Friday, September 30, 2016

Lina Thompson

Lina Thompson is a pastor in a Presbyterian church in the Northwest.  She spoke at the CCDA conference in LA last month.  Her message was so amazing, yet difficult to capture in a summary.

Thompson, like Daniel Hill, spoke about how we see. How do we see Jesus?  How do we view following Jesus?  We will always disciple from a vision.  What vision do you have?

So often, Christians tend to operate from a vision of power and a big win.  But when Christ said, "follow me, " he was heading to suffering, pain, to the cross.

What is the vision of Jesus you are painting to people?  Is it compelling?  Is it a vision people want to give their lives to?

Thompson also had a few other sticky points...

*"We can have the right answer but the wrong practice."

*"Grace is like water.  It flows downhill and pools in the lowest places."

*Thompson also compared classical and jazz music to a classical and jazz theology.

Thompson said that we've been about classical in the Church for some time, but it's time for jazz.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wayne Gordon

Coach Gordon and John Perkins shared a Bible Study with us each morning of the CCDA conference in LA.  One morning, Coach shared Proverbs 3:5-6, a familiar verse to many:  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

He then went on to talk about a friend, Darryl Saffold, who, 15 years ago, came to Hope House in Lawndale as an addict.  After getting clean, he married, he went to seminary and got his masters of divinity, he went back to get a doctorate in Christian Community Development and his DMin.  He was executive pastor at Lawndale, the chairman of the Board for their community development corporation, and Coach Gordon was sensing and planning that Darryl was God's succession plan for Lawndale's leadership as Coach prepares to pass the baton and retire.  

Then, Darryl died at age 49 of a massive heart attack in June.

Coach shared about going to Darryl and Julie's house. Coach got there as the paramedics stopped working on Darryl, and he prayed and prayed for God to revive Darryl's life. Darryl did not come back to life on this side.  

What do you do when you are trusting God, you believe He's directing your path in a certain direction, and then it doesn't go that way?

This was Gordon's question to us that morning. Where is our trust when it doesn't go the way we were so sure it was supposed to go? Can we still trust God?  

The truth in these hard and confusing circumstances is that God is still God.  And if we're honest, we don't really know what we're doing or what is going to happen.  But can we walk by faith and not by sight? Can we still put our trust in a sovereign and good God?  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and HE will make straight your paths. 
Proverbs 3:5-6

Christ the sure foundation.  He, through faith, is our only certain future.    

Friday, September 23, 2016

Noel Castellanos

Noel started off the National CCDA conference by showing us the video below:

Prior to the conference start in Los Angeles, about 150 people participated in El Camino, a 150 mile, 11 day pilgrimage from the Mexico/U.S. border into the conference in LA.   (70 people went the whole way)

Noel used the metaphor of pilgrimage/El Camino to talk about our walk of faith.

Proverbs 8:20  I walk in the way of righteousness along the paths of justice.

1.  The camino is hard.  For the CCD practitioner, the way is difficult personally, relationally, every way.  

2.  The camino is not meant to be walked alone.  The very character of God is that He is a communal God.  We must go out and walk with people.  Everyone on the camino is in pain and suffering.  The camino requires grace for the journey.

3.  The camino is transformative.  The group of walkers thought they were walking to change immigration.  You know what?  God changed their hearts.  Transformation does not happen through power; it happens through pain.  

The road is built as we walk.  That we would walk together for love, for reconciliation, for the glory of God.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

Before I begin to read and wrestle through chapter 5 of the Divine Conspiracy, I wanted to share a teaching from Karla Chestnut who did a great job interpreting content from Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy.  Watch this excellent teaching if you have a chance!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill (Twitter: @danielhill1336) is pastor at River City Community Church located in Chicago, IL.  He is a white man who used to work at Willow Creek Community Church, and while there, he developed a passion for racial reconciliation.  Nancy Ortberg was his supervisor, and she encouraged him to go into the city and develop a multi-ethnic community of faith.  

Daniel shared his journey over the past fifteen years.  His journey early on was driven by the question, "What do I do with privilege?" but has since changed to "How can I learn to see?"  

Daniel did an outstanding job sharing from his narrative.  He shared the verse in John chapter 3 about Nicodemus visiting Jesus, and Jesus saying to Nicodemus, "No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again."  This implied that Nicodemus was blind and could not rightly see.

The question that initially began to guide Daniel changed from "What do I do with privilege?" to "Can I see?"  And the answer he found was, "No, I cannot see."  Therefore, new questions led him forward....

"Can I embrace the fact that I cannot see?"
"What will I do about this blindness?"

Hill challenged his white listeners to address these blinders that privilege has put on our eyes.  To start with the question, "How can I learn to see?" rather than to start with "What can I do?"  

He challenged us to not be satisfied or think that we mostly know. We don't know.  We must acknowledge our blindness because to be white is to be unexposed to so many realities.   He also challenged us to not get caught in sincerity or intention.  The conversation is more complicated than that. 

Hill spoke to white brothers and sisters, charging them to take responsibility for educating themselves...reading books, reading theologians outside of European descent, going to lectures and discussions, committing to proximity, presence, and powerlessness.

