Tag Archives: pete scazzero

Q Practices and Eugene Peterson – Day One

Today was Day One of Q Practices with Eugene Peterson, and it was an honor to be there with 98 others from around the country to learn from Peterson, a seasoned pastor and prolific author.

Peterson is most well known for his translation/paraphrase of the entire Bible (called The Message), and he’s written several other books on a wide range of topics, though mostly in the areas pastoral work and spiritual theology.

It's been a great day learning from Eugene Peterson and Gabe Lyons

Q is a fantastic organization founded by Gabe Lyons, author of the terrific book The Next Christians (I’m currently reading it).  I’m really grateful for Q’s work in forging a new way for Christians to think about culture and engagement with the world.  I scour the Q website regularly to learn from some really thoughtful Christians.

The relatively small group of us (99 – most conferences I have attended are at least 300) had a chance to hear Peterson’s reflections on his life, Sabbath-keeping, Simplicity, and Prayer, mostly by way of interview by Lyons.

Here are some of my reflections from today.

1)  There is Much to Learn from Age – As a relatively young pastor in my 30s, there’s much to learn from people who are older.  There’s a depth that I personally experience listening to an older sage like Peterson, a man who seems to have pressed more deeply into God and Scripture as he’s aged.  There is something uniquely profound listening to someone who has practiced “a long obedience in the same direction.”  Peterson could be talking about the difference between blue and red M & Ms and he’d have my rapt attention as a result.

I once heard Richard Rohr once say, “there are many elderly people, but very few elders.”  That phrase has stayed with me since I heard it, mostly because I long to be an elder, not simply one who grows old.

To be an elder, I’ve learned, one must be willing to learn from elders.

Peterson, through his writing and today, has been a tremendous elder to learn from.

2)  Peterson’s Values are so Counter-Cultural to the Western Church – I know, this is a pretty strong statement, but I’ll explain why I believe this to be generally true.

I think the Western Church tends to inordinately celebrate fast-growing, numerically large churches.  I don’t think this is the fault of any person or church – I think we simply live in a culture which values big things (hence, this is not a critique of mega-churches – I actually really like megachurches!).  Big events, big crowds, big buildings, Big Macs.

Most conferences and learning opportunities for pastors err this way too – celebrating and offering platforms for large church leaders and their churches.

Whether intentional or not, big churches with big budgets and big programs are highlighted and uplifted more than other churches.

Again, this is not a critique – it’s simply an observation.

There have been many times in my brief ministry career when I’ve been swept up into this thirst for “big” too, and I think as much as I might say it’s to “reach more people” (which really is true), I think there’s also been some mixed motives of wanting to be “known” as somebody, too.

But the values that Peterson highlighted today – Sabbath-keeping, simplicity, and prayer – are really counter to growth, expansion, and becoming widely known.

In fact, Sabbath, simplicity, and prayer are all practices that lend one toward more obscurity and scaling down, not up.

In this respect, these values run counter to the Western Church.

I was moved when Eugene spoke of his visit to Israel a couple of years ago.  He walked through different areas of Judea, and he noticed the non-descript desert where the Patriarchs walked and the smallish size of towns around Galilee where Jesus grew up and did most of his ministry.

In comparison, the Egyptians had their spectacular pyramids and Herod had his grand palaces.

You see, God works in small, obscure places too.

For every large, miraculous moment in Scripture like the Pentecost (which seemed pretty mega to me), there are also small, obscure practices of retreat, solitude, and obscurity in the life of Jesus.

Peterson’s trying to counterbalance the overwhelming tilt toward bigger, larger, and more… to remember the values of mustard seed living.

Sidenote: Throughout today, I kept thinking of Pete Scazzero as a mini-me of Eugene Peterson.  They talk about so many of the same topics!  I’m fortunate to have learned, taught, and implemented many similar principles of Sabbath-keeping, prayer, and simplicity, throughout the years, and Pete has certainly had a big hand in that. Pete would be another great voice for Q, I think.

This is not to say that I’m an expert by any means – I’m simply very fortunate to have been exposed to these principles early in my ministry career.

Laura Speiller was also the first to introduce me to many Contemplative Prayer Practices that I use to this day.

