Landon Donovan, The Sabbath, and Weakness

The US Mens National Soccer Team won the Gold Cup on Sunday. While this is a great feat, it’s no world cup victory, and the tournament is usually made up of b-list rosters and guys trying to prove their worth on the national scene.

That said, it is a good sign for the US team as they continue to steam roll their way towards the 2014 World Cup (their 11 straight wins a record).

The most interesting thing to come out of the Gold Cup is the resurgence of Landon Donovan. This article does a fantastic job dissecting the ambivalence American’s feel towards Donovan.

The story, essentially, is that Donovan, who had played soccer professionally since age 17, turned 30 and needed a break.

So he took a sabbatical.

That’s actually the word he used to describe his time off. This word is related to the word “sabbath.” Holy rest.

He got slammed for it. He got slammed by the fans, he got slammed by other soccer players, and he got slammed by Jurgen Klinsmann the US coach.

American’s don’t do well with weakness. We don’t want our president to take a vacation, and we certainly don’t want our pampered, over-paid athletic heroes to need a break.

We don’t allow people to be human.

To take a break, to respect the sabbath, to have a sabbatical is seen as a sign of weakness.

[my favorite part is that hardly anyone will tell you this your face. they will instead say helpful things like: “my old pastor/youth pastor/campus minister was always there for me…i could show up on their doorstop any time of the day or night and they’d stop whatever they were doing and help me.” love that one!]

The problem is that we need these breaks, these spaces, to recover our sense of self, to remember that we are humans, not machines, and to say no to a culture that is permanently in overdrive. And it is from this rest that we actually have something to offer the world.

Donovan played some of his best soccer of his life in the Gold Cup. He seems to have rediscovered his passion for the game. And he is back in the good graces of coach Klinsmann after his impressive showing.

The story is interesting to me because Donovan has tapped into a deep truth of the universe: we need to rest…God, the creator of all things, rests and invites us into that rest. And he got slammed for it. He was labeled “weak”.

It’s ok to take a break.  It’s ok to remind yourself you are a human being.

A Brief Thought on Longevity, Fame, and Ministry #collegiateministry

1069420_10151748274956183_2002977921_nLast weekend Sojourn gathered the Providence and Boston teams for a defacto board meeting. Most of our time was spent gleaning wisdom and inspiration from Rick Harper. If I told you all the details, I’d have to kill you. Suffice it to say: we had fun.

Rick Harper is the most unique people you will meet in campus ministry, or perhaps any kind of ministry for that matter.
He dips.
He swears.
He uses bizarre analogies.
He cries a lot.
His heart bleeds for the broken and left out, the marginalized and the hurting.
He’s been doing this for 27 years all at the same campus (Georgia Tech).
He plays up his “hickness” but the dude is brilliant.
He’s humble and arrogant at the same time. He might be the most interesting man in the world.

In the campus ministry world Rick generates strong opinions. Some don’t like him (mostly for the swearing and the dipping). Some love him. I’ll drop a couple of facts here and let you draw your own conclusions:

  1. He’s grown the ministry at Tech from 0 to where they now reach 1000 students on a weekly basis.
  2. His ministry at Tech created and launched Globalscope which is planting college ministries all over the globe.
  3. Having done this for 27 years his discipleship tree is HUGE.
  4. This is my favorite: over 200 marriages performed from kids out of the ministry, and only 3 divorces.

I’m in the camp that loves Rick Harper, primarily because he is so passionate about reaching the “notorious sinner” kids and leading them to Jesus.

But, I am growing to respect something else about Rick, something that feels so fresh and unusual in our current ministry culture.

If anyone should have book deals and speaking gigs it should be Rick.
The man churns out top-quality disciples of Jesus like few other people I’ve ever met.
Yet, he’s never written anything down, let alone written a book.
He doesn’t do traveling speaking gigs. He’s not a keynote speaker at conferences.
He doesn’t have a twitter account, let alone thousands of followers.

What I see happening, all too often, is that we replace the hard work of disciple-making with celebrity.
I’m not the first one to point this out.
And in all honesty, I get tempted by the celebrity minister machine (and here I am writing a blog about it).

But it’s way easier to spend a life tweeting, blogging, writing some books, and doing some gigs than it is to pour yourself out for college students (or anyone) year after year after year.

Do we care more about making our name great or about making disciples?

Rick will tell you all he wants is a well done from Jesus when he goes and a bunch of people to celebrate his life when he’s gone. They are going to have to rent out the Georgie Dome for Harper when his time comes.

And I find that infinitely more interesting and inspiring than 10,000 followers on twitter.

Drama Camp #sojournboston #collegiateministry

One of the beautiful stories of the summer is unfolding in the Dorchester neighborhood through one of our key neighborhood partners. The Quincy Street crew pulled off a great summer Drama Camp program last year (they did a performance of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”), but they have taken it to a whole other level this time around. They wrote grants (and received them), they hired neighborhood youth to be Jr Counselors, and they recruited Sojourn students to be interns and volunteers.

