Photoblog: A Last Look at Louisville

27 Mar

About a week ago I was able to spend some time with one of my dearest friends, Brian Moats.  We spent some time taking pictures around Louisville and his shots can be seen on his blog.  Here are some of mine:

 

Boston Trip Recap

5 Mar
The week was a busy one with not much sleep!  We arrived late Wednesday night. Debbie and Juan picked us up at the airport and we got back to the Macleans’ apartment around 1:30 A.M.

 

Thursday
Sara had an interview at a staffing agency downtown at 10 AM. We left around 8 to make sure we would arrive in plenty of time since our primary means of transportation for the week was the T (Boston’s subway/train system).  Sara’s interview went well. The staffing agency will be a resource to her for jobs in Boston and they will contact her if jobs arise that they feel would be a good fit for her. While Sara was in the interview I had the opportunity to walk around downtown.  During this time I apparently looked Bostonian enough for two people to ask me for directions (although they might have been from out of town too…).  After this our apartment hunting started.  We were primarily looking for one or two bedroom apartments, but were also looking for 3-4 bedroom units as the Harpers had mentioned the possibility of living with us. We looked at two apartments on Thursday with a local lady from Jamaica Plain (JP) named Melissa.  She was very helpful and was able to tell us a lot about the neighborhood.  The two apartments that we looked at weren’t exactly what we wanted, though. One wouldn’t even fit our bed in the bedroom and the other was on a busy street at the very edge of JP.  After looking at the apartments we headed up to the Harpers (Shane, Shannon, and baby Reese) to ride with them to dinner.  On the way over to their place I received a voicemail from a lady at Boston University letting me know that I had been accepted into their Graduate Program for the School of Theology.  She also let me know that I would be receiving a scholarship that would cover half of the tuition! We had dinner with the Macleans, Harpers, and Katye Green at a corner tavern and then went to an event showcasing singer/songwriters from around the area.  It was held at Berklee where Shane’s brother Daniel attends.  Daniel was one of the five singer/songwriters to perform and did a wonderful job.  We’re praying for Daniel to become more involved in our community.

 

Friday
In the morning I rode up with Juan to a church planters gathering in Malden, about 30 minutes north of Boston. The meeting was at a church building that was recently purchased for 7 Mile Road, a church that has been experiencing wonderful growth over the past year. They purchased this building from a dying church that sold it to them for almost half of it’s appraised value. There were about 22 men at this meeting, which is held quarterly.  It was a very encouraging time as every man was able to share about things that they are struggling with and ways they are living on mission. We then broke into smaller groups and spent a while praying for one another.  It was exciting for me to see and meet many pastors and church planters in person that I had been following and reading about for a while.  The one benefit to the small amount of Evangelical protestant churches in Boston is that the majority of the pastors and church planters know one another and lean on one another for support.  During the meetingI was able to talk with a guy who helps lead the missions and mercy ministry for City Life Presbyterian which meets in downtown Boston, as well as a student at Gordon Conwell who serves at Christ the King Church in Cambridge.  I look forward to picking their brains about ministry in the city when we move up. Sara went and looked at an apartment with Shannon in the morning in Roxbury.  They both liked the apartment and we kept it on our list of possibilities.  After Juan and I got back from the church planters gathering, Sara and I went to look at another 2 bedroom place. We liked it a lot, and it moved to second place on our list. Friday night, we stayed home with the Macleans and Katye and played games, relaxed, and recovered from being out in the rain all day.

 

Saturday
Sara and I looked at a 4 bedroom place in the afternoon, with lots of room. It seemed perfect, with lots of space, multiple levels, and a great deck. We met up with the Harpers and looked at another 3 bedroom apt in the middle of JP. This one had a small living room in comparison to the 4 bed we looked at earlier.  We went to dinner with the Harpers and discussed what living together would look like and any reservations we might have about it.  We left the Harpers that night hoping that they would decide that they wanted to go for it.  Later that night, they called us and said they were in. We e-mailed and called about the 4 bedroom in the middle of JP right away!

 

Sunday
We went to church at Mosaic church which meets at a YMCA in Boston’s South End neighborhood.  It was a small gathering, but we felt welcomed and the singing was a mixture of familiar hymns and contemporary worship songs.  The pastor of Mosaic is Jan, who also pastors two other congregations, one of which is a Russian congregation that was just

recently accepted into the Acts 29 Network.  Jan preached on Wisdom from the book of Proverbs, teaching us that wisdom is not what we know, but the fear of the Lord.  He encouraged us with the gospel by showing that Jesus is the wisdom of God who has first pursued us so that we can respond to his grace by learning and walking in obedience. After church we went by the real estate office to drop off a check and sign some papers that would make our offer for the apartment official.  We just needed to hear back from the owner to see if she would accept. We then headed off to lunch with some friends of the Harpers that were down on vacation from Canada.  Paul, the dad of the family, is a graduate of Southern and currently pastors a church in Ontario.  Paul and his family graciously bought us and the Harpers lunch and encouraged us in our church plant in Boston.  After that Sara and I checked out some shops in the area and then headed back to the Macleans.  That night the Macleans ordered Indian food for us and we had an Oscar watching party complete with a ballot competition (Debbie and I tied for 1st).

 

Monday
Monday was dedicated to our Core Group training.  When I say “Core Group” I’m talking about the individuals who first got together in Louisville and said they were in on the Boston Church Plant.  Our core team is comprised of:  the Macleans (lead planter Juan, his wife Debbie, 2-year-old-Jonas, and soon-to-be-born-baby #2), Katye Green, the Harpers (Shane, Shannon and 6-week-old Reese).  We’re praying for the Lord to add to this core group to help us better form a foundation for the church plant. To start off the training we spent a while talking about what we are excited about as well as any fears or needs that we currently have.  The time we spent praying for these things was encouraging as we realized it is the Lord alone that can grow his church. After spending some of the morning in prayer, we started discussing the church plant more in depth.  Juan lead us through a discussion on the vision of the plant:  Gospel, Church, Mission.  He also spoke about the identities we hold as a church: Family, Learners, Worshippers, Servants. We then spent some time talking about the reasoning behind planting churches as well as what a church in Boston needs to address.  The main needs we mentioned were a lack of deep community and a problem with commitment.  We then spoke about a timeline for the church plant where we tried to balance thinking humbly with expecting big things from a God who is able to do abundantly more than we could ever think or imagine. Lastly, we decided on a church name!  After deliberating for almost an hour, the name we chose was one that many of us had liked since Juan first mentioned it about a month ago:  Redemption City Church.  The reason I like the name is that in encompasses all of our vision:  Redemption (Gospel) City (Mission) Church(Community/Church).  We’re excited to have a name that can communicate our vision for God’s work in Boston!

 

Tuesday
We left Boston early Tuesday morning, excited for when we will return for good! Since our trip, we found out that we didn’t get the 4 bedroom apartment that we applied for with the Harpers. Sara and I applied for the 2 bedroom place that was second on our list, and we hope to hear back on that soon.

Building A Theological Framework: Reflections on Richard Lints’s Fabric of Theology

29 Jan

Understanding the influence that my culture, community of faith, and experiences have had on my theological framework and vision has played a significant role in the maturation of my personal theological framework over the past few years. The exposure to the factors that have influenced and formed this framework and vision is due in large part to a book by Richard Lints entitled The Fabic of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology. In this book Lints seeks to “outline an evangelical theology that is at once biblically and culturally sensitive,” as well as “to understand evangelical biases while also affirming the public character of truth and the absolute character of God’s truth.”1

Lints’s cumulative work has influenced me in three ways: it has helped me identify the filters through which I understand theology, helped me understand my context within the history of the church, and helped me learn how to build a theological framework that overflows into all areas of life. Lints lists three primary filters that influence our theological framework and vision: tradition, culture, and reason. I’ve come to a fuller awareness of the impact these filters have on my interpretation of God’s redemptive work within the world. Lints does not believe that these factors force us into a particular theological mold, rather he believes we can understand and use these factors to cultivate a healthy environment for theological formulation. Lints carefully articulates what a healthy and biblical approach to each lens looks like.