As you can see, New Life has been a key part of my formation as a practitioner and a leader, and I pray that Hope Church NYC can share similar values.

3)  I’m Really Diggin Q – I love what Gabe’s doing, and what many other Christians are doing in being culturally relevant yet counter-cultural.  Very cool.

As for this event in particular, the organizers have done a great job and actually got a Sweetery NYC food truck to be stationed outside the venue where we’re gathering.  We get unlimited goods from the food truck whenever we want.  Holla!

4)  It’s Been Fun Hangin’ with my buddy Jared Howard – I didn’t think I’d know anyone here, but when I heard Jared was coming, I was ecstatic.  Fun times raiding the Sweetery truck together, Jared.

5) I’d be Remiss if I Didn’t Mention the Participants – I’ve met some really cool people here, and I have tons of respect for the fellow pastors and leaders that I’ve met.  I even had a chance to meet some leaders from Reality Santa Barbara, a church movement in California that I’ve visited once and absolutely loved!

Another interesting observation, though, is that the participants here are largely white and male.  I think I expected this, but not in terms of the volume I’ve experienced.

It’s fairly easy to do percentages because there are 99 participants, and I’d guesstimate that 80-85 of the participants are white males.

I’m saddened by this because I know so many other women and minority leaders in NYC (and beyond) who would benefit from this event and have much to contribute to the discussion.

Maybe next time!

6)  All in all, it’s such an extraordinary gift to be here.  I also love that Q Practices is happening in our own backyard in NYC, IMHO the best city in the world.

Lastly, I think I’m going to ask Eugene Peterson what he thinks about Linsanity.

Boom!

Church Planting and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Church planting has humbled me in many ways, and I think one lesson/appreciation I’ve gleaned the past few weeks has been the great value of “a long obedience in the same direction”, a phrase coined by Eugene Petersen.

I’ve been particularly grateful for many of the stellar leaders who have gone before me, doing the long, plodding work of ministry and faithfulness so that younger people like me can stand on their shoulders – often times unbeknownst to them.

I was fortunate to spend a week with Leith and Charlene Anderson along with other pastors/leaders.

I recently took a week-long class at Fuller with Leith Anderson, now retired pastor of Wooddale Church and the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and I was absolutely floored by all of his insights into Scripture, leadership, and life in general.  His wife Charleen joined us for the class as well, and it was such a privilege to have her there to answer questions and interact with us.

Leith shared that he had just retired as pastor at Wooddale after 35 years of being the senior leader there.  Wow.  That means that Leith was the senior pastor at Wooddale longer than I’ve been alive (sorry Leith, I never shared that out loud, but I was startled by this fact).

As we’re in the first few weeks of Hope’s launch team gatherings, I’ve wondered to myself what a long obedience in the same direction would look like.

Most of all, I’m wondering what it would look like to remain faithful in living and leading well, both in my family and in a church.  The Andersons are such great examples of this, and I’m humbled and grateful for their long service.

I’m also grateful for the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life, all of whom have modeled faithfulness in different ways.

I feel indebted to many church leaders with long-standing histories in NYC too, people who have paved the way for many years.  People like personal mentors Pete & Geri Scazzero, Craig & Ellen Fee, Mark & Pam Taft, Jim Owens as well as people I’ve learned from afar like AR Bernard, Michael Durso, Robert Johannson, Floyd Flake, Tim Keller, Mac Pier, Joseph Mattera, and Marcos Rivera (just to name a few).  These church leaders have faithfully served this city for decades (along with their spouses), and now younger leaders like me get to run with the baton that they pass on to a new generation of leaders.

I think one of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned in recent weeks is the difference between the question, “can we do this?” and “should we do this?”

My youthful impatience often propels me into the first question.  Wise friends and mentors at Hope (as well as mentors past) have directed me toward the second question.

With that said, I return to the serenity prayer once again, a daily discipline for me as I hope to live with a “long obedience in the same direction.”

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

God, grant me a humble, attentive heart, one that will commit to a long obedience in the same direction.

Thoughts on Spiritual Maturity – Part 2

You can read Part 1 of this series here.

I mentioned how evaluating spiritual maturity based on spiritual practices can be problematic, but by no means does this indicate that spiritual practices should be done away with altogether.

