Thursday, June 1, 2017

The 251 Vision




Last night, Jenna and I had a chance to have an extended conversation with some of our neighbors.  We talked about a recent crime that had been committed in front of our apartment two nights before and the police investigation that followed.

After a few minutes of discussion, the subject changed to my role as the Pastor of Park Slope Community Church.  I told them about about the location of the church and they responded in a positive way about knowing where the church was located and some positive things about the church.  

They were also quick to say that they had a lot of baggage concerning their previous experiences with church and that they didn't think that they could attend any church any longer.

This is the experience of a lot of people when it comes to the church.  They have witnessed inconsistencies, experienced manipulation, or have been exposed to a powerless version of the gospel.  

Too often, people associate the church as being a closed or isolated group of people who share similar beliefs.  They also associate the church as being passionately and vocally against different issues and causes.

But, what if the message of the church, what if the message of our church was that God was for them and that we were for them?  What if the message of Park Slope Community Church was that God was for every person who lives in Brooklyn?

The truth is that God is for every person in Brooklyn and God's desire is for every person in Brooklyn to come to know the love and the grace of Jesus Christ.

Beginning this coming Sunday evening, June 4, at 6:00 pm., we are going to be looking at what it means to share and show the love of Jesus to people in our community.  I will be presenting something that I am calling the 251 Vision.  

The 251 Vision will provide some framework for our plans and desire to be a church that demonstrates that we are for our city and for our community. 

Over the next eight Sunday evenings we are going to be discussing some of the tangible ways that we can share and show this type of love to people in our community.

You see, even though Jenna and I were told by our new friends that they didn't have a lot of interest in attending the church, they did invite us to attend a party that is taking place on our block next month.  

The 251 Vision is not just about getting people to come to our church, it's also about discovering that it is just as effective and important to bring the church to the people.

The 251 Vision consists of the following:

2 Commandments
5 Values
1 Mission

2 Commandments

We want to understand and follow the two primary commandments that Jesus teaches us as the greatest commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

We are to love God with every aspect of our lives.  We are to love Him with all that we have.  We are to hold nothing back from Him and we are to commit to following Him with our entire lives.

We are also to love our neighbor with the understanding that every person on our block and in our community is our neighbor.  We are to love them without hesitation and without stipulation.  While we are looking to love God and love people in every way, we are also looking for tangible and specific way to share and show the love of Jesus to people in our extremely cynical and skeptical neighborhood and community.

These commandments will be the foundation of how our church influences and engages our community.  It is my prayer that we will see Park Slope Community Church emerge from not being a solitary location or the host of a solitary event, but that our church would engage and recognize opportunities for worshiping God and loving people, no matter where we may be.

5 Values

We want to see Park Slope Community Church as a church that is healthy, growing, and reproducing.  This means that our church will be functioning with these five primary values.

  1. Authority regarding the Word of God
  2. Authenticity regarding our relationships with God and with one another
  3. Appreciation regarding our understanding of gratitude toward God and one another
  4. Approachability regarding our desire to foster strong relationships that allow us to be approachable
  5. Advancement of The Gospel regarding the fact that we are church that desires to every person in our community experience the forgiveness and grace of Jesus Christ

1 Mission

We want to see Park Slope Community Church exist for the one mission of seeing people changes and transformed through the Truth of who Jesus and what Jesus has done for us.

This means that Park Slope Community Church will intently bring and share this message with people in our community, city, and throughout the world.

We have an amazing opportunity to be a church that loves the people around us, that is intent on leading people to trust Jesus, and to become people who are growing in a deeper relationship with Jesus, allowing us to live out the mission that Jesus has given.

The 251 Vision is captured in Isaiah 25:1

"Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago."

My prayer is that you will join us on this journey. If you are already a part of Park Slope Community Church, please don't miss this.  This is going to be a focal point of our church.

If you are looking for a church, please consider joining us over the next several weeks as we share some of the details of what it would like to be a part of the 251 Vision.

Each Sunday evening during the months of June and July, we will share a meal together and go over one aspect of the 251 Vision.  

Please join us for this if you are possibly able to do so. 


