Sunday, January 31, 2010

Austin Bonds--missionary in New York City

Austin Bonds escaped a life of drug and alcohol abuse and overcame great odds to wind up today as a one of the leaders working with needy people in New York city.

Austin graduated almost ten years ago—in 2001 as a youth ministry & recreation Management major. After a short stint in Arkansas where his wife, Darcy got a job but Austin wasn’t able to find a church or job fit and simply did odd jobs while looking. Finally he took a volunteer youth Pastor position. Before long Austin and Darcy moved back to Marion where he volunteered at College Church. His specialty was picking up the "non-church kids," ministering to them then taking them back home. He then worked with Fairmount Wesleyan for a couple of years where Jason Denniston now works.

Finally, six year after graduation his chance to do what he dreamed of came. Austin linked up with New York City Relief ( ) where he is the Director of Outreach. NYCR is an interdenominational para-church ministry that utilizes an old school Bus to bring the good news and resources to the areas in most need in the metro NYC area. They have a budget of about a million dollars a year and serve 10 locations a week. On these visits Austin’s busses serve soup, bread, and hot chocolate to over 2,000 people weekly. The food brings the people in but actually they serve a do9uble portion: food and life transformation. They are a bridge to other helping ministries and agencies—more than 600 others—from food pantries to Christian based drug rehab.

Austin gets to do what he dreamed of doing—mobilizing the church for God's social justice system. He personally leads the outreach at two different locations each week along with serving as part of the leadership team that makes decisions for the organization.

Though Austin’s ministry is non-denominational he stays connected to his home denomination, the Wesleyan Church and some day I expect he will take a church again or maybe work in one of the many justice and mercy programs Wesleyan churches are now launching. If he does it would be our win—he is a great guy and Darcy and their three kids are a wonderful family. (I’m not trying to steal you away from NYCR, Austin… well, not right away ;-) Austin is one of the growing number of IWU grads who have a heart for the needy—like Jesus.

I like it that Austin didn’t give up. He is a great model of someone who had a hard time finding his place on graduation, cobbling together work as a home inspector, volunteer youth worker, pert time youth worker, before landing work in the NYCR. He never gave up on his calling and I admire him for that. I’m proud of you Austin!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Adam & Becky Thada--Bo-living

Adam Thada

I never actually had Adam (or his wife Becky) in class, but I count Adam as one of my joys because we spent so many hours when he was a student drinking coffee together, reading all of Steinbeck’s East of Eden together and hiking the Knobstone Trail in Indiana . He reminds me of the joy I sometimes derive from students who never sit in any of my courses.

Adam was a Biology & International & Community Development major so he had most of his classes with my friends, Burt Webb, Norman Wilson, Steve Pettis, and Ken Schenck. I got to know him best when I helped run support when he and a few other students tried to hike the 44 mile Knobstone Trail (20,000’ of elevation gain/loss) in one 24 hour period—and he made it in less than 18 hours!

Adam and Becky are so committed to helping the needy they bring conviction to me. When Adam graduated he and Becky moved to the inner city of Marion and worked at St Martin Community Center where he worked in the food pantry, soup kitchen, thrift store for more than a year. He became the assistant director of this widely known caring ministry.

Adam is not only sensitive to the poor but is committed to careful stewardship of the environment too. One time we had Adam and Becky over for dinner and afterward he gently corrected my extravagant waste of using incandescent lights—even offering to buy some on his meager salary for me to replace my bulbs. “Coach, I’m disappointed, you should know better.” Rightly subdued, I went out and replaced all my bulbs the following week. In a way Adam was my mentor in reducing my carbon footprint.

It was no surprise to me last summer when Adam and Becky joined up with Word-made-flesh and went to Al Alto, Bolivia They now work in a hospitality center for women in prostitution. They visit the brothels regularly and invite women to the center, where they offer a doctor, serve meals, along with therapy/counseling. Soon they will be launching an exporting business making purses as an alternative employment. I follow Adam and Beck on their blog:

Adam now lives at a higher elevation than I have ever climbed in my life! (I understand he now has zero-degree sleeping bag even--probably a low-footprint one!) They live in an ecumenical community that "is called and committed to serve Jesus among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. This calling is realized as a prophetic ministry for, and an incarnational, holistic mission among the poor. We focus our energy to make Jesus known among the poor while reconciling the church with the poor."

