Imagine walking out the front door of your house onto your porch, down the steps and onto the sidewalk. You turn down the block, and around the corner, on your way to work, and as you walk, you pass by parents walking their children to the school.  These families are of all races and nationalities, they are from every corner of the earth: Nepalese, Congolese, Chin (Burmese), Somali, Sudanese, Karen (Burmese) and more.  Not to mention the Puerto Rican, African American, and Italian American families that populated the neighborhood before the refugees began to flood into the city.

You live, work, worship, and play in one of the most diverse places in America; the West Side of Buffalo.

You live in a neighborhood whose recent history is pretty rough, but whose future is bright.  The people still live in the grip of poverty; urban poverty that has oppressed generation after generation, and the poverty of the refugee community who escaped their homeland with nothing but their own lives and perhaps (if they were fortunate) some of their family.  But development work has hit a tipping point.  The neighborhood has seen a consistent effort towards the renovation of old housing stock, the kick starting of new business and economic ventures, the building of playgrounds and children's programs, the hiring of neighborhood youth, the organization of community groups, the development of urban agriculture, and more...

Ministry is often conceived of as something that pastors, worship leaders, small group leaders, and missionaries do.  But scripture makes it clear that the leaders of the church are supposed to be equipping the people to do the ministry.  That means that ministry is really something that is done by spirit-filled carpenters, teachers, gardeners, businesspeople, doctors, parents, neighbors, and artists.

You are one of those people.

What is more God is doing something strange and exciting here, something that believers have interceded about for centuries.  He is bringing unity to His children.  While divisions in the church are still real and painful, the Holy Spirit has woven together a network of churches, organizations, business ventures, and individual believers who are working together to glorify God and to bless the city.  Your home is a nexus for this unity.  You live with believers from many churches and church backgrounds, sharing meals together, praying together, sharing stories, and encouraging one another in ministry.

You live in the BUMP house.

The Buffalo Urban Mission Partnership (BUMP) is a collaborative network of church and parachurch partnerships.  The Buffalo Vineyard Church is a founding member.  For three years we have hosted dozens of young people in paid, year-long, ministry/service placements here in Buffalo.  The BUMP program has three essential facets: paid ministry work 20-30 hours a week, christian community life in a house and in a local church, a weekly class discussing a missiology for the city.

For more information visit:

or email:

Pastor Steven Schenk
Buffalo Vineyard Church


By Gary Weins

    wispy fleeting phantom
    longing grazes the edges of my soul
    just out of sight

    A faint perfume
    it hangs midair
    a memory not quite complete
    touching feelings
    stirring something
    not quite there
    yet real

    sweet Jesus
    how long until once more your gaze arrests my heart
    you come and go
    now touching
    not keeping distant
    unpredictable like breath of wind

    when can I find you?
    will you be captured as you have captured me?

    sweet sadness overtakes me
    lending voice
    to the pensive song
    of a lovesick soul

    less wild lovers call
    sending forth their saccharine smells
    false appeals
    stemming not from love
    but raging hate

    they promise joy tonight
    if I but take and eat
    I glance
    but longing calls
    and sweater far its misty strains
    than any pledge of instant glee

    lovely Lord
    stretch forth your wounded hand

    and drip the precious
    fragrant flow of passioned love all over me again
    retake my battered heart
    steal me away to secret place where deep and deep engage

    I love you Lord
    I want your presence gorging me
    consuming me
    with fervent zeal
    to know you more

    living flame
    beset me now
    with love divine
    and say to me again
    beloved I am yours
    and you are mine

    but release does not yet come
    the veil is torn
    I've entered in
    yet still I see with eyes be dimmed as in a glass

    when shall I know as I am known?
    when shall the hope be realized?
    how long will mortal flesh impede desire?
    how long?

    wispy fleeting phantom
    longing grazes the edges of my soul
    just out of sight

    a faint perfume
    it hangs midair
    a memory not quite complete
    touching feelings
    stirring something
    not quite there
    yet near
    so very near


Good Things

"Enjoying good things is a wonderful preparation for Heaven."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu


Ministry Pornography

Pornography is damaging to the soul for many reasons, one of them is the way in which it creates a false understanding of human sexual behavior and norms.  When people feed their sexual imagination with pornography they begin to think that the behaviors they see in the porn actors/actresses are the behaviors that they should engage in when they are having sex.

The problem is that porn stars aren't normal.  They aren't normal in many ways.

  1. Normal people don't have sex in front of a camera.
  2. Normal people's bodies don't look like that.
  3. Normal people don't enjoy those acts (indeed, most porn stars don't actually enjoy all of the things they are paid to do on camera, they do them because they get paid, not because they like it!)

What is more, the camera doesn't capture everything.

  1. It doesn't show you the toll pornography takes on the porn star's romantic life.
  2. It doesn't show you the toll pornography takes on the porn star's sobriety.
  3. It doesn't show you the toll pornography takes on the porn star's self worth.


There is a parallel to draw to ministry.  (Actually there is a parallel to draw to any vocation.  The real parallel here is about how comparing ourselves to unhealthy people actually causes us to become unhealthy ourselves.  Or, how comparing ourselves to people that are in radically different situations than us can often lead to confusion and pain.)

In the church we love to hold up examples of church success that are the ministry equivalent of porn.  Looking to the mega churches to teach us how to do ministry is like looking to the porn star to learn how to make love to your spouse.  You are probably going to hurt yourself, hurt your spouse, and likely offend them in the process.  The same is true in the church; we are likely to damage people, and damage ourselves.

Lets make this clear.  The average church in America has 70 members.  If my stats are correct, churches with over a 1000 members represent less than 1% of American churches.  But we keep putting on ministry conferences, and teaching ministry classes, where the leaders are mega-church pastors, and the learners are normal church pastors.  This means the people we are putting on a pedestal have almost no common ground with the people we are asking them to teach.  They are engaged in radically different tasks.

At least as different as a married couple and a porn scene.  ...maybe even more different!


The Gospels and the Whole Story

“The gospels, the epistles, and Revelation itself “work” only when you see them as detailed elaborations of the large, complex, but utterly coherent story we sketched earlier: the call of Human to be God’s image-bearer into creation, the call of Israel to be the rescuer of Human, and the vocation of Jesus to be the one who, completing Israel’s task, rescues Human so that, through redeemed humankind, the whole creation can be liberated from its corruption and death and the project of new creation decisively launched.”

Excerpt From: N. T. Wright. “After You Believe.” HarperCollins, 2010.


Race at School

Within a few days of each other, all three of my children shared with me similar experiences at school.

My children go to a public charter school here in the City of Buffalo.  Like most city schools its student population is a mixture of racial groups.  Our kids classes are almost half black, and half white, with a smattering of other ethnic groups mixed in.  Like most city schools, the staff population is almost completely white, and overwhelmingly female.

My kids came home talking about the way the black kids and the white kids act, and how they act different from each other.  They came home talking about the way the teachers treat the black kids and the white kids, and how they don't get treated the same.  They also came home talking about how some of the black kids accuse some of the teachers, and white classmates, of being "racist."

This is, of course, a wonderful opportunity for us to engage our kids, to talk with them, and to help them gain some tools to use when they are adults.  In particular, we are trying to help them understand the following:

Culture Exists

Your culture is like the rules to a sport.  Everyone on the team knows where to be and what to do to participate.  Once you learn how to play the game, you never really have to discuss the rules anymore.  You just play.

When people engage across cultures, however, its like a group of two dozen kids playing together; except the first dozen think everyone is playing soccer, and the second dozen are trying to play basketball.  They have different expectations, and don't have a common language to use to explore those different expectations.  There is pain, offense, and confusion, without any real understanding as to why the other kids won't just play by the rules.

But in spite of the oftentimes painful results nobody is actually doing anything immoral.

Bad Behavior Exists

Sometimes people break the rules, and they know full well that they are breaking them, they just don't care.  This is true for white kids and black kids.  Sometimes they just do bad things.  This also applies to bigotry.  Sometimes people just mistreat people because of their race.

Neither one of those things is okay, and no one should get a pass because of their skin color, no matter which color it is.

Institutional Racism Exists

The simple truth is that our school, and most schools, are run by white people.  The power dynamics aren't just.  Its hard to see if you are white, but painfully obvious if you are not.  What is more, those power dynamics are the product of a really painful history.  While the events that caused the pain might be generations in the past, the pain of those events, and the institutions created by those events, persist into today.

This means that no one is presently doing anything immoral, but the immoral actions of people from the past, are still doing damage today.  It may not be our fault, but it is our responsibility to change it.


Finally, its really important that we help our kids discern the difference between these three things.  Cross cultural interaction can be beautiful, but often its like someone stepping on your toe and breaking it.  Then the question becomes, did they do it on purpose?  or on accident?  Or maybe, just maybe, its my fault for putting my foot where it didn't belong!

Show up against TERROR!

What in the world is going on?

The same people who are horrified at the rhetoric surrounding Islamic terrorists, and Syrian refugees, are now bringing us... ?

...their own horrifying rhetoric that paints whole people groups as terrorists because of the actions of a few of its members!

I vote we "Show up Against People who can't Think for Themselves" and reject the rhetoric of fear, hate, and prejudice on all sides that the politicians are using to divide us.

I vote we begin to tone the rhetoric down on all fronts.  If you are a liberal, it is your job to tell your fellow liberals to stop the craziness.  If you are a conservative, it is your responsibility to tell your fellow conservatives to put an end to the divisiveness.  Lets engage in thoughtful conversation and productive action.  If you really can't resist the urge to be provocative try engaging in friendship with your enemies.


Church Draft

Hanging out with football geeks means you talk about the best player in each position, drafting your best 'all-time' football team. Hanging out with church geeks means you get to do the same thing for a church leadership team. Who would be the best preacher ever? The greatest worship leader? Here is my list:

  1. Director of Church Discipline - John Calvin
  2. Military Advisor - Joan of Arc
  3. Science Advisor - Ken Hamm
  4. Dance Team Coordinator - Herodias' Daughter
  5. Women's Ministry Coordinator - Mark Driscoll
  6. Youth Pastor - the Prophet Elisha and his bear
  7. Biblical Scholar and General Cultural Advisor - President GW Bush
  8. Senior Pastor - Balaam's Ass
  9. Nursery Worker - Bob the Tomato