Monday, September 29, 2003


Two significant events happened this past week. On Thursday, 9.25, I went to an Alliance Meeting with other church planters at the Redeemer Church Planting Center. On Friday, 9.26, Brandon, who works at the NYSE, took me on a tour of the NYSE. This is what I wrote after attending that church planting meeting on Thursday:

This morning I went to a church planting seminar put on by Redeemer Pres here in NYC. They have done incredible work and are church planting fools! Sitting in the room this morning were 20 church planters. We were all there to soak up any bits of wisdom the trainers/teachers might have to offer. It was a great seminar and I'll go to it once a month from now until May.

I was the only one in the room who hadn't already planted a church. Some in the room were a couple of years into their church plant, some a year and some just a few months. But again, I was the only one in the room who hadn't already planted a church. The teacher was excited that my sponsoring church (Manhattan Church of Christ) was allowing me to be here so early before we actually open the church plant doors on a Sunday. None of the others in the room were so fortunate. So on the one hand, I sat in that room and felt pretty good that God was allowing me this preparation time. Yeah, maybe I don't know much, but God is already teaching me much! I just need to keep soaking it all up! But on the other hand, I sat in that seminar and felt totally inadequate to fulfill this dream of Manhattan Church of Christ's to plant a church. Who am I? I know nothing about planting churches and furthermore, I'm not a natural evangelist in the traditional sense of that word! I was surrounded by men and women already in the trenches doing the work I can foresee myself doing in 15 months. Even though they looked tired and beat up, they were overjoyed to be in the room and looked like natural church planters. (I’m not sure I can explain what the look of a “natural church planter” is but they do have this look about them.) And as if I wasn’t feeling inadequate enough, they gave us the assignment to write out a vision statement for the Oct. session.

When I get asked to share my vision of the church plant I get a little uneasy and a little squirmy. Why is that? Why do I get so uneasy? I now know the answer.

I am afraid. Yes, that’s it, I am afraid! I am afraid to admit that I’m not exactly sure what the vision is yet. It has yet to be revealed. I am afraid to admit that I’m not exactly sure how it will all work out and how it will all come together because I want so badly to impress folks and hope that everything will work out great. I am afraid to start speaking about a vision that seems like “something” when in reality I’ve said nothing at all. In fact, if I’m truly honest, I’ve been afraid ever since I agreed to come here and plant a church. I’m just now realizing that fear has dictated most of my thoughts recently. In some ways it is good to fear but this fear has been overwhelming and unhealthy. I need to realize that I’m here for a reason and that God called me to this place. I need to give this fear of inadequacy over to the Lord and allow him to make my weakness, my strength.

So what am I saying? I’m saying that I’m not exactly sure what this thing will look like. I’m saying that I’m not exactly sure how it will happen and I have yet to stamp a fancy vision statement onto this church plant (although I better have something for my teacher by Oct. ;)).
I’ve had time to process this writing over the weekend and I’m glad God is so gracious in dealing with me. I’m admitting to everyone I know that I’m scared and full of fear hoping to solicit their prayers and thoughts. My confession has been well received. I’m thankful, too, for gracious brothers and sisters in Christ.

God is humbling me and making me aware of my need for him. The above confession concerning my fear has brought me to my knees and has made me realize that I can’t do this! It must be him!

Lord, forgive me of my pride and my selfishness. I give this fear over to you and ask that you take this weakness and make it your strength!

I took the tour of the NYSE on Friday and it was amazing. I first went to lunch with Brandon as the NYSE was busy with the arrival and visit of President Putin of Russia. Brandon and his co-workers were even asked to keep at a distance. I was hoping to eat in the NYSE cafeteria to get a feel for those who work there but got a feel for the area as we ate at a sandwich shop. Brandon and I were wearing nice suits but beside us sat a construction worker and on the other side of us was a mother and baby and at another table were young college aged looking kids. (I call them kids but I’m not much older than them, yeah right.) As usual, NYC is showing its diversity at this sandwich shop. Even the downtown area can’t be characterized as a bunch of “suits” who make big money. Diversity seems to be the rule of thumb for NYC.

At lunch, Brandon recounted several of the 9.11 moments he remembered. It was amazing to hear him share some of the thoughts that went through his head at the moment that all happened. What is even more amazing is his, and those who work with him, resolve to stay in the downtown area and continue on with life no matter what. I’m sure there were some who left the downtown area after 9.11 and have never stepped foot in that area again but many have a resolve like you wouldn’t believe.

