calvinist movement.

If anything, the most dangerous doctrines and practices are ones that violate the dignity and capacity of women made in the image of God.  Both Egalitarians and Complementarians would agree about this, I’m sure.

With that said, I’m strongly convinced that the Egalitarian position is the most faithful to Scripture, and I’m super excited to share why in the class on Wednesday night.

Women and men are welcome.

Egalitarians and Complementarians and I-don’t-know-tarians are welcome, too.

The Bible is a beautiful text, and I’ll say again, it’s the most liberating sacred text I’ve come across.

Reasons to Celebrate

Here are some reasons for me to celebrate lately…

1)  Alpha Retreat – These retreats never get old.  This past season was a trying one for our leadership team (it seemed like we were all going through tough days every week), and yet God still met us in profound ways.  This is less than half of our group, but we’re the lucky ones who got to experience a beautiful day full of the most meaningful connections.

2.  Adventure Kids – Tina and I have been working with 1st-3rd graders at NLF for the past few months, and it’s been a really exhilirating time.  I’m so, so, so grateful for our volunteers who show up week after week to share some love with these kids.

32 kids raised their hands yesterday when an invitation was given to them to trust Jesus with their whole lives.  Awesome.

3.  Eli - Tina and I had a chance to take a weekend road trip to Virginia to visit Pete, Jen, and Eli.  It was a glorious time, and I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I saw Eli say, “Uncle, Auntie” with his sweet, sweet voice.  We foolishly didn’t take pictures, but I have enough pics to remind me how much I love this family.

4.  New Life Fellowship Baptisms – Baptisms are so cool because of what they symbolize – new beginnings, new ways, new life. The Christian story is captured in this brief act – uncertainty, death, resurrection, celebration.

It’s a sacrament of ultimate hope.

The fact that this moment can be celebrated with the closest of people is what makes the event all the more special.

Awesome again.

















































5.  Blake Griffin – I couldn’t resist adding this one, as trivial as it might be in light of the others.

But man, did anyone see Blake Griffin highlights against the New York Knicks?

I’ve watched about 10 Clipper games this season (my one “splurge” this year was to get NBA League pass so I could watch my beloved Clips and Jeremy Lin)., and although the team causes me such immense grief, the anticipation of one of Griffin’s extraordinary plays gives me reason to keep watching throughout.

Once Baron Davis comes back healthy, watch out!

Nasty Griffin Dunk on 7'1" Mosgov of the NY Knicks

Good Advice I’ve Received Lately

I find myself more grateful these days, probably because I’ve had a bit more time to reflect on my life, and also because I know that there are people who are persevering in much more arduous circumstances.

In the midst of my grief on behalf of others, I’m realizing that the things that worry me aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Older, wiser friends have given me good advice lately, and I thought I’d share some simple snippets of wisdom that have come my way in recent days.

1. Lesson 1 – “Lead like Jesus”

This bit of advice came this past week from Dave Jennings, the Director of the New Life Community Health Center and the Vice President of Nyack College.  Dave is a phenomenal leader, and in many respects, I’d be a lucky man if I could become a leader like him.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been reading a ton about leadership.  I’ve gone to conferences, scoured podcasts, books, blogs – anything I could get my hands on, really.  Being surrounded by so many great leaders at New Life Fellowship has helped too, and so I’ve been a bit of a maniac about some of the principles I’ve been learning.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fumbling about as a leader, making my fair share of mistakes, disappointing others, getting frustrated with myself in the process.

I had fallen into a bad habit of dissecting my every move and decision, testing the wisdom of my perspective against the latest thoughts on leadership by Pete Scazzero or Andy Stanley or John Maxwell.

Earlier this week, I sat down with Dave and chatted briefly about some of my reflections about leadership.

In the midst of my angst, Dave leaned back in his chair with hands on his head, smiled, and then said, “Drew, just lead like Jesus would, and you’ll be fine.”

I know, it sounds pretty simple, but his comment really struck me.  In some weird way, I had been searching to be more like Jack Welch or Bill Hybels, instead of reflecting more on the very simple question – what would Jesus do?

