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newbeginnings July 22, 2008

Posted by pjeffy in Uncategorized.

i am now in the third week of my new appointment Galena United Methodist Church.  this being a completely different context i decided to create a new blog.  this might be a good spark to get me blogging again.  i am still going to be 1/4 time at AGC, trying to find a way to keep the church in the hood moving (probably without an appointed clergy person.  keep track with things both old and new at he new blog “always looking for a new beginning”

Looks like the links were not working.  The new site is pjeffy.com

Have a look.

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Growth Beyond the Walls… May 10, 2007

Posted by pjeffy in church.

here you see leo…one of the folk from all God’s children.  he came to us a little over a year ago struggling with addiction and trouble with children’s services.  he and his fianceeleopray.jpg had their kids removed from the home several times.  in that time-span, they both have discovered the transforming power of God.  while they, like most of us, have not yet arrived at perfection, they are on the right path.

this pic was taken by a news journal photographer (our local newspaper) at the national day of prayer service downtown.  it landed leo on the front page the following day.  the significance in this photo for me is his apparent bliss in the presence of God in a public place.  its one thing to feel the Spirit in church while surrounded by others feeling the same thing.  its another thing entirely to do it in the town square.

it shows me the kind of work we do here at agc.  it inspires me to see how what we do spills out beyond our little storefront into lives of everyday people.

leo and his family are on fire for wanting to help serve God.  they have committed to working hard and keeping their kids at home.  it is still going to be a long journey for them, but they have taken the correct first steps…surrendering to God.

whenever people come to me and say “pjeffy, i’m really struggling with drugs,” or “i’m really struggling with my spouse,” or “i’m really struggling with these urges,”  i tell them they have already done 2 things right.  first they have identified they have a problem and are seeking help.  second, they have come to the sacred space we call church.  in that place, they are surrounded by people who love them and care about them and are committed to journey with them as we all move on to perfection together.

it always feels good for a pastor to see people from your flock taking what they experience inside the walls of the church to the outside, helping to create an even larger sacred space.  wtg leo!

Talk About Humility… April 29, 2007

Posted by pjeffy in church, youth ministry.
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i’m probably the only non-retired fully ordained elder in the denomination with sunday mornings free. our main worship is on tuesday evenings and we have a bible study on sunday afternoons. this gives me the opportunity to go around to different churches during their worship to cast the vision and enlist their help at all God’s

children. this past sunday i was in mt. gilead, about a half hour from mansfield. i was to preach 2 services (it was umw sunday.)

when we (i took a contingent from AGC to represent) arrived, i was introduced to the staff person running the show, the pastor was on vacation. she said “let me introduce you to the young man who is introducing you to the congregation. he was at youth jam back in december.” up strode a young man of about 14, shy, quiet and even maybe a little awkward but poised. i asked what he thought of youth jam, he responded “it was cool.” that would have made my day right there but probably would not have warranted a post after months of silence on God Don’t Make Junk. I went to my seat and awaited my turn to go and preach, and got my game face on.

the young man walked to the pulpit and said “the man who is preaching for us today is the sixth most important person in my life next to Jesus, my parents and my brother and sister.” he went on to explain his experience at youth jam and how it changed his life. he said the commitment service that i preached was the single most important experience he has ever had because it truly introduced him to Jesus. i was absolutely dumbstruck and without words. i’ve never felt as humble as i did in that moment.

it can be so easy for us preacher types to think of preaching moments as gigs. we go, do our thing and go home. this particular “gig” was extra special for me because there were so many people there. all of my reflection on the event surrounded how honored i was to be asked and what it meant to the kids i took. i never really stopped to reflect on the impact it had on all the others gathered. God uses us to transform lives. i’m just a fat white guy from pennsylvania working in inner city ohio. what positive things can come from that? the young man from mt. gilead reminded me how important all of our actions are to one another. we never know when God is working miracles through us.

Photo originally uploaded by Kenny Maths.

