Tag Archives: Gabe Lyons

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!


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.


Reflections on Lausanne Conversation in NYC

I attended the Lausanne Conversation held in NYC last night at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan.  You can check out the information about it here.  Shout out to all the other New Life Fellowship folks I saw at the event.

The Lausanne Congress was formed in 1974 led by Billy Graham and John Stott, and it gathered Christian Leaders around the world to draft a covenant of belief “the whole gospel for the whole world.”  Lausanne, named after the city in which the initial congress was held, has continued to convene, and their next big gathering is in Cape Town 2010 (this event will be slightly less followed than the World Cup happening in South Africa this year :)).  The folks at Lausanne are ramping up for this fall event with a series of conversations in different cities.

My small group from YLG 2006.

I’m a fan of Lausanne, and have been mildly connected through different networks, even having the opportunity to participate in one of their younger leader gatherings in 2006.  I’m thrilled about what will happen in Cape Town in October 2010, and I feel indebted to the relationships I’ve made through Lausanne, particularly the small group I was part of at the Younger Leaders Gathering in 2006.

Last night, the panel consisted of some heavyweights in the Christian movement, including Jim Belcher, Gabe Lyons, Bethany Hoang, Tim Keller, Louie Giglio, Gary Frost, and Peter Pretorius.  The topic was the role and importance of cities when it comes to the “whole gospel for the whole world”.

Here are my reflections on the event, particularly from my lens as a pastor in Queens, NY:

1)  The Cities are Important in a Lot of Ways – Tim talked about masses, Louie talked about University Students, Gabe talked about Culture, and there was a whole lot of other reasons the panelists gave as well.  I love NYC.  And Los Angeles.  And Seoul.  And the SF Bay Area.  And maybe Boston if God really moved in my heart.

2)  I Wish More People Would Come and Visit Queens – One of the consistent things that people mentioned about the beauty of Lausanne is learning and connecting with people from all over the world, especially since they’ll all be gathered in one place.  I couldn’t help but think, “Please hop on the R train (or E, F, or V) and come to Elmhurst if you want a taste of the world!”

About half of Queens is born outside of the United States, and the opportunity to learn from other cultures is a $4.5o round-trip subway fare away.  Queens is NYC’s second most populous borough (the first is Brooklyn), and I’d argue that it has the best cheap eats  in the five boroughs.

We have over 120 nationalities and up to 57 different languages spoken in our zip code alone.  New Life Fellowship, our church, is comprised of folks from over 65 countries.  Yes, we’ve counted.

When people talk about worshipping and learning from people from different backgrounds, I start waving my arms in excitement because so many of the diverse backgrounds are right here in Queens!  Much of this same diversity can be found at 82-10 Queens Blvd.

3)  For NYC, I Think it’s a Different Experience Growing Up Here vs. Moving Here

Me, Mike C, David F, Crystal W, and Terry O had a conversation about this afterward, and I think the most common response I get from people who grew up in NYC is that they want to get out of here one day (unless they grew up relatively wealthy).

This isn’t always the case, but man, it sure is common for me to hear from people that they wish they lived in PA (rarely do I hear NJ for some odd reason.  No knock on Jersey, I’m just recounting my experience). 🙂

Meanwhile, most transplants that I meet (including myself), cherish the opportunity to move here.  EB White’s classic Here is New York touches on the different types of NYers, and I think it’s really interesting to hear the wishes, hopes, and dreams of native New Yorkers.

I think outsiders see the city as attractive and sexy, while the natives generally feel burned and tired.  Meanwhile, the outsiders usually have more freedom to move out one day.  I suspect this type of freedom relates to the power of mobility that Soong Chan Rah talks about, but I’m really not sure I can pinpoint the reason for the trends of natives and transplants just yet.  In fact, it may not even be a real trend and it might be a subset of people I interact with!

I found it interesting that no one on the panel yesterday grew up in NYC.

Coincidentally, of the 26 people in our Alpha Course, every single person grew up in NYC, if I recall.  I was the only non-native NYer.

And yes, I live on Roosevelt Island now, and no longer in Elmhurst.

There are a series of contradictions in this post when it comes to my life and my opinions. 🙂

4)  I Generally Feel Positive that an Older Generation of Largely White, Male Evangelical Leaders Want to Empower and Affirm Younger Leaders (Including minorities and women)

Why am I saying this?  Well, the panelists are pretty big heavyweights within Christian sub-culture, and I came away sensing a real humility from the bunch, and a genuine openness to invest in younger leadership.

This point about investment in the next generation (and minorities) wasn’t explicitly made by the panelists, but as I looked at what each is doing – Gabe with Q, Bethany with IJM, Tim with Redeemer, Louie with Passion, Gary with Concerts of Prayer, and Peter with Jesus Alive, I just left really thankful for how they’re investing in younger people while trying to get a sense of our changing world and the next wave of leaders, many of whom may not look like them.

Now, only some of them were older, and most of them were white and male, but yeah, this was my impression of the panelists.

And no, I’m not on a first name basis with any of these people (well, maybe a couple).  I’m just referring to their first names because it’s easier to write.

5)  “Singing the Same Songs, Wearing the Same Clothes..”

Louie made a point about students all over the world and the effect of globalization, and I think it’s true that mass culture is becoming more pronounced globally (Please refer to my post on Taylor Swift in the Philippines).

Cate Song wrote a few of us a note afterward and asked whether this is a good thing, and I think the answer is yes and no.  Yes, we’re connected like we’ve never been connected before, and no, sometimes mass culture can lose innovation/uniqueness/etc…

In regard to Christian music (Louie spearheads the ever-popular Passion movement), David Crowder has a really neat perspective here.

Meanwhile, Peter Rohdin and Bill Humphrey gave us a stirring tutorial about some of the really interesting and sophisticated sounds of Christian music that come from largely Black churches.  Very cool.

Anyhow, this is worth a much larger discussion because it relates to globalization, mass culture, power, etc, but I’m glad Cate asked the question.

6)  Living in the City has its Positives and Minuses, Including its Unexpected “Sufferings”.  Ultimately, there’s a Calling For Each of Us in our Different Jobs, Homes, Neighborhoods, Schools.

It’d be so sweet if we all took the call to love and serve our city passionately.  It’s not the easiest place to live, and there are difficulties that come with it, but what would it look like if we loved our city with great care and service?

Better yet, How can I best love and serve this city today?

Maybe it’s with your time, energy, and money.

Maybe it’s finding ways to love and serve in your marriage, family, job, or school.

Maybe you join the campaign to get Lebron James to the Knicks.

Maybe it’s all of the above 🙂