Tag Archives: Hope Church NYC

Some Pastors/Leaders You Should Get to Know

There are tons of great pastors/leaders that you should know, and I really appreciated this blog by Donald Miller about why pastors are important.

I wanted to introduce you to three relatively new Pastors/Leaders at Hope (they’ve been around since the summer), three of whom have made a significant impact in our community already.

Many of you have already met these folks, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce them on my blog.

1. Kristian Hernandez – Kristian is a good friend whom I’ve known since 2006, and he’s one of the warmest, funniest, preach-like-nobody’s-business pastors I know.  We were so blessed to have the great folks at Resurrection Churchbless Kristian and his family to join our church plant, and he’s done an amazing job preaching, pastoring, and leading in our community.

Find out more about Kristian here:

2.  Dan & Amanda Sadlier – Simply put, the Sadliers are awesome.  I love this family.

Dan is leading Hope Roosevelt Island, a new church on Roosevelt Island that I’m absolutely giddy about, and he’s added so much in terms of leadership, strategic missional thinking, wisdom, and fabulous teaching/preaching.

Amanda is leading our Hope Tots/Kids Environments, and she’s done a phenomenal job with them.  Amanda is a catalytic leader who Joseph Longarino described by saying, “she could be president.”  She’s really a stellar leader as well.

On top of it all, the Sadliers have five great kids.  Meet them all below.

New York City is blessed to have pastors/leaders like these folks!

Personal Reflections After One Year @ Hope

If you haven’t heard by now, Hope turned One a few weeks ago (September 22), and it’s been a milestone for us as a church.

I’ve shared some personal reflections (and lessons) I’ve learned as a church planter before here, here, & here, but I thought I’d add to the list now that we’ve made it through one year.

1.  “Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand.” – John Ortberg

I’ve been in vocational ministry for just about 12 years now, and never before has my leadership (particularly its flaws) been under as intense a microscope as it has been during church planting.

Seriously, the folks at Hope have been super gracious, and I know I’ve disappointed a lot of people (some more than others, unfortunately) – hopefully it continues to be at a rate that people can stand.

2.  “In Ministry You’re Going to Disappoint Someone, Try Not to Make it Your Family” - Lynn Hybels

Ah yes, ministry is full of disappointing people, and it’s hardest when the ones we disappoint are our spouses and kids.

I’ve been very mindful of this during this season, and I’ve tried my best not to disappoint Tina and David too much.

We regularly practice Sabbath, and we take frequent trips outside the city as well.*  This has really helped us maintain a sane pace in this church planting endeavor.

Obviously, I fail more than I’d like to admit, but it’s good to keep this statement as a compass for us moving forward in church planting and vocational ministry in general.

Feel free to ask Tina how it’s going, and if you ask David, he’ll probably tell you that he wants to watch Nemo.

While you’re at it, register for this conference to help lead from a healthy marriage and inner life.

*The caveat here is that regular Sabbaths and vacations have only been possible because 1) We have an awesome team.  Seriously, these folks can easily lead and shepherd without me, and it’s been unbelievable working with a dream team.  2) We have the been blessed with resources to go away.  I’m not going to pretend that resources don’t matter when it comes to vacations/development/pulpit-supply for pastors, and I’m a big advocate for pastors being funded. 

We can talk more about this but I realize there are many out there who have neither a team nor resources yet, and that’s where networks and denominations like ours can be so helpful.  

3.  I’m More Mindful of the Question “Should We Do This?” rather than “Can We Do This?” 

I think for any entrepreneurial endeavor, it’s easy to dream about endless possibilities without taking into account reality.

In the entrepreneurial endeavor of church planting, I think it’s easy to dream about endless possibilities without the very fuel that runs it all – the Spirit.

This is where prayer is so important… specifically, the following prayer:

“Your Will Be Done, Your Kingdom Come.”

4.  In Any Missional Church, a Balance of Risk and Safety is Needed. 

If there’s too much risk, then people get burned out, community and quality suffers, etc.

If there’s too much safety then there’s little movement and vitality, and an insulated culture is created.

I believe Jesus modeled this for us, too, but that’s worth another blog post.

Hopefully we continually find ourselves between these two extremes.

5.  As Somewhat of a Careful Planner, I’m Consistently Surprised By How Things Turn Out Differently Than I Envisioned, and Yet Sorta Similar.

This definitely reminds me Who’s in Control.   

5.  I Was Made For This.

I can’t believe I get to do this.  It’s such an honor to exercise faith in this way!