In fact, I’d argue that spiritual practices are necessary for growing spiritually, even if they might not be the most accurate indicators of spiritual maturity.

In other words, spiritual practices are not signs of spiritual maturity, but they are catalysts of spiritual maturity.

To succeed in any task, there is some form of practice or discipline that helps me to excel in that task, even if the task might be somewhat amorphis like “loving my wife,” a highly unquantifiable endeavor.

There are practices and disciplines that I must implement for a better marriage, for example, things like telling Tina how much I appreciate her, trying to serve her whenever I can, and actively listening to her whenever she speaks to me.

Growing in any area of my life takes work, and that work usually fleshes out as “practices” or “disciplines.”

Sidenote: Whether single or married, you should really pick up Tim and Kathy Keller’s new book The Meaning of MarriageIt’s an extraordinary bookone of the best books I’ve read on marriage with helpful advice to singles.  

In it, the Kellers talk about how disciplines and practices can lead toward feelings of love in marriage.  The same is true for the spiritual life! End of Sidenote

Alas, any kind of maturity takes work.

As I mentioned last time, some have to work harder than others due to nature/nurture, but nonetheless healthy maturing takes some measure of “a long obedience in the right direction,” as Eugene Petersen would say (Pete Scazzero calls building a framework of spiritual practices “Developing a Rule of Life.”

For each person the practices and disciplines are different.  However, we all need some sort of discipline in order to grow more loving, more healthy, more whatever the aim might be.

At this point it’s easy to react by saying, “the spiritual life is all grace!  you’re advocating some sort of works based system!”

Now, while it’s true that grace is the foundation of everything, we can too readily dismiss any type of healthy striving as an overreaction against anything that hints of dare I say, work.

The key, I believe, is that our end goal always be in mind when it comes to our disciplines – to fall more deeply committed and in love with Jesus – instead of having the list of spiritual disciplines as our measuring stick of spiritual maturity (a la the Pharisees).

In my next post, I’ll share one practice that has really challenged me this year, and I’ll mention the little book whence it came.

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.”

Inhale.

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.”

Exhale.

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.

Thoughts on our Reconciliation Seminar

Man, I’ve got so many thoughts after today’s Reconciliation Seminar at New Life Fellowship.  Hence, the quick blog post to get a conversation started.

I originally suspected we’d be snowed out, so I was rather surprised to see that approximately 100 people showed up for the seminar, mostly NLF attenders.  For those of you who weren’t able to attend, I’ll see if we can get a video up in the near future (no guarantees).  Meanwhile, you can see pictures from the event here.

We hope for the conversation about race, class, etc. to continue.

Here are some thoughts:

1)  The Conversation of Reconciliation Needs to Address Personal AND Corporate Injustices/Sins – Soong Chan touched upon this as he gave a reflection on the history of slavery in America, and I think it’s easy to miss some of the systemic injustices and inequalities that we’re still facing (and feeling the effects of today).  It’s common to ignore corporate sins when I fail to see my participation in the system.  How do we take next steps to remedy these corporate inequalities?  Hopefully we can wrestle with this together…

2)  There’s an Illusion that Building a Diverse Church Family will be Easy (or Formulaic) - It’s definitely hip for churches nowadays to claim to value diversity, and I do think it’s a genuine hope or wish, especially amongst younger people.  However, since there are so few models out there, I think most of the evangelical world is running around blindfolded, and when we finally find only a piece in the puzzle, we think (and naively hope) that we’ve completed the task.

There are new church conferences on diversity popping up here and there, and I hope these gatherings are places for people to go deep instead of following a trendy topic.

Even for NLF, we can easily believe we’ve “arrived”, but the truth is, we’re still facing issues of ethnic cliquish tendencies, the changing demographics of Queens, and a need for uber rich people.  Just kidding about the last one, but if you know any uber rich people, please refer them to us.

But yeah, as Idilio shared so frankly and eloquently today, we all have stuff we’re still carrying and working through…

Again, hopefully we can wrestle together…

3)  Understanding (or at Least Trying to Understand) The Black Experience is Fundamental to Making Progress in the Area of Reconciliation – This is certainly not to discount the experience of so many other ethnic minorities (or even white minorities in different urban neighborhoods), but the narrative of the Black experience in America is so simple and complex and central and peripheral and apparent and disguised and painful and hopeful that it must be listened to when delving into reconciliation.

