22 March 2006

Pulitzer, Loneliness, Bono, and Basketball

Four books to read in 2006:

The Known World by Edward P. Jones (Amistad Publishers). Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this book chronciles the life of Henry Townsend, " black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia." Robbins unexpectedly dies and his widow (Caldonia) takes control--chaos, uncertainty ensue. This books brings into the world of slavery, the incredible will of African-Americans, and the reality of hope in the midst of certain despair.

The Restless Heart: Finding Our Spiritual Home in Times of Loneliness by Ronald Rolheiser (Doubleday Publishers). Lonelinesss is part of the journey for those who know they will never reach their destination this side of the return of King Jesus. Loneliness is prevalent in many people: usually, the more sucessful someone is the more loneliness creeps in.

Bono by Michka Assayas (Riverhead Books). One of the more influential figures in the world, this book is a series of conversations--there is some explicit language but don't let that ruin the incredible story of this Irish boy turned prophet/rock star. When it comes to U2, I'm haunted by this question, "A band that is blatantly spiritual attracts more fans, sells more records than any band in the world. What is it about their understanding of faith that the church can learn?" Though Bono is controversial politically (Patrick and I have fun talking about this)--Bono will challenge stock answers to life's difficult questions.

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down by Frank Fitzpatrick (University of Nebraska Press). Contextualizes the story of the infamous Adolph Rupp and Kentucky (Rupp's Runts) facing off against Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA Championship Game for Men's Basketball. If you enjoyed the movie "Glory Road", you'll love this book. Texas Western changed American Sports and American culture in ways that are just now being understood.

18 March 2006

The Bronx

I recently spent a week in the Bronx, NY; specifically--the Bronx Fellowship of Christ (www.bronxfellowship.org) led by Jared Looney, Malissa Endsley, Lindy Emerson (Rochester College Grad, partially supported by the Rochester Church)et al.

These ministers are committed to doing tough ministry in perhaps one of the most complex context's in the world. They are well-trained, skilled, bold, and posess the hearts of kingdom servants.

Their mission is to create house churches all throughout the Bronx (the largest of the five borough's with 1.5 million people). While several missional church outfits have been able to reach Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan--the Bronx remains the least "churched" section of New York City.

And so these women and men come from the Northeast, Texas, Missouri with one idea: to increase the kingdom of God in perhaps the most influential city in the western world.

Here's a description from their web page:

Bronx Fellowship of Christ is a community of people who are discovering how to fulfill their potential as their Creator intended. Through His power, we find meaning in life, we overcome struggles, we find comfort in trials, and we celebrate the joy of relationships with each other and with our Lord. We invite you to come & discover what this journey of faith is all about.

Why has this new church been forming in the Bronx? It takes many different churches working together to make a lasting difference in the city. Sometimes people find it difficult to find a place where they can fit in an existing church. No one single church, no matter how large and active, can all by itself meet every need that exists in the city, but we hope that God will use us to be a part of his work to transform life in New York.

We understand that some people have been offended and even hurt by religious experiences. Some have tried religion but feel that there is still something missing. Bronx Fellowship of Christ aims to be a safe opportunity where sincere seekers can grow stronger day-by-day. You are welcome to bring all of your life's experiences with you including your questions and frustrations. We are each challenged to learn and to grow, but we come as we are.

Bronx Fellowship of Christ meets altogether as a church on the first Sunday of each month in a rented space. During the rest of the month, we meet in homes. We see the house church as experiencing family, and the church-wide assembly as a type of family reunion. We have learned that there are many advantages that come from the informality, simplicity, and warmth that are discovered in many house churches. There are increased opportunities for people to encourage each other, pray for one another, and experience the blessing of hospitality in these small group settings.


I am struck by three things when I reflect upon BFC.

1. Committment to community. This church model is based on relationships, not charisma, programs, dollars, grants, etc.

2. Emphasis upon calling. In this approach, each disciple is equally vital to Jesus demand of being "salt and light," a "city on a hill." Because they all truly see themselves as ministers of redemption, they do not relegate the "real" work of the church to clergy.

3. Non-institutional hassles. They do not wrestle over large heating bills, mortgage payments, building campaigns, etc. While they're not exempt from some of the political games missionaries all over the world have to play, for the most part, they are free to be bold, innovative, and fresh.

The work is tough. One has to reorient the notion of "success" and "effectiveness." But it is one of the purest kingdom works I've ever been around.

Check out Lindy's blog at www.lindyerin.blogspot.com.