Though individual commitment to listen and learn is necessary, Hill also shared that wrestling with privilege will take community and will need to be done with brothers and sisters who are on the margins.  Daniel shared how critical friends of color have been in his life....including Brenda Salter McNeil who has been an influential mentor.  Hill also sited two biblical stories...God's word to Cornelius to receive and help Peter learn to "see."  And God's word to Ananias to receive and help Saul/Paul see after being blinded.  Hill asked people of color to not give up on white people, though he acknowledged the depth of pain and risk involved for them in this request.  

Hearing the pain in our emcee's voice, Erna, after Hill spoke, was certainly a moment for me.  She walked on stage after Hill spoke. As a Korean-American woman, she came to the microphone with emotion and honesty and shared how difficult it is and how she's not sure she's ready to receive and help white people learn to see.  That moment pierced me with an awareness of a depth of the harm and a depth of pain in our friends of color and the depth of ignorance and arrogance that reside in me....far deeper than I currently know or can see.  

Daniel's message was a critical one for me.  "Can I embrace the fact that I cannot see?"  God, beyond sincerity and intention, help me confront my blindness and give me sight.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sandra Van Opstal

I am still going to spend some time on this blog sharing notes and impressions from speakers I heard at the CCDA conference in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.  

Sandra Van Opstal brought the conference worship band together, and they were amazing at leading us in praise and worship through the plenary sessions.  In one session, after a time of worship, Sandra stopped and shared about the importance of the diversity we saw on the stage.

1.  This diversity speaks, "We welcome you.  We've been expecting you." Diversity extends a hand and is about hospitality.  

2.  This diversity speaks, "I see you.  I hear you."  It is a stand of solidarity.  

3.  This diversity speaks, "I want to learn your story.  I need you."  This diversity is about mutuality, and how our view and understanding of God and neighbor and self is dependent on knowing others who are different from us.  

Sandra then went on to introduce the bass player who was a young man from Syria.  He shared briefly a powerful story of his friend, a Christian doctor, who was kidnapped, along with 250 Christians, by ISIS.  He watched on youtube as his friend spoke into the camera before being executed by ISIS.  It was such a moving story, and this young man then began to teach us a familiar chorus in Arabic.  I felt drawn in together with the global family of Jesus.  I felt drawn up together into the heart of God and his love for all people across the world.  

Sandra has written a book called The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World.  (InterVarsity Press)  

She believes every church should be singing songs in other languages as a discipline to stand with the global Church.  

If you are in a predominately homogeneous congregation, here are a few questions to reflect upon...

1. How are you preparing for diversity in your congregation?
2. How is your congregation growing in multi-cultural awareness and intelligence?
3. How are you moving toward a global, multi-ethnic church that reflects and celebrates your community's make up and also guards against assimilation into the current dominate, homogeneous culture of your church?  
4. Why might God desire your church to be a unified yet diverse community of faith?  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

the risk to belong

It was so good to be at Orchard Hill Church on Sunday!  I've been gone due to traveling and Picnic in the Park this summer.  So great to see friendly faces and to be together in worship.

I love the teaching series we're in...about a risk-taking faith.  Dave spoke Sunday about the power of Christian community and our need to belong.  His key points:

Community is a place where you can....

Know and be known
Love and be loved
Serve and be served
Celebrate and be celebrated

He also spoke about how....

1.  Belonging has many levels.
2.  Belonging must fit your life and your personality.
3.  Belonging often requires you to initiate.

I've experienced God using Christian community in such amazing, exponential ways!  Discipleship in community.  Mission in the community/world with all of our gifts used collectively.  Accountability in community.  Empowerment in community.  Encouragement in community.  Learning in community. Worship in community.  Deep friendship in community.  I love how God has designed us to grow and go together as a family in Christ!

My missional journey has involved community, too.  I know that Jesus's community includes people of all different colors, cultures, backgrounds, income levels.  Because my cultural norms are so set in me, it requires me to initiate belonging in community outside of the homogeneous community I naturally tend to form.  This doesn't always fit my life and personality, but it does fit risk-taking faith, and God has moved supernaturally here in the ways of knowing, loving, serving, and celebrating.

That Jesus will continue to grow us and heal us as he develops unity through diverse Christian community, and that He will send us out together in our community and world with Him in his restoring mission of making all things new and right!

Here's Dave's talk if you'd like to watch:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Peter Chin

*Peter W. Chin is the pastor of Rainier Avenue Church and author of Blindsided By God. His advocacy work for racial reconciliation has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, and the Washington Post.

*Peter spoke about growing up with a mentor/discipler who had the gift of encouragement.  His mentor didn't talk about Peter as he was but as he was to become in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Peter encouraged us to disciple people by helping them grow into maturity.  Draw them into God's future for them in Christ.  

*Peter also spoke about how our culture acts as if a person's beliefs are fixed.  Because of this, we tend to give up on people.  We assume they won't change.  We lose hope because maybe we've walked with someone who doesn't change.  Or the problem seems so pervasive.  Or we guard ourselves for emotional safety reasons.  But Peter went on to say, "People CAN change and grow...and I'll tell you my story of how that  is true of me."  