I admire Adam and Becky and am proud to consider him as one of my great joys. They are making a difference among the poor and abused in the world—like Jesus did. I’m proud of you Adam and Becky!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Julie Collins--Church Planter

Julie Collins was one of those stand-out ministerial students every professor knew was going to make an impact. I had her in the first introductory ministerial course and a bunch of courses after that. She was brilliant and could have gotten a free ride to just about any grad school or seminary in the country. But Julie felt too called to the local church to go one just yet for further education—she wanted to be in local church ministry—and right away. Julie was a Methodist when she came to IWU but when she graduated she became a Wesleyan and went on staff at Spring Lake Wesleyan Church (Michigan) where she became a model of what a woman can do as a youth pastor. Being a woman youth pastor is sometimes a harder glass ceiling” to break than becoming a woman senior pastor or General Superintendent. There are few areas of ministry where women ministers have a harder time “breaking in” than youth ministry. But she did it and did it well—even though she hardly appeared to be much older than the teens she led.

After several years as a youth pastor Julie felt led to enter what some of us had expected all along she would do—she became a single-woman-church planter! Julie moved to Ft. Collins, Colorado last summer and is now planting a new Wesleyan church there. She has assembled a team including Joel Stone, Brandon and Kristen Vanderkolk and maybe Katie and Jamie Fuller. Everyone on the team are all getting jobs so they can integrate into the community and pour money back into the church.

She hasn’t started public services yet but in November she launched her “party strategy” of holding weekly parties every Tuesday for the sole purpose of developing community and enjoying life with people they are collecting. Next she started a weekly Bible Study. The “party strategy” intrigues me… and it really fits what many younger folk (and some of us older folk) see as the need in the church for more intimacy and friendship. I bet it is easier for non-churched people to accept an invitation to a “party” than to a church service. How clever!
A larger core group is now developing out of those parties. At this point Julie’s team is looking toward a starting with a house church model which they feel better fits the Ft. Collins culture. She is developing then a monthly gathering of all the house churches. Her philosophical approach is heavily rooted in Ephesians 4—the ministerial team’s job is to equip the people to be ministers. As you might expect form her generation the approach is hyper-relational as hope to become a church that “does life together.”

About 40% of the students I teach are women called to ministry. They are passionate about the church and feel a clear call to the ministry. Yet they hear from some that because they are a woman they are deceived—for a woman cannot be called to the ministry. Yet they persevere hoping there will be a place for them some day. Julie’s example gives them hope. I am full of joy because of people like Julie Collins—a model church planter for a generation! I'm proud of you Julie!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I admire Aaron Cloud

Aaron Cloud was one of those quiet students who gently participated in class and seldom attracted attention to himself. I had Aaron in three classes, LCE, Adult CE and leadership. He graduated in 2008 and is now in IWU's seminary program.

Aaron spent his first year after graduation as an isolated unmarried solo pastor at Davis Wesleyan Church here in Indiana. I trembled a bit when he went because I know solo pastoring can be isolated and lonely work even for a young married couple, let alone for a single guy. But Aaron stuck with developing friendships and loving the people. Aaron has a great heart of compassion and developed quite an effective ministry at Davis Wesleyan to the poor and to widows. That is the kind of thing Aaron does--love people like Jesus loved.

Taking a small church right out of college dumps a graduate into the deep end of the pool. Aaron discovered that in his first year. No college course can fully prepare a 22 year old to minister to a Father who just lost his son in a tragic train accident. Aaron survived and that man actually eventually became a Christian and Aaron baptized him.

