29 July 2005

Focus: HOPE

A friend of mine, Annette Vanover, is the manager/director of Focus: HOPE one of the leading voices for reconciliation in the Metro Detroit. I was pleasantly surprised to learn several weeks back that she attends the church where I'm currently on staff. After one of my sermons she came up to me and said, "I think you and I might have a lot in common." To which I wanted to say, "I doubt it very much." Little did I know prior to this conversation that she's been working for years to bridge the economic and ethnic gaps that exist in the Detroit and Metro-Detroit area.

The website for Focus: HOPE is www.focushope.edu

I think you will find their mission noble and redemptive. It makes me wonder how many other people slip in and out of our building every week who are also Kingdom lights for reasons that are pure.


For what it is worth.

Lipscomb University stepped up and made a great decision for their Presidency vacancy. I can say as a soon to be alum (as in one week) that I am excited about supporting the school, both undergrad and grad, in the future.

I know the Religion Department is probably excited as well. Lipscomb is making a move to be more Kingdom oriented and less instiution focused--this is a huge, and probably painful, step in the right direction.

23 July 2005

Mike Robinson: aka "Slim"

I am going to brag on my roommate from college for a few moments...Mike Robinson. Mike was a two time All-American basketball player at Rochester college. He's the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school and one of the best all around basketball players I've ever been around. He's an ever finer man.

When I was playing at RC with Mike, I worked for the Detroit Pistons doing camps and clinics. I worked with several followers of Jesus while employed by the Pistons--in fact, it was one of the most formative experiences I've had so far. I tried so hard to convince Mike to join the staff of camp and clinic instructors. "C'mon Mike. You get travel all over, work with the Piston players and coaching staff...it will look great on your resume."

My boss, the director of the entire program, made it known that Mike had an open invitation to join the staff. He would have been paid well and would probably be in a top-tier position had he accepted.

Mike knew what he wanted to do however. Mike wanted to completely concentrate on getting his degree (the first Robinson to get a college degree) and preparing himself to continue to play basketball professionally.

Today, Mike is a social worker for Wolverine Human Services in downtown Detroit. Mike carries 10-15 kids on his case load. He helps bring peace and stability in the lives of kids who've been plagued by chaos and deception. Sometimes Mike has to pick these kids up at their house, help them with clothes shopping, etc. He often pays out of his own pocket to feed and clothes "his kids." I joke with him that this is the group of disciples God has given him.

I spent yesterday with Mike down at the Social Services building with my father-in-law Patrick (www.tentpegs.blogspot.com), encouraging the kids and dialoguing with them one on one about their life, career dreams, talents, etc. Patrick and I are going to try and form a connection between our church (Rochester) and the work of these ministers in the trenches.

Mike could have went into many different fields. But he has the heart of servant and that heart led him to leading a group of teens who've had so many choices made to them and for them that most of us never experience. Two of the girls we spent time with yesterday recently lost their mother's to drugs and A.I.D.S....they're fifteen years old with no father figures.

Living with Mike for four years radically changed the way I look at life, Christianity, and the Gospel. My vision of Jesus was completely altered after seeing the world through Mike Robinson. He's been a dear friend for seven years now. The Kingdom breaks into my life in some of the most unexpected and unassuming ways.

Mike is a black man from the inner city and I'm a white man from the burbs. In Christ though, our bond is stronger than race, socio-economic backrgound, or ethnicity.

What Kingdom person is the LORD placing in your life?

19 July 2005

I've blogged about Brian and Lisa Cain in the past but want to bring up their work again. On Wednesday NPR is doing a feature story on their work and ministry with God's Helping Hands a ministry to the poor of Oakland County with the Rochester Church(see http://www.ghhmichigan.org/).

Brian and Lisa started a clothing and food ministry from a small room in the Rochester Church building almost 8 years ago after enduring many moments of pain and confusion in dealing with the severe illness of their son Kevin. Kevin died at a young age--the funeral was one of the most "gospel" moments I've ever been apart of.

Since Kevin's death, the ministry has become one of the great witnesses in Oakland CO. They've moved God's Helping Hands from the church to a warehouse that borders Rochester and Pontiac.

Last Wednesday, for example, GHH fed almost 80 families (not people BUT families) in 3.5 hours. We're now beginning the process of dreaming of what might be done next to expand the ministry.

Tomorrow morning, reporters from one of the most respected radio programs in the country will be interviewing Brian and Lisa. People will be coming out of the woodwork to be a part of this day. I can't help but think of all the late nights and early morning Brian and Lisa have spent at that warehouse, getting things ready, sorting through the scraps of the rich in order to bring some light into rather dark lives.

I've spent thousands of dollars on a undergraduate degree in History and an M.Div but am just now learning what it means to be an outpost of God's Kingdom in the midst of overwhelming evidence that would suggest the only Kingdom in control is the one under the direction of the principalities and powers.

18 July 2005

4 years and a few states later...

This weekend Kara and I celebrated our first year of marriage...I can't believe that the girl I was so nervous about asking to go to a movie is now my wife of one year. More than that, I can believe she actually said "yes" that hot summer day almost two years ago.

