Reflections on 2016

As I’ve talked to friends and read post online wrapping up 2016, it’s hard to believe the vast differences of opinion floating around about the success or failure of this past year. For some it was the worst year of their life for others it was the best. From the death of loved ones to new babies each year brings about joys and challenges. On top of personal issues, this year we have faced national challenges, seen international terrorism affect the lives of thousands and experienced the tragic loss of pop icons all of which bring more emotional response thanks to the social media era we live in. My opinion of 2016 was that it had some really sucky moments… I shed tears with friends as they lost loved ones, I prayed hard for our nation during one of the strangest election seasons, and ministry transitions and disappointments popped in and out of the year; but there were also some really fabulous moments… I shared laughter with old and new friends on two fabulous vacations, I explored areas of the world that God created differently from where I live, I got to see people’s lives transformed in Jesus’ name and I built new relationships that are turning into great friendships. At the beginning of 2016, I posted a blog called “Tips for the best 2016”. Below I have responded to the 8 tips with ways I lived each of these out in 2016!

  1. I’m going to be authentically me. The best example of this from 2016 was the 10 minutes I spent with a photojournalist who then took that 10 minute conversation and turned it into a post seen round the world as thousands of people read about my call to church planting and seeing people’s lives transformed for Christ. I was surprised how authentic I was in that conversation!
  2. I’m going to set goals…goals for each area of my life. Well I sat goals, and some of them I reached and some of them I didn’t reach… but I feel good with the success and failures, realizing they both lead to positive growth!
  3. I’m going to work hard. In early December I hosted two mission teams to pull off two coat distributions in the Ravenswood/Queensbridge area. This was the first year we had two groups and divided our distribution sites, as I finished that weekend I realized I had worked really hard and God had accomplished a lot through these efforts.
  4. I’m going to rest hard. The more I get to know myself and love myself the way God intended the easier it gets to rest in the Lord and enjoy His blessings. As strange as this sounds my trip to London was one of the most restful times of the year. My lifelong friend, Melody was teaching there and invited me over for a visit. It was so refreshing being with this friend, it was refreshing to stroll around another city, learn more about culture and see the beauty of a place I have never been.
  5. I’m going to love well. This year we have had several new church planting team members join church plants in NYC, there are two specifically that I feel like I loved well through their time of transition, helping them think through budgets, housing, questions/doubts, having tough conversations from time to time and being a friend for them to cry with things got hard. This has been one of my favorite parts of the year!
  6. I’m going to live optimistically. Early in the summer, I faced what I thought was a very difficult challenge in what is normally one of my favorite parts of ministry. Typically, I would have wallowed in it for weeks and let it strip me of the confidence I needed but this time, I faced the situation, had the difficult conversation and moved forward with the right attitude and it didn’t effect every area of my life for weeks.
  7. I’m going to think like Jesus. While leading my New City small group this year, I lived this out! I walked through Scriptures and topics with my group trying to speak not from me but from Him.
  8. I’m going to be grateful. This fall I had a local friend on my heart and mind to approach about joining my support team. This is always a hard ask because I know what I am doing is important but insecurities and doubt creep in pretty often and I’d never asked a local friend (i.e. a NYer) to join my team. Before I got the chance to ask she started sending donations and let me know she wanted to make that a regular thing. I was blown away by this and was so grateful that God was working on both of our hearts on this matter!

Praise the Lord for 2016! In hard times and good, God worked in mighty ways not only in my own life but in others as well! What are some blessings and struggles you saw God move you through this year?

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10 things I forgot aren’t normal [a list]

When I moved to New York almost 4 years ago, I never imagined some of the experiences I would have and I certainly didn’t expect certain things about life here that seemed so strange at first would one day feel normal. When new friends move to the city, its so funny to watch them transition from wide-eyed NYC newbies to stone-cold NYC  masters. So walk with me through this picture journey of 10 things I forgot aren’t normal.

