I want to introduce you to Christ Central Buffalo, a church plant of the Presbyterian Church in America. Follow the links to see what’s brewing in God’s kitchen.
I want to introduce you to Christ Central Buffalo, a church plant of the Presbyterian Church in America. Follow the links to see what’s brewing in God’s kitchen.
Fifteen years ago I turned on the television to witness the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center towers. I stood amazed as I watched live video of panic, billowing smoke, and shared disbelief at the profound loss we, as a nation, were beginning to experience. As a college student, it was the first time I had witnessed actual death through television. I was stunned. I felt, with my nation and with my world, the incredible loss of beauty and value and peace in a single morning.
Today, as I check Facebook trending news, I have a choice to read any kind of news I want. From the most inane pebble of news (Mischa Barton’s insensitive bikini photo) to the most horrific (the murder and rape of a 2-year old), I am allowed to populate my own field of view of my world.
Within one month I’ve read accounts of mass-shootings (Orlando), bombings (Baghdad), and local crimes in my own city. I’ve watched videos of black men shot by police officers, while onlookers cry out in shock. I’ve seen high resolution photographs of the family and friends of police officers murdered in cold blood. Every time I read a new piece there is a question that lurks deep in the shadows of my mind.
“How long can I go on feeling disgusted, sad, and shocked, before I’m just faking it?”
I know that before I can even finish processing the death of five innocent men, there will be another set of human lives violently ripped from our world, leaving a bleeding wound in their families, friends, communities, and world-wide community.
Every headline tempts me to give up in one of two ways: to grow hard or to become broken. To Teflon spray my compassion so that I no longer feel sad at a stranger’s death, or to become an exposed nerve, feeling nothing but anger and sorrow all the time. In my sinfulness, in despair, I disconnect.
Though I’ll return once again to pray for justice in our land, to pray for comfort for grieving families, to pray for meaningful dialogue and civic reform, to pray for Christ to be the ultimate answer that breaks down the dividing wall of hostility, what I’ll pray for most is the compassion to feel anguish for and with my fellow man. To know the blessing of God’s comfort which can only be shown to those who mourn, and even to those who mourn with those who mourn. To peel back the callous that forms with every headline. And sharing in sorrow, I shall hope in the God who brings justice- enough for today’s troubles, and fully for tomorrow’s Kingdom.
“At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.
When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah”
(Psa 75:2-3 ESV)
The NYTimes fashion article above explains relationship “ghosting”. It basically consists of breaking up through non-responsiveness.
With our highly mediated modes of relationship, it’s often easier to just stop responding to someone, rather than confronting the person to make a clean break. Anything that allows our break-ups to have a layer of separation dulls the sting of conflict. It used to be the phone. Sometimes it was the friend. Later it was the text message. The facebook message. Lately, it’s becoming the disappearing act. It’s a break up without the painful resolution.
Sadly, that’s how many of us break up with God. It rarely happens face to face. There’s no grand exchange of words (or in our cases, a tirade), no big argument which ends up calling it quits, no final agreement to spend time apart.
We just ghost.
We stop responding to His word.
We stop speaking to Him in prayer.
We stop spending time with His adopted family.
We stop noticing that He’s not around.
What many of us don’t realize is that we’ve actually broken up. We think we can just stroll home one day and pull out our “I accepted Jesus in my heart that night” card, and simply decide (by force of will) to trust in Jesus again and become His disciple. His own words should sober us up-
13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. (Luk 8:13 ESV)
The implication above is that that kind of soil remains lifeless. The falling away is a permanent result of the planting. There is no death-bed repentance, because faith comes by God’s grace, not by human willpower. There’s no reason to think that you can simply switch on faith later if you refuse to do it now. What would drive you to it then, that doesn’t drive you to it now? Fear? Guilt? Children? A more welcoming church? Are you willing to stake your destiny on the power of any of those things?
Rather, heed the word of God.
15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Heb 3:15 ESV)
Every time you ignore God’s call, God’s text, God’s message, you are not just postponing a meeting with God, you are ghosting God, and eventually your heart will be a stone.
Today, if you notice some missed calls from God, call Him back in prayer. God has nothing but welcome for those who return to Him in repentance. In Christ, your repentance becomes a sweet and lovely thing to the Father. Peace with God, joy of the Spirit, and assurance of your good estate will be the rings and fattened calf that God has prepared for His prodigal son who comes back home.
