Making a difference in our communities

Thursday, October 30, 2008
Pam and I spent last week in Chicago at a Feeding America, Formerly Second Harvest, conference. Pam has worked there for a almost two years as their registered dietitian. It was a great time to hangout with my wife and a few of her work folks.

On the first night we went to Gino's East, a great place for Chicago deep dish pizza, with several of Pam's coworkers. We had a great conversation about hunger and the role of food banks and churches. Pam's boss, a really neat lady who has worked at the food bank in Nashville for several years, made a few comments that really stuck with me.

When I asked her about the ultimately vision of Second Harvest she said quoted their mission statement, "
engage our country in the fight to end hunger." Even though their primary purpose is to feed hungry people, she sees the need to work toward ending hunger in America. For this reason she is seek to make advocacy a bigger part of what the food bank is all about. I talked about this a few week ago (check it out).

We also talked about the role of the church in the work of ending hunger. As a Christian, she sees the great need for the church to get involved in the work. As the husband of someone passionate about helping needy, hurting people, it is devastating to see that the Christians in America have become less and less involved in ministering the the practical needs of people. Jesus was all about this in the Bible; every miracle he performed fulfilled a practical need (feeding 5000, healing sick, causing blind to see...). Although we should be about much more that fulfilling practical needs, to totally be divorced from it is a great tragedy.

The last thing that stuck with me from our conversation was when she said, holding back tears, "I go home everyday, regardless of how bad it may have been, knowing that I made a difference." Can you say that about your life? I can't always say that about my life.

How can you make a difference in your community? Think about it; look for opportunities to get involved in something bigger than the daily grind. One way you may start is to check out your local chapter of The United Way. Find a way to be a difference maker.

Check it out

Monday, October 27, 2008
I come from a family of super creative entrepreneurs and my younger sister is keeping with the tradition. Check out Rachels Etsy Site and see the stuff she is making.

"4:30 4:30 in the morning tryin to find a way to get back to sleep"

Saturday, October 25, 2008
Tonight was great we had a rush from pretty much 1:15-2:30 A.M. so it was a kickin night. I worked with two extremely hard working ladies, Corrine and Shanna. They rocked, two gals from MSUM that have been working there for a little over a month and are impressing all of us.

Today was a great day for connecting with people. Today at the Red Raven I got to meet hawk, a nice guy that works upstairs at a sub shop. Abby and I met a wonderful waitress Gretchen at the OB and we really connected with each other. Spending time down town tonight with the Medfords was time well spent and work was actually pretty fun. But for now good night.

"Where Do I Go from Here"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Over the past week I have had the pleasure of visiting 3 other cities in North and South Dakota. Grand Forks, Sioux Falls, and Brookings. A question that a lot of people are asking me is "where should I go to learn about the culture where I am?" I can't point to an absolute answer, but I can give you a pointer. I am a city center guy, I love the downtown (these terms are interchageable), and often times that's a haven for art, commerce, education, government, religion. There are so many layers to unfold, so much culture to explore, and so many needs to discover. Poverty often times is concentrated in the city center, lower income housing, and sadly (but not necessarily related ) higher crime rates.

A way to get know your context is look for the watering hole, and while that can be a little sketchy, do it within reason. Often times, it is the locally owned restaurant or store that has been there forever, and can tell you all about the history of the city. Locally owned cafes, coffee shops, and bars and grilles give a great taste about the people. In all the towns that I visited, I went searching for the city center and when I found it, I went searching for the watering hole. It is different in every town, but there are similarities to look for (as mentioned above). So tonight, or whenever you read this, go to your city center, and do it as a date or personal mission. Take some time to take in the sites, sounds, smells, and experiences of the city center. Find the watering holes, visit a few of them see what they have to offer in the way of information and connection.

New Email addie

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Hey friends and neighbors, many of you have been asking the best way to get us here in Fargo.

Shoot us an email we would love to hear from you


Saturday, October 18, 2008
Over the last few days, I've had the great pleasure of traveling to Sioux Falls, SD. The DBC (Dakota Baptist Convention) had a leadership training that they invited me and about 20 other pastors to. I got to meet people from all around North and South Dakota, and they were great.

On my way down, I decided that I wanted to stop by some of the cities on the way to Sioux Falls. When you look at the demongraphics of the two states, the heaviest concentrations of people are on the eastern side of the states. From the beginning, we have been passionate about planting Churches. I got to see some of the places that we talk about in the vision first hand. From Winnipeg, Canada to Sioux Falls, SD. This is commonly called the I 29 Corridor. This includes places like Grand Forks, North Dakota(Home of UND), Fargo (where we are now home of NDSU), Wahepton (Home of NDS College of Science, Madison South Dakota (Home of DSU), Watertown, Brookings (Home of SDSU), Sioux Falls, and Vermillion (Home of USD). As you can see, these are the centers of education and culture for the region. The largest cities in the Dakotas, Sioux Falls and Fargo, are in this region. Winnipeg has as many people in its city limits than North Dakota as a whole, and there are only 2 SBC Churches.

All this is to say is the vision is large, and we want to plant Churches in these communities to raise up leaders to perpetually plant Churches. We want to see people come here from other places to plant Churches, and live intentional lives to expand the kingdom of Christ. We want teams to come and lock arms with us in reaching the people of these communities. So here we are in Fargo, just starting something that will undoubtly take a very long time, but this vision begs of us to change the way we view Church. Do we view Church from a building or a place, or do we view Church as a body of people gathered together to worship, learn, and explore Christ together? In order to plant Churches like this, we can't be locked into a method, we have to be locked into Biblical truths. Simplicity is a key thing for this to work.

Will you come, will you come as a week long missionary and serve with us? Will you come for a summer and lock arms with us joining God on his mission here? Will you come as a Summer missionary and help us start some groups that impact people? Will you join us here for real, for good, and make this wonderful place your home? You will be welcomed by believers that love and support you. People that, when your car has a flat, will be there in a minute to help you. Will you join us as we join God on his mission?

-Missio Dei Dakotas -

Concerning the Kingdom

Friday, October 17, 2008
My church, Ridgeview Community Church, is doing a series right now on the Kingdom of God, which is a topic I have really been studying and contemplating for a year or so now. One guy that has some awesome thoughts and discussions on the Kingdom is Dr. Russel Moore from my seminary SBTS. Here is an article he wrote a few weeks ago that rocked my world.

Although the article is concise and doesn't get into really fleshing out what the Kingdom is, Dr. Moore gives a powerful definition of the Kingdom:

"The Kingdom of God is an explosively veiled inbreaking into the present world order of the reign of Jesus himself as emperor of the cosmos. It ought then to change the way we see ourselves, and our place in this age and in the one to come."

That concept "emperor of the cosmos" may see kind of hard for some of us in and outside of the Church to accept. The idea that someone else has authority over our lives is just not something we want to admit. This is especially true for pastors and church leaders. As much as we want to serve Jesus and make Him known, we often seek to do it on our terms and through our power. But when we understand the Kingdom of God to be how Dr. Moore describes it above then we realize there is no room for our arrogance, our attitudes of superiority, or our individualism in the Kingdom.

At the heart of human nature is a desire to rule our own destiny, to be great, powerful, and respected. Just look at the New York Times best sellers and four of them are all about pursuing health, wealth, and life purpose in and of oneself. It is totally opposite of what the Kingdom of God is all about.

Jesus says "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39 ESV)

What does this have to do with church planting, living like a missionary...? Everything! The very reason we live and breath is for the Kingdom of God, whether you are willing to accept it or not. So much of our lives is spent striving after wealth, power, and prestige and yet we will eventually die and loose all that we gained. But when we understand what we were created for and what we are living toward it should inextricably change us: the way we spend our money, the way we organize our schedules, where we work, where we live, who we talk to on a regular basis, what we do for fun, how we love our husbands or wives, how we raise our kids, where we go to church, how we drive, how we eat, how we sleep, what we wear...

It comes down to this, we must embrace the fact that we are a part of something bigger than the tiny little world we live in, that we were created to serve a mighty, awesome, compassionate King, and that the only way for us to really get what our hearts truly long for is to accept that we are nothing apart from our King, Jesus.

I don't mean to be all preachy or super spiritual sounding, but I so desire to be so overwhelmed by Christ and His Kingdom that I give up all my selfish, pride-laden desires and
endeavors, and live a Kingdom-motivated , Gospel-focused life.

I have a long way to go, we all do really, and of course we will never get there this side of eternity, but we can pray and we can take steps with the hope we are moving closer.

"been around the world yeah yeah yeah"

Monday, October 13, 2008
We had a great time in NOLA for the NAMB commissioning service, we got to spend some time with Chuck and Christy Rheam from San Diego, they are planting San Miguel Community Church. Chuck and Christy have been such an encouragement to us. There are so many similarities between the two of us Abby and Christy have so many similarities and Chuck and I are such kindred Spirits (except he’s a germ-a-phobe, which I am not).

