Coffee Shops & Community

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Coffee shops make me smile. The cappuccino in the above picture really makes me smile. I drank this earlier today while talking about life and ministry with my friend and fellow associate pastor, Rick. We serve together at Broadman Baptist here in Northeast Ohio. We had lunch together and enjoyed some conversation but nearly as soon as we finished eating lunch, we decided to continue the conversation at the local coffee shop just a few doors down from our deli where we dined.

There’s just something about a coffee shop. This may be a totally subjective analysis, but there’s a certain depth of conversation that can be had over a cup of coffee that can’t be had over a meal. All I know is that I am drawn to coffee shops for the high quality brewed coffee and espresso, the buzz of conversation, and the space to connect more deeply with people.

I believe that God has wired humanity with a need for community. We are built for connecting with other people, so to me, it’s pretty obvious why I gravitate towards coffee shops. It’s not just because I love the drinks they serve. That much is true. But I love connecting with other people, especially college students, with one of those drinks in front of me.

The coffee shop is a pleasing locale for being in the community and experiencing community.

Certainly not everyone feels the way I do about coffee shops specifically. That’s not the important part. Where do you spend your time when you’re not at home or work? What do you like most about it?

Outreach on Campus

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One of my students at Kent State University, Eric, was given this flower by a guy handing them out to all passers-by on Valentine’s day. He was one of a few guys with an Islamic group on campus doing some outreach.

Christians aren’t the only ones doing outreach on campus. So far I’ve seen Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Adventists, and Communists doing outreach on campus. Seriously.

It’s a new day for us as campus-based college ministers.

Fighting for Joy

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. But I’ve been putting it off because quite honestly, I haven’t had the time, energy, or motivation to collect my thoughts and press onward.

I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy. I’m the constantly optimistic, positive thinker. After taking a version of the Strengths Finder profile (more on that later) I found that Positivity was fairly high in my gift set. That being said, even as a perpetual optimist, I hit valleys just like anyone else.

For a couple of weeks at least, I had to force myself to do anything remotely “spiritual” – i.e. my job. I can’t put my finger on any one thing that triggered this. All I know is that my desires were for anything but God. My affections were not burning for Christ. I never doubted my faith, but I “wasn’t feeling it.”

Have you ever had that feeling? It’s not a fun place to be. Especially when my work-life is built on “spiritual” stuff. With each passing “valley” I’m learning that my faith journey is not easy or on autopilot. When it starts to feel like that, I know I’m headed for a valley. I have to intentionally fight for joy. John 15:10 reveals that Jesus cares about our joy. God is glorified in my delight in him. That’s especially true when I don’t feel like delighting or finding joy.

Sometimes you simply have to do what you don’t want to do, so that you will feel what you don’t feel. We are never promised an easy life. But we are victorious in Christ. God is good and he can be trusted totally.

A Christian Should Be…

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This week at The Well I spoke about how Christians are often weird for the wrong reasons. We get a bad wrap because we’re asking for it. We focus on religiosity and end up speaking a different language, disconnected from the world in most respects. Or we water down our faith so much that we are functionally no different from the world. The reflection question I posted at the end of my talk (OK, more like pointed rant) was:

A Christian should be:

The above picture is the collection of responses given to that prompt. I like it. Let’s live up to this.

What would your response to the prompt be?

Campus Prayer

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Andy, the guy in the middle of the above picture, took the lead in launching a weekly campus prayer gathering despite being a little uncomfortable with praying in public. We meet on campus at UA in the Union from 11am-1pm on Mondays. On our second week of prayer we more than doubled in size and length of time! We take up prayer requests each week at our Tuesday night worship gathering (The Well) and use them as starting points for prayer on Mondays.

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We are trying to be visible and reach out more in our prayer. That explains the basket. We set that out with the accompanying paper to make it a little more obvious what we are doing, without being obnoxious. Honestly, we’re just trying to do something new. At this point I’m really excited about it!

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Look for this guy with his prayer basket! Of course we had to give him a hard time about carrying around that basket, but I’m thankful for Andy and his heart to start an on-campus prayer time.

My Prayer Support Map

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Last Fall Kelly and I were included in an assortment of prayer cards produced by NAMB (North American Mission Board) which were distributed to many SBC churches across the nation. I was surprised at how well-designed the cards were and humbled that we were chosen to be put on the cards. The purpose of the cards was to connect SBC churches to the missionaries they support through their giving to the Cooperative Program (CP). This is a big part of what it means to be in the SBC – when it comes to missions in the SBC world, the CP is where we send out money to support missionaries.

What I didn’t expect was the response we got from the churches and individuals who received our prayer cards. We now have a stack of letters and cards 5 inches high from all across North America, as far as Hawaii. Just, wow.

As I have been sifting through the prayer cards and letters, overwhelmed by the prayer support, I thought it was only right to map out where they have all come from. The result is the map above. Each point on the map represents a letter or card that we received informing us of prayers being spoken on our behalf. I chose not to include Waianae, Hawaii as it would significantly shrink the map. But you get the idea. I would love to add more points to the map as we gain new prayer partners. Below, I’ve listed the churches and their locations as I had the information. I thought it best to refrain from listing the names of individuals if there was no church name given.

All that to say.. What an honor to be prayed for by so many! If there isn’t a point on the map to represent you and you’d like to pray for us and our ministry, I would love to add you! Tweet me or send me a Facebook message!

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Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church (Gainesville, GA)
*No church name* (Aulander, NC)
East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church (San Diego, CA)
Hilltop Baptist Church (Green River, WY)
Crystal Hill Baptist Church (Little Rock, AR)
Coronado Baptist Church (El Paso, TX)
Enterprise Baptist Church (Morristown, TN)
*No church name* (Collinsville, TX)
*No church name* (Century, FL)
Forestdale Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL)
Lonestar Baptist Church (Willard, MO)
Sanford First Baptist Church (Sanford, MI)
Immanuel Baptist Church (Cleveland, MS)
*No church name* (Hendersonville, TN)
Riverside Baptist Church (Cramerton, NC)
Woolsey Baptist Church (Williamson, GA)
High Point Baptist Church (Stuart, VA)
First Baptist Church (Hominy, OK)
First Baptist Church (Fort Worth, TX)
Belmore Baptist Church (San Angelo, TX)
Calvary Baptist Church (Vernon, TX)
Sherwood Baptist Church (Albany, GA)
Macedonia Baptist Church (Ardmore, TN)
*No church name* (Covington, GA)
*No church name* (Brackettville, TN)
Meadowdale Baptist Church (Calhoun, GA)
*No church name* (Winston Salem, NC)
*No church name* (Springfield, MO)
Mount Zion Baptist Church (Pigeon Forge, TN)
New Salem Baptist Church (Carrier Milles, IL)
Memorial Baptist Church (Murray, KY)
First Baptist Church (Haileyville, OK)
Irvington Baptist Church (Irvington, VA)
Trinity Baptist Church (Laramie, WY)
*No church name* (Brackettville, TX)
First Baptist Church (Sevierville, TN)
Redirect Church (Pelion, SC)
Berean Baptist Church (Social Circle, GA)
First Baptist Church (Norman, AR)
Long Run Baptist Church (Louisville, KY)
Ruhana Baptist Church (Fort Payne, AL)
*No church name* (Union City, IN)
Second Baptist Church (Martinsburg, WV)
*No church name* (Tavares, FL)
Makaha Valley Chapel (Waianae, HI)
Mosby Baptist Church (Mosby, MO)
Speedwell Baptist Church (Cullowhee, NC)
Desert Sky Baptist Church (Casa Grande, AZ)
Immanuel Baptist Church (Metropolis, IL)
*No church name* (Decatur, IN)

Less is more (of what?)

This morning in our BBC college group we talked at length about the biblical concept/command of the Sabbath and the rest it packages. During the conversation I stated that one of the reasons I have taken such an interest in minimalism is the emphasis it brings on the “less is more” paradigm. A minimalist will pare down or simplify many areas of their lives, often including possessions and time commitments among other things. It isn’t for the purpose of asceticism, to inflict discomfort on themselves, but rather it is all about creating more space for the few things that are the most important.

I see a lot of value in the practice/philosophy of minimalism, at least to the degree that it causes me to be more aware of what is around me and what I spend my time and money on. As I have given more thought to this way of life, implementing bits of it here and there, I’ve noticed some changes I didn’t expect or strive for. One major shift for me is that I don’t really desire things like I used to. I’ve noticed this more around my birthday and Christmas when gifts are a major focus.

The really interesting and sometimes troubling thing about embracing the “less is more” paradigm is that by cutting out unnecessary things and commitments there is more time to pursue your passions.

What if there isn’t much left to fill that space?

I imagine that many people would fear this journey because they wouldn’t like what is left. They don’t know what is at the core of who they are. I like that I’m approaching this personally. It’s giving me a lot to think about. Who am I if I’m not allowed to stake my identity in my ministry?

This website is a part of my journey. I always mean to write more and this format gives me the opportunity to work out my thoughts and connect with people in longer form. I hope you will continue on with me!

Paring Down

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For some reason we tend to accumulate things over time and more things come in than leave, so the math is pretty simple, even for someone like me. As a result, Kelly and I have been trying to thin out some of the things we have around the house.

Clothing isn’t too difficult for me to be openhanded about, though I have to be intentional. As a somewhat aspiring minimalist, I generally prefer simpler things and less things. One glaring area of hypocrisy for me is books. But that’s another story for another day.

Suffice it to say I am always a big fan of being able to round up a pile of things to donate to the local Goodwill. Just know that it’s an even bigger win when I can fill up the whole roller-cart they provide for donations. Maybe that makes me super dorky. To quote Chucky from Sons of Anarchy, “I accept that.”

Teaching: The Trinity

Tomorrow night I’ll be kicking off a series called Doctrine: What Do You Really Believe? for Impact Student Ministry at Cuyahoga Valley Church up in Broadview Heights, OH. I’m especially excited about being assigned this topic because, frankly, I’ve never given a whole lot of focused thought to the doctrine of the trinity – and now I have to teach it to high school students in 20-30 minutes. No big deal, right?

Conceptually, I know the importance of the doctrine of the trinity, and I’ve never been a Modalist, or a Sabellian, or a tri-theist, or anything like that. But those are just it fancy-sounding words that anyone can stumble on in a dictionary or in an iTunes U theology course on your iPhone or iPad.

Why does the trinity matter?

Other than helping to sort out all the God/Jesus/Holy Spirit business, what difference does it make?

That’s what I hope to touch on tomorrow night at 5pm. If you’re in the area, I would love for you to join me.

Jesus Loves Me

In a world that is constantly focused on performance and status of some kind, I am learning a life-changing truth.

Jesus loves me. Before any performance or status or position I can claim, he loves me.

By nature, I tend to drift away from God and rely more and more on my position, status, performance, or the like. Some insecurity will stick its head out and rather than responding by preaching the gospel to myself – reminding myself that Christ has redeemed me – I will respond by indulging those insecurities.

It’s amazing just how easy and natural this is to do. I know this, but like everyone else I am vulnerable to it.

As weak as I can be, I am still redeemed by a God who loves me.

I am loved. That is all that matters. Nothing compares to that truth.