"When the satisfaction or security of another person becomes as significant to one as one's own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. ... Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term." 



"You can have my sympathy or my respect, take your pick."
Anonymous Web Comment

On its face this comment is insightful.  I am not sure, however, that I agree with it wholeheartedly...

Maybe it works as a platitude to apply to my own self-pity, and perhaps something to teach my children.  But I don't think it is a helpful way for me to think about treating others.

So perhaps it is better said:

"People will either give you respect, or give you sympathy, but they will rarely give you both."


Why I am Politically Disengaged

I am intentionally disengaged from the political process in our country.

To be clear, I voted in our recent election, indeed I have only opted out of voting once in my life.  I care about the direction of our country.  I am moderately informed about the policies that we create and enforce.  I have opinions about what those policies ought to be.  There are even a few people that I will discuss those opinions with from time to time.

So what do I mean when I say I am disengaged politically?

   I don't listen to 24-hour news media (right or left).
   I don't rant on social media.
   I don't put bumper stickers on my car.
   I don't call people communist.
   I don't call people racist.

I am disgusted by the vapidity and rancor of those who do these things, so I opt out.

Whats more, in the end I don't care too much who gets elected, or how things unfold.  I don't get angry or afraid, nor do I get excited or hopeful.  I definitely don't think about trying to have any significant effect on the process.  Indeed, US politics is like the weather in that I can no more change the course of our nation by voting than I can make it rain by spitting in the air.

The interesting part is that I actually studied Political Science in college.  For years I studied our political process formally, and sat around talking politics with my friends informally.  It was an enjoyable pastime, something akin to golf or chess.  We didn't yell, or call names; we were dispassionate.  Something in our national discourse, however, has changed.

In my mind it changed in connection with the 2000 election, but I may be wrong about that.  What I am not wrong about, is that I used to be able to sit with a group of people and talk politics without anyone name-calling, crying, yelling, or running out of the room.  In the years since leaving college it is increasingly unlikely for this to happen.

I may be wrong about the causes, but my suspicion is that the rise of social media and the 24 hour news cycle are to blame for this.  We are now inundated with conflict-mongering "news" channels that have to create drama in order to boost ratings.  This means we have to find the one KKK member, or the one Communist Party member, and put them on camera to create the idea that our nation is locked in combat between crazy people.  In order to make money they sell the story that the KKK and the Communist Party each represent 50% of our nation.  (In reality these groups together represent approximately 1 in 50,000 Americans.)

What is more, we then take our fear and anger and broadcast it without a filter, to everyone in our online social network.  It then gets re-broadcasted as fodder for the conflict-mongering cycle to continue.

As a follower of Jesus, my response is to simply walk away.

To be continued...


Christians and the Politics of Poverty

     The government should be responsible for alleviating poverty in our country.

     The government should not be responsible for alleviating poverty in our country.

As a Christian,* you can support either of those positions without violating your faith in God.  As a Christian, however, you cannot stop there.  Regardless of your political persuasion, a follower of Jesus is compelled to engage personally and sacrificially in the plight of those living in poverty.

Both of the statements often serve as an excuse to avoid following the clear teaching of Jesus.  We are taught to love our neighbor, and to help those who are hurting in any way.  This is not an action that we can ignore, nor is it an action that we can delegate to others by virtue of our vote.

Regardless of our politics, we must follow the example of Jesus, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching of Scripture, to get personally involved.  To fail to do so would undoubtedly violate our faith in God.

*If you are not a Christian, then you can safely ignore these words.


Synergy: Pt VI

Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY

Synergy is defined as "the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of the separate effects." Another way of thinking about synergy is when one person does a single task that serves the goals and mission of two separate organizations. All that is necessary for synergy to happen in ministry is for us to be willing to let go of our need for control over, and credit for, the use of our own skills and resources, and a willingness to see ourselves as belonging to the same team.

Our Ask

Use your time, talent, and treasure to accomplish God’s will for our world. First, develop a collaborative relationship with a ministry leader.  Second, help your church efficiently pursue Kingdom goals.  Third, use your network, skills, resources to advance God’s plan in our region and our world.  God wants you to bring your ingenuity and focus to the work, it is vital to the task at hand.