What a wonderful Father we share!
14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), (Exo 34:14 ESV)
We know from the scriptures that our God is a jealous God. The passage above affirms that. But never do we see God described as envious. There is a useful distinction there.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines the primary use of jealousy, especially as it describes God, as intolerance of rivalry or unfaithfulness. Envy, on the other hand, is resentful awareness of another’s advantage.
Our God is jealous, but not envious. He tolerates no rival to His glory, or to His children’s hearts. He will not abide entertainment of the idea of competition for His name or His people.
But this does not mean that God is envious. He doesn’t look upon idols and wish he had their worshipers. He doesn’t feel longing for the celebrity of another. Ultimately, there is no rival. He is completely secure in every aspect. God is sufficient without us, and nothing He created can challenge Him for worthiness.
So whence comes jealousy? I think the Lord’s jealousy is a gift to His people. He knows, like a loving Father, that a pedophile may give you candy and toys, but his real purpose is to use you and harm you. He is jealous of us because He loves us, and He knows that any other rival to God we entrust ourselves to will lead inevitably to misery.
How fierce is His jealousy. How fierce His love.
Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
(Exo 20:1-6 ESV)
(On December 21, 2014, I preached a 7 minute message on the Incarnation, teaching about the charge given to Joseph by the angel in Matthew 1:18-25- to follow through with his marriage, and to name the child Jesus. The main focus of the message was that Jesus was born into human shame in order to save us. Joseph’s fear was that he would be dishonored by taking an unfaithful wife, which was devastating in Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Christ was born into a scandalized family. He was poor in more ways than just material wealth – he was poor even in social esteem. He received human shame He did not deserve, in a wonderful exchange, so that we might receive divine honor that we do not deserve.)
So as a follow up to the sermon this last Sunday – sometimes there are things I wish I had said, or wish I had time to say. A quick reflection on how Jesus was incarnated into human hostility and shame for our sakes.
From even before His birth, there has always been a dual perspective on Jesus, the Messiah. He polarized opinions everywhere. Either He was the promised King, who would rule righteously and be the savior of His people (Simeon, Joseph, shepherds, Magi), or He was a threat to an established way of life, an established system of power and honor (Pharisees, Scribes, Herod, Rome). He was born into a two-layer system of honor and shame- he was honored by those who knew who He really was, he was shamed by those who felt threatened by who he was.
As Christians awaiting glory, we also exist in a two-layer system of honor and shame. The system of the world is passing away, it shall soon be reversed by Jesus, it is inherently flawed at the core by sin. But just as Israel awaited the Messiah to come and overthrow the unjust reign of evil men, so we await the second coming of Christ to truly judge rightly, to give honor, to designate shame, and finally to completely obliterate the old system of power and honor that would view the Christ as a disgraced man. One day we will see every atheist, Hindhu, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, animist, polytheist, etc, give proper honor and recognition to Jesus for who He really is. And the saints who maintained their witness will share in the fruits of that new, hitherto subversive, secondary system of honor and shame.
Let us live so as to pursue honor in Christ’s kingdom, scorning any shame the world can ascribe to us.
TL;DR – 16 “Thus the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Mat 20:16 NAS)
Praise be to God, for Jesus has pursued last place harder than all of us.
May you reflect on Christ, born for you, this Christmas! Merry Christmas, NHEM family!
“The vision of New Hope English Ministries is to become an autonomous, multi-ethnic, multi-generational church…”
We learned last week that moving toward a more autonomous church congregation, i.e. a semi-church-plant, will yield multiple benefits for New Hope as a whole, the local churches around Buffalo, and the Kingdom. A newly formed autonomous church community can much more effectively reach new demographics including those of different ethnic backgrounds and those of different generational backgrounds.
First let’s focus on Multi-Ethnicity. Why pursue this as a component to our church vision? Shouldn’t our congregational demographics be made up naturally and organically, i.e. whoever comes to the Lord and/or joins our church is welcome? Won’t this dilute our own unique church culture?
The “why” is both biblical and strategic. The bible teaches us emphatically that neither race, nor gender, nor socio-economic status need be a barrier for fellowship or communal worship. In metropolitan contexts, the early church was also composed of much racial/cultural diversity. Unity was both possible and natural knowing that believers shared many commonalities in Christ and as His people. Ref. Gal 3:28-29, Eph 2:11-18. God does not show partiality when it comes to His grace nor His judgment, and therefore unity as God’s adopted children is based on our new relationship with Christ.
Now just because unity is possible, does not mean that any particular local church body should strive to be multi-ethnic. Many healthy churches remain mono-ethnic or pan-Asian or simply have no strategy or targeting priority with the demographics they reach. Why should we seek to “taste the rainbow”?
In short, it’s a question of evangelism. The church is called to reach their local community with the gospel and add them to their church numbers. Ref. Acts 2:47, 5:15. For us as a predominantly bi-cultural, or at best pan-Asian, congregation, what has that looked like in the past?
It has largely consisted of Christian migration. Christian Asian-Americans move to Buffalo for school or training, look for a church, find New Hope is alive and active, and join us. Once in a while we get a couple new believers through campus ministries that end up joining us as well. Each year we get a decent crowd of new community members to New Hope. So what’s the problem? It’s two-fold.
1) Problem: No lasting growth. The problem with Christian-migration growth is that Christians also migrate OUT of Buffalo. If we grow each fall because of new students, we also shrink each summer because of graduates. Those who stay behind and join New Hope long term are often too few, and those who finally leave are often too great. The composition of our membership should not depend on migration patterns, but on faithful witnessing, evangelism, deepening of discipleship, and commitment. Currently it keeps quite level in membership because very few people ultimately decide to live in Buffalo, but many people see the merit of coming through here for school. No bueno.
2) Problem: We’re not winning people to Christ. As long as we’re primarily composed of a mono-ethnic/cultural background, ethnicity/culture/language/expectations/etc will always remain a barrier between ourselves and our non-Asian neighbors. And if you haven’t noticed, Buffalo is about as yellow as salt and pepper (i.e. white and black, folks). For residents to evangelize their co-workers, neighbors, and general community, we hit a major wall when it’s time for them to commit to our church body. Missiological studies show that when a person is forced to assimilate to another culture in order to accept Christianity, they are severely inhibited in reaching their own peers of their former people group, and become largely ineffective gospel agents because they become an outcast amongst their own people. Ex. If a black person believes in the gospel and joins our church, he would largely need to understand Asian cultural motifs, expectations, and spirituality in order to fit in. This is a tremendous challenge for someone who has just met Jesus, and is an unnecessary burden on Christian faith, as James and Peter and the apostles deliberated upon in Jerusalem in Acts 15 (i.e. you don’t need to be circumcised to be a Christian). One should, by all means possible, be allowed to retain their own culture when becoming a believer. This leads to the fulfillment of the great commission that all nations will become disciples, i.e. all ethnic people groups. For us as New Hope, this limitation has inhibited us from reaching out with our faith. If we could break the multi-ethnic % barrier, about 20% non-oriental-Asian, we’ll have a much easier time integrating a non-believer into our church body and thereby witnessing Jesus to them. Long-term, this is the only sustainable growth and evangelism model- reaching our local community with the gospel and winning new converts.
The benefit of being able to effectively reach our community despite cultural/ethnic/socio-economic barriers are multiple, but a simple summary is this – if we grow by new believers becoming long-term resident believers committed to New Hope, NHEM will continue to grow, be revived in spirit and passion and energy, and will finally generate momentum to become a Kingdom-building force in Buffalo rather than a nice Asian club of Christians getting together to learn and worship. Christ calls us to have our joy-giving relationship with Him to be a contagion in every community we inhabit. When that never grows up to be a priority of a church, the greatest mission of the church shrinks in to a “should”, and where a church has no heart to obey Christ in increasing His glory among a greater network of people, the pleasure and power of Christ’s presence will ultimately leave.
TL;DR – we want to be a Multi-Ethnic congregation, not because God loves skittles, but because by doing so we will be a more revived, passionate, Jesus-obeying church.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren Bennis
“The vision of New Hope Presbyterian Church English Ministries is to become an autonomous, multi-generational, multi-ethnic church which celebrates the gospel of Jesus Christ in life and teaching and reaches the greater Buffalo area with the good news of Jesus.” – New Hope English Ministries vision
“Oh boy…” – Chris Jhu
Where are we, as New Hope’s English Ministry, going, and why are we going?I’d like to focus on the first aspect of our vision and why we should pursue its realization – Autonomy
1) Autonomy – to peacefully and lovingly particularize the English Ministries of New Hope from the greater congregational body. This means we would develop and install our own congregational leadership, i.e. session elders, and become a separate church body from that of New Hope Presbyterian Church. It will require us to take on greater responsibility and commitment for our own care and operation. To become autonomous would also allow us to more effectively govern our own members, so that we can become more mature in faith and praxis and so bless our community and bless New Hope as a ministering sister congregation. In many ways, it parallels many of the benefits and pitfalls of church planting- in fact, it is basically a church plant…a slow, planned, pre-membership-loaded church plant.
1a) Why? First, read this. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/82646202/Why_Plant_Churches.pdfTo summarize for the time-crunched or lazy – Jesus basically instructs us to multiply congregations, and not just increase congregational size. This was also the strategy of His apostles, particularly Paul. Secondly, new congregational bodies as you might see in a church plant is demonstrably the most effective way to reach new people groups, new residents, and new generations of believers (which will lead us to our other vision points). And lastly, new church congregations revitalize, revive, and bless other churches in the area, especially a “mother” church that gives it birth. Although it may seem like a new and growing church body would compete with and/or drain other church bodies, actually the reverse is true. New church plants/congregations bring life and renewed health to other churches.
For us specifically, particularization from New Hope will ultimately allow us to grow, pursue our church vision to more faithfully and effectively reach Buffalo across generations and ethnic lines, and ultimately will bless our mother congregation of KM as we develop newer, deeper, more responsible and mature membership and leadership.
To all New Hopers – please read the article above and get on board!
“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” — Every experienced husband…ever.
Perhaps this post will be a little self-gratifying, but I thought I’d give some props to one of the most unappreciated servants of any church – the pastor’s wife! In Korean churches, this role is titled “Samonim”, or 3-5-nim. Figure that out!
Now the pastor’s wife has no biblical duties, qualifications, or particular roles other than that outlined for all wives. But here are some things your local church 3-5-nim is doing behind the scenes. In no particular order-
1) She’s developing relationships with the hard-to-reach areas of our church. Specifically, she’s spending time cultivating relationships with many of our KM member counter-parts, especially those who are younger parents sojourning in Buffalo. Why is this important? In our particular EM, we have charge over the children and youth of KM. Without some solid inter-ministry communication, it’s easy for hurt feelings to develop on both sides of the fence. KM parents may begin to brew discontent as they feel their needs are not being met, and EM servants may begin to feel resentful that no support is being shown. This is a recipe for fairly nasty conflict, and an easy way for a ministry to brew up some negative feelings. Enter 1st gen out-going pastor’s wife! She’s able to mediate and communicate expectations, feelings, and reasoning to a certain degree on both sides. She’s one of the few all important “bridge” persons in our church, which will be crucial for healthy particularization (autonomy) to occur. My wife and I both believe our family was called to New Hope, not just me, and I think one of her greatest contributions to our ministry will be in this area.
2) Noon-Chi (untranslatable…situational awareness, intuition, contextual perception, unspoken communication sensitivity…basically a female’s sixth sense!). She has the power to perceive things occurring in our ministry which may not be directly spoken. For some reason, my wife is always the first person to notice when two parties are not getting along with one another, when two people seem to be dating, when someone’s looking burnt out, when there seems to be discontent somewhere, etc. She’s not omniscient, but her sensitivity to unspoken things has helped me in my approach to certain issues with far greater wisdom.
3) A different perspective. Very often I’ll find myself thinking out loud about church issues, policies, history, precedent, decisions that need to be made, etc, and I’ll start to get set on a certain action, when Ji Hye will chime in and hit me with a lightning bolt of common sense. Sometimes it was such an obvious truth I was overlooking, and I just needed a voice to crystallize it. At other times it was really just my sinful, selfish complaining that needed to be shut up and put in check. Having another perspective on church issues can really help temper my approach to ministry to not be so egocentric and myopic. She’s also shot down some stupid ideas in the past with blunt truth, “No babe, that’s stupid. That’s never going to work.”
4) Keeps the pastor from getting too proud. My wife is the champion for shorter sermons, more diligent labor, a richer prayer life. She’s the one who will challenge me when I’m becoming idolatrous, when I’m being negligent of my responsibilities, when I’m being inappropriate or rude. Although rebuking laziness or sin may not be limited to the pastor’s wife, I think she does it best – with the most grace and the most insight (pay attention Eihing!).