Anyhow, thanks for the advice, Dave.  I trust I’ll keep coming back to your words at various times throughout my life – “Just lead like Jesus, and you’ll be fine”.

2. Lesson 2 – “You are God’s Beloved”

This past week was an anomaly of sorts because I had a chance to meet with different mentors at various points throughout the week.

Leighton Ford happened to be in town for a conference, and he needed a ride to LaGuardia on Thursday morning and Pete asked if I was interested in giving him a ride (Leighton is Pete Scazzero’s primary mentor).  I pushed some engagements around and made time to pick him up in Manhattan and drive him to the airport.

One stalled big rig on the Queensboro bridge ruined our plans, so he ended up taking a cab instead.  I was bummed.

Leighton arrived at LGA really quickly though, so he called me up and asked if I’d be willing to meet him at the airport for 30 minutes or so for a chat.

I zoomed over there from Astoria, and ran to the terminal as fast as I could so we could sit down and talk.

And yes, getting 30 minutes with Leighton is worth all the trouble of big rigs, airport parking, and uncomfortable LGA terminals.

Leighton is now 79 years old, and there’s a certain air that he possesses that is quite healing.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’d highly recommend that you read his book The Attentive Life to see what I mean – it’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life.

Anyhow, I’ve been a huge beneficiary of Leighton’s mentoring from people whom Leighton has mentored – which is quite a long list of extraordinary leaders, including Pete.

Leighton’s network has galvanized so many movements around the world, and so I finished our conversation with one question – “Leighton, if you were to give a piece of advice to a 31 year-old leader like myself, what would you tell me (and others in my season of life) knowing what you know and have experienced around the world?”

I suspected Leighton to give one of the following responses:

- Drew, be disciplined in your pursuit of God.

- Drew, make sure you value your marriage above any other commitment.

- Drew, keep the dreams alive.

Instead, Leighton pierced me with these simple words, “Drew, I would want you to know that you are God’s beloved.”


Leighton continued, “There’s a lot I don’t know and understand about today’s world and all the different innovative things happening, but the message I want young people like you to know more than anything is that you are God’s beloved.”


Leighton gave me a hug.

I drove home and I cried.

It’s really going to be okay.  Life is going to be all right.

I am God’s beloved.

Sometimes the wisest words are the simplest words, too.

Movement Day 2010

Today some of our team from New Life Fellowship attended Movement Day, a one-day conference to catalyze gospel movements in urban settings.  Today was the first time this event was held, and the main speakers were Tim Keller, Ray Bakke, Brenda Salter-McNeil, and Bill Hybels.

You can follow some of the live blog via twitter here.

Here are some of my thoughts after this inaugural event:

1.  It was really great to gather with other ministry leaders in NYC - This was probably the coolest part of the day for me – connecting with other folks from different ministries in the city.  Shout out to Charles Galbreath, the Epic folks, the folks in the youth track, and Christ Tab.  I’m a big fan of these people.

2.  I loved all the speakers in the main session, and probably could have heard more from them – Tim Keller was usual Keller with aplomb and insight, giving us a case for how gospel movements (forged through partnerships) are what’s needed in the city.  I can listen to the guy all day and never want to leave the city after hearing him talk about the gospel and NYC.

Ray Bakke was amazing, and gave some really interesting insights about worldwide trends when it comes to cities.  I want to meet the guy and ask him a million questions.  He had the line of the day – “Christians began to flee the riots of Chicago and Los Angeles and they all met in Colorado Springs.”  I was dying.

Brenda was stellar.  She talked about events that can be seen as either catastrophic or catalytic, and she urged us, particularly when it comes to the changing, diverse world, to be a reconciled community that witnesses to the world.  I hope Brenda can come to New Life again someday.

Bill Hybels capped off the time with an incredible devotional talk rooted in an exhortation to pray, pray, and pray some more.  I was floored, and I’ve been thinking about what he shared all day.

All in all, really relevant, thoughtful, and compelling talks.

3.  After the morning, I was exhausted – I had so much to think about, and the idea of going into another four hour meeting was really daunting.  I was originally signed up for Life-Giving Leadership, but I ended up switching after taking a long break after lunch.