Synergy: Pt V

Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY

Advice for Working with Ministry-Folks

First, recognize that pastors aren’t businesspeople.  While it seems unnecessary to say this, it actually isn’t.  As a business leader you will be tempted to think of pastors as stupid businesspeople.  Again, they aren’t stupid businesspeople, because they aren’t businesspeople.  They have a whole different set of values, paradigms, networks, and even vocabulary.  Many businesspeople have had experience working in other countries, it would be helpful to think of relationships with ministry leaders as a cross-cultural relationship.  Be patient, and persistent.

Second, pastors are trained to teach and counsel, not lead and manage.  Some pastors are great at this, others are horrible.  But most pastors are placed in positions where leadership and management skills are necessary without any training or experience in leading and managing.  Often it takes new pastors years to even recognize that managing an organization and leading a worship service are two fundamentally different tasks.  Be patient, and persistent.

Third, recognize that pastors are leaders and that this means they have sizeable egos.  Just like all leaders, they tend to think of themselves as the smartest people in the room, even on subjects about which they are clueless.  Having a degree in Biblical Languages doesn’t automatically prepare you to make church budgeting decisions.  Business leaders have made enormous and costly mistakes because they trusted their own egos and pastors do the same thing.  This means business leaders should be especially sensitive to the power dynamics in the relationships, many pastors have been taught that they need to be the person with all of the answers to everything pertaining to the church.  It may be hard for them to accept your expertise, until you have won their trust.  Recognizing their expertise while offering yours, will go along way toward easing this reality.  Be patient, and persistent.

Fourth, most pastors have a very different decision making process than most business leaders.  Pastors usually start with theology, then work through philosophy, then relationships and emotions, before finally figuring out what tasks they should perform.  Business leaders almost invariably work the other way around.  Proposing tasks and arguing out the best way to engage in mission is the way in which philosophy of business questions get answered, and the way in which partnerships get built.  Most business leaders prioritize mission and action, most church leaders prioritize theology and relationships.  This difference in fundamental process can be frustrating, but be patient and persistent.

Fifth, recognize that the church operates in some “false dichotomies” or some faulty paradigms.  There are ways that Christians and churches have come to think and live that are actually out of alignment with Scripture.  The division between what is sacred and what is secular is not a biblical division.  The very first person that the Bible records being “filled with the Holy Spirit” was not a pastor or a prophet, but a craftsman.  God has given business leaders important skills that are equally valuable to the Kingdom.  It is simply not the case that strategic planning, or budgets, or any other business tool is inherently “un-spiritual.”  Persistently bring your skills to the table.

Finally, recognize that ministry leaders have skills, wisdom, and resources that you lack and we need each other to be the church of Christ.  Offer your gifts, and receive theirs.  Work together to advance God’s Kingdom.


Synergy: Pt IV

Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY

Examples of Ministry/Business Collaboration

  1. A pastor and a retired businessman from two different congregations in the same city, have become friends and ministry partners.  They strategize together, network, organize, and advocate for common projects.  Together they have been involved in the creation of several Kingdom endeavors in the area.

  1. Pastors have volunteered their time at a local community health center providing spiritual care, and helping to establish a program that was ultimately brought in house.  This is a collaboration of business leaders, ministry leaders, and medical professionals.

  1. Several churches have provided volunteers for a work readiness program operated by a local parachurch organization.  This program provides soft skills training to underemployed individuals currently receiving government assistance.  Program participants are finding work, connecting to a mentor, hearing about the love of God, connecting to churches and bible-studies, and changing the trajectory of their family.

  1. Several churches and organizations have collaborated in support of an urban farming initiative that employs neighborhood teens, provides affordable high quality food to neighborhood markets, and creates multiple opportunities for neighbors and employees to experience the love of God.  A key question in the management of the farm is “how can we use the market as an engine to drive Kingdom endeavors?”

  1. A semi-retired businessman is a member of a church that is not big enough to hire a full staff.  He has become the “consultant” to his church leadership team (who are almost all volunteers) on matters of strategic planning, ministry task management, and efficiency.


Synergy: Pt III

Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY

The Kingdom Assets of the Business World

The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of the human body to describe the way the church works.  This metaphor helps us to understand that each individual and group of Christians have their own important gifts to bring to the table.  This metaphor also makes it clear, just how imperative it is that we all work in concert with one another, and under the guidance of Christ, our head!  So what are the gifts that business leaders bring to the table?