We are excited about all that has in store for Park Slope Community Church and our community.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Jesus Is Greater Than My Best Effort

Over the last few days, Charlotte has definitely picked up the pace in her efforts to become more and more mobile.  She is pulling herself up on the furniture in the living room and her bed.  She is also making progress in crawling from point A to point B.
As soon as Charlotte begins to move toward a particular object, we begin cheering for her.  She sets her eyes on something that she wants and slowly begins to head in that direction.  All the while, Jenna, the girls, and I are offering our best encouragement.
We say, "You can do it Charlotte!".  "Just a little bit further Charlotte".  "You got this Charlotte!".
We offer her these words and support, doing our best to help move her forward in her development to eventually do something that will be second nature to her.  
This certainly won't be the last time that we encourage Charlotte or cheer for her.  
There will be bicycles.  There will be ballet.  There will be boys.
We do our best to offer real encouragement and to offer real support to people, knowing that there are times when life gets really tough.  
There are these moments when we feel like giving up on our goals.  
There are these moments when we question our purpose.  
There are these moments when wonder if things will change, if we are good enough, and if this is all that there is.
But, there is another aspect to all of this.  
There is a moment when most of us discover on some level that our best is not always good enough.
We find ourselves in a situation or circumstance where our will-power comes up powerless.
The habits are harder to break.  The addiction is stronger than we had estimated.  The thing we want to do, we don't do.  The thing we don't want to do, we end up doing.
From the time most of us are babies, we have been taught and told that we can do anything that we set out to do.  
The skies the limit. 
Reach for the stars.    
You got this!
But, there's a day when most of us face a sobering reality that in spite of my very best effort, I am not able to save, reconcile, or redeem myself.
This coming Sunday, I will be giving a talk entitled "Jesus Is Greater Than My Best Effort."
My prayer is that no matter how successful you are or how discouraged you may feel, that you would come to know the freedom that awaits you as you recognize the greatness and grandness of Jesus.
I hope that you can join us this coming Sunday at Park Slope Community Church.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

G R E A T E R



A lot of us spend a large portion of our lives searching.
Maybe we are not all searching for the same things or searching in the same places.
But, the fact that Google recorded over 1.2 trillion searches in 2016 shows that a lot of us are searching for something.
We search for the best deal on a product.
We search for the latest information on a particular subject.
Or, maybe we are just searching for some answers to some questions.
But, for a lot of us, we are searching for something or someone that will give us purpose and meaning.
We are looking for something that will help make sense of things and to help us make sense of our lives.
We are looking for something that is real and something that has substance.
We don't want to get ripped off and we don't want to settle.
In short, we are looking for something that is GREATER.
This coming Sunday at Park Slope Community Church, we are beginning a new teaching series entitled "GREATER".
Over the next several weeks, we will be looking at specific ways and areas where we see that God and God's Love really are GREATER.
Greater than our sin.
Greater than our pain.
Greater than our shame.
Greater than our guilt.
Greater than death.
Greater than life.
Even if you are in the middle of your search, consider joining us this coming Sunday as we begin this new series.
Our meeting times this coming Sunday, April 16, will be 11:00 am. & 6:00 pm. 251 12th Street.
We would love for you to join us.

Pastor Sterling

Monday, February 27, 2017

Lessons Learned In Panhandle, Texas That Apply To New York City

Twenty years ago, I was preparing to graduate from Dallas Baptist University and move to serve at my first full-time position as the student pastor at First Baptist Church of Panhandle, Texas.

Panhandle, Texas is a town about 30 miles of northeast of Amarillo, with a population of around 2,500 people.

The church had burned to the ground in February of 1997 and we made the move to Panhandle in June of 1997.

The beautiful church building with an incredible history and countless memories had gone down in flames and was gone forever.

There was a mourning that took place concerning the loss of this building.  There were many questions about the future and many questions about the cost.

I was only 24 years old and had a lot to learn.  I was incredibly blessed to be lead and mentored by Dr. Jim Perkins.  I will never forget those years and his focus on the actual mission of the church.

The worship services were held at the elementary school.  The children and choir met at the Junior High School.  The student ministry met at the high school.  Our offices were at the local bank

Twenty years later, I live in Brooklyn, New York.  It's a long ways and a lot different from Panhandle, Texas.

Yet, there are many lessons that I learned in Panhandle that apply to church planting in New York City.

There is a certain irony regarding planting churches and replanting churches in New York City.  On one hand, we see the need for our church planters and replanters to have their own buildings.