4.  The Mentoring Millenials Track was really challenging/inspiring – The track went right along with the heart of our church, wanting to impact young people, especially those who are clearly disadvantaged when it comes to resources and education.

Jeremy Del Rio and others did a fantastic job of mixing up teaching, panel discussions, and interactive elements to tackle some of the larger challenges we face in serving the youth of our city.

This conference was unique in that almost our entire staff was there, and being able to brainstorm with other new yorkers in a tight, typical nyc basement, felt right.

5. I love our team from NLF - We just have wonderful people from diverse backgrounds.  We certainly have our share of conflicts and struggles, but man, straight up great people.

*Btw, I finally met the person who said our leadership was hipster.  He approached me and confessed that he was the one that said that about our staff!

He told me that he meant we were “hipster” in that we are relevant to young people.  And, of course, he thought Peter Rohdin was hipster.  Funny.

6.  I’m looking forward to more - There were so many “wins” from today.  Just to have a chance to meet with others in NYC felt worthwhile, even amidst all that’s happening right now.  And the morning talks blew me away, as well as the brief learning time I had in the afternoon (I wasn’t there for the whole afternoon track).

Thanks to Mac and the team for making it happen.  I’m looking forward to next year!

What My Sabbath Looks Like

So I’ve been thinking about Sabbath-keeping again, and how it’s kept me sane and energized for so many years now.  Rich’s sermon yesterday on Slow is Beautiful was a reminder of how important rhythms are to the spiritual journey.

When we recommend Sabbath for people, we don’t give a list of behavioral “do’s” and “don’ts”, but we do give a list of principles (stop, delight, rest, and contemplate), and filters for each person to decide what they will – and will not- do (e.g. do things that bring you joy, don’t do things that feel like work).  It’s certainly a work in progress, but man, once I found my formula for an energizing Sabbath, it’s been incredibly refreshing.

First here’s a filter of questions that help keep me centered on Sabbath.

1. Am I more mindful of God?

2. Does this feel restful and unhurried?

3. Is this something I enjoy doing that’s unrelated to my job?

4. Is this relationship replenishing for me right now?

5. Is the place I’m going to replenishing and energizing?

Second, here’s a list of things that I do and don’t do on my Sabbath.

*(My Sabbath is Sunday PM-Monday PM)


- I read more Scripture and I pray more than I normally would.  My times with God in the morning are twice as long as during the week.

I try to make squeezing and kissing my nephew Eli a regular part of my Sabbath.


- I spend most of my time with my wife, which I enjoy.  We spend a significant amount of time together, but we certainly have to navigate what kinds of activities we can both do together that’s Sabbath-like (e.g. she likes going to IKEA when it’s less busy on a Monday, but I feel like I’m bleeding a slow death whenever I walk into a store – crowded or not).

- I try to see my nephew Eli (and squeeze and kiss him repeatedly), as well as my brother and sister-in-law.


- I try to be home a few hours before Sabbath winds down Monday night.  This way I’m not hurried when the activity starts again.

- I watch football.  College football highlights, NFL highlights, Monday night football, Sunday night football, any kind of football.  Obviously, this practice changes from January-August.

- I go for a walk.

- I write posts on this blog.

- I play sports when I get an opportunity to do so (not sports like ultimate frisbee, because quite frankly, I would die – literally and figuratively).

- I read books (I stay away from heady books or anything I would have read in seminary) and magazines (NY Mag is the most regular) that I like.

- I watch movies or shows on Netflix.  Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of The Office.  I can’t believe I didn’t discover the show sooner.

- I go out to watch a movie at a theater.  This is more of a once in awhile thing, but it’s nice to watch a movie on a Monday in an uncrowded theater.

- I take long, uninterrupted naps.

- I don’t take the train (or drive) long distances or during rush hours.

- I don’t do anything that’s related to work or feels like work (including chores or errands).  Sometimes circumstances dictate us to break this principle (e.g. emergencies, kids, the only day the dmv is open, etc), but it’s okay, because Sabbath is a gift, not a yoke!


- I eat something good.  Tina and I usually eat out at one place on Sabbath.  It’s our opportunity to try a new restaurant or to eat at a favorite place in the city.