I recall all my fears about church planting, and I realize I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

As a result, I am so unbelievably thankful to everyone who’s supported us on this journey.  It’s been such a thrilling ride, and despite going through some of the hardest times of my life, it’s been so reassuring seeing how God has orchestrated it all.

Reflections from Seoul – October 2013

Tina, David, and I got back late last night from Seoul, and despite our ruthless bout with jetlag, it’s good to be home.

The past few years, whenever I’ve gone to Seoul, my trips there have afforded me an opportunity for extended reflection, an oddity considering the pace and scope of a city life Seoul.

This time was no different, and I thought I’d share some reflections from my time.

1.  My Parents’ Generation Knows Suffering and Sacrifice In a Way I Will Likely Never Know – It’s amazing seeing photos from my parents’ childhood.  South Korea was a war-torn country, and the stories they tell of the scarcity of food and resources is astounding.

Seoul is an amazing modern, advanced city today.

Seoul is an amazing modern, advanced city today.

And yet, if you were to go to Seoul, you would see/know so little of that kind of life.  Seoul is one of the most modernized, bustling, technologically booming cities in the world.

This might be generalizing things way too much, but the city and people (including immigrants who have come to the States) have profited from a generation of people like my dad and mom who have worked tirelessly for the well-being of the next generation.

Bringing David with us was a special treat (and considerably cheaper because he’s not yet 2 years-old), and I thought a lot about the kinds of sacrifices I want to make for him.

I teared up thinking about all the fears and difficulties my parents had to face as they uprooted themselves from their native land, learned a new language and culture, faced endless battles with racism and not-spicy enough food…

In all seriousness, I hope I can be as brave and sacrificial for my family the way my parents have been for me.

2.  I Want to Go Back to Blogging More – Starting a church and having a newborn was a bit difficult to manage time-wise, but I think I’m ready to dive back into blogging since it’s something I really enjoy.  Please pray for me as I made this decision coincide with the start of the NBA season.

(I know, it’s funny to write about sacrifice then write about how I want more time to myself!)

If it wasn't for Tina, I wouldn't take David to go meet Tigers like this one.

If it wasn’t for Tina, I wouldn’t take David to go meet Tigers like this one.

3.  Tina has Increased My Life Experiences by 1000% – Trust me, I would not travel this much if it were not for her, and I would not climb up Namsan Tower (Seoul Tower) or go to Aquariums or Zoos if it wasn’t for her.  She’s expanded my life in so many ways!

4.  Speaking of Tina, I Married a True Gem – I try not to write about Tina as much, because she really prefers to be anonymous and unknown in many ways.  But seeing her spend time with her grandmother, aunt, and other family members was truly a treat.  It’s amazing how much love Tina has for extended family, and how she creates an environment of warmth with those she loves.

5.  I LOVE Hanging Out with David, Especially at His Age – David’s almost 21 months now, and he’s so flippin’ cute.  He’s talking a bit now, and it’s so much fun communicating with him.  My favorite line from him is hearing him say, “Are you okay, Abba?” when he knows I’m flustered.

800px-HotteokfillingWith Tina running errands around the city and me being phoneless, David and I spent a lot of time together strolling the streets of Seoul, neither of us able to communicate clearly with the locals there.

Thankfully, we both learned how to say “hodduk” with amazing accuracy.

6.  I Feel So Incredibly Thankful to Be Part of Hope Church NYC – The last time I was in Seoul, the seeds of Hope were planted, and it’s amazing how far God has brought us since then.  While I was away for 10 days, the church flourished without me, which is an absolute dream.

It helps to work with awesome leaders like Kristian Hernandez, Craig Okpala, Dan Sadlier, and Amanda Chapman, each who led in different ways over the past few days.

Oh, and just so you know, Dan Sadlier & Amanda Sadlier are starting a new church on Roosevelt Island that launches soon, and yep, it’s gonna be awesome.

7.  This Might Be Bold, But Seoul is My Favorite Food City – I love, love, love the food in Seoul.  It has the best Korean food overall (although Korean BBQ in LA is probably better), and all the stuff I like from other countries – pizza, burgers, fried stuff, street food – are actually really good in Seoul.  Somehow all of those things, especially the bread in Seoul, really fits my palate, and I came to the startling revelation that I like eating in Seoul more than I like eating in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, or Berkeley.

The one thing I missed is Mexican food, but we actually tried this fusion Korean-Mexican place that was delicious.

Oh, and Ippudo opened in Seoul for half the price and no wait whatsoever.

Oh, and did I mention Hodduk?

Final thoughts/highlights from Midwinter 2013

Midwinter 2013 ended today.  It was a great time.  You can see my reflections from earlier in the week here.

As I share these final thoughts, I need to make it clear that I’ve probably had a different experience than many others because I was in a class all week learning about the Evangelical Covenant Church.

From what I’ve heard, the conference itself was quite encouraging.

Anyhow, here are some final thoughts/highlights from my time:

1) Meeting some “Living Legends” of the ECC was a Real Highlight – On Wednesday night, our class had a chance to visit a retirement community from the Evangelical Covenant Church, and we had the opportunity to hear from men and women in their 70s-90s who had served in vocational ministry in various places around the world ranging from San Diego to Ecuador.  Collectively, there was over 500 years of vocational ministry experience amongst this distinguished yet anonymous group (btw, they didn’t call themselves Living Legends – we did).

Some were church planters, some missionaries, a professor, and also the wife of an ECC missionary who was martyred in the Congo.

It was an EXTRAORDINARY time.

Some notable quotes:

“Anybody can count the seeds in an apple, but nobody can count the apples in a seed”

“You know you have worked on a sermon when the sermon has worked on you.”

“God is no respecter of denominations when we stand before him.”

I could have sat at their feet all day long to hear their stories and glean their wisdom.

2)  The Culture of the Evangelical Covenant Church is One that Really Attracts Me – The culture of the denomination is hard to describe, but after a week of hanging with Covenant folks, I think I have a clearer sense of why people say that “Covenant is caught, not taught.”

One can read all about the Covenant and learn of its immigrant history and humble beginnings, its emphasis on being mission friends rather than parsing theological minutiae, and its heart for the whole gospel for the whole world.

But here are some things in the culture of the denomination that I “caught” at Midwinter.

- Humility – It’s always hard to say something self-complimentary about humility, but yeah, the Covenant, especially its leaders, are really humble people.

In our class, we had some big-wigs come to our class, people I have no business hanging with, and they each came and presented with such humility, grace, and hospitality.

These people were kind, gentle, self-deprecating – it was awesome.  Each session we as a class had a chance to come around these folks and pray for them.

And here’s when I “caught” it.

In our classroom of about 40-ish students, It seemed like we had the most AV problems I’ve encountered since 1995 (this is a joke but you get my drift).

But all the presenters, including the president, just flowed with it and didn’t get frustrated or perturbed in the slightest bit.  He even laughed it off!

At one point, one of our regional superintendents went up to the powerpoint and started manually hitting the space bar to help out one of the other instructors as he was teaching.

No complaining, no “I’m better than this”, no “what’s the problem”.

It was awesome.

I couldn’t have “caught” this culture of mutual service and humility without being there.

- Ministry to the Under-resourced - At the beginning of our class, we all had a chance to go around the room and share about our ministry contexts around the country.

What really stood out to me was how many churches talked about their ministries to the under-resourced, despite the varying size of their city or church.

I was really struck by this, and I could see how mission really is a common thread in ECC churches/ministries.

- Race, Compassion, & Justice – I must admit, I was a bit shocked at how many white people there were at Midwinter.  But then I remembered it was founded by Swedish immigrants!

But, I could see how intentional the ECC is in empowering people of color and women on stage and in positions of influence.

In one of the main evening sessions of the conference (I was able to attend evening sessions), the topic – from sermon to songs to prayer – was on compassion and understanding toward immigrants.

Uh, how many denominations are devoting an entire plenary on that subject?

Very cool.

- Generous Orthodoxy - Throughout the week I heard people quote Desert Fathers, Greg Boyd, Soong-Chan Rah, Rob Bell, & John Piper.

I don’t think all these people will be dining together soon, but at the Covenant table, we’re all welcome as we discuss “Where’s it written?”

3)  I Really Love our East Coast Conference – I absolutely LOVE hanging with these cats.  I especially appreciate the leadership of Howard Burgoyne, Jason Condon, and Kreig Gammelgard, because they embody so much of the above.

Plus, they know how to throw a great dinner party.  Those tacos… wow!

4)  I Love What We’re Doing at Hope Church NYC, and I Love Working Alongside Craig Okpala – I’m so energized by what’s happening at Hope, and I’m so excited for its future.  It felt really meaningful to be so new to the denomination and yet to hold to much of what the Covenant is about.