Aaron has always had a burden for the poor, neglected and marginalized. I remember in his leadership class there were small groups who designed church plants—as an example of the sort of leadership-management things a minister would do. His group designed a church for the poor in Marion—Aaron was even tempted at the time to launch out and actually plant that church! So it is no surprise to me that Aaron (with his new wife—they get married in a few weeks) are headed off soon to pour their lives into work with abused, neglected, and abandoned children in Chicago. On weekends he will be preaching around the Chicago area so if you are nearby I hope you will invite him to your church—you won’t be disappointed with his compassionate and tender sermons that will bring a tear to your eye and a lump in your throat.
Aaron is one of the increasing numbers of the young people I get to teach who are willing to put their life where their mouth is. It is easy to say you have compassion for the poor, or even open a food pantry at a subburban church. But Aaron plans to do mroe than that--he plans to live with the poor. Rather than just tossing a few coins to Dives while passing by, or just taking a one-week tourist-ministry trip to take pictures of himself with the poor, Aaron is willing to go down in the gutter and live with the poor and anguished—learning from them and loving them where they are.

I admire Aaron because he reminds me of Jesus. It is what makes my teaching worthwhile. —Aaron is my joy and crown. I'm proud of you Aaron!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Christy Hontz Lipscomb: Co-Pastor

Christy Hontz Lipscomb graduated in 1998—a bit more than a decade ago but I can never forget her participation in my classes. She was always one of those students who clearly registered the effectiveness (or failure) of my teaching on her face--and right away! When I was making sense I got nods and a smile; when I was garbled, I saw confused frowns and I would try to teach my way out of the ditch until I got a nod again! Christy made me a better teacher—she was an instant visual monitoring device in my classroom--if Christy was nodding I knew was on track.

Christy graduated from IWU, married Adam Lipscomb and after a stint at a church in Michigan they went to Asbury Seminary together then planted city-view Wesleyan church in Grand Rapids Michigan together where they carry on an extensive city ministry as co-pastors.

Christy and Adam are my model for ministry couples in my classes who are looking toward co-pastoring. They each work about 30 hours a week. They share parenting responsibilities and pastoring responsibilities so for them, "co-pastoring means co-parenting." This shared schedule allows them ample time to be home with their two sons, Jude, 3 and Elijah, 1.

Christy preaches about 75% of the time, leads the Sunday morning system (preaching, schedule, topics, preachers, overseeing the worship leader). She also heads up the Discipleship, Ministry, Leadership system and Administration. Adam leads other “systems” including the Strategic, Evangelism, Assimilation, and Stewardship systems

In a nutshell, Christy focuses mostly on running the inner life of the church & Adam does more of the visionary/apostolic/evangelism work of connecting with the community. They’ve even explored the idea of Christy taking on more responsibility at City Life and Adam moving away from City Life a bit to plant another church elsewhere in our city. But that’s not an immediate possibility.

Christy is a disciplined minister who runs her life on a schedule. I saw this in college and see it now in her weekly routine. On Mondays she does initial sermon prep, administrative clean-up & delegation for the coming week and meets with her worship leader. On Tuesdays she digs in for the really heavy sermon prep then prepared Wednesday for their midweek Bible study and meets again with the worship leader. Thursdays is given to additional sermon prep and a staff meeting along with miscellaneous projects (which includes serving part time (10 hours per month) at the West Michigan District Office as an Assistant DS). As an assistant DS her job is to bring attention to social justice efforts in the district, and to women in ministry. Friday is her day off and both Adam and Christy observe their day off “legalistically” by denying (for that day) any church problems. On Saturday night by 6 p.m. they both shut themselves off to focus on Sunday.

I love it that Christy loves to preach. Anyone who heard Christy at the last Wesleyan General Conference understands how good she is. I love it especially because preaching is a Waterloo of sorts for many of my women ministerial students. They want to go into the ministry and do church work as a life’s calling, but when it comes to preaching they sometimes demur—preferring the “let the guys do it.” In my opinion this is one of the greatest barriers for these women in ministry, and Christy is a great model here so I often tell about her in my classes.

Christy serves an inner city congregation where she focuses on the marginal in society. She prepares sermons just as she would if she were speaking to a thousand suburbanites. I love it that Christy and Adam love the church. I doubt they will ever enter a para-church ministry even though it would be far more comfortable for them. They are just too in love with local church ministry for that.

Christy is the sort of past student I rejoice in—even more then ten years after she graduated from IWU. —Christy is my joy and crown. I'm proud of you Christy!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)