  1. The price of well let’s face it… everythingmake-money.pngWhen I go to a movie and they ask for $16 “I’m like here you go”.
  2. Every place I go almost all the time is super smallunnamed10This is a place I had lunch the other day, there were 7 people eating at the bar and 3 people eating at the one table. 
  3. There are people everywhere Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.46.27 PM.pngThis is how close I have to stand to strangers sometimes just to get where I need to go.
  4. Public TransportationScreen Shot 2016-11-28 at 2.53.06 PM.pngIts kind of my favorite though.
  5. Customer Service doesn’t really exist herescreen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-39-04-pmIs this a good representation… the postal service.
  6. You can make a living doing just about anythingscreen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-38-27-pm This street performer isn’t even preforming.
  7. Ordering everything online…like your groceries, your breakfast, or cleaning supplies8NiB52Hz.jpg Seamless…look it up. 
  8. Rooftop viewsIMG_5213.JPGNeed I say more.
  9. Going to the grocery store on foot, buying just enough for the week, and then wheeling it homescreen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-38-50-pmOr wheeling your kid to the grocery store.
  10. Food of different colorsscreen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-39-21-pmI ate this and it was delicious.                   
  11. Bonus for the holiday season: Christmas tree for sale everywhere…view.JPG

I’m sure there are others, can you think of things you experience in NYC that just seem out of place to you!?

Reflections on a year…

One year ago today, I moved into the apartment God provided me through a NYC housing lottery. This week’s social media memories from Timehop have been filled with excitement, joy, and most importantly relief.

Following the approval and moving in, I wrote two blogs, A place to call home! and More big news!! (See October 2015 archives to read them). So this weekend I went back through and read these posts. Here are my quick reflections based on the reality of this last year and the anticipation and hope from these posts.

  1. Living in Long Island City has been a tremendous blessing for my ministry at New City Church, most of our church members and friends are just next door or down the street so loving on them and serving them is more convenient from this location.
  2. Although God has used my home as a ministry, I don’t feel like I have used it to the fullest. I wanted to use my home in creative ways that would point people to Christ. This has seldom happened and the reason is because I’m just not that great at coming up with ideas and not bold enough to make big moves sometimes. (I did try to host a brunch once but it failed before it even happened…lol)
  3. It’s easy how quickly we forget the pain and suffering of difficult situations once they have passed. It’s rare that I think about those tears once shed over the struggle of apartment living in NYC.
  4. While I have met almost all of my neighbors on my floor and have interacted with people from all over the building, it’s harder than I expected to build genuine relationships with people in my building.
  5. God’s work is never accidental or haphazard. Its no consequence that October 16 was my application date one year, the lease signing date the next year, and a day of reflection and thought this year.
  6. Much of the first three years of my life here felt like constant transition and preparing for the next phase but this last year has been a settling down year. Its been a great year in many ways but in other ways its been hard. I no longer look at my life here as “this is where I live right now” but more of “this is where I live”.
  7. I continue to feel extremely grateful and I have probably said 9000 times this year how God provided this for His glory and I’m just trying to use it for His purposes.
  8. My last reflection is this… it’s really, really nice to have an elevator and air conditioning whenever I need it.

Pardon my ramblings but just thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts. My biggest desire is to see God glorified in the things He provides and the ways He leads; so my biggest plea tonight is that you pray that I will continue to use my home as a blessing for ministry here and that I will be more open to ways to build relationships in my building and that I don’t stand in the way of how God would call me use this blessing.

Let me paint you a picture

In my quest to share with you what our ministry and church planting are like I’d like to paint you a picture of our New City Church Sunday morning gatherings. One of the great things about church planting is the fresh start your church plant can make in terms of corporate gatherings.