And yeah, I’m just so, so excited about all that’s to come for us as we seek to extend hope in Astoria and beyond.

I also got to spend the week with Craig Okpala, and that’s been so much fun.  We shared, laughed, ate lots of Mexican Food, and even had all-you-can eat Korean BBQ in Los Angeles.  So much fun.

I’m so honored to be planting this church with Craig, and I’m thankful to be working with someone I greatly respect but also someone I’m privileged to call my friend.

I think what’s been most fulfilling about church planting in general has been being able to do life and mission with my friends, and that seems wholly appropriate for us as we’re part of a movement that started out with the title “Mission Friends”.

Mission Friends.

I like that.

I like that very much.

Hope Church NYC Launches This Sunday, September 23rd

It’s hard to believe that September 23rd is finally here.  After months of wrestling with God about what our next steps were, Tina and I came to the conclusion that God was calling us to stay in NYC and plant a church in Astoria, NY.

Less than one year later, Hope Church NYC officially launches.  I am so humbled and grateful as this church planting project is born.

Solideogloria.

As we head into this Sunday, I wanted to recognize some folks whom God has graciously allowed to have a hand in planting Hope.

1)  Tina and Our Son David – This has been an unbelievable season for our family, and one that has taken precedence over what’s happened at Hope.  David has been such a gift, and Tina has been the best mom and wife I could have ever asked for.

My wife and son have been a gift from God.

With all the stresses of a newborn and a new church, Tina has been a steady and faithful rock throughout the process, even putting up with my shenanigans with good-spirited aplomb.

And David has been a true champ.  I love these two!

2) Launch Team -  What makes a church is the people, and Hope is full of some incredible people.  I can’t thank these folks enough for their commitment, their volunteering, and most of all, their presence!

There have been some funny, “that’s church planting” moments for sure, but I’m so grateful for the willingness to go with the flow as we’ve had so many stops/starts & twists/turns.

This community has also shown me so much grace through my own mistakes – many of which have been painful but necessary to see.

Launch team and new regular attenders – thanks so much for being part of what’s happening at Hope!

PS Special shout-out to our other pastoral staffers – Craig Okpala and Joe Longarino.  Studs.

3) The Evangelical Covenant Church - It’s been such a joy to be part of a larger movement, and the Evangelical Covenant Church has been super supportive and encouraging throughout.  Jason Condon, the Director of Church Planting for the East Coast Conference of the ECC, has been so helpful and insightful in this process, and learning alongside other church planters in NYC, NJ, and New England has challenged and encouraged me in so many ways.

We’re so lucky to be part of this family of churches!

4) Family and Friends who have Supported Hope - So many friends and family have supported this church plant with their prayers and their financial support, and it’s been so humbling to hear stories of people fasting and praying on our behalf, while others have given sacrificially so that we could launch.

Seriously humbled by all these folks who are literally all around the world. Thank you so much for your friendship, mentorship, and generosity.

And a very special thanks to the Hyun and Park families.  Tina and I are so, so grateful for you and your support.

5) New Life Fellowship - I’m so grateful for all the friendships I’ve made at New Life over the years, and the incredible people I’ve learned so much from. Obviously Pete and Geri Scazzero have had a significant part in that journey, and I’m so, so grateful for all they have deposited in me over the years.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without New Life, and Hope wouldn’t be the kind of church that it is without New Life.

6) Other churches in NYC - There have been so many pastors who have voiced their support of what we’re doing, and to know we stand side-by-side with so many churches is an amazing feeling.

There’s something stirring in NYC…

The Tensions of Church Planting

Edit: We just had our first preview service this past Sunday!  I love our team!  Alas, I’ll save that for another post while I finish this one…

This post comes after reading this excellent piece, which I highly recommend.

This Sunday, Hope Church NYC hosts our first public worship gathering.

A lot of effort is going into this Sunday, and after a moment of pause this morning, I realize there are some tensions I’m carrying as we move into this stage of the planting process.  Here are some of them.

1)  Numbers don’t matter… right?  One of the biggest reasons I wanted to plant a church was so that we could be a people where relationships mattered more than the Sundays, and that these relationships would be where God met us most powerfully.

In many ways, this value of relationships goes against the grain of growing large numerically too quickly.

And yet, there’s this nagging thing in me that thinks God is MOST likely to show up if the room is packed.

But if the room is packed, many visitors will likely be overlooked and our volunteers might be over-extended.

Tension.