Even recently, I read about racial conflicts on the campus of UCSD, and although Blacks comprise only 2% of the student population, gay/lesbian clubs and groups for disabled students have begun to stand by the Black students.  The feelings of alienation are all too common – and the Black experience in America will give a window into the raw depths of those feelings of alienation.

In contexts where other ethnic minorities feel threatened/alienated, like in South Philly where hate crimes against Asian American Students have erupted in recent months, I believe the Black experience gives enormous perspective on how hurtful and damaging racism can become.

Yes, these are hate crimes against Asian American students from African-American students.

Pain, Hurt, Alienation, and Violence have a way of working in cycles.

4) I Have to Take Personal Responsibility – It’s easy to assume that it will just happen if I pray enough, or if I talk to my non-Asian brethren once in awhile, or if I’m part of a diverse group/church/setting (even if I live far away in a neighborhood without “those” people – fill in the blank).

After all, it’s usually other people who are racist/sexist/ageist, etc.

But not me.

What happens when we all think this way?  What happens when we always expect the other to make the first step?  What happens when we try once to make the first step, feel rejected, and we don’t want to take any more steps?

It’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

Really?  Do I really value this then?

5)  We Need to Talk

Immediately after the seminar, I huddled with Pete and Rich (and later Jihee and Aabye-Gayle) about what to do next.  People, we need to talk.

I came away with an overwhelming sense that we need to go deeper, not out of a sense of despair, but rather, hopefulness.

Many more people are wondering about race, class, and gender than we really think.

Hopefully, with proper guidelines (and Emotionally Healthy Skills), we can get together to talk.

If you have any thoughts on the types of forum that might work, please let me know.

Movie viewing/discussions, small groups, blogs, more seminars, guest speakers, chocolate chip cookies and milk, etc.

I’m open to anything right now.

Let’s talk.

Theological Influences

I recently met with one of our small groups for a theological pow-wow, and I must say, I came away from the discussion quite energized.  It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to revisit some of the thoughts I’ve come to (and am still wrestling with) regarding the Bible, theology, and its relevance to the world, and I realize that I really like discussing these subjects!

Anyhow, I also recommended a few books to the group, and as I was explaining each book, I realized there are a few authors/thinkers who have really shaped my approach to theology, Scripture, and the world.  I thought I’d share who these people are.  I’m usually quick to read any books/articles/talks that come from these people.

Interestingly enough, I think the rest of our pastoral staff at NLF would have varying lists, a thought which brings me much consolation.  Also, although they’re not included on this list, our pastoral staff (Pete, Geri, Rich, Jackie, Linda, Mike, Myrna, and Peter) challenge and shape my thinking in more ways than most!

This list is in no particular order

1.  Christina Park – Yes, my wife.  I’ve learned much about love, forgiveness, grace from her.  She’s taught me to appreciate sci-fi, fantasy, and romantic comedies as well, even pointing out profound theological underpinnings in each.

2.  Pete & Geri Scazzero - Pete’s my boss, so he’s on the list.  But seriously, his books have certainly had the greatest influence on me in my formative years as a pastor.  Geri has also lent wonderful insights regarding marriage, God, sexuality, and all that good stuff.

3.  Howard Thurman - Thurman has quickly become one of my favorite theologians, especially because he’s so rooted in Scripture while having unique perspectives on justice, contemplation, and all sorts of things I’m passionate about.  His Meditations of the Heart are some of the best stuff I’ve read recently, as well as his book Jesus and the Disinherited.

4.  NT Wright – He’s a Biblical scholar whose perspectives on Israel, God’s Kingdom, the Victory of Jesus, and Paul’s message, have blown me away.  I know there’s been some theological jousting between him and John Piper regarding justification, but I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to see how they’re both not talking about the same thing from different angles.  See, you couldn’t even understand that last sentence.

5.  Richard Rohr – Every single work I’ve read from Rohr has been deeply profound and insightful.  His thoughts on manhood, Scripture, spirituality, and grace are really astounding and cause me to ponder everything.