Elizabeth Goes Mobile March 17, 2007

Posted by pjeffy in personal.
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It’s Good to be a Pastor December 14, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in church, urban.
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gp.jpgthis week, a woman approached me about adopting a family for christmas.  her own family has begun a new tradition of adopting a needy family and purchasing gifts for them instead of themselves.  she has been getting involved with us over the past few weeks and wanted me to choose a family for her.  she said that they have about $500-$600 dollars to spend.  what an honor and responsibility that was for me.

we literally full of needy families in our church.  everyone that comes to all God’s children would benefit greatly from this.  very few have the ability to purchase any kind of gifts on their own.  i basically left it open to where God led.  i told the woman that she could come to worship and we will choose then.  during worship, a man who has been very involved with agc along with his family got up to testify, something that was not planned.  he said that things have been getting worse for his family. he described several situations that were bringing his family down.  he closed by saying how faithful he was in God and how thankful he was for what he had.  also during worship, his daughter got up to read a scripture.  he and his wife have five children and struggle everyday.  they often live without heat or lights, but they stick together with themselves and God to get through it.

needless to say, the decision was made clear.  this was the family that we would choose.  i went and spoke with them to see if it would be ok with them and they literally exploded with joy.  that one moment makes it worth all the other junk that goes on in this ministry.  to know that we were able to connect people with resources together with people who do not have resources goes a long way in helping us see what the church is for.  we find ways to work together and help one another through love.

it’s good to just be able to see this happen.  to watch God work in the midst of darkness, shining light for all to see makes me explode with joy.  our job is to keep connecting and keep watching God transform this world, one family at a time.

Moving December 7, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in church, personal.

banner_sold.jpgin about a week, we will be moving into our new home. i’m 35 and i’ve never owned my own home before. i’ve lived in my parents home growing up, the dorms and an apartment in college and ever since i was 21, i’ve lived in parsonages. i actually planned on continuing that trend until i retire. sometimes plans change.

the house we purchased is just outside the city limits, 10 minutes from the church. it sits on 2 acres with woods. even though it is close, it feels like its a world away. exactly what the doctor ordered. one of the downsides to being an inner-city pastor and living in the neighborhood is that you are never away from it. even when you go home, you are still in the midst of everything.

i have to admit that after the break-in, i was ready to call the bishop and say “get me out.” but upon further reflection and prayer, we decided buying a house was the best option for all. i’m really not ready to get out. in a sense, we are just beginning to do the work we’ve been called here to do. this decision keeps me in the appointment and it gives my family an escape. actually, there has been alot of spiritual warfare going on here in the past few months. since oct.1, the three buildings we operate have been broken into 5 times. this says to me that what we are doing here is making a difference. the forces of evil are trying to scare us out.

united methodist polity says that any proceeds from the sale of a parsonage must be held for the use of purchasing future parsonage. i guess i see the point of such a rule. it helps prevent churches from getting stuck having to buy a house if it is needed in the future. so selling the parsonage would not benefit us. our plan is to use what is currently the parsonage for our children’s ministry and after-school program and stop renting the house we currently use for that program. in the long run, this will help the church financially. it’s one of those things that just makes sense in a real practical way.

anytime you move into a time of change there is always going to be anxiety. we are not sure how long we’ll be here, i have no clue how to take care of a house, financially things will change, we might need to buy a riding lawnmower (maybe my mother-in law can help us with a deal)…but we know this is the right thing to do right now. Pray for us!

Youth Jam Success December 4, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in youth ministry.
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dsc00455.JPGthis weekend saw one of the highlights of my ministry. i posted here about being invited to preach the commitment service at this annual mega-event. what an experience it was. i selected three of my youth to come and share their stories and offer a perspective on life that many of the participants don’t get to hear.

we arrived shortly before the big crowds gathered and watched as people poured in. there were 3,000 in total. needless to say everyone was getting nervous, including myself. i’ve never spoken to that many people at once. my kids were a little bored during the kutlass concert (christian rock not rap,) but they endured it. our section came shortly afterwards.

when it came time to take the stage, the nerves were really jumping. my plan was to have the girl who wanted to talk the least go first. she wanted to get it out of the way and done. in hindsight…maybe not such a good idea. i did a little intro then gave the mic to lexi, and she froze. it wasn’t a panic, she just couldn’t do anything, including talk. then the most amazing thing happened. i started to hear her name being chanted by the 3,000 total strangers encouraging her. a couple of more awkward moments passed of me trying to help her, then a few girls from the audience jumped up on stage, put their arms around her and said “just talk to us, we’re just hanging out.” she still wasn’t able to get anything out except “i love God” and handed me back the mic. for many this may seem like a disaster, but for me it was one of the greatest moments i’ve had in ministry. lexi is a girl who won’t ever get up in front of anyone but wanted to come to this event to share her story. the fact that she got up on stage at all was huge for her. the fact that all of those strangers showed their love gave her a good picture of what the church is called to be.