We assert that there are four levels of praxis for Kingdom-minded business leaders.  They are not necessarily in order of importance, although they are in order of complexity.  The first two levels are important to note, but it is the second two levels that are the focus of our conversation here.

The first level is the basic call to generosity, integrity, and witness. Business leaders often represent significant financial resources.  These resources should be handled with integrity.  Money should be recognized as ultimately belonging to God, and should be handled with great generosity.  All of this should be done with the awareness that how Christians handle money will declare to the world precisely who (or what) it is that we worship.  This is where John Wesley’s adage to “earn all you can, give all you can, and save all you can,” is appropriate.

The second level is the call to produce “good goods.”  All business people are fulfilling the needs of the market.  This is usually a good thing in and of itself.  Christian business people will ensure that it is always a good thing.  They won't just provide goods, they will provide “good goods.”  Christian business leaders will provide goods and services that are beneficial to individuals and to our world.  People genuinely need household goods, furniture, cars, and clothes.  People’s lives are enriched by insurance and medical supplies, restaurants and gas stations, computers and books.  Providing these goods and services for people can actually serve to make the world a better place.  Business leaders provide legitimate blessing to our world by serving in this way, and ought to see it as an essential piece of their vocation and witness to do so.

The third level is the invitation to use business skills to organize and manage the local church more efficiently in the pursuit of its mission.  The average church in America has approximately 70 members.  This means the majority of congregations are being lead by a single pastor with volunteer support.  Most ministry leaders are trained and skilled at teaching the scriptures, navigating the intersection of theology and culture, leading prayer and worship, providing compassion and hospitality, and counseling in the practice of the faith.  Most ministry leaders, however, lack the practical skills of organizational leadership and management, not to mention financial planning and management.

We advocate for business leaders to be participating in the leadership of every local church.  In a myriad of ways (evaluating financial decisions, leading strategic planning, managing the tasks of ministry, creating systems of organization, or navigating interactions with the local bank) business leaders can either come alongside ministry leaders as coaches and mentors, or can simply perform specific tasks and roles in the congregation directly.

Perhaps an appropriate analogy would be the running of a successful restaurant.  Pastors are like the chef with expertise in the kitchen; successful restaurants require a solid chef, but they also require a solid business manager, and rarely do those two skill sets coexist in a single individual.  Christian business leaders should seek to play the “restaurant manager” role in their churches so that pastors can focus on their role as “chef.”  When this kind of symbiotic relationship exists, the local congregation will be functioning at high capacity towards its mission, just like a body with all of its limbs and organs working together efficiently for a single purpose.

The fourth level is the use of business assets to engage in community development outside the church.  Communities need many things to flourish, many of those things are directly related to the unique skill-set of business leaders.  Employment, physical infrastructure, healthcare, and education, are vital to the health of any community.  Business leaders are essential players in the creation and maintenance of the various systems, organizations, and institutions that provide these things for any community.

It is both vital and appropriate that business leaders will use their resources and skills to provide for their own family, but Christian business leaders will go beyond this and use their resources and skills to provide for the community at large.  Instead of simply building the most successful business, Christian business leaders will also ask questions about the needs of the surrounding community.  Christian business leaders are willing to sacrifice maximal profits in order to create jobs for underemployed communities, create necessary infrastructure in impoverished neighborhoods, or provide goods and services that the community needs.

The temptation for the church (and for business people!) is to conceive of business leaders as the wallet for the church.  The reality is, however, that the most important Kingdom asset business leaders possess is not money, it is the skills, the practices, the relational networks, the paradigms, and the experiences that are important.  Christian business leaders, your money is not what God wants, what He wants is you!


Synergy: Pt II

Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY

Missio Dei V Missio Ecclesia

The Mission of God is simply bringing all things back into relationship with Himself.  God is at work redeeming and restoring, and has promised to complete that work at some point in the future.  A key part of God’s plan is inviting us to join in His work!  God wants us to use our skills and resources to partner with Him.  What is more God actually cares about completing the work!  This isn’t “make-work,” we aren’t just digging a hole so that we can fill it.  God is actually inviting you to learn how to advance His Kingdom.