I think as Evangelicals, the phrase “God showed up!” can often be synonymous with “We had our largest attendance ever!”.

I think I’ve been around church world long enough to know that numbers don’t tell the whole story.  They tell a story, and quite honestly a very helpful one when the numbers increase at a healthy pace.  However, numbers aren’t the entire story.

But can God show up if the room is not packed?

Well, if the focus is on relationships, then the answer is yes.

Hence, the question that we’ve been wrestling with as a leadership team – how can our Sundays facilitate more authentic relationships?

2)  Six Days Versus Sunday – There’s a lot of planning going into Sunday.  There are many logistical concerns… and I’m also preaching a sermon!

It’s easy for most of my time to go into the few hours on Sunday.

But some questions I’m asking myself Monday-Saturday are:

- Are you investing in transforming relationships?

- Are you loving your family well?

- Are you being a witness of Christ’s death and resurrection to those you see and meet Monday-Saturday?

3) Staying True to Values Versus Following the Trends – I have a great advisory team at Hope that’s challenged me on this frequently.  There’s so much literature on church planting, and I’m even attending the Exponential Conference next week.

All this means I’m full of great ideas, usually taken from the latest thing I’m reading or the most recent speaker or coach I’ve listened to.

At some point, I have to remember that being a pastor is context-specific, and a great idea doesn’t mean it’s a great idea for Hope.

4) A Journey for God Versus a Journey To God – It’s so easy to get caught up in tasks in church planting.  There are people to call, things to organize, events to plan – all of which, in my mind, I’m doing for God.

I’ve found in vocational ministry that I fall into a bad place when my journey for God doesn’t necessarily lead me to God.

A common prayer that I’ve said lately, influenced by the words of my mentor Ken Shigematsu, is “Lord, may my journey for you be a journey to you.”

May that be the prayer of us all -

“Lord, may my journey for you be a journey to you.” 

I believe this is an apt prayer for us all.

Amen and amen.

Advice I Tell Myself as a Church Planter

Today I was asked by some seminary students what advice I’d give to church planters.

After thinking about that question some more, I’ve listed five adages below that help keep me centered through the task of planting Hope Church NYC.

I imagine some people can relate to these, whether you’re a church planter or not.

*Each adage has a Bible verse italicized which I think captures the essence of each saying, I think. 

1.  Pray.  Now. (Psalm 27)

The two words go together for me.  I have to remember that above all else, God is the author and perfecter of my faith.  Prayer is the most obvious byproduct of remembering this truth.

As a church planter, it’s convenient for me to forget about God because there’s so much to do and there’s an insufferable feeling that it’s all on my shoulders.

Well, it’s not.  God’s ultimately in control.

The word “Now” is added because prayer is often the easiest thing to push to the back of my to-do list.

Perhaps there are some more urgent things to do as a church planter – but nothing more important.

Hence I need to pray.  Now.  Not Later.

2.  One Day at a Time (Matthew 6:34)

I alluded to this in a previous post, but this saying is extremely helpful for me.

I so want Hope to instantaneously be what I envision.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

Tina laughs at me when I ask her when she thinks we should add another service.

We’ve barely started laying the groundwork for the first, she reminds me.

How was the Great Wall Built?  One brick at a time.

3.  “Go, Sit in Your Cell, and Your Cell will Teach You Everything- A Saying by A Desert Father (Phil 4:11-13)

I’ve read/heard this phrase a few times over the years, and it comes from the Desert Fathers.

The saying could mean a lot of things, including the need for silence, solitude, and “think” space.

The way I take the phrase is to focus on what God’s given me to do, instead of peering out over the horizon at what everyone else is doing.

I’ve noticed that when I fall into the comparison trap, I lose sight of what God’s called me and our church to do.

I can get so concerned with other church plants or the latest trends in church world that I lose sight of our church and our community.

There are so many God moments that I might miss out on because I’m so enamored with what’s happening over there.

Meanwhile, all that’s happening right in front of me is quite sacred and beautiful.

4.  “What is This Life if, Full of Care, We Have No Time to Stand and Stare” – WH Davies (Exodus 20:8)

With all the stresses and tasks of church planting, it’s easy to feel miserable.  That is, if I don’t take the time to “stand and stare”.

For me, this means Sabbath-keeping and other disciplines that give me space to experience joy and pleasure.

This saying has been especially helpful since we have a newborn.  Although we look forward to getting out of these first twelve weeks with David (our son), Tina and I have been consciously enjoying this stage of our son’s life.

