Written by Manny Ortiz and Susan Baker Thursday, 07 May 2015 12:49

In our years of experience working in several major cities and continuing to do so in New York City and Philadelphia, we have noticed that the church panics when it is looking for leaders who are both contextually and theologically prepared. Therefore, many have reached outside the local church to solicit help from those who are theologically sound but may not be contextually relevant, or they are contextually relevant but lack theological training.

Urban Leadership

When that panic button goes off, another venue might be to solicit help from other urban churches. In any case there is a problem of orientation and re-education into a new context, because in the city the cultural and social dynamics vary a great deal from community to community.

The urgent call for us is to prepare leadership from within the local church to advance the kingdom of God in a diverse and changing world. One means to this end is to be intentional about growing leaders both for the local church and for the missional work of the church through church planting. This begins with an identification/selection process.

We believe that the local church has within itself all the necessary gifts to carry out its unique ministry. The question is how do we identify potential leaders and then select them for a process that continues from that point on. This is best done in a non-formal setting developing leaders through relationship building, reflection, and response.


Written by David Lamb Monday, 04 May 2015 11:21

This day has a special significance in our family. On May 4, 1997 our younger son Noah was born. He turns eighteen today. He’s now an adult.

Today also has special meaning for fans of the movie franchise, Star Wars, and in recent years there’s been a movement to brand it as “Star Wars Day.”

Star Wars

Why call it Star Wars day?

May the fourth be with you.

Painful, but slightly clever. When Noah was younger, he really loved Star Wars, perhaps this explains it.

After a decade long hiatus, another Star Wars feature film will come out this Christmas, see trailer here. In each of the previous films, the phrase, “May the force be with you” has been spoken at least once, so it’s safe to say it will appear in the next one as well.

Why is the phrase so popular?


Written by Dan Hyun Thursday, 30 April 2015 00:00

As a church planter and pastor in Baltimore, my soul is burdened with all of the hurt and pain in my city this week. Though it has been encouraging to know that more people from around the country are praying for my city than ever before, right now I wish the city I love could be famous for different reasons.

Riots in Baltimore

The injuries sustained by Freddie Gray and his subsequent tragic death in police custody have rallied Baltimore residents, who had peacefully protested for weeks. Based on the coverage from major media outlets, however, one would believe that the protests have been all about random riots, looting, and fires.

I’ve seen many on social media asking why someone would destroy the neighborhoods where they live and that none of this would be happening if people simply made better choices or parents did a better job of raising their kids. However, we must avoid the temptation of letting the media paint us an overly simplistic picture of Baltimore and her issues.

These protests and riots are not merely the culmination of the past few weeks’ events. They are the collective groaning of years of brokenness from systemic sin in our city under a brewing simmer that had finally reached this boiling point. In a city experiencing the gentrification of its neighborhoods, urban renewal often comes at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised. We are observing the collective despair of a city that has been like a powder keg waiting to explode, and the tragic events with Freddie Gray have been the match to light the fuse.


Written by Dr. David Kirkner Tuesday, 28 April 2015 00:00

Journey with Jesus

A Chronology of the Life and Ministry of Jesus is a linear history of Jesus's life and ministry and a tool for realizing Jesus is the Representation of the Godhead, the Good Shepherd, the Head of the Church, the Radiance of God's glory, our Hope, and the One to whom we are to be conformed. It may serve you as a devotional, a source for deep study, a "wake up" from a season of dry quiet times, or perhaps it will be a vehicle for deepening your knowledge and intimacy with the Messiah. No matter the reason for its use "A Chronology ..." has been authored for the sole purpose of "wowing" you with a unique and transformational awareness of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul writes: "God chose us before the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Why then, should we not get to know Him, to see and understand how He lived in His historical context 2100 years ago so that we can imitate Him and learn how to live in our context in the 21st century.

A Focus on Connectivity and Readability

The Gospel accounts have been integrated so that there are no parallel columns, no duplicate paragraphs on top of one another, but simple narrative from the New English Translation Bible that spells out the entirety of Jesus' earthly ministry.

In addition, each Gospel has a respective color so that when you see RED you'll know you're reading a portion from Matthew, MARK is blue, LUKE is orange, and JOHN is purple. Parallel passages have been indicated in their respective colors.

The following is an example which comes at the beginning of Jesus' Year of Inauguration.


Written by Charles Zimmerman Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:01

Bible Translation

What can we learn about community and mission from a Bible translator?

Bryan Harmelink is the Global Consultant for Bible Translation and Collaboration for Wycliffe Global Alliance. Whenever he is in town and available, I have him speak in my Community and Mission class on Bible translation. What does Bible translation have to do with encouraging students to develop a more missional lifestyle in the context of Christian community? Understanding translation can help us understand something about the end and the means of continuing Jesus’ mission.

Bryan defines translation as follows:

Translation is retelling, as exactly as possible, the meaning of the original message in a way that is natural in the language into which the translation is being made.

You see that there are two key aspects to translation – faithfulness and naturalness. We need to retell “as exactly as possible” yet “in a way that is natural” to the listener or reader.


Written by Philip Monroe Tuesday, 21 April 2015 11:15

We live in a world shaped by violence and trauma. A few weeks ago 147 Christian Kenyan university students were killed because of their faith. Such horrific forms of violence shock us. But they shouldn’t given that in our own country violence and trauma are everyday occurrences.

Trauma Theology

While some of our local brothers and sisters face actual death, all of our communities are shaped by soul-crushing abuse and family violence. Take the most conservative numbers we have—1:6 males and 1:4 females have experienced sexual assault before age 18—and realize that a large portion of your friends and acquaintances have traumatic experiences.

In a congregation of 100, 20 of your fellow church members are walking around with invisible wounds of sexual violence on their bodies and souls. And that number says nothing about those walking around with other invisible wounds, such as caused by domestic violence, racial prejudice, sexism, bullying and the like. Were we to include these forms of interpersonal violence the number would likely reach 70!

As my friend Boz Tchividjian asks, what would the sermons and conversations look like if 20 of our mythical congregation of 100 had just lost a house in a fire or a child to premature death? Wouldn’t we be working to build a better understanding of God’s activity in the midst of brokenness rather than passing over pain as a mere hiccup of normal life?

Yet, we continue to imagine trauma as some sort of abnormal state.


Written by Derek Cooper Thursday, 16 April 2015 09:13

My friend, co-author, and Biblical alumnus (class of ’05) Ed Cyzewski has written a book that I think you might be interested in reading. It’s called A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth. In the past, Ed and I have written two books together, Hazardous and Unfollowers, in which we attempted to describe and personalize the challenges that accompany Christian living in the twenty-first century.

Christian Survival Guide

In A Christian Survival Guide, Ed has picked up the theme of Christian living once again, providing a glittering array of humorous yet clever observations — what I call “Ed-isms.” (Ed, it should be made known, has never met a pun he doesn’t like, and he spends the quieter hours of his day dreaming about puns the same way bakers dream about croissants and cookies.)

I love the back cover description of the book, which is so characteristic of the writing ministry to which Ed has been called: “A Christian Survival Guide provides a lifeline for followers of Jesus who are tired of pat answers but need a solid foundation for their faith. Written in a conversational style, this book takes on big questions without getting bogged down in big theological terms.”

Do you ever feel like you need a spiritual lifeline thrown your way?


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