Foundational to our ability to critique the social and philosophical beliefs that help form the way we approach our theological method is the belief that God is the one who breaks through these filters. His affirmation that the God who has revealed himself to us can indeed “break through our cultural blinders and thereby enable us to see ourselves more clearly by the radiance of his glory” was particularly helpful to me.2 Amidst my studies and exposure to various interpretations and beliefs of many Christians, it has been an immense relief to be reassured that the Sovereign Lord who reveals himself through the power of his Spirit transcends our historical, cultural, and philosophical lenses. This gives me hope as I counsel and have conversations with those that are in a place of disbelief. It also gives me hope that the beliefs that I wrongly hold now can be changed by the power of God’s spirit.

Lints’s book also gives historical examples of key figures from church history and their theological frameworks. This overview, as well as his articulation of the current cultural context of post-modernism, has helped me better place the foundations and formulation of my own theological framework within the context of the historical community of faith.

The final section of Lints’s book has helped open my mind and heart afresh to the scriptures. He builds a theological framework and vision based on the biblical story of redemptive history. Building a proper redemptive historical hermeneutic has helped keep my theological framework in check as the cross-cultural story of redemption cuts through my interpretive lenses. To borrow from Geerhardus Vos, understanding the bible not as a dogmatic handbook but a story full of dramatic interest has helped me understand my place in a story that is bigger than I could ever imagine.

1 Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publiching Co., 1993), 28.

2 Ibid, 106.

My Journey Up Until Now

19 Dec

My journey began with a loving home environment where my mother and father showed me what a family based on God’s grace could look like.  My heart was changed and awoken to the gospel at the age of five. After asking my mom some questions, she helped me to pray and ask for forgiveness for the bad I had done and to live a new life with Jesus. My parents are believers in the Christian faith and the community of faith that we were a part of was one of the local Southern Baptist Churches.  This church is conservative with a firm belief in the scriptures as the Word of God and in the necessity of confessing one’s sins and believing in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  This church also has a strong belief in missions.  They allocate a tremendous amount of their budget to missions.  This allowed me to participate in multiple short term mission trips.  I was able to go on trips to Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and India.  The majority of the US trips included “vacation Bible schools” for kids as well as some clean up and construction projects.  The international trips were a bit different and found their primary focus on evangelism and building relationships with unbelievers.  These trips, combined with the fundamentals of the church in which I was raised, formed within me a particular worldview and set of values.  They also exposed me to cultures whose manifestation of the church looked different than the one I was part of.  I’m thankful for this community of faith that allowed me these opportunities.

Throughout my adolescent years, I was one who enjoyed studying the Bible and often found myself leading discussions with friends and helping lead within our church youth group.  When the decision for college came I felt a strong desire to throw myself into the path towards ministry.  I didn’t quite know in what way I would serve the church through vocation, but I knew that I wanted to go in that direction.  After a year at community college battling the decision of what to do, I decide to study theology at a Christian college.  I had deduced from my experience in the church, and the mission trips that I had taken part in, that missionaries were the Christian “all-stars.”  I wanted to serve God and his church to the fullest, so I majored in Missions at Boyce College, the undergraduate college of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

After my first year at Boyce, I found that the elective classes of the Missions major were primarily teaching methodological principles and practices that were presupposing specific biblical and theological beliefs.  It was my desire to first develop my own biblical and theological convictions, so I changed my major to “Biblical and Theological Studies.”  I wanted my methodology and practice to be the outworking of the convictions that I had come to from studying the scriptures.  I believe that this switch allowed me to better understand, through reading and discussion, the views of other denominations and faiths.  It was the case however, that the most formative times of this stage of my journey came not through the classes but through discussions with my peers.  It was in these discussions that the presuppositions and worldviews developed in me through my Southern Baptist upbringing were most acutely challenged.  The questions and discussions of my peers forced me to test, tweak, and further develop my understanding of God, his church, and his world.