Kara and I have been on quiet an adventure. We started out "courting" long distance; while I was going to school and playing basketball in college she was at a university in Nashville. Then I moved to Nashville to do seminary (really to be closer to her...the seminary I wanted to go to was in California). Then I convinced her to move to Texas while I continued graduate studies and coached basketball at ACU for a short time. Then we moved back to Nashville right after getting married to finish our studies (at least for now). Then, you see where this is going, we moved back to Rochester so I could work at the RCC and teach religion (adjunct) at Rochester College.

I've taken Kara on a whirlwind over the last three years. We've learned a lot about eachother and even more about ourselves. It might be cliche but it is still true: the greates test of one's discipleship is the strength of their marriage.

14 July 2005


What is the Gospel?

What a great question. We've been talking about this all week in my Postmodern Theologies class with John Mark Hicks. I like the warning in Divine Conspiracy against "vampire Christianity"--the notion that Christians only want Jesus for his blood. We get Jesus' blood and then move on to Paul for the rest of consumer passions.

Think about the rich diversity of "gospel talk" in the four Gospels for instance. In Matthew, salvation is linked to the "ethical training for the kingdom of heaven"--the Rabbi shows his disciples how to live as outposts of God's future reign. In Mark, salvation is tied discipleship in a different way. Discipleship is participating in the shame (as opposed to Mel Gibson's "pain") of the cross. Those who would be a part of this New Band of Brothers/Sisters must be willing to embrace shame in light of a culture hinged on power and honor. In Luke, salvation is tied to the overturning of the dominant power systems--the poor are liberated, the capties are set free (it's not Blessed are the poor in spirit but blessed are the poor). In Luke we are introduced to a radical theology of neighbor: there is no one who is not our neighbor! In John, salvation is couched in the language of abiding in eternal life (John's word for Kingdom) and belief in "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

What is interesting to me is that the four Gospels are even more layered than what I've just presented. Each one presents a rather wholistic picture of salvation...and we haven't even gotten to Paul yet :)

I like this idea "people out of legalistic traditions need grace; people out of grace traditions need discipleship." I think that says a lot about where we're currently at in Restoration/Evangelical churches. The gospel doesn't just want to say something (our sins are forgiven) it wants us to live a certain way (we are empowered to be the Second Incarnation).

11 July 2005

Nashvegas and Downward Mobility

I'm in Nashville this week finishing up the course requirments for the M.Div. at Lipscomb. This week I'm taking a Seminar in Theology class with John Mark Hicks who one of my friends in grad school refers to as "one of the smartest men in North America." Check out his blog at http://www.professingprofessor.blogspot.com/. The class is entitled Postmodern Theologies and we're going to look at post-evangelicalism (recovering fundamentalists), postliberals (recovering liberals) and communal praxis (the people who actually take Jesus' call to discipleship seriously)...ok maybe that was a slight exaggeration.

I'm taking this class with one of my good friends Mark Manry who is also finishing up the M.Div. this summer. Mark is a member where I currently work--the Rochester Church of Christ in Michigan. Mark is about to move his entire family to Uganda to join a mission team supported by the Rochester Church. I tease Mark that he's on the fast track for "downward mobility"--he's driving the wrong way down a one way street :). Seriously, Mark has a pastor's heart and will be Kingdom blessing while he's in Uganda and when we steal him back in five years to work with us at RCC.

The Rochester Church is not a perfect church by any measuring standards but they are committed to training up their own and sending them into the world. We currently have disciples (raised up from within our church) in Eastern Europe, Brazil, Uganda (a few families), Honduras, and one training to go to the Bronx to join an ACU mission team. I know I'm forgetting someone.

Our next step???? Getting the body of Christ at Rochester to see themselves as missionaries in the setting they find themselves in. Becoming a missional church out of a comfortable evangelical worldview is no easy task. I can't imagine a more exciting project than being a part of this.

07 July 2005

Bonjour...ca va?

Not that anyone lost any sleep over this blog but I'm back bloggin again for the first time in a while. I am in the midst of getting my ministry off the ground at the Rochester Church of Christ, finishing my M.Div., serving my wife....and now a good friend (and running coach) has convinced me to train for a marathon with him. Let's just say I've been training for two weeks now and I'm incredibly soar...I know I'm being a baby.

In the future I intend to blog about

1. marriage to a wife whom I can't believe said "yes."
2. the poor
3. the Rochester Church
4. Rochester College
5. great books
6. great movies
7. great friends
8. politics
9. the Pistons
10. Running
11. The students I'll be working with at Rochester College in "Discovering the NT"
12. U2
13. Novels

I'll try to avoid postmodernity since it is the most abused word in all of contemporary christian jargon :)

To get things started, I'd encourage you check out ministry to the poor http://www.orion.lib.mi.us/ghh/home.htm

Brian and Lisa Cain (two disciples at the Rochester Church have an incredible ministry that is going to be featured on NPR in the coming weeks. I could not be more proud than to call them brother and sister.

If you are really bored here is the link to a sermon I recently preached at Rochester from Jeremiah 7. The manuscript is for speaking not neccessarily reading.
http://www.rochestercoc.org/sermonnotes.htm (click on June 12, and July 3 2005). I don't know if the multi media link is working or not for audio purposes.

I'll end with a quote from Dr. King that I'm still trying to embrace in my own life.

"I may not be the man I should be nor the man with Christ's help I will someday become, but thank God I am not the man I used to be."