- Parks are winners for me, especially in the city.  But what’s interesting is that I kinda don’t like going outside the city where it’s ALL green (like hikes, etc).  Weird.

- I avoid anywhere I can buy something other than food.

The above list is my filter for a Sabbath in which I stop, delight, rest, and contemplate.

Which prayers, people, practices, and places are ideal Sabbaths for you?

Churches in NYC

UPDATED: Saturday, November 26th, 2011

I often get asked about churches in the NYC area, and I thought it’d be helpful to compile a list of churches that I’d recommend.

Now, keep in mind that I have not visited all of these churches – I simply know people who are in leadership (or attend), OR I’ve worked with them in the past in some capacity.

Each local church is different in its own way, which I think is really cool.

If you’d like specific details about a church, please feel free to email me (e.g. worship styles, etc).

This is not an exhaustive list by ANY means, so if you know of any other churches you’d recommend, please feel free to comment!

**Also, this list is primarily for people who are moving to NYC (or moving within NYC) and looking for a church community.  If you’re committed somewhere, I’d encourage you to remain committed there, and if you have inclinations to leave, please begin processing with someone in leadership at the church.

Borough – Queens

1. Hope Church NYC – (Astoria, NY)A new church plant that we’re starting in 2012.  We’d love for you to take part!  Lord-willing, we’ll be an honest, diverse community that’s experiencing and inspiring hope everywhere.

2.  New Life Fellowship (Elmhurst, NY) – An incredible church that I’d highly recommend.  I worked here for ten years!

3.  Christ Tabernacle (Glendale, NY) – I’ve really had a chance to get to know some of their leaders in the past year – notably Ariel Nieves, Pastor Adam Durso, and their Senior Pastor, Michael Durso.  This group has been extremely hospitable, kind, and God-centered.  I look forward to more partnerships with CT.

4.  The Greater Allen AME Cathedral of NY (Jamaica, NY) – Allen is a historic church that’s done immense work to impact an entire community.  The  Honorable Reverend Floyd Flake is the Pastor, and his wife, Reverend Elaine Flake, is the Co-Pastor.  I’m hoping to connect with some of the leaders there more often.

5.  Queenswest Church (LIC, NY) – I know their lead pastor, James Kim, from seminary, and we’ve had a few good conversations.  He’s one of the warmest pastors I know.

6.  Bethel Gospel Tabernacle (Jamaica, NY) – I had an opportunity to have a fortuitous breakfast with Pastor Roderick Caesar (and a few others) one morning.  I was so blessed by his thoughtfulness, humility, and commitment to God’s work in the city and around the world.

7.  Living Faith Community Church (LFCC) (Flushing, NY) – A close pastor friend, Peter Ong, is a pastor at LFCC.  Peter’s a tremendous guy, and I’ve met some folks from LFCC throughout the years.  Pastor Stephen Ro is the senior pastor, and we’ve had brief, but positive interactions.

Borough – Brooklyn

1.  Clarendon Road Church (Southeast of Prospect Park) – I’ve never visited the church, but their senior leader, Pastor Charles Galbreath, is a stellar leader and speaker.  He recently started at Clarendon!

2.  Resurrection Church of NY (Brooklyn, NY) – One of my good pastor friends, Kristian Hernandez, is a leader on staff with a ton of responsibilities at the church.  I’m a big fan of Kristian’s, and so automatically, I’m a fan of their church.  Pastor Joseph Mattera is the senior leader.

3.  Christian Cultural Center (Canarsie, NY) – We had Rev. AR Bernard come speak to NLF’s leadership a few years ago, and it was so great to learn from his wisdom and experiences.  CCC, and Rev. Bernard, have also had an enormous impact on their community and the city.

The Bronx

1.  Promised Land Covenant Church – I recently met with Michael Carrion, the lead pastor at PLCC, and this is a thriving, growing church in the South Bronx that is serving the community in so many powerful ways.  I love the church’s diversity and service to the poor and marginalized.