Matt and Becky West are also in San Diego but they are in La Jolla (pronounced Hoya) Barabbas Road Church. Matt is one of those guys that is so in your face that you know you are in the presence of someone anointed by Christ to take his Gospel around the world. Matt has a keen sense for seeing holes in peoples worldviews. Becky and him are perfect for one another they are extremely out going full of conviction and so good at ministering to those around them. Another couple starting Elevate Church, Kevin and Susan, were such a blessing to get to know.

Lastly Max and Sara Stabenow, they are truly a blessing. He serves as associate pastor for a Church in Phoenix(that I couldn’t find on Yahoo so Max if you read this post your URL in a comment). They also minister with a group called Apartment Life, with which they connect with an apartment group and work something out with the complex to get an apartment for its people and in turn they do events in the community. Great idea and it has really gotten my brain working on the possibilities. Max and Sara are a few weeks behind us in the bun in the oven and we enjoy so much spending time with them.

We got back to a quiet apartment but we know the decision we made was the right one. While we were in NOLA local Churches invited those being commissioned to come and attend their Churches. Abby and I we privileged to attend St Bernards Baptist and First Baptist Chalmette, both of which were destroyed by the hurricane and the ensuing after math. While we were looking at the list of Churches that NAMB gave us we noticed that Abby and I were the only couple that were by themselves. We were picked up by “brother Kenny” a true saint of the Faith. When we got there the two pastors asked us if Abby and I were both preaching, well I tried to think fast, and I didn’t want to embarrass anyone so I said “Oh we think it would be best if I did”, He then asked “How long were you wanting”, I said, “20-25 mins would be perfect. So with 5 mins before the service, I was now preaching for two congregations and three mission teams whom were used to having 2 sermons a Sunday. I preached from Romans 10 and shared about what Abby and I were doing in Fargo. After the Sermon the Pastors were so compelled by the Spirit to invite the congregation to take up a love offering. I want you to see how the Lord works, the amount they took up was just the amount we needed to pay for all the vet bills we incurred with all the stuff with Wilbur. Oh how the Lord works…..

And lastly a shout out to our landlords and neighbors, Lowell and Rachael Disrud, and our upstairs neighbor Mike. They took Wilbur to the vet, got a second opinion and then they stayed around while he was put down. While this all blew us away there's more. They brought him back and buried him for us and put up a little stone there with a sweet poem. Anybody else have a landlord that would do that. Thanks Disruds and Mike.


Well everyone we found out today that we are having a baby girl.

I know I know, as one friend said, I hope John has a baby girl it would be good for him to not be so mean. I love it, this made me laugh. We are absolutely thrilled, we are keeping the possible names to ourselves, for now, but if you're good than we might tell you.

Other news I had a holter monitor put on me this morning (a continuous EKG machine). I have been having heart palpitations lately, mainly before, during and after our travels to NOLA. So I went to the Dr and because there were no chest pains, they said that it wasn't heart attack stuff, they then did an EKG and found that I have an extra beat, which is no big deal but needed to be found out. They are thinking it is stress related, (traveling, Wilbur situation, money issues, church planting, pita pit) and they are thinking that it might have caught up with me. So we are working on me loosing weight and taking it easy a couple more days to try to get rid of whatever is going on in me.

4:30. 4:30 in the Morning, Tryin' to Find a Way to Get Back to Sleep

Saturday, October 11, 2008
 We are now back into the swing of things: bar night at the Pita pit.

There's been nasty weather here the last couple of days, so it's been pretty uneventful, but there have been a few exciting moments.

I am now dubbed the Gyro extraordinaire by a young woman that came in.

I saw 3 plus people fall while sitting in their chairs.

I trained a new guy who seems to be a hard worker; I hope he works out.

I messed up closing out the till about 4 times. I still think I messed it up in the end, but I am sure I will find out next week. For those of you who know me, this will be of no surprise, but I stink at math, formulas, equations, etc. I work great with Biblical absolutes, but when it comes to mathematical ones, give me a computer, or better yet someone who knows computers and math and I will be flying high.

It was a good night over all, the crew I worked with was great. I think some of them have some great promise.

It was funny, on my way home, I noticed it was lighter than when I left. Well, the sun was starting to affect the ambient light outside because it was close to sunrise. It is also funny to notice that I was at the airport the same time on Tuesday, and I haven't even gone to bed yet.