6.  Ron Vogt – Ron’s a counselor whom I regularly see (now with Tina).  He hasn’t published a book as far as I know, but his thoughts on the emotional world and its intersection with theology and humanity has been radically transformative for me.

7.  Jay Feld – Doctor Jay is NLF’s Counselor in Residence, and I’ve learned a lot about grace, community, and wisdom from him.  He’s speaking at our singles’ retreat, and I think you should be there if you’re a single person between the ages of 21-84.

8.  Tim Keller (and his son, Mike) - It’s hard to find things to disagree with Keller about because he’s so thoughtful and winsome in the way he approaches faith, culture, and the gospel.  Aside from being an amazing thinker/preacher, he also models a kind disposition toward those with differing opinions, which is quite frankly, really cool.

9.  Paul Lim – One of my theology profs at Gordon-Conwell.  What I really appreciate about him is the way he handles heady and heavy material with an edge toward orthopraxis.  In other words, he is about the head, heart, and hands, and he had done a lot of thinking about God and real people in the real world.  His stuff on theodicy and the problem of evil is pretty mind-numbing, as are his thoughts on the trinity.

10.  Laura Speiller – Laura was the first one to introduce me to the contemplative tradition.  I’ll never forget one of the ways she described contemplative prayer – an embrace without words.  Deep.

11.  Sean McDonough – Another one of my seminary profs, he modeled and taught me to approach the Biblical text systemically as well as meditatively.  I can’t wait until he publishes some more stuff.  He’s also a great sparring partner when it comes to sports predictions.

12.  Leighton Ford – Leighton is like the godfather behind so many movements happening in today’s Christian world.  I nearly cry every time he speaks or writes about something.  He introduced me to a number of authors including Parker Palmer, who should also be on this list.  I love Leighton’s breadth of learning – I think it’s shown me how to look for truth everywhere.

13.  Dan Shin - A close friend and former staff member at NLF, we had (and continue to have) extremely stimulating theological debates.  I love it.  I must say, for a guy who doesn’t read much (Dan), he has a great philosophical and theological understanding of varying subjects.

This list is getting out of control, so here are some other folks whose perspectives I appreciate and seek out somewhat regularly.

Martin Luther King, Jr, CS Lewis, Parker Palmer, Henri NouwenRichard Lovelace, Gordon Fee, Doug Stuart, William Webb, Anne Lamott, Andy Crouch, Rob Bell.

I notice I’ve listed relatively contemporary people.  I think the classical authors (Calvin, St. Teresa, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, St. John of the Cross, Aquinas, etc) are too prolific for me to want to start following.  Yes, that’s a lazy perspective, but one that I freely confess to.

Who are your theological influences?  What are your thoughts about this list?

PS  If you’re looking for recommended reading from our church, you can click here.

Catalyst Reflections – Day Two – Start of Main Event

The day started out very promising – Rich and I had a 7 am breakfast meeting with Andy Crouch.  Rich had already heard my gushing over the session the day before, so he was already quite annoyed with me (I tend to be unrelenting in talking about things that excite me).

Anyhow, we met Andy at the lobby of the hotel, and we proceeded to head over to the Starbucks inside Krogers.  In the car ride alone, we discovered:

- Andy is friends with Greg Jao and they did stand-up comedy one night for grad students.

- Andy comes to NYC regularly, as well as Atlanta.

- We were lucky to spend time with Andy.

For the next hour or so, we discussed so many things, ranging from his talk the day earlier, his book and the insights therein, culture-making as it relates to his family, our families, and our community at new life, the phillies and how they dominate the mets, and so many other tidbits that I’ve been pondering since we left Catalyst.

All this to say, this meeting was easily the highlight of the trip for me.  And even though Andy is a Phillies fan, we must get him to share some of his insights at New Life sometime.  Word.

Here were some of my general thoughts as the day went on:

1.  Catalyst is leadership adrenaline - I petered out by the late afternoon, but yes, I can see why so many 20-somethings are into Catalyst.  It’s an explosion of people, performances, platforms, and passion.  There are throngs of people, and when you get so many of them together around a common purpose, the energy is really pulsating.  Meanwhile, there’s a panoply of activities, booths, and did I mention people?  Plus, major props to the emcees.  They were HILARIOUS.  Do you like all the p’s in this paragraph?  I thought it was quite clever.

