Wednesday, October 22, 2003

This past week was an interesting one downtown. Last Tuesday, Oct. 14 I decided to go hang out at Union Square. (Union Square is on 14th street and is probably a bit north of where we will want to plant a church.) I took along my Redeemer Church Planting Manual to read if I felt inspired to do so. I walked around the square for a few minutes taking in the sites of all kinds of people doing all sorts of things. I finally plopped down on a bench. I thought I was isolating myself as the benches around me were empty. I started to read. Without notice, a guy sat next to me, looked over my shoulder to see what I was reading and said, "are you studying to be a minister?" This started what would become a two hour conversation.

After explaining to this man that I was already a minister he began asking about the "rich young man" and wondered aloud if anyone rich had a chance to go to heaven?! He later confessed that he is rich. It was obvious that his wealth bothered him deep down inside. He then began quoting Buddha and comparing the sayings of Buddha with Jesus. Our talk took a sharp turn into the realm of comparative religion. It was evident at that turn that I was out of my league. Yeah, I have studied other religions but not to the point to have a meaningful conversation with someone as obviously learned as this guy!

I finally asked him what he did for a living? "I'm a professor at Fordham." "Oh yeah? In what field?" I asked. "At the moment, I'm teaching a class on world religions." D'oh! No wonder, I was out of my league. Come to find out, this guy has several degrees, the most recent from Harvard! He has taught all over the world and his Ph.D. is in comparative religion and his specialty is in Buddhism. Yikes! Who am I?

He wanted badly to say that there were no real differences in Christianity and Buddhism. My claim was that there might be some similarities in teaching but in the end, Buddha didn't die for the world or raise from the dead and therein lies the absolute difference!

It was an incredible discussion in which I learned much. I respect this man and respect from whence he comes and I gathered that he too respects me and he too respects from whence I come. He invited me to come to one of his classes and I look forward to doing so!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


This place is happening! I’m sitting in the park that is in front of the city hall and it’s packed. People flank me to my left and right. Some are sightseers, some are “people watching” too, and some are having cups of coffee on this cool fall day. Some are sleeping, some are hugging and kissing (“Hey! No PDA, please!”), and some are in deep conversation. But they all have one thing in common: they are all in their own little worlds. And in their worlds they are the ruler! Everyone else in their worlds are pawns…but they themselves? They are kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers. Isn’t that why some folks come to NYC? Not to be known by anyone else so that they can be the king, queen, etc. If they are not known then they can be exactly that. It is when you become known that people know you are not at all a president or prime minister. You are exposed and become like everyone else. But as I look around, everyone is in their own world ruling over the rest of us!

Question: how in the world are we, as Christians planting a church in this area, going to be able to break into their worlds and convince them that they aren’t kings or queens? Will they, with our radical message that Jesus is Lord, allow us into their lives? If they will, how do we proceed?

I was at a conference this past weekend in Nashville (hence, me not blogging the past week) and it occurred to me that I need more boldness! I need to understand (which implies action) how imperative it is to spread the Good News. In my sensitivity for other life stories, I’ve wanted to dumb down the imperative of the Gospel. I’m guilty of the “it’s all good” syndrome. But I’m coming to realize that the Good News is it! That is where it’s at and I believe that by hearing the Good News and believing in it then one can enter into a whole new “realm” of life. A realm of life where the Spirit sets one free, where guilt is relieved by Jesus and creation comes to life by God. What more could you ask for or want? These people in this park need Jesus!

Interesting note: two UPS men sit next to me. They are dressed in typical UPS garb. Brown pants, brown shirts, pen in shirt pockets. They are on their lunch breaks. They sit while eating deliciously looking hoagies gabbing about work, the BoSox/Yanks series and home life. They are minding their own business but one person after another walks by and says “hello” to them. It becomes apparent that they are the regular delivery guys for this area. Some of those who pass by even call them by their names and joke around with them. As I sit here at least 10 different people speak to them. That’s a pretty big deal that in the middle of this park full of all kinds of folks from all over these guys are known by so many. What is it about them that people know them? Is it because they are in the lives of ordinary folk every day? Is it because they are consistent about showing up and bursting their way into people’s lives? It certainly has to do with presence. They aren’t sitting behind desks or sitting at a table reading Greek but out among the people. (Don’t get me wrong, being behind a desk and reading Greek are extremely important but…) Could it be that I have a lesson to learn from the UPS guys? Could it be that they are providing me with a practical example of how to plant a church? The ministry of presence. Hmmm….

Lord, teach me to be present and consistent in the lives of people. Give me more boldness in your name. Give me wisdom on how to walk the line of being sensitive and aware to being bold and sure. I need your help. I need your help. Amen.