As New City started we explored a lot of options for our corporate gathering-would it be on Sunday morning, Sunday night or how about something on Saturday? We explored different setups, locations, styles and thought through how each of these would fit into our neighborhood. We considering the giftings of our core team and how each of us would play a part in our gatherings. What we landed with was a perfect picture of what we understood to be the best gathering for our church and neighborhood. Over the two years or so of weekly gatherings, we have seen that picture change and grow as our church has changed and grown.

The biggest change to our gatherings came as we moved into the Hunters Point Campus. Having a more permanent, larger space gave us some new freedoms. So what church looks like today is different than April 2014 and in reality will be different from what church looks like in September of 2018. But here is a look at what September 2016 New City Church Sunday Gathering looks like.

8:30 am Our Korean Church fellowship core team arrives at Hunter’s Point Commons garage and unloads 4 crates and wheels them across the street to the schools entrance. They deliver one crate to the 3rd floor auditorium, 2 crates to the 5th floor cafeteria where our children meet, and then take the last one to the smaller 5th floor cafeteria where they host their service.

8:45 am New City staff team arrives. We start in the 5th floor cafeteria moving tables out to clear room for our children’s area. Around 9 am most of our team heads to the auditorium. There we set up pipe and drape in three different locations, sectioning off the large space and creating a greeting area in the hallway. We are usually joined by our worship team a little after 9 to help set up sound stuff (I have no technical knowledge of even how to say this part correctly). I’m normally in the hall setting up our hospitality area with information about our church, coffee/pastries, and signs directing newcomers where to go.

9:30-9:45 am We are finished with most set up and our worship band practices and prepares for the morning while the rest of us finish up any loose ends.

10:00 am Children’s set up is usually complete and our volunteers begin to arrive to serve in one of our two classes. Our greeters arrive between 10:15-10:30. We all slap on some name tags and get excited to share in our Sunday conversations with our church family.

10:30 am Visitors and church members begin to arrive. In the 3rd floor auditorium lobby we have a greeting area set up with two greeters and space to hang out and fellowship. Children are taken to the 5th floor to start their lesson and worship time. Our downstairs greeters are happily smiling as they point people in the right directions.

10:50 am We open the doors to the auditorium for people to began finding their seats. Just like every church we all tend to sit in the same places each week… usually in the lower right side of the seating right where the entrance is…I laugh when I come in and see the whole left upper side empty.

11:05 am We start our service with a few worship songs. This is followed by prayer, announcements, and more music throughout the morning. About 20 minutes in we always have an extended time of greeting and getting to know each other and then do a prayer and offering. Patrick then teaches/preaches to our church body for the next 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile upstairs our kids and babies are learning and being loved on by awesome volunteers and our Korean fellowship is worshipping together.

12:05 pm As we wrap up our service we spend more time talking with our church family and greeting new visitors. We encourage each new visitor to fill out a form on an iPad so we can add them to our email list and send them more information about our church.

12:15 pm Begins our tear down time, taking down the pipe and drape and placing the sound equipment back in the closet, packing up information and signs to take back over to storage for the week.

1:00-1:30 pm We are usually done by then and headed to lunch! One cool new thing we added this month is that once monthly our staff members will not be responsible for tear down but will instead take a new visitor/attender out to lunch. This will give our team a little more time to really get to know new people in our church!

Modern Grace [part 3]

Here is the last part of Gary and Ana’s Modern Grace story. As we wrap up their story it’s such a blessing to see the way God has moved in their lives over the last few years.

Modern Grace Episode 3 (Mastered)-HD from newcitychurchny on Vimeo.

The most amazing part of their story is that God isn’t finish with it, their story will continue to grow! And Praise Jesus, it already has! Shortly after finishing this series Ana took that most important step of fully surrendering her life to a relationship with Christ.   It’s been a pleasure to walk alongside them through this journey and have them  as a part of our church family and we joyfully watch as Ana grows in her relationship with the Lord!

The most meaningful and important life change happens through a relationship with Christ and this is what God has called us to share with New Yorkers! I’m so incredible grateful for such opportunities to be a small part of his BIG plan.