2.  Speakers are from diverse perspectives, which I appreciate – You had Andy Staley, Jessica Jackley, Malcolm Gladwell, Shane Hipps, Rob Bell, Tony Dungy, Matt Chandler, and Francis Chan.  All of these folks are from various theological spectra and settings.  For instance, Rob Bell uses more zone blitzes than Tony Dungy’s cover 2 scheme.

Okay, that was only funny to 15% of you, but whatever.

But yes, the positive side to all of these different voices is that we can find where they agree and differ, and receive what we discern God wants us to receive and apply.

With all that said, Francis Chan brought us back to communion to end the night, and what an appropriate way to say, this is what we agree on, this is what we believe, and this is the hope of the world.  It was an extraordinary time.

3.  I was surprised at the lack of minorities in the audience – For some reason, I expected to see a lot more minorities in the audience.  I mean, of course I knew that the conference would be predominantly white, but I didn’t realize it would be overwhelmingly so.  So yeah, I was puzzled by this (although I appreciate the efforts to diversify the stage).

4.  Did I mention this is a really well run event? -  The quality of this event is really outstanding.  Catalyst crew, thank you for putting on a sensational conference.  Thanks for all the hard work.

5.  I’m in a good place - I love NYC, and I love New Life Fellowship.  There’s no place I’d rather be.

Here are some other highlights from Day Two and the beginning of the larger conference.

- I walked into the arena and my jaw dropped.  So Many People.  This reminded me of Urbana, which is probably larger in scale, and similar in raw energy.

- Ate at Chik-Fil-A for lunch, and then a Korean food mart for dinner.  There was a small Korean plaza in Duluth next to the arena, and my soul came alive when I saw it.  The food felt like home too.  Doug and Rich were introduced to Mochi ice cream as well.  Yes, in Atlanta.

- First time hearing Andy Stanley.  He’s a fantastic communicator, with a special gift toward leadership as well.  He started us off on the right foot by calling us to re-prioritize why we’re doing what we do.

- Malcolm Gladwell is a wonderful storyteller.  He tells stories the same way he writes about them – with suspense, interesting detail, and then a punch at the end.  Really cool that he was here, and I needed to hear the encouragement to remain humble.

- Rob Bell is really gifted.  He speaks with great ease, passion, and creativity.  I appreciated his passion about this topic in particular (Sabbath-keeping, caring for family, and being okay with thinning crowds).  I thought he was going to mention Pete Scazzero’s book, but his topic was good to hear nonetheless.

I also loved how he went to bat for the women in leadership issue.  That was very cool, although some might disagree.

It saddens me that people give him so much grief about being unorthodox.  I think it’s fair to say that for anyone who has heard him speak, he really loves the Bible.

- We had a great conversation with Warren Bird about multi-site churches.  It’s always nice to connect with friends of New Life.  Plus, he invited us to take some munchies from the Leadership Network suite.

-  I missed Tony Dungy and Matt Chandler.  I couldn’t keep up.  I found a spot in the bowels of the arena, and did a daily office for an hour or so.  I needed the opportunity to breathe.

- Francis Chan’s session was moving, intimate, and unplugged.  He spoke things that we all really feel, and spoke truth in a simple and poignant way.  Plus, he only spoke for 15 minutes or so, and let God do his thing.  I guess less really is more.  My favorite session.

- It’s fun hanging out with Doug Slaybaugh.  I was so grateful to have Doug there.  He was so loving in the ways he asked and answered questions, and he probably thought we were stalking him considering how many times we would randomly see him throughout 12,000 people.

- Rich is a great travel buddy.  He’s up for adventures, thoughtful, and is super laid back.  With that said, I’d trade him for Tina any day.  I’m sure he’d say the same about Rosie and Karis.  Btw, he kept showing me pictures of Karis, and then I’d miss home somehow too.

And then I’d respond by talking about the Andy Crouch session.