the other two kids did an outstanding job of sharing what life in da ‘hood is like, but more importantly how God walks with them. i preached a little on what having Jesus in you can mean then brought “dramz” (that’s him above) out to share one of his raps. this kid does for rap what charles wesley did for hymns. deeply theological and moving. the place rocked.

i continued on into a time of commitment and asked for those willing to make the commitment to come forward. the coordinators had other youth planted there to lead those who came forward in prayer. i can’t be sure but it seemed like at least half the room came forward and overwhelmed those trying to pray for everyone.

before we went out i told my three that if, during the time when people came forward, they wanted to go down and pray with them, they could. each said “no way…that’s not how we roll.” lo and behold, when all those kids responded to the call, my three went off the stage and prayed with them, even lexi. i was still on stage continuing the call just about in tears watching these teenagers show what church is about.

after it was over, i saw dozens of people come up and hug lexi. while that was going on, “dramz” and “scoot” were busy signing autographs. these three are certified superstars. even as we were driving out of akron in the car, people would pull up beside us, roll down the window and yell “you guys rock.”

i’ve been going to youth jam for awhile, and yes i’m biased, but i’ve never seen that kind of reaction to other youth before. there were national names at this thing, but those kids are going to remember the three from mansfield who faced their fear, showcased their talent and came off the stage to pray with them.

for those three from mansfield, they’ll remember that love that was showed to them from complete strangers, acknowledging them and affirming them.

for this one from mansfield, it was just great to be asked to come and be able to watch it all.

Break In, Move Out October 14, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in church, personal, urban.

burglar.jpgi’ve always said that it was very important that i live in the neighborhood that i served. living in the ‘hood has given me the opportunity to say that your neighborhood is my neighborhood. living where we do has empowered us to connect with the youth of our city. they know that they can come by at any time and just talk and hang out, or ask for help. we have lived in the same house in the ‘hood for 5 years now. last week i went to a new church start tune up with a colleague and friend. while en-route, i got a frantic call from my wife saying that someone had just broke into our home.

this marks the second break-in in a couple of years. the first time it happened while we were at church. someone had broken the glass on the side door, entered the house, and stole our playstation with several games. yes, we felt violated, betrayed, and all of that, but we did not witness the event. this time, the intruder came into the house while my wife was home alone with the kids. needless to say, she was terrified. she heard a loud crashing noise, went into the kitchen to investigate and saw a stranger in our kitchen. they got away with her purse, but that is the least of our concern. the police were called, and they discovered that the motion detector flood lights in the backyard had been unscrewed, and other lights unplugged. whoever it was that broke in cased out the situation and took some action beforehand to prevent detection.

i was crossing into another state when i got the frantic call. i never felt so helpless. my wife and family were suffering immensely, and there was nothing i could do to help. all because i am called to work in the inner city. needless to say, since that time, we have been house-hunting. it’s time to move my family out of the city. i still feel called to work in the inner city, but it is time to protect my family and give us some separation.

we have been generally strong about living in the city, but this one spooked us. this time we were in the house when someone came in. it’s not just an issue of having something stolen, it’s a matter of safety. my role of husband and father is to protect my family. just because i am called to work in the inner city does not mean that my family has to be in jeopardy. the houses we have been looking at are outside the city limits, but still very close to where we serve. most people in our church don’t even know where we live, they just see us as people who care about them.

at the tune-up, the first thing out of jim griffith’s (the presenter) mouth was “you need to take care of yourself and your family.” it was a re-assurance to me that in order to continue to do the work i do, i need to move my family away from the ‘hood. i have to admit, part of me feels like i am bailing on the people i work with, but my number one concern needs to be the health and welfare of my family. without that, i have no work. if we continue to live in fear, we cannot serve where we do. i truly believe that what we do is making a difference. i truly believe that we are helping to transform the city of mansfield, and are working to build the kingdom of God. i also believe that in order for me to continue to serve God here, we need to move out of the ‘hood. any thoughts?