That process of learning how to advance His Kingdom is called discipleship.  And discipleship is for everyone.  It is for pastors and worship leaders, but it is also for stay-at-home mothers, teachers, doctors, and tradespeople.  Discipleship is also for business leaders.  Business leaders are invited to learn from Jesus how to join God’s ongoing project to bring all things back into right relationship with Himself.

This is where the church comes in.  The role of the church is to teach people how to do this.  To create spaces, programs, and processes, by which people can learn how to be in right relationship with God, and participate in what God is doing in our world.

Unfortunately, the church often gets lost in its own agenda.  Instead of existing to advance God’s mission, the church ends up just doing whatever it takes to maintain its own existence.  Local churches end up competing with each other for resources instead of collaborating to accomplish our common goals.  Pastors and ministry leaders lose sight of their calling to teach people how to partner with God in whatever sphere of influence they have.

Business leaders can play a unique role in helping the church regain its focus.  Business leaders can help the church re-focus on mobilizing its members (and their personal resources) to advance the Kingdom in the marketplace, education, healthcare, housing, job creation, as well as in Sunday gatherings and Wednesday Bible studies.


Synergy: the Role of Business Leaders in the Work of the Kingdom

Material taken from a podcast with John Lee and myself for UNITE WNY

God is advancing His Kingdom in our world, and He wants to include everyone in that work.  Specifically, God has an important job for business leaders to do.  That job includes the work of all Christians to worship, fellowship, witness, and sacrifice with humility and integrity.  But there is also a specific call on business leaders to bring their unique skills and assets to bear on the world and the church with Kingdom goals in mind.

We are calling business leaders to two specific tasks.  First, develop strong bonds of partnership and friendship with one or more individuals from the ministry world; partner with a pastor.  Second, bring the ingenuity and the efficiency of the business world into ministry settings.

Business leaders excel at the ingenuity, and the focus, that brings efficiency.  The demands of the marketplace require business leaders to have skills, resources, networks, and paradigms, that squeeze as much reward as possible out of as little investment as possible.  Business leaders regularly focus with the precision of a laser on the missional objectives of their activity.  This focus provides clarity that works in concert with ingenuity, creativity, and flat-out grit to bring about this efficiency.

Ministry leaders, while often possessing that same grit, often lack ingenuity, missional focus, and efficiency.  This often leads to mission failure.  That mission failure sometimes looks like the disintegration of organizations and institutions.  That mission failure also sometimes looks like the maintenance of organizations and institutions at the expense of their mission.

The solution to this mission failure is often sitting in pews staring blankly at the pastor every Sunday.  Pastors may have a strategy for getting business leaders to contribute financially to the church, but rarely have a strategy for empowering business leaders to use their skills to advance the Kingdom.  This must change.  The information and skills in the minds of most business leaders are key assets to furthering the work of God.


Church Finances

This week I received an email in my inbox.  It was just an advertisement, but it caught my eye.  (You can read it below with the personal content removed)  The advertisement was for churches to learn how to boost the amount of money they receive in weekly giving.

Now, on the face of it, this always seems a little suspect to me, but I thought I would at least read the email and see what this person had to say.  After reading it, however, my resolve was only strengthened, that our church should never engage in these kinds of attitudes.

Instead of trying to bring in as much money as possible, the church should be trying to figure out how to teach people to use their own personal finances to advance God's Kingdom in their own life, and in their own sphere of influence.  The church woefully misunderstands its power and its influence when it thinks of its resources in terms of what is in the church budget.  To be succinct the financial resources of the local church include all of the wealth that all of its members possess.

Think of the scope.  Even a church that was filled with committed tithers would have a church budget that equalled 10% of the income of its members.  What if, instead of thinking about how to get more people to give to the church (focusing on that 10%), we tried to mobilize church members to use the 90% in ways that honor God and advance His Kingdom?

This is where financial power could truly be used in creative and fruitful ways:

Instead of aiming to get 100% of our members to give 10% of their income to the church, lets focus on getting 100% of our members to recognized that 100% of their income belongs to God, and that they will have to give an account to Him for how they used that money to cooperate with His will in their own household, and in their own community.

Here is the letter:


We're cruising toward the "crunch time" of 2016. A mere days away from the 4th quarter of the year. 
How has your giving been?
How was it today?
Do you ever ask yourself the following questions:
Q. How well is the church's ministry vision being funded?
Q. What are we having to cut because of a lack of giving?
Q. What aren't the tithes and offerings at the same level they used to be?
Q. How can I get my church members to give more regularly?
If you are asking yourself ANY of these questions, it's important for you to join me for...
3 Secrets To Boost Your Recurring Giving
It's a completely free webinar I am going to hold and I'm going to help you get very positive answers to those questions.
We're limiting the number of churches that can attend this free webinar to 200.
So please reserve your spot now.


40 Developmental Assets

The list below is the reason why some kids grow up to be successful, and others do not.  The list is a unique blend of social/systemic forces and individual morality/character.  These are the forces and choices that, over the first decade or two of human life, work together to create healthy and purposeful human beings, or twisted wrecks.

For those of us who hold to the power of Scripture and a belief in the work of the Holy Spirit, of course the question is, "where do the Spirit and the Scriptures fit into that list."  My simple response is that the work of the Spirit and the testimony of Scripture will produce precisely these assets in the lives of individuals and communities who take seriously the work of the Spirit and testimony of Scripture!




Activism is, according to one definition, "the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change."

On the face of it, this seems like something that should flow directly from a Christian commitment to make the world a better place.  Certainly there are some of us who would be more, or less, called by God to engage in a lifestyle of activism, or activism around specific issues within our society.

There is, however, a trap that must be avoided.  It is the same trap that plagues our charitable giving.  Namely, the possibility that in hitting the streets for the latest rally, canvassing for my favorite new candidate or law, or arguing with my ignorant relatives over Thanksgiving dinner, I am actually ignoring the very people who suffer and need my help.

Activism, too, can be a way of avoiding the call to love our neighbors.


Principles for Partnership

Christian organizations generally don't partner well with other organizations.*

Here are three basic principles that should apply to Christian organizations as well as Christian individuals:

1) God gets all the credit, and He has all the control, not me or my organization!  This means I don't ever get to enter the partnership looking to "get what I want," or "get what we need."  It also means I don't get the credit for it.  We partner around what God is doing, and all organizations in the partnership need to prioritize His work, not ours.

2) If we belong to Christ, then we belong to each other!  This means I cannot claim that my organization is independent of the Church as a whole.  I may not ignore other Christian organizations in our world, just like I must not ignore other Christians in my church.

3) The Church exists for the sake of the world, not its own sake!  We are called to serve others, not ourselves.  We must prioritize the shalom/salvation/blessing of the community we live in, not our own.

If we were to follow these principles, we would partner more often, and with greater health and effectiveness.   Where multiple organizations are working together to bless the world around them because of their common Christian identity, and eschewing credit and control, there you will find power, glory, peace, and joy spilling into our communities.

However, there would be countless situations where we wouldn't partner as well.  We partner around what God is doing.  There are Christian organizations that we don't partner with because they are called to different parts of the Kingdom work, or different parts of the world.  The knee and the elbow are both part of the same body, but they don't touch each other directly.  This means we should not feel obligated to partner simply for partnerships sake, but again, because we are prioritizing God's agenda and God's action.

What organizations are operating in the same geography as yours?  What organizations are working on the same issues as yours?  What organizations do you have relational connections with?

How could your organization partner around your mission with some of those other organizations?

*Secular organizations aren't any better at this than us.  There is a large secular organization in our neighborhood who has a long track record of helping the neighborhood, but they run roughshod over other neighborhood organizations in the process.  The root causes are the same, an arrogant myopia about their wisdom and skill, and conflating institutional maintenance with institutional mission.  This behavior doesn't help the neighborhood improve, but it does protect this organizations place of primacy as a source of blessing to the neighborhood.


How do you Justify That with Scripture?

I was asked this question recently...

...on the face of it, it is a good question.

The person who asked it was genuinely concerned with being obedient to Christ, and knowing God's commands.

So what's the problem?