Lunch ended and Brandon took me over to the NYSE. It was quite a maze going through all the security. We finally made it in and he took me to the NYSE floors. You know, the floors where all the trading takes place and the bell is rung every morning and finds its way into movies? Yeah, that floor. It was amazing! Actually, someone who had more knowledge of how the financial world works would be more amazed than me but still, I was in awe.

I still have much to learn about the financial world. Much of the world looks down upon the financial world as being a bunch of greedy folk or an “old boy’s club” who don’t have any regard for others. To some extent that is right but as I walked with Brandon, a Christian, through the NYSE, I recognized that those guys were in need of Christ too. All to often we blow those kind of folks off because we think, “they is no way they will buy into Christianity.”

Maybe they won’t but we won’t know until we give it a shot.

Lord, may you be with those who wear suits everyday and work in the financial district and think they have all they need but find they are searching for more. May they hear the calling within their hearts. May they come to know Jesus Christ. Amen

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


This morning I met with Gregg Farah. Gregg planted a downtown church called Mosaic Manhattan. They kicked off their Sunday services in March 2003. He was incredibly gracious and loved the idea that another church would be planted downtown with a heart for people. I asked him how many other churches were in the area that were concerned about evangelism, about reaching out to the un-churched and he said, "well, there is us and now you."

If there was a lingering doubt in my mind about this endeavor that we are undertaking, Gregg helped reassure the need for more churches downtown; therefore, reassuring the call of God in my life to plant a church there. He invited me to come to their services so that the church could pray over my family as we work toward this goal. Imagine, churches working together instead of fighting each other. I love it!

Lord, thank you for my breakfast with Gregg. Thank you for concretizing your call to me through the words of Gregg. Amen.

I walked quite a bit today. I walked all over the downtown area. That’s not really true because downtown Manhattan is quite large but it seemed like I walked and walked and walked. There is an area of downtown (Wall St., John St., Fulton St., etc.) that is made up of tiny, skinny streets. Many of the streets don’t allow cars on them. They are filled with businesses large and small. Chase bank takes up an entire block and rises high to the sky while little businesses seem to survive in 500 sq. ft. rooms. These streets are packed with people. I also came across two old churches. One was a Methodist Church that claims to be the first Methodist Church in the USA (178?). The other, forgot its name, is also old. They both looked dead and empty. Maybe they thrive on Sunday mornings but my suspicions tell me otherwise. On my walk I prayed for a teammate(s) and for the residents and workers of the downtown area.

I proposed this morning to Tom Robinson, the Manhattan Church of Christ senior minister, that the downtown church plant has it’s first public Sunday worship in Sept. 2005. (Exactly two years from now.) My reasoning is twofold: to start in Jan 2005 (the other reasonable date) would mean that I only have 15 months to find a partner/teammate. That, to me, seems like a big task and might be hard to do in that amount of time. To start in Mar/Apr/May of 2005 would be to open doors right before the summer. The summers are deadly here in NYC. Not because of the heat but because everyone escapes the city for beaches or mountains on summer weekends. NYC is empty on weekends. NY churches are known to suffer attendance woes during the summer months. So it seemed logical to me to plant in Sept. ’05. Tom was understanding but hesitant because he is starting to get hungry for this church to be planted. (Interestingly, we had suddenly switched roles. In the beginning, I was the one hungry to start sooner rather than later and he was more cautious and would have liked later rather than sooner. Now the roles were reversed. It was interesting to me how this came about.)

As I walked the streets and continued to see an absence of churches; therefore, an absence of Christianity, I felt the need, the urge to plant in January 2005. It will be hard finding a teammate in 15 months but it can happen. God can make it happen. I’m no Super-Man. I’m no Super-Stud. I need help. I need a teammate.

Lord, send someone to NYC to help us plant this church. Amen.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


Today is a day New Yorkers have come to dread. It is a day in which the local papers have numerous articles about the affects of 9/11/01. It is a day in which everyone wakes to the realization that life can’t be taken for granted. It is a day when once again we are reminded of the darkness and evil that can so easily fill this land, this world as it did two years ago.

