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Vanishing Point February 8, 2008

Posted by peterong in Rants, Tim Keller.

I am getting some time after a long awaited encounter with sabbath to try to bind up some of my personal issues with soul care. Here are some recent reflections after returning from the Concerts of Prayer of Greater New York’s Pastors Prayer Summit a few weeks ago. It is considered the premier gathering of over 300 pastoral leaders from the New York area. I had the privilege of having my first speaking engagement there in 1999. My first sermon/reflection was to lead a prayer time for Chinatown youth (talk about initiation of fire!).

It has been about 5 years since I last attended it. I was there to represent my involvement with Pastoral and Laity Ministries as well as Living Faith Community Church and the Coalition of Urban Youth Workers. It was great to see some of those men and women who have been such spiritual parents to me. These are the older gatekeepers who have served to give opportunities for a generation of young leaders such as myself to be part of the privilege of serving the city together. It was amazing to pray with  some old friends like Walter Sotelo (Citivision), Michel Faulkner (New Horizon Church), Tom Mahairas (Citivision) and others. 

But what was suppose to be the highlight was a vanishing point for me when Rick Warren gave a presentation as part of the Leadership Center that they are forming to serve the under-resourced NYC churches (you can see a video here). Although his principles for leadership were great, I felt that it was what Pastor Joseph Tsang calls “ecclesiastical pornography” when we desire a church like Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Willow Creek, and/or Saddleback.  I think it is important to remember that it took Rick Warren 28 years of ministry to get to where he is now. It is Rick Warren’s calling to this specific church. I wonder if he thinks that his South California culture of church could be duplicated in NYC. As we went to our breakout sessions, I realized that most pastors were floored by his presentation and wanted to adopt Warren’s strategy to build leaders. My heart grew heavy.

As I wonder on these things that we are called to be. To be a church that based on community and engagement of those in our city who have such a high degree of sophisticated brokenness. The level of complexities where a city is bursting with wealth colliding with poverty, sexual ambiguities that is expressed in its Friday night nightlife and the exposed sex trade, immigration landscapes that have brought , and or course the high degree of secularism poses a profound challenge for the church to engage. And I believe that in that diversity we have a special call to whatever congregation. But to do with with diligence, excellence and with a deep adoration for the things of God and the call to those who are broken. But it means for us to go deeper into the crevices of sin and our  Yes, there is Tim Keller…and there are some interesting church plants but I feel that for most of the church we live in a vacuum that actually uses apologetics by Kirk Cameron as a way of engaging (you have to see this embarassing video).

We need a new paradigm…a simple one. One that says ____________ (your name) with your specific story. Please say “no” in wanting to be Tim Keller, Rick Warren, or  even Bill Hybels.  But rather,  want a story that says, this is your portion. This is not about these churches but the wonderful call to advance the gospel in a new direction.



1. eagleed - February 10, 2008

God has been speaking and I’ve been trying to put myself in a situatino where I can listen more lately. Suprisingly this topic is a topic I’ve been thinking about. I just returned from Aquire the Fire in NJ and felt an excitement from great motivation and youth geared facinating events, but not certain of how many people would leave with conviction and a deeper desire to meet with God. I have a false motive to create visual, energy driving presentations to engage youth but it would not be a live altering message as Christ died for sins – it can only be done to direct to God’s soverignty. As I start reading Tim Keller’s “The reason for God” I’m reminded that it is just one man’s response to God and God is preparing him for the people he wants him to reach as so God will prepare me for the people he wants me to reach. Firstly i want to be reminded of what God spoke to me when I encountered problems and then see how others in a similar situation responded in recognizing the way God speaks similarly.

Also, i thought as i left the event, hwo important it was that the church has commitment where people are excited to serve and know the weaknesses of their church only as to pray and ask God to provide workers and not to seek another church but find the purpose God has.

2. Juan Galloway - February 22, 2008

I was at the Pastor’s Prayer Summit as well and felt little creeped out by Rick Warren’s presentation. I have a lot of respect for him for giving away almost all his millions from book sales to help others. His mega confident presentation on how to church ministry came off as “this is THE way to do it, period”. He stated that his church congregation was the most mature one in America. Come on. I was turned off. When you have a mega church like his you have to come up with a system for everything and program to take care of thousands and he has done so successfully. It just doesn’t get me jazzed about ministry at all. I’m speaking from the perspective of having planted four churches, three for the homeless and one hip hop church. I travel and speak at many churches who have tried to implement all of his strategies and it certainly didn’t set their community on fire or anything. It was just another well thought out program. It’s not the key to building a church, it’s more the key to managing discipleship on a really large scale. What most churches are missing is a dynamic of the presence of God mixed with the vulnerability and intimacy between members that equals health and growth. How do you accomplish that? In many different ways, but mainly through shaping church culture toward that direction by pushing people out of the religious box and into honest inner assessment, then into relational compassion. It was good to meet you there at the summit Peter.

3. peterong - February 23, 2008

Dear Juan,

It was great to meet you finally (I heard a lot about you from your dad). I was thinking about how many pilgrims such as yourself who never write multi-million dollar selling book but have a profound insight on discipleship. I have learned much from “under-resourced” pastors who have been obedient to their calling and they have shaped my soulcraft. I thank God for Rick Warren but I give the same measure of thanks for each person called to serve His church. I agree that the world is waiting for what you are describing, “…the presence of God mixed with the vulnerability and intimacy between members that equal health and growth.” But I would only change one word…not “mixed”but from the outflow of that presence there comes a gospel confidence that pushes us outside the margins of a comfortable “religion”

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