5) Becomes a gap-filler, as much as she’s able, in church needs. She’s a Friday food purchaser, sometimes a cook or dishwasher, a fellowship hostess, a counselor, a new-member integrator through home lunches, and lately she’s even looked around for spouses for our single CSers. Before Collin was born she was a Jr. High ministry teacher, a pastor’s wife in a Korean Ministry (like deacon 2.0), an infant ministry caretaker, and lots of other roles.
These are just 5 things that came to mind as I reflected on the wonderful ministries my wife engages in behind the scenes.
An older article I had copy-pasted into my archives. Sorry no photos, they didn’t copy well.
* Not implying that video-games cause mass shootings or psychotic episodes, but there’s definitely a self-control problem in our generation of which these things are symptomatic…*
‘The Demise of Guys’: How video games and porn are ruining a generation
By Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, Special to CNN
May 24, 2012 — Updated 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)
Video games can go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality, the authors say.
Editor’s note: Psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo is a professor emeritus at Stanford University and is world-renowned for his 1971 research, the Stanford Prison Experiment. Zimbardo teamed up with artist and psychologist Nikita Duncan to write “The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It,” released Wednesday by TED Books.
(CNN) — Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?
Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.
Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.
Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.
The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.
Stories about this degeneration are rampant: In 2005, Seungseob Lee, a South Korean man, went into cardiac arrest after playing “StarCraft” for nearly 50 continuous hours. In 2009, MTV’s “True Life” highlighted the story of a man named Adam whose wife kicked him out of their home — they have four kids together — because he couldn’t stop watching porn.
Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan are the authors of “The Demise of Guys.”
Norwegian mass murder suspect Anders Behring Breivik reported during his trial that he prepared his mind and body for his marksman-focused shooting of 77 people by playing “World of Warcraft” for a year and then “Call of Duty” for 16 hours a day.
Research into this area goes back a half-century.
Breivik claims killing was ‘necessary’
In 1954, researchers Peter Milner and James Olds discovered the pleasure center of the brain. In their experiments, an electrical current was sent to the limbic system of a rat’s brain whenever it moved to a certain area of its cage. The limbic sytem is a portion of the brain that controls things like emotion, behavior and memory. The researchers hypothesized that if the stimulation to the limbic system were unpleasant, the rats would stay away from that part of the cage.
Surprisingly, the rats returned to that portion of the cage again and again, despite the sensation.
In later experiments, when they were allowed to push a stimulation lever on their own accord, they self-stimulated hundreds of times per hour. Even when given the option to eat when hungry or to stimulate the pleasure center, the rats chose the stimulation until they were physically exhausted and on the brink of death.
This new kind of human addictive arousal traps users into an expanded present hedonistic time zone. Past and future are distant and remote as the present moment expands to dominate everything. That present scene is totally dynamic, with images changing constantly.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “regular porn users are more likely to report depression and poor physical health than nonusers are. … The reason is that porn may start a cycle of isolation. … Porn may become a substitute for healthy face-to-face interactions, social or sexual.”
Similarly, video games also go wrong when the person playing them is desensitized to reality and real-life interactions with others.
Violence in video games is often synonymous with success. Children with more of a propensity for aggression are more attracted to violent video media, but violent media, in turn, can also make them more aggressive. This could be related to the fact that most video games reward players for violent acts, often permitting them to move to the next level in a game.
Yet research reported in the Annual Review of Public Health suggests a link between violent video games and real-life aggression: Given the opportunity, both adults and children were more aggressive after playing violent games. And people who identify themselves with violent perpetrators in video games are able to take aggressive action while playing that role, reinforcing aggressive behavior.
Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.
Such new brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.
Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until “the time is right.”
Less extreme cases of arousal addiction may go unnoticed or be diagnosed as an attention or mood disorder. But we are in a national, and perhaps global, Guy Disaster Mode that needs to be noticed and solutions advanced to fix a totally novel phenomenon, which will only increase in intensity and breadth without the concerted efforts of educators, gamemakers, parents, guys and gals.
It’s time to press play and get started reversing these trends.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan.
Edit by Chris: As a Christian, I can’t help but notice how men like this can diagnose the problem so clearly, yet provide no real alternative to the hedonism-gone-wild mentality in our young men. If new life in Christ is not our alternative, than what is?
I wonder if we sometimes approach the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives much the same way we approach video games, porn, cigarettes, and food…sensation and stimulation on demand. It’s activity is only realized in our lives in as much as we “feel” it’s overt power to stimulate us, when the Bible teaches us that it’s personal, volitional, and always works to help us until Christ returns…