Good Bye, Dear Plant September 23, 2006

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i’ve never been a green thumb kind of guy, but this summer, i spent a lot of time in the yard trying to make it look nice. i478357_potted_plant.jpg trimmed many bushes, pulled multiple years worth of weeds from the flower gardens, dug things up and did some planting. for some reason, this year i felt the urge to make the yard look nicer. when i was growing up, my parents always spent a great deal of time planting and beautifying our yard. i never really felt that desire until this year. when i was done, i thought it helped make the neighborhood look a little better. our part of the city has it’s share of unoccupied houses that are boarded up, with overgrown lawns. before this year, our house wasn’t far behind.

i planted ferns in the flower beds next to both the front and back porches. we also bought a couple of potted plants that we set next to the stairs on each porch. i actually spent some time taking care of these plants. i often watered them and was amazed that they stayed alive throughout the summer. seeing how i have no green thumb, i was filled with a little pride watching these plants grow. until last night.

we spent the evening playing games as a family and just as we were getting ready to go upstairs to bed, i glanced out the front door window and noticed one of the plants was gone. i thought that maybe the wind caught it and it fell down the stairs, so i went outside to look for it. it was nowhere to be found. someone stole our plant!

since living in the inner-city, we’ve had our cars broken into several times, well, they just opened the doors on the nights we forgot to lock them…our fault. someone once broke into the house when we were at church and stole our playstation2 and several games. that one hurt our son quite a bit. but this one bothers me most of all. the plant was helping the block look a little better, not just our house. the one time in my life i spent a little effort trying to make the yard look nice, someone comes along and walks off with a plant. i guess it just goes with the territory. since our house was broken into, we have been leaving the lights on in both the front and back porches, hoping to deter someone from trying to get in. the only problem with that is, with the light on, if you are going down the street, you can see everything on the porch.

maybe someone going down the street needed a nice birthday present for their mother and saw the plant as an easy way to get it. i just hope they enjoy it and love it and water it… if you get a nice green plant in a plastic terra cota pot, say goodbye for me.

Request for Youth Jam ’06 September 20, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in youth ministry.
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the east ohio conference has a natiionally recognized youth program. every year our conference youth host two major events. one is youth annual conference in june, immediately preceeding annual conference in which the youth hammer out issues concerning them. the other is youth jam. this is a wekend focused on spiritual growth with workshops, worship and a major concert. the focus of the entire weekend is the culminating concert that is focused on a time of committment. each youth jam is attended by youth from across the conference, usually some 3,000-4,000 strong.

this time is the culmination of all the work that ccym does all year long. helping youth find the presence of God in their lives. for those of us involved with youth ministry, we know the statistics. roughly 5% of all youth have a working relationship with God. of them, if personal commitments are not made by the age of 18, 80% will never make commitments to live as children of God. our youth are a vast harvest field. in the years that they are discovering themnselves, the church needs to find a way to be a relevant influence in their lives. youth jam is the east ohio way of trying to be involved.

i have been asked by the conference director of youth ministries to lead this commitment time along with some of my youth. this is a huge honor. there is a long tradition in this conference of putting our best foot forward during this time, and they have recognized the importance of voices from the inner city. they want to follow the concert by kutless with a time of commitment led by some of the testimony of our youth. it’s encouraging to know that our leadership wants to give voice to what God is doing here in the ‘hood. they simply want a couple of our kids to take the stagew following the concert and tell the story of how God is at work in their lives. they recognize the struggle these kids have daily, and see how transformational God’s touch can be. they recognize that if God can work here in the inner city, God can work anywhere.

the plan is to have our kids share their stories and then have me as their pastor tie it all together and call all the youth gathered forward for an ‘altar call’ or time of commitment. i am honored to be chosen to be the ministry entrusted with such an important challenge. i know the focus that our conference places on such an event and the importance of voices from youth who live in the midst of spiritual warfare. i have chosen a few of our kids that tend to be more expressive in their walk with God. these are kids who walk the tough life, living on the street, but know that God is in them. they have seen and experienced some pretty tough things, have lived the ‘thug’ life, and know that God calls them to something different. their stories are inspiring to me and hopfully to the thousands gathered in akron on dec. 2.