He’s such an adorable little guy, and it’d be so easy for me to miss out on precious moments with our son because I’m so caught up in the tasks I need to complete.

Sometimes as church planters we can sacrifice the wrong things for the sake of mission, as if it’s an honor to be a miserable church planter.

I’d much rather be a joyful church planter (who gets miserable sometimes).

5. Love God, Love People (Matthew 22:36-40) – ‘Nuff said.

Is there any advice you’ve found helpful as a church planter or entrepreneur?

Having a Newborn & Planting a Church

These past few months have been such exhilarating times for Tina and me.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

Two of the biggest things happening to us are 1) We had our first child, David Jinhwan Hyun, and 2) We’re planting Hope Church NYC in Astoria, NY.

I thought I’d share some reflections on how both having a baby and planting a church are similar.

Our little boy is a joy. It's been helpful for us to approach things one day at a time.

1)  My constant mantra is, “one day at a time” - On the surface, having a baby is an overwhelming task.  So is planting a church.

I find that some of my worst moments come when I worry too far down the line, like trying to figure out where David’s going to go to high school, or what Hope‘s going to look like 25 years from now.

But both having a baby and planting a church are much more manageable when I remember that I can only be faithful to today, while still planning for the future.

As a result of reminding myself to take things “one day at a time”, life has become considerably more joyful.

I tend to err toward impatience too, and that’s not a good thing with newborns or church plants.  There are so many times that I want our newborn to stop crying right now, or to have volunteer systems in place within our church plant by 3 pm today (and that’s for ministries that don’t even exist yet).

But the reality is, quieting a newborn and starting a church takes time.

Life takes time.

It’s much more manageable one day at a time.

Sidenote: This is not to say that vision casting and planning for the future is not helpful.  Scripture talks about both – having an eye toward the future and still focusing on today.  I tend to not focus on today, which is why “one day at a time” is helpful for me.

2) Life is not about me – This is something that I come back to regularly, but this has been a good season to remember that life is not about me.

Right now, the baby takes up a lot of our energies, and deservedly so.  David’s a perpetual reminder that life is not about me.

With the church, I’m consciously aware that so much of what happens at Hope is God’s work.  God forbid I take too much credit.

I need to reassure myself constantly that this is about primarily doing a work for God and others, not a work for myself.

3) It’s so good to have support – It’s hard for me to ask for help.  Tina knows this.  People close to me know this.

But I’ve been overwhelmed by the unsolicited support of family and friends while we’ve had a baby.  People who have cooked meals, offered to babysit, written notes, given gifts, etc.  Wow.  We feel so loved and supported.

Many of these folks are part of Hope’s launch team.

Speaking of which, I LOVE our launch team at Hope.  I’m so grateful for this group that God has brought together, and I’m well aware that planting a church is well beyond a one-person show.

We’re moving into a season when we’ll be asking for people to volunteer more heavily in different areas, and I’ve been blown away by the willingness of our folks.

A church is a group of people gathered and scattered, supporting one another and supporting a cause.  It’s been really fun to experience this.

If you’re someone who needs help, please ask for it!  For many people (like me), I realize we don’t feel supported because we don’t ask for it.

We're planting a church. Grace is a great approach.

4) The real work happens behind the scenes – Um, this might be news to some of you, but Tina’s carrying the heaviest burden with our son right now.

As much as I change diapers and cook (or heat up – hehe) food and pray lengthy prayers, Tina is feeding our son around the clock.  And she also gave birth to him.  Wow.

People congratulate me, but I’m quick to recognize that Tina is the real hero in all of this (shout-out to all you moms out there).

In terms of church planting too, I think what’s cool is that the growth of our community really depends on our community.  Sure, I may be a point person or a face, but our church really depends on our people.

I’m lucky enough to be one of the leaders in this community.

5) Grace, Grace, Grace – I need more of it, and I need to give more of it.

Any significant event or task – including having a newborn and planting a church – induces stress.

The best thing I can do is pray, reflect on Scripture, share life with a community, and hear words of grace for myself and then in turn give grace to others.

Grace is a great antidote to anxiety/stress, I’ve found.

Final Reflection from Q Practices with Eugene Peterson

If you’d like to read my thoughts after Day One of Q Practices with Eugene Peterson, you can read here.

Day Two was today, and we covered Peterson’s views on Embodiment, Scripture, Community, and the Church.

Here are some reflections:

Jan Peterson was keepin' it real.

1) Hearing from Jan Peterson, Eugene’s wife, was a highlight
– I’m a firm believer that spouses keep it real, and I was excited when Jan was invited on stage to answer questions.  I was most moved when she talked about whether or not Eugene’s life with God was real…

Her response?

Absolutely.  She strongly reiterated how the person we hear on the pages of Eugene’s writings are really him.  She then talked about how she really respected how firm he was in not getting enticed by the trappings of fame and notoriety.

So cool.

And then Eugene shared some heartwarming stories about Jan and her hospitality, and it was all really quite wonderful.

I’m convinced that a long obedience in the same direction is not limited to one’s life with God, but also to one’s love and commitment to one’s spouse and family (and if single, one’s close family and friends).

The Peterson’s marriage was one of the best sermons of the day.

2) Pastors are to be local and relational - Peterson stressed this greatly, and even challenged the notion that Pastors are chiefly communicators.  Pastors are conversationalists, he said, people whose vocation is intricately tied to people.

This is such a great reminder for me as a church planter.

One of the reasons Tina and I chose Astoria for Hope is because we could be “local”.

It was so great to learn from Eugene Peterson for two days.

3) One of the things I most admire about Eugene Peterson is his clear sense of what he’s called to do… and not to do.  

Here are a couple of things he said which stood out to me.

First, he said, “I really haven’t done much.”

Second, he said, “I’m really not that busy.  Jan and I actually have quite a bit of leisure in our lives.”

I think there was a collective gasp (or maybe it was just me) when he said both these statements.

When I read Peterson’s bio and the list of books he’s written, I’m really stunned at his capacity.

But realistically, although it’s true that Peterson has some unique gifts, he’s human too.

And because he’s human, Eugene knows what he’s called to do, and therefore he also knows what NOT to do.

Throughout the day, I was struck by what he’s chosen not to do, including:

1) Jan spoke of speaking engagements Eugene has said no to (as well as celebrities).

2) Eugene spoke of giving up TV 30 or so years ago.

3) Eugene does not use social media.

4) When it came down to whether or not the church should expand after reaching capacity, Eugene knew he wasn’t the leader to take the church to the next level.  Sure enough, the next leader expanded the church missionally.

Part of Peterson’s “long obedience in the same direction” is a willingness to say “no” to many “good” opportunities.

In this way, Peterson has been able to have a laser-like focus in what he commits himself to.

He also mentioned that he simply does things that he loves, and so immersing himself in Scripture, writing, and pastoring, are all “loves” of his.  These loves have helped define what he has committed his life (and time) to.

4) I’m so excited about Hope.  I love our launch team, I love what we’re building, and I’m so excited about what God’s going to do!

5) There were a couple of “well-known” Christian leaders in the audience as learners. 

I didn’t get a chance to talk extensively to these folks (hence I won’t blog who they were), but I was greatly encouraged that there were a few nationally known American Christian leaders in the audience there to learn.

It was so cool and encouraging to see these folks learning, too.  It’s nice to know that we’re all on the journey and there’s always something new to learn.

6) I was so fortunate to be there, especially in Peterson’s advanced age. Being able to learn from Peterson in a small setting is a gift I do not take for granted.

Thank you so much, Q.  Thank you for caring about how to better serve and resource pastors and church planters like me – it’s much appreciated!

Jeremy Lin, Friendship, & Needing Someone to Believe in You When No One Else Does

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jeremy's family seems really close knit.

Linsanity continues.  Jeremy Lin just hit a game winning 3-ball against the Toronto Raptors.  I dunno what to say.

Actually, I do, which is why I’m blogging yet again about Jeremy Lin.

In my last post, I wrote about how there were so many circumstances where it would have been reasonable for Jeremy to quit on his dream of playing professional basketball.

Jeremy is certainly in the spotlight for having persevered through it all, and it’s well chronicled how his faith has been so meaningful for him.

Part of faith though, and any spiritual journey really, is the influence and support of others, usually found in the safety of family and friends.

I’m always warmed by the stories of Jeremy’s family, and he seems to talk often about how supportive and close-knit his family is.  Awesome.

There’s no doubt that Jeremy could not have done this without the steady, consistent support of his family, and I’m always tickled to witness bonded families like his, because I’m reminded of how much my family has meant to me too.

Support systems are necessary for anyone trying to persevere through trial, and if you’ve ever been in a particularly deep valley you know what I mean, either because the acute loneliness led you deeper into an abyss or because the outstretched arms of a loved one pulled you up from the mire.