A little context will help:

We were discussing racial politics in America, and the wisdom that scripture might offer to the church in such a muddy cultural milieu.  Specifically, I was arguing that Christians ought to engage in cross-cultural relationships as a rule.  This person was arguing that it is good for Christians to engage in cross-cultural relationships, but only when they are specifically called to do so; that it is also fine for Christians to only engage in relationships within homogenous peer groups.

I was arguing that it is a discipleship issue; to be mature in Christ, one must engage in relationships with other Christians who do not share your culture.  I was arguing that it is an ethical issue: to be godly and good is to love our neighbors even though they are not like us.

At this point, the person asked, "Okay, that all sounds fine, but how do you justify that with scripture?"

There are two responses that I want to give to that question:

1) Why should I have to justify my position scripturally, but you don't?  Why is it important for me to understand the biblical commands before engaging in cross-cultural community, but it is perfectly fine for you to maintain the status quo (ignoring people who aren't like you) without any need to know what scripture says about it?

2) Let's look at scripture!  From Genesis to Revelation a major theme of the Kingdom of God is the bringing together of the nations under the rule and reign of our Lord and Messiah.  The major ethical concern of the New Testament is precisely the creation of a new ethnos on the earth through the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus.  Paul publicly rebukes Peter on exactly this point, to fail to eat with other Christians of different cultures is to fail to understand the Gospel.  (Gal 2)  Racism is the charge that must be dealt with by the Jerusalem church in Acts 6, and working out the sticky details of multi-cultural community is the primary focus of the first ecumenical council in Acts 15.


To come back to the point, it is right and good for scripture to be the proving grounds of new ideas.  But scripture must also be applied to old ideas and patterns of life!

It is not enough to simply accept things as they are and move on.  Jesus, our King, is redeeming all things to the Father, bringing all aspects of life under His dominion.


What Are We Doing Here?

Taken as a whole, I love what I do.  Some aspects of being a pastor come naturally to me, others have required work to learn but are enjoyable none-the-less, others are not-so-pleasant.  Being an effective manager, however, is something that wasn't even on my radar screen as a leader.  That has been the single largest growth area for me as a pastor...

I sure wish someone had sent me this article five years ago...


The Alternative to Charity

The alternative to this false charity is to love well.

In moving to a house that was inundated with homeless individuals where panhandling was almost an hourly occurrence in my life, I was quickly confronted with the need to discern some 'best practices.'

I will be the first to confess that I don't have it all figured out, but that time in my life helped me to figure a few things out.  Its worth noting, that these are my rules, no one has to follow them but me:

  1. Don't do things because it makes me feel better.  Do things that I think might genuinely help the human being stating in front of me asking for help.
  2. Don't ignore those feelings inside myself.  Don't just walk by and ignore the situation.  Don't ignore people.
  3. Engage.  Make eye contact.  Get their name, and use it.
  4. Find the real problem, and offer to help.  Is it a ride?  A meal?  A job?  Usually the situation is bigger than my ability to solve it.  But usually there is something I can do to be a friend and encourage them to begin to solve it.  The trick is, I usually have to dig a little to get to the real problem.
  5. Meet needs out of my own personal resources, never (or rarely) give money.  Let someone borrow my phone.  Give someone a ride in my car.  Sit down and have lunch ...together.  Introduce them to someone I know who might be able to help more.
  6. Offer to pray.  Ask God to bless them.  Listen to what God might have to say about this encounter.
  7. Where appropriate, and they seem open, invite them to church.  Encourage them that God cares, and they are welcome in His house.



The English word "charity" comes from the Latin word for "love."

Indeed, the word charity is an archaic word for love even in the English language.  One can see the obvious connection between the older usage of the word and its present use.  If we love people, we will help them when they need it.

So lets think a little about the word charity, and the practice of charity.

We usually offer to give charity to people because we can see an obvious problem, and we are moved to action by some internal motivation.  That internal motivation could be compassion, it could be guilt, it could be duty, it could be shame, it could be any number of things...

...but we are motivated by something inside of us.

So far, so good.

It is at this point that the problem arises, we must chose what we are going to do to respond to this internal motivation.  The common response is to simply give a few dollars to a person in need.  This is the most basic form of charity.  To give money.

Why do we give money?

We don't have time to ask about this person's situation, we don't really desire to get to know them, or let them get to know us.  When confronted with a situation where someone is in obvious need of help, we give money, precisely so we don't have to get more involved!  We don't have the interest in learning what this person really needs, discerning what would really help.  In short, we don't care about helping them, we care about the way we feel...

Why do we give money?

Because it is the simplest way to address that feeling inside of us!

The irony is, we are giving money, precisely so that we don't have to love someone, and then we call it charity.


A Necessary Crowd?

"If something is worth doing, then it is worth doing by yourself."
Pastor Kyle Stevens

A friend of mine said this once after he hosted an event at our church where no one showed up but him.  Obviously there are times where going it alone is the wrong thing to do.  Obviously there are times where we need to heed the voices of others.  Obviously there are times where we need to acknowledge that we just need to quit because we have made a mistake, took a wrong turn, or we have failed.

And yet...

...we will never make our mark on the world if we only do what others are doing.  If we are convinced of the rightness of our action, and the wisdom of our cause, then no amount of opposition or isolation should prevent us from moving forward.  Even if we move forward alone.


Exorcising the Spirit of the Age

How do you wrestle to stay faithful to God, hospitable to the outsider; relevant to the culture, and yet true to the faith?

As Christians we must be wary of the world creeping into our church...

...as you read the words above, I wonder what you imagine?


What are the sins of our culture that are perverting the gospel?  I would humbly suggest that this is the place to reflect: http://www.thewilsonsindublin.com/there-must-be-more/



A friend shared recently with me the importance of staying connected to vision (big picture) and story (little picture) whenever we are in a "management" role making decisions about strategy.

They specifically pointed at how easy strategic decisions can become ends to themselves, and our focus on budgets, teams, partnerships, events, and programs can become unhinged from the desire to see God's Kingdom unfold in the lives of our neighbors and friends.

It really clicked for me.

I have been learning more about leadership (and in particular, how important the strategic structures of our church actually are), and simultaneously I have been realizing just how critical vision is to our community. Vision is hard to communicate, but when people have been gripped by a compelling vision they will sell everything, and commit decades of their lives towards realizing that vision.

It is here that vision and strategy need to align. If that strategy is not meaningfully and effectively aligned with that vision, then the vision CANNOT be realized.

All of this had the effect of helping me see clearly how important it is that we connect all three dots as often as possible in our own minds, and in the minds of those we lead.

  • When we tell stories in our church, we must tie those stories directly to vision and strategy.
  • When we share our strategies with our church, we must tie it to vision and story.
  • When we cast vision, we must do so within the context of stories and communal strategies. 

When people hear a story about someone who was led by the Spirit to spend an evening in conversation and prayer with a neighbor, they will be moved emotionally. But if we can also connect that story to our vision to be a neighborhood church and to see the Blessings of God's Kingdom transform our neighborhood, it will have power to invite others into similar actions. And if we can also connect that story and vision to our strategies around Missional Service, our summer BBQs, our service partnerships, and people's individual vocation, THEN we will have hit the sweet spot.

When we tie all three together, then the story becomes a way of making the Big Picture the defining reality for people, and the Strategy a compelling course of action.



Here is how you celebrate victory!

Mickey's team won the championship game.  He hit two home runs.  They were the last place team during regular season, but they went undefeated in the playoffs.  In case you don't know him, my son is the one in front with his arms in the air...


Bezalel: What is Ministry?

Interesting fact for the day:

Exodus 31:1-5 records the first place in scripture where someone is "filled with the Spirit."  Can you guess what the Spirit empowered them to do?  Not prophetic words, not healing, not angelic tongues, not preaching, nor worshipping, not even leading the people.

Bezalel was filled by God's spirit to be the artist and craftsman in charge of the artwork and finely crafted instruments for the Tabernacle.

It makes you think...

Ministry is often conceived of as "pastor-work."  In most places the nurses, teachers, gardeners and neighbors are looking over the pastor's shoulder saying, "that looks fun, can I try?"  But that isn't the way it is supposed to be!

Ministry is supposed to be the work of Christians in the world.  The pastoral role ought to be guiding and equipping Christians in that fundamental ministry task of partnering with God in His work around us, in us, and through us.  In short, the pastor should be looking over the shoulders of the nurses, teachers, gardeners, and neighbors and saying, "that looks fun, can I try?



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