Laura, Sophia and I got up early to head to the downtown memorial service. It was evident that we were not the only ones headed in that direction for the same purpose. As we emerged from the Wall St. subway exit, I immediately noticed hoards of people. We were all looking for the same thing: the memorial service that somehow might make a little more sense of the 9/11 tragedy.

It was also evident that unless you were family or press, you weren’t going to come close to the actual service. The general public was kept at an incredible distance. We made it through a couple of barriers upon telling the security that I was a minister but were turned away at almost every other barrier. We didn’t even come close. They were incredibly protective of the sight and understandably so. Not because they were afraid some terrorist might cause problems but because they wanted the families to be able to truly mourn without “Joe Public” standing next to them.

We finally gave up the pursuit to make it into the action and settled in with the rest of the masses watching and listening from afar. Mayor Bloomberg kicked off the ceremony by stating what was so painstakingly obvious through the tears of those standing around us, “Today, again, we are a city that mourns.” Soon after, a choir sang “God bless America” followed by “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes. It was pretty powerful. They wasted no time and started reading the names of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.

Sophia was tired and hungry and so we went into the World Financial Building so that Laura could feed Sophia. After that, we went down to another area in which we were a bit closer. The names were still being read. Laura left with Sophia and I stayed. I listened to name after name after name. They had different readers call out the names. It was a particularly solemn moment when one of the children readers got choked up in reading her list of names. It was moving to everyone who heard her shaky voice as she fought to keep back the tears.

I walked around to get a feel for the people and saw policemen and women hugging each other sobbing uncontrollably. I saw families piling out of the ceremony having heard their sons or daughters, their fathers or mothers name read and it was obvious that they had been crying for quite some time. I was so busy taking in the spectacle that I didn’t seem to be affected.

Finally after several hours of reading names, they came to the end. It was over. All 2,792 people who died at the WTC site had finally been called. It was a poignant moment. I was finally aware of what I had been listening to. It hadn’t hit me until that moment the weight of all that was going on. I began to cry. I was not alone.

As I descended down into the Wall St. subway station, I knew that if healing was to be restored downtown, if renewal was to be achieved then Jesus Christ must be a part of that picture. It will be through him that any sense of this mess, of this tragedy will be made.

Lord, may you continue to heal the hearts of those who lost friends and/or family on 9/11. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

(note: I did not travel downtown on 9/2 and 9/4)

Today I’m sitting outside the NYSE. It looks as if it's in lockdown. Security everywhere, security dogs, gates, roads closed, squad cars and vans and trucks, guys with machine guns…all of this surround the NYSE. The guy standing on the steps next to me tells me that it’s been that way since 9/11. He says, “you once were able to take a tour of the place, which was a great tour, but now it is only open to those who work there.” I’m a little shocked but it makes sense…I guess. In addition, we are only two days away from the 2nd anniversary to 9/11. Maybe there is heightened security because of that. Whatever the case, the guys in the suits who work in the area or actually in the NYSE don’t even notice or give a second look to all the security. It has become their way of life.

BTW, the guy standing next to me has a shirt that reads, “WARNING: God sees everything you do.” He stands with his hands crossed with a half scowl on his face staring at the NYSE. He isn’t a tourist because he isn’t taking pictures and doesn’t have a camera bag but has that authentic NYC look so I’m wondering, why he is here? So I ask him.

He is protesting the stock exchange. Why? Because of all the greed and lies of corporate America. He is tired, he says, of corporate scandal and lies and wants changes that can insure America and the world that we deal honestly in our business practices. “These guys average $10K in their 401K. How much does a person need to live?” Wow, good question.

I ask him if has ever made scene in order to get noticed or attempted to talk to some of the “suits”. He said he hadn’t but pointed to two cameras that sat atop of the NYSE and said, “they see me, they know I’m here.”

He has done this for 30 days straight, one hour a day. What difference will he make on the NYSE? Not much probably but he has made me think about my own greed. Ouch, I needed that.

On another note, having lunch with Kerrick of the church plant called The Journey and Jerod of the church plant called The Bronx Fellowship has made me come to grips with my aloneness in this endeavor. I need a teammate. But not just any ‘ol teammate will do as I have learned from both of these guys, I need a teammate with which I will work well!

Lord, I need you more than anything. Help this plant become a reality. And may it be to your glory. Amen.

I need to learn chess. I walked through several little downtown parks and it is evident that a game of chess can lead to conversation. What an incredible way of learning about people in this area! I saw a young kid playing an old man. I saw a dark skinned man playing a light skinned man. It seems to me that this game breaks barriers and that it might be a good way to meet people and learn from them.

I also looked for other churches in this neighborhood. This is one of my exercises assigned in the Redeemer Church Planting Manual. I came across two churches: Trinity Catholic and St. Pauls. Trinity looked pretty closed and bare but with much history and legacy. St. Paul's was hopping with all their 9/11 memorabilia. Both started in the 1800s. It seems to me that there is a huge need for something fresh and alive!

I also walked around the WTC site. Tons and tons of tourists did the same. When the site is fully operational again and the monument is functioning, I'm sure there will even be more tourists! Will our church have anything to do or any ministry we can provide for the tourists? Is there a way we can minister to them?

I sat in the World Financial Center which is the hub of all things WTC and 9/11. It has maps of the future sight, an elevated plane on which one can overlook the WTC site and a common area where people can just sit. I again partook in just sitting and watching. A large majority of the people were tourists. The theme plastered on the walls in the WFC was “From Recovery to Renewal.”

I walked down N. Church street to Broadway. Broadway back to N. Church. N. Church to Ann St. Ann St. to West St. I walked quite a way down West Street. I saw on West Street St. John’s Univ. of Manhattan, Hudson River Park, Borough of Manhattan Comm. College, b-ball courts, Pier 25, a very sad mini-golf course and a skating park. West St. was hopping! I passed by a couple of public schools that looked nice. In this more residential neighborhood I noticed that the majority of people were young and Caucasian.

Lord, I pray that our church might be part of the renewal that takes place downtown. May you give us the strength and the blessing to work with the community to restore hope and faith. Amen.

Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon I'll be going downtown to learn more about the area. I'll walk the downtown area, sit and observe the people and places of the downtown area and hopefully talk to those that either work there and/or live there. During this time I'll also do a lot of praying and journalizing. Yesterday (8/26) was my first day to be there.

8/26 The Downtown Church Plant

Today is my first time to come to the downtown area with the intent to think about, pray about and write about the future church plant.

I arrived downtown on the 4 train. I emerged in Battery Park. To my surprise I noticed the famous World Trade Center "Sphere" in the middle of the park. I was immediately drawn to the Sphere. I was not alone.

After looking at the Sphere and reading the plaque and watching the eternal flame burn, I stepped back to watch others take in the broken, battered and bruised monument.

Some passers-by were strictly that. They were just passing by. It was evident that they worked and maybe even lived nearby. Some of those didn't give the Sphere the time of day but some made passing glances. It was if they had seen enough already.

Tour guides passed through. One guide spoke in Italian, another in Spanish and still another in German.

A family stopped. They were clearly tourists. The two young children received lectures from their parents on what they were witnessing. The kids took it in and then ran to play with the pigeons. The parents didn't notice the kids straying from the monument. They were overcome with the spectacle of the shattered Sphere.

A bike messenger was hurrying to his next stop when he suddenly put on his brakes. He looked up to the Sphere, shook his head in disbelief, disgust and frustration and fled away.

People took pictures from all angles. I'm sure it wasn't that they wanted 5, 10, or 15 pictures of the Sphere but because they were somehow trying to capture the meaning of the monument and a still picture was the best they could do.

People video-ed the Sphere as well. Again, not so much because they couldn't wait to get home to see the monument on tape but because they were trying desperately to recall the feelings of 9/11 and trying to reconcile and put closure to the events of 9/11.

It was amazing to watch people as some were seen shedding tears. Were they crying because they lost a loved one? a friend? Some were instantly reminded of how precious life is as they were seen hugging and grasping hands and putting arms around each other.

Some were even seen laughing. I don't think they were being rude or disrespectful but were reminded that laughing was how some of those who lost their lives, lived their lives.

To say the least, I didn't make it anywhere else today in the downtown area. I just soaked up the Sphere monument and all it's implications.

The plaque at the monument reads, "the Sphere...endures as an icon of hope." My prayer is that the church we plant in this very neighborhood will too be a representation of hope: the kind of hope received through the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Lord, may you guide this work as we strive to restore hope in this broken, battered and bruised neighborhood. Amen.