For as long as I’ve followed Jeremy, there’s one person apart from his family that stands out as a “believer” in Jeremy when no one else thought he had the chops to make it to the NBA. I’m sure there are others who advocated for Jeremy through his doubts, including a litany of friends and church folk, but I wanted to bring up the one person I know was clearly publicly rooting for Jeremy even when he had many reasons to doubt or quit his prospects at pro ball (I don’t know if this person is a personal friend – I’m just saying he’s specifically a strong supporter basketball-wise).

Again, this post is just based on some public information, not any personal information.  Jeremy’s take might be quite different, but I’m pretty sure this one person had some kind of impact on Jeremy’s belief that he could be where he is today.

—-

I started following Jeremy Lin back in January ’09 after he had a remarkable game against Boston College, a Division 1 program that had just beaten the number 1 team in the country, the UNC Tarheels.

Jeremy’s story mixes some of my greatest passions (as you can see by these string of blog posts), including faith, sports, and race, and so I googled everything about the kid shortly after the BC game.

I read of his high school exploits, his involvement at AACF at Harvard, and how his dad was a basketball junkie.  Yes, these are all the things that everyone has discovered in the past week and a half – I knew a couple of years early because I was intrigued by the upset win against BC.

In my research of Lin, I actually came across the blog of one person who was more obsessed than I was.  The guy seemed to love hoops, and he would rave about Jeremy and the kind of player he was.  He seemed to go to a ton of Harvard games to specifically scout Lin.

And crazy enough, back in 2009, this guy called it by saying that Jeremy Lin should be playing in the NBA one day.  No one else was saying this.  NO ONE (well, there was also this one other stat geek).

The guy’s twitter handle is @poormanscommish, and Poor Man’s Commish was Lin’s biggest advocate (Poor Man’s Commish admits that Brian Yang, a personal friend of Lin’s was the first to bring Lin to his attention, though).  Poor Man’s Commish put up extensive scouting reports and analyses of different players that Lin was competing against, and he even put himself out there by saying that Lin was a bona fide 1st round NBA pick.  Please click on that last link to see just how thorough Poor Man’s Commish’s analysis was.

With Lin’s success today, it’s amazing at just how prophetic Poor Man’s Commish was.

Which brings me to a recent discovery.

Poor Man’s Commish hadn’t talked to the Lins in awhile, but after Jeremy’s breakout game against the Nets (his first game with extensive minutes where he had 25 points and 7 assists), he “got an email from [Jeremy's] mom saying, “I know we haven’t talked in awhile, but thank you for your support.”

One of the first few to get a message from Jeremy’s mom after his breakout game last week was Poor Man’s Commish.  The belief that Poor Man’s Commish had in Jeremy during his college years was special enough for Jeremy’s mom to remember him and reach out to him when all this Linsanity started.

Why?

I suspect it’s because Poor Man’s Commish believed in Jeremy when no one else would. 

We tend to remember those people that believe in us when no one else does.

We tend to thank them, too.

—–

There’s this story in the Bible of a man who was paralyzed.  We’re not told how he was paralyzed or how long he’s been paralyzed – we just know he’s paralyzed.

And rumor has spread that there’s  a man named Jesus who is in town, an extraordinary person who has demonstrated remarkable power through his healing and teachings.

Naturally, people crowd around to witness the phenomenon of this miracle worker, and they cram into the house where he’s teaching.

We’re told that there are friends who have carried the paralyzed man to meet Jesus.  It’s too crowded to get the paralyzed man through the door, though.

So what do these friends do?  They dig a hole through the roof of the house and lower the man inside.

The writer tells us, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

A theological debate ensues regarding physical healing and spiritual healing, but one of the startling revelations of this passage is what I emboldened and italicized above – this paralyzed man is somehow healed as a result of Jesus seeing the faith of his friends, not necessarily the faith of this man, the text tells us.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of this passage or the theological implications therein.  But I do know this about this passage and about faith:

Sometimes, we need people to believe for us, especially when no one else does.  In fact, miracles can happen when we ride the faith of a genuine community of supporters.

In God’s economy, he gives us the shelter of a one another as a “body of Christ”, a group of fellow believers who hurt with us, cry with us, rejoice with us, and believe in us and for us – even when we don’t.

Having the support and belief of others is as spiritual as life can get, because that’s how God created us to function in this world.

Like Jeremy, we tend to remember those people that believe in us when no one else does.

We tend to thank them, too.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 

- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10