pray for us as we prepare for this task of providing testimony to how God is at work not only in mansfield

And Two Became One September 3, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in church.

typically, when you hear that phrase, it is at a wrings.jpgedding. weddings celebrate the coming together of two people from two different families, creating one new family. there is something akin to that happening here in mansfield. one of the things i have been working on this summer is a wedding between two churches. all God’s children has merged

with another church here in the inner city. many church mergers often happen out of nessecity. one or both has gotten to a point where they can no longer sustain themselves. this is not the case with this union. both of these churches are set up in the inner city and have the same basic vision, reaching the same people. the result so far is an incredible movement in the name of Christ. and it all started with a conversation.

the pastor of the other church approached me about sharing some space. the building they were in was unsuitable for them and they were simply looking for a place to worship. the more we talked about the visions of our ministries, the more we saw how similar we both were. the more we continued to talk, the more we saw the benefit of working together. after some time of prayer and guidance seeking, we decided if we were going to form a partnership, lets go ahead and unify as one church…go all the way. so far, the ride has been incredible. people are excited about making our family bigger. they are excited about working with more people. they are excited about what will happen now that we have combined our resources.

it’s not just good for us, it’s good for the church as a whole. in a time when people see the church full of hypocrisy and infighting, here are two groups coming together in order to better build the kingdom. in this one move, we are showing that people are able to put aside issues of turf and pride and move forward together as children of God. we now have double the resources, double the people, and are more effective in connecting with people outside the church. in the inner city, resources and people to help are always at a premium. really, it’s a no-brainer.

the nuts and bolts of how we did it are pretty simple. in reality, it is more of all God’s children absorbing another independent church. we maintain our current leadership structure and just added people to the teams we have as well as adding new teams. we added the other pastor to our staff (now up to four) as the adult ministries pastor. the other church was focused primarily on adults, and we were focused primarily on youth and children…again a no-brainer. now we have filled out our ministry reach and are gearing up for even bigger and better things.

as far as our worship schedule, we now have two services per week. we added a sunday service with a more adult focus for those who want to take a deeper step in their faith walk. this service has a comp[lete praise team made up of people from both churches and the new pastor and myself rotate the preaching. i still handle the tuesday service which will continue to be the more evangalism focused, unstructured time. now with sunday we have a place for people who want that next step to go. both still have a free meal as a part of our time together.

God continues to show us new, innovative ways of being the community of the faithful. sometimes taking bold steps and coming out of the box, not that we were ever in one, is all it takes to spark a new movement within the kingdom.

When Good Things Stop August 31, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in Uncategorized.

we’ve all had those things that we do that we know are good.  we begin a diet, we stop smoking, we commit ourselves to spend more time with the family. for many of us, those things last for awhile and then, for whatever reason, begin to slip.  sure we always have good reasons at the time.  other things that require our immediate attention.  it’s ok to let it go for just a little while.  the next thing you know, the good thing is gone.  you’re back in  the same old pattern you were in before the good thing started.  that’s where i have been this summer with blogging.  i truly believe that blogging is good for me and others.  it is an outlet not only for my thoughts, but a way to record and transmit the occurrences of my life and ministry.  i thoroughly enjoy writing about these thoughts and occurrences.  for whatever reason, i have gotten out of the habit of sitting at the computer and typing over the past couple of months.

much has been going on in my life and ministry. personal things, professional things, all important things.  instead of using those as excuses to not write, they should have been reasons to write more.  i commit to all of you, and i hope you hold me accountable, to ‘get back in the groove.’  blogging has been very good for my soul.  it is a way to vent, share and dream with others.  i want to get back into this as being a regular part of my life.  i have many things to update everyone about, and plan on doing that in the very near future.

in the meantime, thanks for sticking with me, and i hope that you will still be with me on my own journey with God and the ministry here at All God’s Children.

Just Movin’ Along July 26, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in urban, youth ministry.
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one of the things that makes inner-city ministry hard for me is the fact that so many people move so often. folk in the inner-city often move from house to house. they save enough money for a month or two worth of rent, run out of money, then have to move on. often this takes place inside of the city. often it means moving out of the city.

when i was growing up, my neighborhood basically never changed. you knew who lived in what house, and you could always know what to expect. urban neighborhoods are always in flux. your neighbors constantly change. for the kids we work with, it is just a way of life. they never know where they are going to be at any given time. i always find it interesting that when refering to where they live, the kids will always ask one another “where do you stay?” for them the idea of living somewhere, being in one place for any length of time is foreign. it’s not always a homeless situation, though that is always lurking, it’s a living situation. urban folk just never get the opportunity to “stake a claim” and find their spot, a spot that is theirs.united-states-map.jpg

when i approach ministry, it is all about relationships. i work hard at establishing and nurturing relationships with people in the city. when i do this, i invest all that i am. the people i come in contact with become part of my family. i open myself to them, and they open themselves to me. there is always an emotional strain when you engage in relationships. it is simply a part of who i am and what i do.

this summer, several of my core youth are moving out of the state. they are going to places such as louisianna, texas, georgia and florida, just to name a few. it really hurts knowing that i may never see these kids again. they have become such a part of my daily living that emotionally, it is like they are dying, and i grieve their loss. some are going to live with family in those places, some are going to college, but they are still leaving. i know that they are not dying, that they are simply going on to a new phase in their life. most of this is selfish. i know that they go with all that we have shared together. i know that God has been and is working in their lives, and the seeds that were planted during our short time together will grow into new and better things…but it still hurts.

it’s the nature of the beast. whoever you work with, you know that your time may be short. you still invest, you still engage, you still love. really, that is the call of anyone involved in inner-city ministry. you know your time may be short, and you should waste no time in spreading the gospel and sharing the message of God’s love. there will always be new kids coming in through the doors, and it is the experience of knowing how the Spirit of God has worked with the kids before that empowers us to continue on.

as a side note, this week one of my kids that moved away years ago came back for a visit. he made the statement “you know pjeffy, it was the church that really raised me, and i carry that wherever i go.” again, it may be selfish, but that reaffirms me in knowing that the work we do is important and can have lasting impact in people’s lives.

After School Collaborative July 13, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in urban, youth ministry.
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an amazing thing is happening here in mansfield.  we are in the beginning stages of putting together a collaboration.  i have dreamed of something like this for a long time.  there have been other times when i thought it was going to happen, but never did.  now the time is right, and there are several groups and agencies on board.  basically, all of the groups that offer after school programming throughout the city are coming together as one.  we will share resources, expertise, and be positioned to reach out in more neighborhoods with better efficiency.  it all started with a faith based foster care advocacy group put together a couple of years ago by children’s services.  the dream began with how we could work

youth-alternative-small.jpgtogether to support families and children involved with foster care.  then the idea came to put together a formal collaboration.this isn’t just a couple of groups working together, this is a real collaborative effort with shared vision and goals.  we may even take the step of forming our own non-profit with a paid director to oversee the overall functioning.

we had an initial meeting today, and i can’t convey how excited people around the table were.  i think they all feel like me.  we know how important it is to do what we do, especially in an urban environment. there are times when we all get tired and depleted.  having this collaborative will truly help all of us, help the city, and most importantly help the kids get the focus they deserve.

we met today with a representative from the governor’s office of faith based initiatives. she said that this is something that is very rare but much needed.  when she found out about what we were planning, she invited herself to come in order to try and help us. she told us that her office is looking for groups that are public/private collaborations to fund as models for the rest of the state.

it’s very much an asset based approach where we utilize the best that the city has to offer, and bring it all together all across mansfield.

the name and logo is something the group hasn’t seen yet, but i just felt like posting it here to let you all see what was in my head.  i was a marketing major in college, and i just love this stuff.

Are We Missional? July 10, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in church, culture.
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the other day, doug pagitt linked to this post. you have to read it.10325531_6746ebe636-copy.jpg

maybe a little over the top, but an eye opener none the less. this little sketch serves as a view into a perception of the church and what it does. for those inside the church, this seems ridiculous. of course it’s not about kissing butt. but (pun sorta intended) we know the deeper story. we know and feel the presence of God in and around us. we understand the language of faith and salvation. the problem is, not everyone in the world knows that language. the problem may also be in our approach to what we do.

for years we have heard the call in matthew 28 to go and make disciples. we have carried out this call by living as though we have something to sell. we go door to door, literally and not, trying to sell salvation to people. we often use language such as – you’ll burn if you don’t buy now. God becomes a commodity and something that can be contained in a box. our perception of God becomes limited to that box and we become numb to how God moves in the now. of course people will shy away from a stale and stagnant product.

there has been much discussion in the emerging world about missional vs. mission. the best description i’ve seen yet of missional is here. when God is in a box, spreading the news becomes a mission, something separate. it becomes something you can list on a budget and a set of goals. when God is free of that box, living and breathing among us, fully a part of every aspect of our lives, our aim becomes missional.

a missional approach is just being who we are as followers of Jesus. just as God is a part of every aspect of our lives, being a part of God in every aspect is being missional. when the church is able to shift its approach in making disciples by just walking through life together and being open to where God leads, then we free God from the box the church has put him in.

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‘Hood Cast July 6, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in podcast.
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for those of you who listen to ‘hood cast…i apologize. i haven’t done any updating in the last 2 months. i guess i have some good excuses with the baby and annual conference and all, but i still apologize. during that time, i have recorded a couple of shows, i just never got around to mixing and uploading.

i have finally put the next show up (it’s one of the ones i recorded a while ago…but it’s new to you.) i hope to get back on track and in the groove again. if you use itunes, it’s already there waiting for you, if not go here and have a listen. if you’re so inclined, the feed is here (just right click on this link and copy link location then paste in your favorite podcatcher.)
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July 4th July 5, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in culture.
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it’s july 4th. that means a time of celebration. we celebrate our independence from great brittan. we celebrate liberty and the pursuit of happiness. we celebrate the freedom to do as we choose as individual citizens. the declaration of independence was voted on by the continental congress on july 2, 1776 and was presented to the nation on july 4th. on july 3, 1776 john adams wrote to his wife abigal

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the
History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by
succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to
be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion
to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with
Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one
End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

the celebration of Independence became the 4th because that was the day it was presented to the nation rather than the day it was voted on by congress. but what is it actually that we celebrate?

i am a member of a group that re-enacts the revolutionary war. i portray a fusilier from the 23rd regiment of foote – the royal welch fusiliers. this is a british regiment. since doing this, i have seen the other side of the story. the americans claimed they wanted seperartion from tyranny when in reality there was no tyranny. there were simply a few taxes imposed by the crown to finance the protection that great brittan was providing for the colonies. there were english troops present in north america in order to protect the english claim. they were protecting against other nationals trying to claim america as their own. these taxes were in no way tyranny. in the world today we see several examples of tyranny that in no way compare to what the early americans faced.

but the idea of Independence and liberty is truly an amazing concept. the early americans dreamed of a nation where they decided their own issues, not under the umbrella of a country on the other side of the world.

for me, july 4th is a celebration of ideals. as current americans, we can not claim to be the best in the world. we have poverty, violence and hatred running rampant among us. but the ideals of america, the freedom to pursue the life we choose is paramount. the declaration of independence contains the concepts of what a true democracy is. everyone is created equal. everyone has rights. even though we may not live up to this ideal even today, the issue is at the core of who we are as a nation.

when we set off our fireworks, we remember the turmoil of the american revolution. we remember the blood that was shed in order to have liberty. we also remember what it takes to to have a voice that may not be in the status quo. even though we may not have been under tyranny, we fought to have a voice. every voice counts. in the everyday living of our lives, do we live up to this ideal. do we value every voice we hear, or do we try to silence those who speak against us?

we have the freedom to speak our minds. we have the freedom to gather as worshipful communities. let us strive to continue to give a voice to those whose voice is quieted. it is not about nationalism, it is about our voices being raised. we may or not be the greatest nation on earth, but we all have a voice to be heard.

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Our Role June 28, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in urban.
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when it comes to urban ministry, many in the church feel that it is all about giving things to people in need.  vast ministries have been established around food pantries, soup kitchens and clothing giveaways.  while these things are vital to people in need, it seems there should be more depth to our thinking concerning urban poor.  yes, meeting physical needs is one way that the church can be involved in people’s lives, but there are other aspects to what we can do.

our conference urban team of which i am apart held a workshop last week during annual conference.  we dealt with perspectives that people have concerning the city.  different people see different things depending on who they are.  we also had a great discussion around these questions: 1-who did Jesus seek out; 2-who sought out Jesus; 3-who did Jesus hang out with; 4-how did the church initially spread.  two things emerged from this dialogue…the relationships that Jesus formed, and how much time he spent in and around synagogues.

granted, this was a cursory bible study, but it seems significant to me.  Jesus was all about reaching the people on the fringe.  people overlooked.  he established relationships with them, hung out with them, and empowered them to find a new life in God.  yet, he was never far from the synagogue.  Jesus traveled from town to town and always seemed to make a stop at the synagogue.  this was a place that was not just a place of worship, but a place of daily gathering.  people came to study, fellowship and seek help daily.  what a model for urban ministry and the church!

the church is not simply a place to give away things, but to engage people where they are, and empower them to discover who they are as children of God.  no matter your walk of life, your background, your situation, Jesus engages you.  the more we engage people with ongoing relationships, the more we discover what the body of Christ is all about.

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Annual Conference ’06 – Congregational Development Report June 21, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in church.
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that’s me addressing the east ohio annual conference…some 3,000 people.  i know for some people, speaking to that many people is nothing, but for me, it doesn’t happen everyday.  it was good to have the opportunity to simply update folk on what AGC is doing.  good for people to hear that there is a witness in the inner city.  good for people to be reminded that there is an inner city.  my 2 minutes of fame was part of the larger congregational development report.  in our conference, this deals with new churches, revitalization, mergers, and urban and town and country ministries.  for me, this is the most exciting report of annual conference.  it deals with how we are expanding the kingdom of God.  it deals with how we, as a church, are finding ways to reach new generations with the gospel.  right now, we have 7 new churches operating or about to operate.  4 of those are churches that have launched within the past 3 years, 1 about to launch and 2 vital mergers.  God is breathing a spirit of renewal within the church.  these new ministries are sparking interest in how we can continue to seek new ways of "doing church." 

because my report was part of a larger one, i had to have a script for what i was to say.  i have to admit, this is difficult for me.  i hate being tied to a script.  i never preach with one because i feel it limits me and the spirit working through me.  you can read the script here if you are so inclined.  i simply wanted to highlight some of the major components to what is happening at AGC

overall, the report was received well. people are excited to hear about how our conference is working to engage culture in new ways and forms.  it is my hope that some of the things we are doing will spark other churches to take a leap of faith in their own context and engage culture in whatever setting they find themselves in.

my only problem with the overall tone of the conference in dealing with declining numbers is to simply invite more people to church.  if that is all we do, we miss the point of our call to be the church in our world.  it seems to me that we need to rethink how we do church and transform the church before we can begin to think about how we can transform the world.  just inviting people into a broken process isn’t going to bring healing and hope to our society.

soon, i will give an update to our urban team workshop.  just a heads up…it went very well.

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Annual Conference ’06 June 18, 2006

Posted by pjeffy in Uncategorized.
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well here we are at annual conference ’06.  east ohio does it’s conferencing at a place called lakeside.  it is a resort type place on the shores of lake erie.  it is a place filled with expensive cottages, so we stay at a nearby hotel for half the cost.

it used to be that i simply went to conference, showed up and sat through the sessions.  that has changed.  i actually had to prepare some things this year to present.  as a new church start pastor, i get two minutes on the floor to update the 2000+ people on what is happening at AGC.  two minutes to tell of all that is happening…wow!  we also have a booth at the annual ministry fair.  it’s a showcase of ministries that are happening within the conference.  i made up a handout sheet highlighting the major components of what we do.  i really hope that these things can help others see what can happen when you step outside of the box and go where God is leading.  it’s some extra work, but in the end i hope it helps others.

i’m also a part of our conference’s urban team.  this year the conference is having a "day apart" full of workshops that help local congregations expand their horizons.  the urban team is doing one of those workshops, so i prepared a movie that shows what the city is like and how your perspective plays a role in what you see while you are there.  i will lead a discussion about how our brains don’t always see what our eyes do, they often take shortcuts depending on what they want to see.  people who come into the city don’t always see what people who live there do.  one of the roles of the church is to help both groups see what the other sees.  how can we best do that?  how can we see what truly goes on in urban environments?  how can we see as God sees?  that is where i hope this workshop will end up…being able to see things as they are and figure out a way to see God in the midst of it.

i’ll keep you posted as to what transpires at this year’s conference.  i know you’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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