Tag Archives: journey community church

tic long’s big move

my friends at ys made a pretty massive announcement this morning, via the video below.

tic long (the executive director of ys) and i were having a drink together in early january, and i mentioned how we really needed to find an executive pastor at my church. after explaining why for a bit, tic responded, “i’d love that job.” i completely thought he was kidding, and laughed. he didn’t laugh. he said, “i told you that before.” then he laughed — but only because tic and i have learned that we both, occasionally, have selective hearing with each other. he went on to explain the reasons he mentions in the video, including, “i’ve spent my life in a national ministry; i’d love to spend my last decade doing ministry at a local level.” tic and his wife terrie had, at that point, only started attending my church a few months earlier, and were really connecting with the vibe and values of the place.

a half hour later, i called our lead pastor, and told him about the conversation. his response, “you could push me over with your pinky finger right now.”

within a week, the three of us were meeting for coffee. more coffee appointments followed. more meetings. i was giddy. i kept telling our lead pastor, and eventually told the church board, “we shouldn’t have this opportunity — no church gets the opportunity to have a world class leader like tic, who we already know and already knows us, join our staff team.” everyone agreed, and tic is about to start as our executive pastor. he’ll phase in slowly, transitioning out of ys and into our church over a number of months, allowing him to finish strong at ys (though, with tic, nothing actually moves slowly, and he’s already met one-on-one with most of the pastors). tic will continue leading the national youth workers conventions through this fall, though he’ll be full-time at the church by that point (our church has a great kingdom mindset, and is totally fine with him taking those weeks off).

it’s a funny twist in my long story with tic, really. we were friends (like hundreds are) for a decade before i joined ys; we worked together at ys for 11 years; the boss of my parent company made me lay him off in 2009, just a few months before she laid me off; right before i got laid off, i started conversations with tic (on the sly) about him rejoining us; after i got laid off, youthworks hired him back to lead ys; and now he’ll be one of my pastors (btw: i’m not employed at my church, but function like an adjunct, lay pastor, teaching a various settings, advising and coaching a few of the pastors, and — of course — leading a middle school guys small group).

as for ys: well, i’ve been less privy to the process on that side of this story. but i agree with tic that it’s a good time for a new day and new leadership. i worked with matlock for a couple years, and believe he brings a great raft of ideas, skills and experience. i’m excited to see how things unfold in the next couple years. and please understand, this is nothing like the shake-ups we went through at ys in past years: no one chose that stuff; this is, i’m confident, an intentional hand-off, a natural and good transition.

relevant magazine article on my church’s partnership with a haitian church

i was totally stoked to see that relevant magazine published an article about adventures in missions’ church-to-church partnership program, which connects american churches with haitian churches. the article uses my own church as the primary illustration. it’s been so cool to see my church lean into the vision for this thing. we’ve had two teams travel to our partner church already, and three more trips are planned between now and january (construction teams, medical teams, and care-giving teams, all serving under the vision and leadership of the partner church pastor).

here’s a taste of the article:

Pastor Edouard Clerhomme and Pastor Ed Noble likely never would have met if an earthquake hadn’t filled Haiti’s streets with rubble. But now the relationship between them and the churches they lead is growing into something that has life beyond the tragedy.

In late May, Noble, the pastor of Journey Community Church in La Mesa, Calif., traveled to Haiti with a group of ministry bloggers to help kick off the Church-to-Church Program through which interdenominational missions organization Adventures in Missions (AIM) is facilitating direct partnerships between churches in Haiti and churches in America.

As they met Haitian pastors already in AIM’s network of trustworthy pastors and churches, Noble and Mark Oestreicher, a speaker, author and consultant from his congregation, were hoping to find the church that Journey Church could partner with.

By the last day of the visit, they still hadn’t met a pastor who felt like the right fit. Yet they had a sense about Clerhomme and were hopeful as they headed to their meeting with him. “Our meeting was stunning,” Oestreicher says. “It was one of those rare moments where God’s presence was obvious.”

click here for the rest of the article.

click here for more info on aim’s church-to-church program.

click here to see my church’s “journey in haiti” blog.

god-given emotions

i preached at the three services of my home church this past weekend, on ‘god-given emotions’.

the backstory: last fall, after i was laid off, i was in full emotional freeze. i could barely feel anything, because the various feelings were just too overwhelming to me. i saw a therapist for a handful of sessions, and that was helpful. but i knew i needed to get away, by myself, and ‘honor’ the emotions, give them room to breathe. so i headed out to a cabin in the california dessert for 6 days of silence. it was a profound time for me, both in processing my stuff, and in re-orienting me for whatever was next. i gave an entire day to each of five emotions: anger, hurt, sadness, fear, and joy. i entered into them — welcomed them — and felt them. then i put words to them (via journalling). particularly since i was in a sparse, holy-feeling dessert, surrounded by nothing but overwhelming silence, it was fairly easy for these entire days to feel like prayer. i also believed, and sometimes i knew, that god was present in that process, and that my journalling was as much of a prayer as any of david’s more emotional psalms.

speaking of david’s emotional psalms — i love how ‘inappropriate’ some of them are. seriously.

anyhow. i’d never intended that journal to be read or heard by anyone, other than my wife. but a few weeks later, the college pastor of my church asked me to preach in the college service (this was early december), and to tell something of the life of a biblical character and how my own story was paralleling that biblical story (that was the series they were in). after wrestling with it for a bit, i realized it would be inauthentic to speak about anything other than david and my emotions, since it was the overwhelming, almost singular, aspect of my story at the time. knowing that it was a group of young adults who would not be freaked out by the rawness of my journal entries, i took a risk and tried something new: i tried to model the point rather than exposit the point. first, a guy shared his own story of being distanced from his emotions for years, and the process of awakening. then, 5 readers read davidic psalms i chose that embodied those five emotions (and they read them with that full emotion in their voices). after each psalm, i read a selection of my journal entry. a shared a few quick thoughts on emotions at the end, how they’re a gift from god, and part of our ‘made in the image of god’-ness, and how attempting to ‘hide’ them from god is a joke, and actually dishonoring to god (since god already knows them).

that sermon, back in early december, seemed to resonate with people, and was helpful to many of them.

but then, when i was slated to preach in ‘big church’, the programming team asked if i would repeat that sermon. i balked. it was too private, too personal. and, all these months later, i wasn’t sure i wanted to go back to those emotions again. but i sensed that i should do it, so i agreed, with three conditions: 1. they would not podcast the sermon (sorry!); 2. the guy who shared his story prior to my sermon would share it again; and 3. the same 5 young adult psalms readers would participate with me again.

so, that’s what i/we did this weekend. i slightly edited my journal entries, taking them from an r-rating to a pg-rating. and i added a new addendum to the whole thing, since my life is very different today than it was 7 months ago.

here’s my post about my time in the dessert, with a few super-mini excerpts from the journal.

and here’s my post from last december when i preached this sermon in our college-age service, with the psalms i selected and other stuff.

here’s the new addendum i added this time around:

An afterword: i went on a silent retreat a few weeks ago, and spent a chunk of time taking stock of my life now — where i’m at compared with where i was last fall. and i experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not ONE of my fears, expressed in that journal entry, are being realized. I am deeply satisfied in the work God is giving me these days – speaking, writing, consulting with churches and ministries, and coaching youth workers. Amazingly, the bills are being paid, I’m having fun, I’m using my gifts, and I still get to wear shorts and t-shirts to work.

I’m NOT suggesting that everything is always easy. But I’ve come to a deeper understanding that the pattern of hope found in the Bible ALWAYS passes, first, through suffering, longing, and an honest cry to God. My honest and dark journey through difficult emotions has given me a sippy-cup of hope; and I can tell you it is a sweet, sweet nector.

in the end, it was an exhausting but good experience to look back and enter into those emotions again. it was a reminder of the road i’m on. a friend wrote to me recently something like, “it’s great to be able to look back and see that god was orchestrating all of that.” but i don’t see it that way. i certainly don’t want to ‘blame’ god for what i went through. seriously, it would be tough to think that god ‘orchestrated’ all of that! however, it’s clear to me that god was with me; and that god was present; and that god was bringing good out of an otherwise crappy situation.

(photos courtesy of dan matticks)

the face i now associate with partnering (haiti, day 4)

yesterday morning, we started the day by delivering a few dozen cots to a church that has a small tent city on their grounds. in many ways, it was about as bad as a tent city gets — tight, muddy pathways, people smashed together. but in another way, hope was present there in a way i didn’t see it in marassa 9 (the end-of-the-line tent city we’d been to the day before). and this was due to the ministry of the church they were gathered around. there was a large open-air school right in the middle; and when we were there, there was a band — with real brass and woodwind instruments — practicing. it was amazing to see these teenagers who live in utter squalor, playing real instruments together in this school.

but the afternoon was one of the highlights of our trip. i’ve brought along the teaching pastor from my church — ed noble — with the hope that we would enter into a church partnership with a haitian church. ed had met several pastors during our time here; but many of them didn’t quite feel like the right fit. for whatever reason, even though we were both open (even desiring), we’d gotten to our last full day without a partnership that seemed like the right choice. ed and i touched base yesterday morning, and we both had a sense about pastor edouard (we’ve joked that it was because they have the same name). he was clearly a godly dude, with wisdom, and a heart for his community. so we asked if the AIM staff could have him come over to the AIM house where we’re staying.

our meeting was stunning. it was one of those rare moments where god’s presence was obvious. i teared up several times, just from the feeling of the meeting.

pastor edouard is in his upper 50s. he’s been around the block, and has the wisdom that comes with that turf. he directly leads a church in carrefour, just SW of downtown port-au-prince. but he also oversees 10 other churches spread around haiti. he has a rich, holistic passion for the people of his community (for example: he paid for and ran a free medical clinic in the community for years; unfortunately, while he’s continued to pay the rent on the space, he hasn’t been able to have it open for three years, because he can’t afford to pay a doctor or buy medications).

ed (noble, that is) talked passionately about us wanting to serve pastor edouard’s vision, not the other way around. in order for this partnership between our churches to be beneficial to both churches, we have to follow their lead, and we need to learn from them. edouard was gracious, and sometimes very quiet (particularly when he was emotionally moved); but he’s also very passionate, and (thankfully) stood his ground about what would really be helpful and what wouldn’t be (one of the cautions we’ve had to sort through here is that the church leaders are so thankful for any help, they’ll quickly agree to any suggestions we have).

i’m hoping (and expecting) this will develop into a long partnership between our two churches. we outlined four specific projects/ideas where we might start engaging (i’ll not list those all here, as i want ed noble to be able to process them with our church first). these will certainly include regular communication for prayer (us praying for them; them praying for us), supplies and funds for specific projects we’re agreeing on, and groups of people from our church going to haiti to help. there’s even talk of pastor edouard visiting our church at some point, which would be wonderful.

we had a rich time of prayer together at the end of the meeting. edouard’s prayer for us and the people of journey community church had my heart in my throat. and, possibly my single favorite moment of this entire trip came when ed ran upstairs and grabbed a polo shirt with our church’s name on it and gave it to pastor edouard. his face completely lit up, and he jumped up and down a bit, raising his hand in the air. it felt like that was the moment when, for pastor edouard, this partnership became real.

if you would like to have your church explore a partnership like this, check out AIM’s church to church program. click the same link if you’d consider supporting our effort to raise funds for 3 haitian leaders to oversee this program and all the work involved in communication, discipleship, and accountability.

the relationship between suffering and hope (talking about haiti at my church)

the church i attend was in a sermon series called “god-o-nomics” (a play on freak-o-nomics), really about what faith looks like in financially difficult times. days after i returned from haiti, i was chatting with our teaching pastor, ed noble (who i’ve known for more than 20 years, and was my boss in omaha a couple decades ago). after hearing some of my stories, he had this sense that what’s happening in haiti, and what i experienced there, was a hyper-version of the topic for the final sermon in the series, which was about “both struggling and being ok.”

so ed gave up 20 minutes of his sermon time to interview me about our trip, and how it connected with this topic.

people really connected with it, and i was pleased with how the whole thing connected with our own experience in tough times (even though the magnitude is clearly very different).

here’s a link to the mp3 of the sermon (my part is the first 20 minutes or so). and here’s ed’s blog post about it.