This summer the campers are writing their own play, which is very cool. In addition, they are learning all kinds of amazing skills, new games, positive ways to interact and help each other, and getting to see some sites via Friday Field Trips. I love everything about this, but I especially love watching our (college) students invest in this program and this neighborhood. Most of the students volunteering or interning have experience in theater or music and it’s beautiful to see them using their skills and training to bless these kids. I attended the Drama Camp Open House last night and was blown away by what they all have accomplished over the last few weeks. Check out the pics:

65244_559806857415393_1058461151_n 1002483_559806864082059_71815407_n 1010837_559806737415405_520120834_n 1069160_559806967415382_1074664713_n

At Least One Thing I Learned At The World Domination Summit

My job title is Director of SojournBoston.

Other ways of describing what I do:
campus minister,
college pastor,
leadership developer,
counselor, etc.

I love college students and working within the world of the campus and learning and education. I am also passionate about neighborhoods and development and being a kingdom presence in the places we live.

But, if there’s a thing behind the thing for me, one thing that ultimately lights me up more than others it’s integration. It’s helping people develop the eyes to see and the ears to hear where God is at work.

And, he is at work all over the place. I see him at work in John Greene’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars, and in the music of Taylor Swift, and in the TV show Friday Night Lights.

And I see him at work in the student who gives up their summer to serve inner city kids…the student who gives up a prestigious internship to work with us instead…in the generosity of others…in friendship…in carrot cake.

I could go on and on. God is at work in all sorts of ways, all over this big world.

I found God at work this weekend at the World Domination Summit.

There were aspects of the conference that felt hollow…lots of people desperately searching for something transcendent. Lots of people trying really hard to “make a name for themselves.” Lots of people just trying to figure it out.

In other words, people.

Two observations.

First, they were honest about the search.
I meet a lot of people, especially in the church, who have a hard time being honest about who they are and the struggle to find meaning, even in the midst of a christian worldview. I deeply appreciated the honesty I encountered this weekend.

Second, in our increasingly post-christian world there are interesting spaces to preach the gospel.
My favorite scene in the book of Acts occurs across chapters 13 and 14. In chapter 13 Paul speaks to a Jewish audience and does the classic theological, historical telling of the story. He uses the name of Jesus, and he shows how Jesus is the answer to the messiah question the Jews had been asking for years.

Acts 13:32-33: ““We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”

The good news: Jesus, resurrection.

In chapter 14, Paul is in Lystra and Derbe and people think he is a God (Zeus), and as he attempts to correct them Paul takes the opportunity to share the gospel (good news) with them.

Acts 14:15-17 “We are bringing you good news,telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

The good news: there is a living God, he made everything, he has shown you kindness.

No mention of Jesus, no mention of resurrection. Both statements, according to Luke, are good news.

Paul understands integration, and his mission is to help people see…to see good news whatever their perspective, background, theology, politics, etc…there is good news in the world and it has to do with what this living God is up to.

All weekend long I heard speakers talk about doing great things and helping the world and living a great life. One speaker, apologetically, used Jesus as an example of great orator. Another, one of the foremost bloggers in the world, talked about his church background. Another, slyly mentioned that CS Lewis was his favorite author. And on and on it went all weekend, these subversive moments of pointing to good news.

The weekend closed with Donald Miller. I’m a huge fanboy and I was looking forward to this moment, but I was interested to see how he would be received.

After a weekend of “go do something great,” Don spent most of his time talking about finding a redemptive perspective on failure and suffering.

Don realized he was not in the synagogue, he was in Lystra. And he nailed the opportunity. People who took every opportunity to boo Fox News and anything remotely smelling of a conventional, organized, religious perspective gave Don the loudest, longest ovation of the weekend. People had tears in their eyes.

There is a tremendous space in our culture to share good news with people. To point out this living God who is at work all around us, taking care of us, and bringing us joy.

However, I think it looks more like Acts 14, than Acts 13.

I think the church has a lot to learn from a gathering like the World Domination Summit, and I know we need more people like Donald Miller.

I’m sure he would never call himself a missionary, but Don is a missionary, doing missional work, pointing out this living God, and it was beautiful to watch the impact that had on people.

Whatever my title, whatever my role, this is what I do best and what I get to do all the time in my work with students, and I love it, and it was inspiring to see someone do it so well as Don did last night.

Where do you see this living God at work? And, how can you help others see and experience good news?

The Week Behind and the Week Ahead

The adventures of living in Boston, of being a family of three, and of life in campus ministry (an alternative lifestyle to our dominant culture for sure) continue!

Over the past week we’ve been in a mild (to extreme) state of panic regarding our housing situation. Turns out looking for housing with a 9 month old child is a lot more challenging than we anticipated. Add to that an inflated and competitive rental market and we’ve come up empty so far.

Thank the Lord for understanding landlords. They’ve modeled grace to us and given us more time to sort it all out.

In the meanwhile we head in to two weeks of “vacation”. I use quotes because while this trip will be a break from the norm, a break from the heat, and will involve some sweet time with family, it will also include fundraising, recruiting, spring break reconnaissance, and speaking.

And it will involve traveling back and forth across the country separately. I just said goodbye to the girls as I am about to get on a plane and fly to Portland for this. I am looking forward to spending time with the great Ryan McRae and hopefully being inspired and challenged. But, knowing that Amy gets on another plane tomorrow, just her and Marina, and I can’t be there to help them…well, that’s less exciting to me.

I am confident the next two weeks will be great, and I feel much more ready to enter into it knowing some of our housing questions are behind us.

Sometimes I lament the instability that being a missionary brings on my family, but one thing I know for certain: it is never a boring ride!