More thoughts about the Leadership Summit – Part 2

More General Thoughts from the Summit…

1.  Every Reader is not a Leader, but every Leader is a Reader.

There were so many remarkable sound bites, especially from Gergen’s session.  This one hit home, because I’ve found it to be so true!

Well, at least it’s been true of the mentors I’ve been around, namely Pete Scazzero, Ken Shigematsu, and Leighton Ford.  I also hear that Tim Keller is a voracious reader – there are books and bookshelves all around their apartment to prove it.  Rich Villodas and Mike Keller are like mini-mes of these guys.  Grace Yu also comes to mind – she’s a walking encyclopedia.

I don’t think this quality has to do with nerdiness (actually, I take that back.  There’s a hint of nerdiness here).  Instead, I think it speaks more to an appetite for learning, exploring, etc.  Gergen had another incredible quote about how someone who can see far into the past, can see far into the future.  That just oozes of wisdom, doesn’t it?

I would probably add a comment from the wisdom of Good Will Hunting – just because I’ve read Oliver Twist doesn’t mean I can understand what it’s like to be you.

Experience helps inform and sensitize knowledge.

2.  Some pains can be Re-Named “Valleys of Insight”

This was from the interview with the Heath brothers.  I must admit, I was fading by the afternoon of Day 2, but this was a takeaway that I think was reiterated several times in different ways.

Bill Hybels talked about the lessons learned through this painful transition of the economic crisis.  The scars are probably still being felt (100 people let go at willow in one week, I believe he said).  Dave Gibbons mentioned the pain of going through his pastor mid-life crisis and all that it taught him while the numbers went down and to the left.  Keller spoke of criticism being a revealing catalyst for when it comes to how well I believe the gospel.  In all of these examples, pain led to progress… it’s true for organizations, people, relationships, etc.

I was so mesmerized by this point.

Then I realize it’s all over the Bible (James 2 comes to mind).  And then I realized it sounds a lot like the cross.

That’s a great book, the Bible.

And that’s a great principle, the cross.

3.  I was Glad to see Minorities as Speakers

Harvey Carey was super-inspiring, as were Rugasira and Gibbons.  Jackley was really cool.  She’s like a poster-child for the up and coming generation of young leaders – articulate, fun, hip, crazy, & good with technology.

Normally I would have wanted more minority representation… but I learned so much from each presenter!

*Plus, Stafford is a black man trapped in a white man’s body.  If you heard his testimony you know what I mean!

I’d still like to see some more representation of the Next Evangelicalism, so perhaps they can get Barack and Michelle Obama next year.

4.  I’m a big fan of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and apparently, so is the Leadership Summit

A theme that appeared everywhere was being a contemplative and replenishing one’s soul.  Keller’s talks always have a contemplative theme too, because they’re so darn insightful.

I’m not talking about the binder-contemplative type a la Carey’s comments, I’m talking about thinking, praying, or going fishing, as Gergen would say.

I’m so glad to be at New Life and to have learned from the Scazzeros… they really have ntroduced principles and practices that I believe will help shape the soul of leadership in our frenzied generation.  There are many others who are leading the way in introducing emotional health and contemplative spirituality, but none in the context of a church that is multi-cultural and serving the urban poor in the heart of a city.

I’ll probably post more reflections as they come later…

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference April 30th – May 2nd

April 30th – Pre-Conference for Married Couples

May 1st – 2nd – The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference for Pastors, Leaders, and Spouses

Mini-updates via Twitter:

Here’s where you can find mini-updates via twitter.

Blogging from the Conference:

Paul Kuzma – Paul will be live-blogging.  Paul is the senior pastor of New Heart Foursquare Church in Simi-Valley.

Kevin Martineau – Kevin is the pastor at Port Hardy Baptist Church on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Jeremy Dowsett – Jeremy is a church planter/pastor at Blacksoil, in Lansing, Michigan.

Father Henry Jansma – Father Henry pastors the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Haddon Heights, NJ.

I’ll post more blogs as I hear about them.


ccda

Last week Rich, Craig, Pete, and I attended the CCDA conference in Miami, FL. Pete was speaking at one of the plenary sessions, as well as leading a couple of workshops.  Rich and I were in charge of manning the EHS/NLF table in the exhibit room for most of the conference.  Here are some of my musings from our week in Miami.

- It was difficult attempting to attend the conference while working at the conference. I came home from the week rather exhausted, having explained one too many times how the EHS book differs from the EHC book, as well as how the daily office book is a type of devotional guide, one that provides an alternative to the more traditional quiet time.  By the time the sessions started, my mind was already fried, and there was little else I could pay attention to, unfortunately.

- The one session I did attend – one led by one Soong Chan Rah, a professor at North Park Seminary – was very thought-provoking (coincidentally, I don’t know the title, but I’ll label it Shalom for the “Haves” and “Have-nots”).  There were many remarkable insights he posited, but the one that I will highlight is that in America today, mobility=power.  There’s a lot to unpack with that one maxim, but the evidence of such an observation is easily seen in nyc, where I’ve encountered many a person at New Life who has never ventured outside of NYC.  NEVER.

One person once said to me, “If it weren’t for New Life, I never would have seen so many trees.”  The woman was talking about the trees in Poconos, not the small ones that line Van Loon St in Elmhurst.  She doesn’t have the freedom to foray outside the city walls… as for the “why?” question, I’m willing to suggest there are too many forces to count, many of which she has probably no contol over.

Either way, it was an enlightening workshop, and proved to be one of the best learning moments on my trip.

- Rich Villodas is a great guy. We spent maybe 65% of our trip together, probably the best recipe for enmeshment and resentment.  But I rarely felt enmeshed… that is, until we missed out flight home and I felt horribly responsible and guilty.

Rich, ever unflappable, brushed it off and kept telling me funny stories.  Yes indeed, he is a great guy.

Every night we would talk about everything and anything, from stories of our childhoods, to our weird habits when we’re really tired, to how much we wanted the phillies to lose the world series.

After learning so much of Rich’s life, I really came to a deeper appreciation for the man that he is, especially his earnest heart for God and the humility with which he leads and uses his gifts.  God is using him greatly, and it’s rather exciting to see what God will do with him.

I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate or travel companion, especially since my immune system was sputtering throughout the week.

Actually, Tina would have made a better roommate and travel companion. Sorry, Rich.

- I think the fact that NLF has a CDC is really meaningful considering there is a huge emphasis on self-care and healthy spirituality. Why?  Because it signals that the church is equally concerned with being and doing, both of which are hard enough when standing alone.  But to be a church that’s trying to love and commune with the poor and marginalized while maintaining a life of wholeness is a truly beautiful thing.  We’re obviously not perfect at this, but still, I think it’s cool to serve at a church that is seeking to be incredibly contemplative and incredibly active.

It seems to me that there is a younger generation of people who are searching for the following values:

1) Diversity

2) Authenticity and Openness

3) Advocacy for the Poor

I think that the above three values are ones that seem to be especially pronounced at NLF with its emphasis on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Reconciliation, and its CDC.  I tend to think this is why there’s been such a precipitous rise in young adults at NLF – these younger folks want the above three values to be lived out, and people see that NLF attempts to do this.

Well, that’s one of my explanations, along with the fact that there’s been such tremendous leadership amongst young adults these past few years.

Haha, no, it’s more the values than the leadership, I think.

- Pete Scazzero is a great leader. I love the man.  I’ve worked with him for seven years, and I’ve come to know him pretty well as a leader, mentor, boss, and my pastor.  I’ve been through good times and bad times at NLF, and after all these years, I think I can honestly say that I’m so glad to be at NLF, leading under Pete Scazzero.

Most of all, I respect and admire his willingness to take a hard look at himself, and allow God to change him in the deepest parts.  I’ve been so challenged to have the same heart and devotion that Pete has shown these years, and I’m grateful for all he’s meant to me and my marriage.

After hearing Pete at the conference and hanging out with him and the rest of the fellas during some down times, I think my opinion of him in public and private continues to grow.

If he gives me a raise I’ll post more praises like this one.

- There’s no place like New York City.

- I love my wife so much, and being away from her for 4 days was like slowly dying.  Seeing her was like living again.

Next time, I’ll blog about my flight home, an eventful trip which sat me next to a reality tv star and a brazilian doctor.