Most of the churches in New York City are sharing space from other churches, paying a great deal of money for rent, and are limited on the times that they can meet.

On the other hand, for churches that own or have full access to a church building, the building itself can become the focus of the mission.  There is the need for constant attention to the building.  It has be cleaned, maintained, and repaired.  The building may cost more money to operate than a small congregation can afford.

With that in mind, the church will often determine to rent out the building to another church.  When this takes place, there are new dynamics involved simply to have a worship service or gathering.

In short, it does not take much to bring a church to lose sight of its mission.

Buildings can become the mission.
Raising money can become the mission.
Hosting Mission Teams can become the mission.

Absolutely anything can become the mission and focus of a church or church plant, and every pastor and church planter will deal with this issue on a regular basis.

It takes absolute resolve and commitment for a church to recognize and realize that the primary mission of the church is to see people changed and transformed through Jesus.

Most churches would agree that seeing people come to know Jesus is the most important thing that a church should focus on doing.  Most churches will even have a mission statement to reflect this as a priority or a reason for the church's existence.

Yet, if we are not careful, the church can subtly shift priorities.

It's  easy for churches to get short-sighted.  That is why it is so essential that churches are lead by strong pastors and church planters who are not going to compromise the primary mission of seeing people changed and transformed through Jesus.

That is what took place twenty years ago at First Baptist Church of Panhandle, Texas.

There were inconveniences, shared space, the burden of setting up and tearing down, and the uncertainty about the future.

But, there was no uncertainty about the mission.  Brother Jim made sure of that.

The church grew.  Offerings increased.  And, in one year, we baptized 49 people!

There are always going to be difficult circumstances and numerous distractions.  Those are not going to automatically go away or dissipate.

But, the mission of the Great Commission always exceeds every other priority and has to be the focus of the Pastor, Church Planter and church.

As soon as it stops being the focus and the priority, the church begins its downward spiral to irrelevance and death.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Where To Find That Power

When I was in high school and college, I drove a rather large car.  It was a 1982 Oldsmobile Royale 98.  The car had two distinct features.  The word "feature" may be making this car sound a little too cool.  Maybe a better word would be "characteristic".

The first characteristic was the fact that the car had a Diesel engine.  Not too many cars made in the early 1980's had an engine that used Diesel fuel and made a large humming sound while idling.

The second characteristic was the fact that the car had two batteries.  Under the hood, one of the batteries was on the right hand side and the other battery was on the left hand side.

One night, I tried to start the car and the engine would not turn over.  I tried and tried, but there was nothing.

I found a pay phone, called my Dad, and waited for his arrival.

In the meantime, I decided to see if it would possibly work to take the jumper cables and try to "jump" the car by attaching the cables to two different batteries running the same engine.

It may seem crazy that I even thought to do such a thing.  But, my reasoning was that maybe there was enough juice in one battery to make the other battery work.

It didn't work.

Two dead things can't produce life.

One weak battery draws so much from the other battery, that neither can function in the way that it was designed and intended to function.

That's the problem with a lot of our relationships.

We are flawed, weak, and messed up people, looking to other flawed, weak, and messed up people to somehow to complete us.

When these people fail to do so, we are disappointed, hurt, and angry.  Yet, we shouldn't expect that other human beings could provide for us, what God alone can provide for us.

When we look to experience the type of love that God designed for us have for Him and for one another, we must first come to the understanding of the power and extent of His love.

It's possible that we can become so familiar with this message, that we can take it for granted.  We can acknowledge this message, but also very easily put it aside.

So, while we may know about God and the extent of His power and love, we still somehow look to other sources of love to empower us or to complete us.

Many times, we look to other people and relationships to give us a sense of purpose, worth, or value.  We look to them to make us feel special and significant.

These relationships are not entirely bad or wrong, but they can quickly become distorted when we try to find our own sense of purpose and identity in those relationships.


We have to come to understand that the love that God has for us is unconditional.

We have to come to understand that the love that God has for us is not earned.

We have to come to understand that the love that God has for us goes beyond what we deserve.

In the process of understanding these aspects of the love of God, we have to be careful not to set unrealistic expectations on our other relationships.

We cannot look to those God created to take the place of the Creator.

We find no more in power in other people than in placing jumper cables on a dead battery.