*Peter grew up in a community with deep hostility and contempt between Korean-Americans and African-Americans.  His father was a store owner whose store was vandalized by African-Americans.  There were many clashes over the years between Korean-American store owners and the African-American community.  Peter didn't believe that racial reconciliation could ever happen.  That wounds could ever heal.  Then, Peter was called to pastor a church in a predominantly African-American community.  He didn't want to go, but people there received him.  In his words, "People did not give up on me.  God did not give up on me."

*Peter's challenge and encouragement to us listeners....

-People CAN change through the Holy Spirit and through your presence.
-Don't just 'bring truth' in a 'drop the mic' moment.  (Like Jonah tried to do...bringing a prophetic, condemning word, and then walking away.)  God does care about the truth, but He also cares about wrongdoers.  So should we care about people...and remember that we are wrongdoers, too.
-We might need to carry the mic in one hand, but we also need to carry a shepherd's staff in the other.  We need to walk with people as a gentle shepherd.  

How might Peter's words apply in your world and life?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Brenda Salter McNeil

I recently returned from the Christian Community Development Association's National Conference hosted in Los Angeles at the end of August.  I've been reviewing notes and will try to summarize some of what was shared over my next few weeks of blog posts.  

Dr. Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil

I have always loved listening to Brenda Salter McNeil, but her opening plenary message was, for me, the most powerful and Holy Spirit inspired charge to Christ's Church that I've heard in the times we're living.  

An attempt to summarize some of the message:

*Dr. Rev. Brenda has been about speaking on racial reconciliation for some time, but something changed after she and other pastors went to Ferguson, MO, to listen to activists in Dec. 2014.  She speaks now with more of a conviction and a charge to the Church.

*Young activists were feeling called, feeling that a moment was upon them to join in a movement which birthed as the Black Lives Matter movement.  Pastors asked the group why they weren't basing the movement from the Church-center, like the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's.  Activists proceeded to "take the pastors to school" by letting them know that they didn't like the Church's mysogyny, hypocisy, complacency, and exclusion of people groups. They felt that the Church was working harder to keep people out than to let them in.  The Church no longer had credibility, and they shared that they were needing something else from the Church. Though the Church might be wrestling with diversity and reconciliation, the young people were basically asking, "Diversity for what?  Reconciliation for what?"  

*God has been stirring Brenda with Mark 2:21-22 for some time, and the time in Ferguson only confirmed that it is time for "new wine in new wineskins."  Different models are needed in these times.  Old models have served their purposes and brought us to a place now where new models will be required.  

*New models will require:

-Collaboration.  The "day of the single superstar is over.  We are not looking for the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Billy Graham."  Partnership and collaboration with women/men, church/city, different racial and ethnic groups, multi-generations will be needed.  This will create a disorientation and fear, but Salter McNeil reminded us that "faith is fear that has said its prayers.  It is going to scare us to death to try new models."  

-Reparations.  We will need to leave comfort zones and practice proximity. And not only that, we will need to work together to repair broken systems.  Brenda spoke about how the activists were asking the Church, "Are you addressing anything, repairing anything, fixing anything?"  The group of young people were speaking to justice.  Churches might be addressing faith and our family systems, which are both needed, but is the Church also seeing outside of these and addressing other real time justice issues in our society?  

And a final word here.  Salter McNeil described this new wine as a wine that will need to go beyond personal, individual efforts. Tutoring, mentoring, individual relationships are all critical, as we have to deconstruct racist systems through relationships and through one-on-one, daily encounters of offering self in presence. (I've heard from two people who listened to Salter McNeil's talk and experienced a sense of invalidation of the work that they've done toward reconciliation and to right the wrongs in our communities.)  I don't believe Salter McNeil was intending to dismiss the critical need for individual efforts to know people, to feed, clothe, house, mentor people, etc.. I do believe she was challenging to the Church, especially the white community of faith, to gain a systemic lens.  So often individual efforts stay embedded in a social and racial hierarchy that is unhealthy.  She challenged the Church to not stay silent.  To be a prophetic voice and to bring Biblical story and vision.  To speak about painful history and what is broken.  To speak about God's vision of Shalom and His Kingdom.  To learn, to listen, to lament, to confess, to repent, to educate.  To show up and "not feel the need to run everything."  To join with.  To mobilize. To be involved corporately and collaboratively in Christ's work of new creation, a creation that is redemptive and just, in our communities and world.

So, it's not either/or.  It's both/and.  Christ's restorative mission is personal, but it's more than personal.  It's also corporate, collective, structural in nature.  And it will require new wine in new wineskins as Jesus leads us forward to deconstruct systems that were built on white supremacy and to construct new systems built with Imagio Dei  and "one new humanity" in mind.   

You can hear McNeil's talk if you go to  You will have to scroll down to August 31 and look for the caption "A sneak peek at opening plenary."  You won't be able to see the stage very clearly, but you can clearly hear Dr. Brenda's whole message!