Photo of the Day!

28 02 2012

Location: Shreveport, LA

Shopping Trip

17 11 2011

Our youth went grocery shopping on Tuesday night to get ready for our Thanksgiving service project.  Among other things, we bought 79 cans of fruit, 15 bags of potatoes, 34 jars of peanut butter, 19 frozen pies, and 48 boxes of macaroni and cheese.  We filled up 5 grocery carts with enough food to feed nearly 80 people!

I can’t wait for Sunday night, when we get to deliver all this food all over the city!!!

God of this City

2 11 2011

Love this song, and love this video created by students at a local high school.  As a youth worker, it’s a great inspiration to see juxtaposition of these “ordinary” images (as seen through a student’s eyes) with the lyrics “Greater things are yet to be done here….”

How Local is the Local Church?

1 09 2011

As a lifelong Methodist, I don’t claim to have any expertise in Catholicism.  However, one of my Catholic friends once explained their parish system to me in such a neat way that it has always stuck with me:

Because the Mass will be the same at every Catholic church, it doesn’t really matter which church you go to.  The focus is on the Mass, not the priest or the specific church.  So you usually end up going to whichever church is closest to your house.

I know that the church is not a building, it’s the community of believers. But most churches do have a building, which means that they have a very specific geographic location as well as a unique role within their immediate communities. And I believe the church, as a body of believers, has a responsibility to that local entity: to know the neighbors, contribute to the community, and reach out to meet local needs.  For that reason, I do think there is value in living near your home church, so that your spheres of influence (both as an individual and as a church member) intersect in strategic ways.

When we lived in Atlanta, we certainly did our fair share of church shopping, with mixed feelings.  But there was definitely a part of me that felt it would be most healthy and faithful to drop the “shopping” aspect altogether and just settle down at a random church.  After all, if you truly believe that each local church is a microcosm of the body of Christ, then it shouldn’t matter what kind of music they sing or what kind of donuts they serve before the service. Eventually, if you get involved, it will start to feel like home.

We currently attend (and work at) a 101-year-old mainline church, with a congregation that is probably 90% white and middle class.  The neighborhood surrounding the church is ethnically diverse, with mostly low-income residents.  The majority of our members drive a significant distance each Sunday morning, passing several other churches along the way.

Last year our church hired a group of evangelism consultants to research our community and congregation and help us develop a strategy for church growth.  Informally (that is, off the record), one of the consultants commented that we should be training our church members to evangelize the people in their own neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools.  He said that while it was all well and good to focus our mission efforts on the neighborhood around us, we should not expect this outreach to result in church growth.

I’m sure his recommendation was based in real church experiences…but when measured against the gospel and message of Jesus, his dichotomy is misguided at best and dangerous/racist/heretical at worst.

Yes, it’s easier to stay in our comfort zone with people who look and think just like we do.  But Jesus calls us to do hard things.

Yes, we absolutely should be reaching out to people in our own neighborhoods and workplaces.  But that does not absolve us of our duty to reach into other neighborhoods and other workplaces.  If I’m not mistaken, Jesus’ commission should be taking us all over the world!  And the Apostle Paul rejects any kind of “us vs. them mentality” that would even allow for a distinction between “our people” and “the neighborhood people.”

Yes, we like to pat ourselves on the back for providing charity services to the poor folks in the neighborhood.  But Jesus calls us to do more than that: to know our neighbors by name and care for them as individual people rather than as labels.

Yes, integrating the church is slow, hard, uncomfortable work.  But if our church is not attracting the poor and marginalized in society, then we must ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.

What do you think?  What has your experience been with this ministry/evangelism dichotomy?  How is your church reaching out to its local neighborhood?


Love in a Drainage Ditch

24 07 2010

A bit of graffiti that we passed today — I love the textures and colors of the concrete. For some reason, it stuck out to me as something worth saving.

Downtown Shreveport

24 07 2010

This evening, Jordan and I decided to take an impromptu excursion into downtown Shreveport to look at our hometown through the eyes of a photographer.  We had a great time, ended up with some pretty cool images (including my new blog header!), and ultimately have decided we should do this more often: