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?