But, there is power in the love of Jesus who demonstrated His love in spite of our powerlessness.

That's the type of love that has the power to sustain, heal, and fix all of our relationships, no matter how dead they may seem.

After all, this is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

He has power to change us and our relationships as well.

Sterling

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Learning To Listen

There are these moments when I feel like God is leading me or convicting to say something to someone or to pray for someone.  But, many times I don't say anything.

I like people, but I am not always looking to engage in conversation.  I spend most of my time with ear buds in my ears.

Yet, one of the reasons that I give for not saying anything, is that I don't think that someone will listen to what I have to say.  I think that they will be annoyed, think that I am weird, or wasting their time.
I tend to make those excuses and keep to myself, not saying anything and not sharing the Truth and Hope that sets people free.

I saw this play out  a few months ago at the gym.  I was running on the treadmill at the Planet Fitness. The treadmill to my left was not working, nor was the treadmill to my right. 

I had tried to run on the machine to my right and learned that it was not working.  I saw someone on the machine on my left who was unsuccessfully trying to make it to work.
There were no signs or warnings that the indicate that the machines don't work, so person after person was attempting to use these treadmills.

I was in the middle of running at this point and there had been at least 5 people who had come and gone on each side of me, frustrated to discover that the treadmill wasn't working.

Each time I would see someone approach the machine, I debated if I should say anything.  I would see them and think that I should possibly say something, but decided that they would soon figure out on their own. 

And they did.  It was painful to watch.  One guy spent nearly 5 minutes on the treadmill not realizing that it didn't work.  He pulled out everything from his pockets.  He placed his jacket across the machine.  He pulled out his headphones and looked for his playlist.  The longer that he stood there, the more frustrated I knew that he would be. 

And he was.

After that, I decided to say something to people who were getting on the machines.

They would walk up and I would blurt out "that one's not working." They would turnaround and step off the treadmill.

I would say it to the people on my right and then see someone else coming to the other machine on my left.  I then started to telling the people on my right "that one's not working and neither that one over there" pointing with my head.

There may have still been some aggravation, but at least I was saving them some time and they were listening to me.

Except for one guy.

I told him the machine was not working.  But, he pointed out to me that the power was on.  I acknowledged my awareness of that fact.  He then told me that the machine emergency button needed to be reset.  I smiled and said "ok".  He wanted to show me how to do that and I nodded at him, but knew that was not going to do anything. Two minutes later he reluctantly walked away from the machine.

After he walked away, I thought to myself, "Why is it so hard for people to listen?"  "Why couldn't he just take me at face value?"  "Why couldn't he trust what I said?"

I realized that is how it is with God.  I don't always respond.  I don't always trust.  I don't always believe.  I make excuses.  I learn the hard way.  And, I walk away frustrated. 

I am learning that one of the biggest, if not the biggest aspect of my relationship with God is simply to listen to Him.  It's not me telling or suggesting to God what He needs to do.  It's not me making excuses for why I can or can't do something.  

I am learning than when God calls me or prompts me to do something or speak to someone, it doesn't matter if they are listening to me, what matters is that I am listening to God.

Most of the time, the message that God has for me to share or say to someone else, is a reinforcement of a Truth He wants me to remember.

Hebrews 2:1 says "So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it."

Listening is not always easy.  Not being listened to is not easy either.  


But, listening to God and responding to God gives us the peace, trust, and assurance that He is listening to us.  

He knows what we need, even before we ask.  
He knows our struggles.  
He knows our pain.  
He knows our frustration.  
He knows our brokenness.
Today, He invites us to listen to Him and trust Him.  
He has something to share and reveal to each of us today.

sterling

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About The Future of Faith In America

This book has had a profound impact on my understanding of how politics and faith come together. 
It has caused me to have greater awareness of the difficult balance that involves decisions being made across the board. 
But, it also caused me to have greater appreciation for what Presidents Obama and Trump are faced with on daily basis. 
I have been encouraged, convicted, and inspired to pray for each of these men on a daily basis. 
Finally, this book has articulated the case for Hope! There really is a Hope that exists for every person. It can never be found in a political party or candidate. Rather, this Hope leads us and allows followers of Jesus to engage in the political arena without fear, because our Hope is not in a system, government, or President. 
Our Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus!