by Derek Worthington (Trinity Grace Church Upper West Side)
The emotions conjured up by the thought of moving a family of five from a comfortable suburban home in a cozy town to a place like New York City are not unique to my story. Any change of this magnitude is a big one when it involves uprooting a family. It’s the dilemma common to church planters and pastors but rarely understood by friends and family. How does a couple seeking to answer God’s call for their family hear the voice of God?
Here are a couple of the decisions we made early on that helped us navigate the potentially difficult waters:
1.) Full and open disclosure
From the very beginning we chose to involve our children who were 11, 9, and 5 years of age at the time. We told them that God may or may not be calling us to be his missionaries in New York and that we wanted to begin seeking God together as a family about what he wanted. We knew the risk we were taking. One innocent slip of the tongue could have been disastrous to our current church and to our relationships with friends we dearly loved. But we included them for three reasons: First, we wanted our kids to see their parents pursuing the Lord and to participate with us in it. Second, we wanted our kids to share in the mission God would ultimately lead us to. And third, we never wanted our children to feel blindsided but rather have the time and space to process all the emotions they would experience along the way.
2.) Separate and parallel paths
Emilie and I chose to pursue God’s will for our family separately. This served three purposes for us. One, God had to do a work in me that was different than the work he had to do in Emilie. For me it was the issue of hidden insecurities I didn’t know I had but began to surface as I prayed about living in New York and pastoring people there. For Emilie it was about sacrifice and trust especially in regards to our children. We needed space for God to do in us separately what was necessary for us to move forward cooperatively. Two, we had to allow the Spirit to deposit the confidence in each of us knowing that there would be difficult days in our future that would need to be drawn on individually. When Emilie has a bad day, she can’t live off my confidence in what God has done in me. She needs her own. Three, we believed that God would use the voice of his Spirit in us apart to lead us to the same conclusion together. If we disagreed in the end, we knew we simply had more work to do.
What are you doing to process God’s will as a family? How will you know when you’ve heard clearly from God?Continue reading
Neighborhoods, small cultural enclaves of people living in proximity, are the backbone of cities. When a church pours into individual neighborhoods, by connecting with individuals and families casually through block parties or more radically banding together with neighbors to rally against unfavorable community development initiatives, those small acts of one-to-one engagement can spill over to ultimately change an entire city.
GOOD media has launched a new GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods, offering suggestions and tools to connect and support a city, block by block and neighbor by neighbor. Read below for more, and then continue onto the GOOD site to take advantage of more resources and tips.
Excerpt from GOOD article by Siobhan O’Connor
City slickers love telling everyone what neighborhoods they live in. It’s become a kind of shorthand for what sort of person they are, what they value, where they like to hang out. It makes sense: As small as the world has gotten, it’s still really big, and carving out a little piece of it that feels familiar and pride-worthy is a basic human urge.
But forget for a second where your apartment is, and think about the blocks that surround it, the guy one door down you’ve never spoken to, the people you mill around at the flea market or pass in the bike lane on your way to the grocery store. You probably have as much in common with them as you do with your friends, but you’ve never even met.
With that in mind, we decided to take local pride to the next level by providing you with the tools you need to make your neighborhood more than just the place you live. What all these tips have in common is the fact that they connect you to the actual human beings who live around you—and make your neighborhood better as a result. Whether you want to meet your neighbors without seeming creepy, hijack a community-access television station, throw a block party that’s actually fun, or start a shared garden in your area, we’ve got you covered.Continue reading
The most unexpected challenge I’ve faced in church planting is permitting myself grace for the journey. The most devastating (in a good way) reality I have learned thus far is that although I have a mission to my neighborhood, God’s mission never stops being me (i.e. my heart, my development, my motivations, etc.). This means that God will continue to get our attention through perceived failure as well as success.
The advice I give to a new church planter is to not take yourself so seriously. Although ministry is a serious endeavor as we strive to reach the goals we set, give yourself the same grace that you often give to others. See yourself as a working project that God is still committed to shaping. And above all, remember that Jesus is more passionate about Kingdom work than you are. So enjoy life, commit yourself to the Kingdom, work whole-heartedly, but permit God to bear the fruit.Continue reading
In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that religious groups could no longer hold worship services in New York City public schools, pastor Caleb Clardy of Trinity Grace Church’s Park Slope parish wrote the following article for Christianity Today.
On Sunday mornings in the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn, a small yet bustling farmers’ market draws shoppers to the sidewalk outside of William Alexander Middle School (MS 51) on 5th Avenue. Even on a cold winter morning, as the browsing patrons move a little more slowly around the wooden tables, the vegetables sit vibrant in the morning light. You can taste free samples of several varieties of the best apples from Upstate New York.
Halfway down the block, near the side entrance of the school, you can hear the squeak of shoes stopping fast on the basketball court of the school gym. The youth basketball league of the 78th Precinct uses the gym when it is too cold to play outside.
If you are there at the right time, you may also hear the strains of a cello or piano drifting out from the school auditorium. Give it a few more minutes and you will faintly hear voices singing. It is the sound of a church preparing for worship. This is my church, where I am a pastor and where my family attends. By 10:30 a.m. all three groups are using the school’s property. Families and friends fill the church, the gym, and the sidewalk outside of MS 51 for weekly sustenance of mind, body, and soul. It is a peaceful coexistence, each group quietly acknowledging the other, asking questions, slowly getting to know each other’s stories.
Last Monday morning, December 5th, word spread quickly, especially in the circles of New York City clergy, that the Supreme Court had decided not to the hear the case of Bronx Household of Faith vs. New York City Department of Education. By letting the appellate court’s ruling stand, the Court ensured that in early 2012, over sixty churches that rent space for their weekly worship gatherings in public schools will have to move. One of them is ours.