Mentors Revisited

Friday, October 10, 2008
Sorry we haven't posted in much lately, John and I both have been crazy busy. I wanted to take a sec and talk a little about something on my heart the last week or so. John shared a few weeks back about one of his mentors so I want to introduce you to one of mine.

We are heading to Kentucky today to spend some time with my parents and go on a hot air balloon ride, which I am hugely excited about. On Sunday I am preaching at my old church Trammel Fork Baptist in Scottsville, KY. I am really looking forward to seeing my old church family and sharing with them from God's Word and about our vision for Fargo.

To share a bit about Trammel Fork Baptist: It is a small, country church in a small rural town in southern Kentucky. The church is over 200 years old, meeting in a building that was built in the mid 1800s. I served as the student minister and sort of assistant pastor for almost 2 years and God used those two years to really grow me as a minister.

One big reason it was such a place of growth for me was the pastor, Jim Gifford. Jim has been a pastor for over 25 years, taking his first pastorate before he was 20 years old. He is definitely an old school baptist pastor; wears a suit every Sunday and knows Roberts Rules of order almost as good as he knows the Bible (maybe better j/k), and still insists on having a Sun Rise service on Easter morning (I had to get up at 5am).

Regardless of how old school Jim is there are a few things about him that make him someone I want to be like. First off he is a devoted pastor and husband. Trammel Fork is not a mega church, it is actually quite small (only about 50 or so on Sunday morning), but every week Jim spends hours preparing to faithfully preach the Word of God. Of course many pastor put long hours in to their weekly sermon, but Jim does this while maintaining a job that sometimes requires him to put in 50 plus hours a week. On top of that he is an amazing husband who takes is madly in love with his wife Carolyn. It is not odd for me to call him at night and catch him out on a date with her just because. He seems to never waist a moment, whether it is caring for his church members or loving on his wife.

Secondly, he is intentional about training and mentoring future pastors. In the two years I spent at Trammel Fork I grew more as a minister than ever before. Jim doesn't have a curriculum he goes through with young guys, he simply teaches us "on-the-job." I can remember following him through the line at a funeral visitation as he shook hands and hugged necks of family members in mourning. I remember asking him questions about how to deal with certain situations in ministry and hearing stories of how he has deal with similar things in the past. He was so intentional about loving me, training me, and equipping me to fulfill my calling.

Thirdly, he is wise beyond his years. Jim lost his wife after a long battle with cancer back in 2000 or 2001. It was amazing to hear the stories of how he cared for her and fought along side her for so long. Beyond that, 20 plus years of ministry leads to a lot of stories and experiences to share with young ministers. I rarely make decisions concerning my family or ministry without talking to Jim about it. He was a big part of my relationship with Pam, and even officiated the wedding. He has also helped me find my way in ministry as I talked through God's call on my life. And as we move to Fargo in the next several months, he and the church will be one of our main partners.

The reason I share this is that Jim has taught me what is really means to be a pastor. It is not about degrees hanging on the wall, or how many people come to hear you preach, or how many big conferences you get to speak at. It is about loving God, loving people, and living for the Glory of our Creator. Our vision for Fargo is not to raise up a bunch of super pastors, but to raise up a bunch of men like Jim, Godly husband, devoted leaders, humble servants, and hardworking ministers of the Gospel. With men like that we can change the world.

"The Troubles I've Seen" "Bright Sunshiny Day"

Saturday, October 4, 2008
We have two big items of news.

One: Our beloved dog of 15 months had to be put to sleep yesterday afternoon. It has been an emotional 48 hrs. He ingested a foreign object, and it was blocking his digestive track. The bill was such that, so so so sadly, we had to put him to sleep. We loved Wilbur, even though we made fun of his antics. At the end of the day, he was a great pet, and such a sweet kind hearted puppy dog. He rarely barked, was always excited to meet someone, even more excited to see us, played well with Callie, and never ever lashed out at us or anyone else.

Two. We are in the Big Easy for the weekend, loving spending some time with old friends at the NAMB commissioning celebration. A group of Church planters and I had the wonderful privilege of visiting with Kelley and his wife Diane at the Carver Baptist Center. The center is working so faithfully to empower the people of North Magazine street to be transformed Christ followers.

Max and Sara Stabenow (Phoenix AZ), Chuck and Christy Rheam (San Diego CA), and Adam and Christy Dorsey (Newfoundland Canada) are some friends we have known from seminary days, and also from the interview weekend. We have a full couple of days spending time with these friends, but we will keep you up to date.