About three years into my studies at Boyce I was convicted of my lack of commitment to a local body of believers.  I had often gone home to Tennessee during the summers of school and used that as an excuse to not serve within a local church.  It was at this time that I visited Sojourn Community Church.  I had visited Sojourn before, when I first arrived in Louisville, but was turned off by their predominately young congregation, loud music, candles, flannel shirts, beards, and weird liturgy (including a closing exchange between the leader and the congregation, “Peace be with you,” – “And also with you.”).  Almost three years later, after my thinking about church methodology and mission had changed, I made my second visit to Sojourn.  I jumped into their six-week “Gospel Classes” immediately so that I could learn more about them and fill the requirement for membership.

After attending all six of the Gospel Classes and hearing their vision and identities, I knew that Sojourn was the place where I wanted to be.  After my membership interview with one of our elders, I was invited to his community group.  To this day, my closest friends from Sojourn came from this group.  It was through this community group and Sojourn at large that I learned what it meant to be a part of a family on mission.

Sojourn looks different than any other church I’ve been a part of.  Other than the loud music, flannel shirts, beards, and predominately young congregation that I first mentioned, there are a few other particulars that stand out.  I now understand these differences as the outworking of the theology of a church that sees itself deeply connected to God’s mission of redemption in this world.  For one, they dig into a well of liturgical wealth by including various versions of scripture and confessions from church history and modern day in their gathered services.  For another, they allow room for the creative side of the image of God to be expressed by using the space in which Sojourn meets an art gallery and venue for concerts. Another difference is the diversity of the church.  At its beginning Sojourn was a gathering for those that felt burned or out of place within the “traditional” church.  Their gathering location was in the neighborhood where many of these young, independent, artistic individuals lived and hung out.  As Sojourn grew and moved their meeting space into a lower income neighborhood, the demographic of the gathering began to change.  This change has been slow, but has started happening based on Sojourn’s commitment to living the gospel out as missionaries to the neighborhood where they gather.  Their commitment to ministries of mercy and loving the city has become attractional to those in the neighborhood as they see Sojourn’s good works and begin to inquire about the God that they serve.

At Sojourn, the congregation articulates their beliefs primarily as identities that they believe are true of themselves as a community who believes in Jesus.  There are five identities that Sojourn emphasizes:  Worshipers, Family, Servants, Learners, and Missionaries.  This last identity drastically shapes the “look” of Sojourn and has transformed my view of missions from something that happens “over there” to something that we are participants in here and now.  Our missionary God has pursued and redeemed us.  As his redeemed people, we are incorporated into this mission.   Through our identity with Christ, we are part of his mission of redemption.  This has brought an incredible amount of worth to my everyday life.  I’m not preparing to “go on mission” and I don’t have to go to a foreign country to be a Christian all-star. I’m a missionary where I am, to my neighbors; to my city.

At Sojourn I met my wife, a woman whose godliness and heart for the needy challenges and changes me further.  Through an internship and participation in a pastor’s school at Sojourn, God has helped clarify my vocational vision within the Church.  My desire is to go where the gospel is not prevalent or easily accessible, an important conviction first driven home to me by the church I grew up in.  The opportunity arose for us to move to Boston and be a part of a church plant in the city.  My desire is to move to this city, raise my family there, and one day pastor in the city.  I will further my theological studies at Boston University where I can continue to be exposed to theological views and perspectives that differ from my own. I’m humbled and eternally grateful to be a character in God’s story of redemption and am confident that God will use my family and the church plant to transform the hearts of the people and the city of Boston.

 

Mine and my wife’s journey continues, please pray for us to love Boston well.