1.  Redeemer Presbyterian Church – Redeemer has sites all throughout Manhattan, and their church-planting network is quite extensive (I’d recommend any of their church plants simply because I know they’re affiliated with Redeemer).  Tim Keller is the senior leader, and I’ve been greatly influenced by him and his preaching.  Tim also came to NLF a few years ago to speak to our leaders, and he gave a memorable talk and q & a session.  Of their pastoral staff, I know Abe Cho and Mike Keller, both exceptional people.  Redeemer just named four new lead pastors, so it’s cool to hear that they’re planning ahead.

2.  Times Square Church (Times Square, NY) – Tina used to attend Times Square, and she loved it there, particularly the Tuesday and Sunday prayer and worship experiences.  The senior pastor is Carter Conlon, and the founding pastor is David Wilkerson.

3.  OCM (Overseas Chinese Mission) (Chinatown Manhattan) – I’ve spoken there a few times, and they have a really sweet congregation.  I went to seminary with one of their pastors, Austin Woo (great guy), and I recently met Pastor Grace May, whom I’ve heard wonderful things about.

4.  Morningstar New York - I’ve known people who have attended MSNY throughout the years, and they’ve been really cool people.  I’ve exchanged phone messages with one of their pastors, Adam Burt, a couple of times, and we were once thinking about doing a singles gathering together.  Maybe that’ll still happen someday!  Ron Lewis is their Senior Pastor.

5. Grace Faith Church (Chinatown Manhattan) – I’ve spoken to their Young Adult group before.  It was a lot of fun, and they have great, warm people.

6.  Remnant Westside Church (Upper Westside, NY) – I’ve never met anyone on their staff, nor have I gone to any of their services, but I’ve met people who attend, and they are a terrific bunch who are passionate about their faith and community.  Pastor Bruce Yi is their senior leader, and they are a church plant of another Remnant church in midtown, which is where a good friend was once a pastor.

7.  The River NYC (Downtown Manhattan) – Another best bud goes to this church, and the people I know there are really tremendous people.  One of Tina’s best friends, Chris, used to go there with her husband who was in leadership there before they moved to Chicago.  They are a vineyard church, and their senior pastor is Charles Park.

8.  Trinity Grace Church – I’ve never attended TGC, but I’ve exchanged a few emails with Jon Tyson, their lead pastor.  Jon is the real deal, and I love his passion for the city, building community, and encouraging other movements.  They have locations all around.

9.  Metro Hope Church – Led by Jose and Mayra Humphreys, I have not had a chance to visit just yet, but I recently met with Jose and I love his passionate, creative heart for God and others.  I’m excited to visit this diverse, artistic community sometime.

10.  New York Chinese Alliance Church – One of my seminary friends, Aaron Chan, is the English pastor there, and he’s someone whose Biblical insight and wisdom I greatly admire.  Plus, he’s a really great guy whose life and character I respect.

11.  Hillsong NYC – Hillsong NYC is relatively new (their official launch was in Jan or Feb of 2011), but they have some incredible momentum going.  Tina and I visited them for their Good Friday service, and we were really blessed to see so many people attending and connecting with this young congregation.  The atmosphere is great, and the people there really seem to love Jesus passionately.

Long Island

1.  Shelter Rock Church (Manhasset and Syosset) – I know one of their campus pastors, Josh Moody, and he’s a quality leader and pastor whom I appreciate and admire very much.  I’d highly recommend this church.

New Jersey

1.  Metro Community Church (Englewood, NJ) – I recently met their senior leader, Peter Ahn, and he’s one of those guys I would love to hang out with more.  He was introduced to us by Brenda Slater-McNeil, and he really impressed the folks on our staff who met him.  They seem like a really cool church.

2.  Renaissance Church (Summit, NJ) – I’ve connected with the folks at Renaissance a couple of times, and I’ve been blown away by their hospitality, heart for their community, and innovative/artistic bent.  Steve Young, their Worship and Creative Arts guy, has been a wonderful guy to get to know, and I’d love to visit their church myself on a Sunday!

3.  Bethany Well (Fort Lee, NJ) – Richard Lee is the lead guy at Bethany, and he’s a terrific leader/speaker/pastor.  I have a great deal of respect for Rich, and I also appreciate his passion for the Mets.  I spoke at Bethany a few years ago and it was a fun time!