A story of…

It’s that time of the year again where I make my annual trip home to hang out with my partners and church families there. I’m always so grateful for the encouragement and partnership that this trip brings. I would really like to see as many of you as possible this year and share with you an amazing update of life and ministry here. God has laid on my heart a story to share… a story of New York, church planting, missionaries, and of life change! As I think back on this year, I cannot help but be overwhelmed and excited about what God has done! Surprising and wonderful things! Come hear all about it as well as plans and hopes for next year at one of these three events.

Nashville area Brunch
Covenant Baptist Church, August 27th 10:00am
Click here for more information and to RSVP:
http://nashvillebrunchupdate2016.eventbrite.com 

Knoxville area Dessert Fellowship
Seymour First Baptist Church, August 31st 6:45pm
Click here for more information and to RSVP:
http://knoxvilleareaupdate2016.eventbrite.com

Cookeville area Brunch
Stevens Street Baptist Church, September 10th 10:00am
Click here for more information and to RSVP:
https://cookevilleannualupdate2016.eventbrite.com

I will also be at a couple churches on Sunday mornings, ASPU BCM, and hanging around Nashville, Knoxville, and Cookeville for a few days, keep up with me on Facebook or through text and let’s make sure to see each other! Please feel free to invite other friends, family, or lovers of New York to join you!

The one with the interns.

Last week I promised to tell you guys about my favorite part of my summer: interns. For our third summer in a row New City Church hosted a team of interns that assisted our church plant in a variety of areas of leadership. This summer was a unique experience as our interns served in ways that previous interns weren’t able to do. As our church has fully launched this year and in a space where we are actively growing, the ministries of our interns looked a bit different. In the summer of 2014 or 2015, our church was meeting as a core group on Sunday morning’s in Patrick’s apartment or in the community room. Church looked quiet a bit different back then. This summer our interns served on Sunday morning ministry teams that didn’t even exist back then!

So what did our interns do for us? Well first and foremost they took steps in building God’s kingdom that we as a small team could never have taken without them. They introduced us to ministry areas, people, and ideas that we might not have ever seen had they not spent 8 weeks with us! Secondly, their tasks each week was to–

1. research, observe, and strategically plan for a new church in a specific neighborhood in Manhattan. We paired the six of them up and sent them into Murray Hill, StuyTown, and FiDi and had them spend many hours there talking to locals, leading teams to do surveys, and making observational reports. This information was then compiled and will be used to help us identify the right church planter and team to come into those neighborhoods to start new works.

2. lead our 4 weeks of mission teams. As we had mission teams and church partners come serve alongside of us, our team of interns spent each moment with them cleaning alongside them, praying alongside them, playing alongside them, etc. They were fully engaged in our community projects, often time being that familiar face for our local partners and neighbors to connect with.

3. lead out on a Sunday morning service team. Again placed in pairs they served in areas of worship, children’s ministry, and hospitality ministry. They greeted visitors, scheduled volunteers, taught Bible stories, and lead our church in worship. Sunday’s were fuller and lighter because of their presence! On top of all of this, they were a great encouragement to our church body and our staff team! They truly made this summer a pleasure and I am forever grateful they chose to spend their summer with us!

It truly has been a joy to continually invest in our internship program to see how each unique group of students has grown our ministries and increased our effectiveness as a church. One of the reasons interns are so important to me is because of how God shaped me and my calling through these very experiences as a young adult. From my junior year in high school until the summer after I graduated college, I spent my summers exploring missions and ministry and I realize now the impact that had on me as God molded and shaped me into the person I am today. Serving and leading the 14 different individuals who have served New City Church has been a blessing and continually teaches me so much about leading people and teams.

So until next time, I leave you with these images of a team of people who rocked NYC this summer!

Click to see captions and I stole this title from Christina who stole her title from Friends.