Enjoying the journey

Enjoying the journey

One of the many things I love about living in NYC is experiencing all four seasons. As winter finally gives way to spring here, I’m learning the truth that life has its seasons worth enjoying as well. I haven’t provided a big update for everyone, but here’s how we have been enjoying the journey through the changing seasons of career changes over this last year.

Last September, I resigned from my role as the Lead Pastor of Apostles Church Union Square. It was a hard decision to end that season of my life and ministry but it was the right decision for us. The last 7 months have been the most challenging of my life as I’ve never done this before. Occasionally, it has been painful and hard to move on from a church community that I loved and invested my life in for 6 years, but it has ultimately been refreshing, clarifying and healing.

Since September, I’ve helped non-profits develop their church partnership strategy and taken the many lessons I learned at Apostles to consult and help Christ Crucified Fellowship and other churches through coaching and consulting. I’ve also had the space and counseling to reflect on almost 7 years of ministry in NYC and almost 15 years straight of ministry in some capacity to the church in various settings.

Thankful for Apostles Church and excited for the future

In my reflection, I have learned the power of gratitude and I am grateful for the community of Apostles Church. They embraced me as their pastor and in many ways trained me in pastoral ministry showing me what the church could be. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to serve God through a local church in NYC, to learn how to make missionaries and participate in extending the love of Christ to our neighbors together.

I am a very blessed man and I am most grateful for my family. The last 7 months have given me more time and mental energy to give myself fully to them and I could not be more thankful. Change has a way of reorienting you around your priorities. We are enjoying life as a family in NYC and we have been blessed with amazing families to walk with on this journey.

The future will have its own journey and various seasons. Amazingly, God is providing opportunities for me to provide leadership coaching for pastors and consulting for churches around the country. Beyond that, we have been given the chance to learn the surprising reward of fundraising to be local missionaries here in NYC. We have gained a clarity on our passions and how we can serve God’s kingdom.

Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde and the hope between

I’ve also learned a ton about myself. My strengths, my weaknesses and the environments that are best for me. One of the stories that has resonated with me most over the last 6 months is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s a common story and common application to discuss the complexity of the human condition that has the capacity for greatness and also darkness. Each of us brings brilliant beauty to the world, but with it we bring our weaknesses.

This season of reflection has given me the freedom to face and make peace with the “Mr. Hyde” portions within me. A lot of my life has been spent avoiding, ignoring and at times hiding the emotions and thoughts within me. I used to feel guilty for even having certain emotions or thoughts, but counseling has allowed me to make peace with who I am. I’ve been able to be involved in great work for God beyond what I dreamed of, but I’ve also made mistakes. I’ve learned more about myself through the mistakes than the triumphs and in both I rejoice.

I can’t recommend counseling enough for everyone. Counseling has helped me see how God loves me (both my Jekyll & my Hyde) more than I could imagine. The gospel I believe is one where Christ has overcome for me and then invited me to attach myself to Him in relationship for a new identity, not Jekyll or Hyde, but son of God.

The gospel I have preached, taught and trained people in has been powerful for me in a new way, a deeper way that actually interacts with the complexity of life, granting freedom and peace in the large grey areas that black/white morality don’t have answers for and that lets me accept the reality of what life is.

I needed this season more than I knew and I’m thankful the last 7 months have shown me that. It has strengthened me for the next season, the next journey and we invite you to pray for us as we sort through all that God has for us. I’ve learned to love and appreciate who I am and what I contribute to the world and mostly to those I love.

Praying and Partnering for the future

As I mentioned earlier, the last 7 months have been uncharted territory for me. We are praying and asking God to make it clear what our future ministry will be. 

He has given us clarity in this... NYC is home (we hope it always will be) and while we are here we plan to use our talents and passions in new ways here in the city. Building God's Kingdom is our role here where God provides opportunity. This "Kingdom clarity" (as it sounds in my head) is that I have the opportunity to make every person's life better, help every organization grow and help all reach their potential in this life. That's the starting point I have been given in my abilities to coach people and organizations to reach their potential by solving their problems with new strategies.

God has also given us clarity for this immediate season as we pray for our long-term future. These last 4 months we have been fundraising through Christ Crucified Fellowship, which has been the most refreshing community for us. We’ve been able to call their church home, I’ve been able to provide support for Pastor Rich and his leadership team. The generosity of others through fundraising has allowed us to continue to invest in the friendships that God has provided in our neighborhood and kids’ schools.

We invite you to pray with us, that God would provide peace, direction, clarity and opportunities to serve Him as we enjoy this journey. As you pray, consider joining us financially as a ministry partner and contact us through our prayer form and I will give you more information.

We will use this website to share updates on our family and all that God is teaching us. We share because we believe God desires to use our story and the lessons we have learned trying to follow God in NYC for the good of others. We hope it will be helpful for you and you can enjoy the journey with us.

Faith and Friendship in New York

Faith and Friendship in New York

My friend Giovanni has been on a journey of faith here in the city. I asked him to share how our friendship has impacted his understanding of faith in Christ. My hope is that you are encouraged to consider the friendships you have and how they have shaped your life. As I read what he wrote it brought back so many great memories and honestly I could share even more how he has impacted my life. Giovanni has taught me much over these last few years. I'm grateful for our friendship.

How one friend helped another to know Christ. 

I have grown to understand the love of Christ more clearly thanks to the faithful heart of a friend. The friendship started by sharing the challenges and rewards that come from being a friend, employee, father, and husband while living in New York City. Through our common ground, we provided each other what is most valued and needed in friendship – empathy. As we discussed regularly our aspirations to lead, love and learn from those around us, my friend shared his faith and desire to follow Christ, stay true to His Word and find Him through every aspect of life.  Eventually, a greater vision for what Christ can do through me was revealed in the form of numerous unimaginable doors my friend opened for me. These doors redefine my faith and made me fall in love with Christ.

Before meeting my friend my “faith”, as I understood it, was instilled, but not felt. I did not understand what it meant to have a relationship with God. My relationship with God was idealistic, ritualistic, void of sincere belief. I was living out my own misguided, individualistic interpretation of what I thought was faith. What I didn’t understand before my friend opened my eyes was grace. Looking back on my past expression of faith, my obedience to the Lord was always present, but I didn’t know how to receive what the Lord was providing. My friend helped me to understand grace; the unmerited love of the Lord available to everyone. Grace was the first of many enlightening and encouraging truths my friend revealed for me.

My friend also opened the door of the cross. A cross that should remain empty as a reminder of what Christ accomplished and finished. The cross that is God’s unyielding mercy and love. The cross that Christ overcame. The cross that is the power God has over evil and sin. The cross that Christ, our first advocate, accepted on our behalf.  If I really want someone to intercede for me, who better than Christ? Christ already took on all of my sin. Christ’s death on the cross is the ultimate intercession. My friend showed me the cross as a living sacrifice and by doing so showed me the heart of Christ with my name written on it.

"My friend created a positive disruption from my normal way of coping and satiated my desire to live faithfully by pointing me to the sovereignty of God."

My friend opened the door to God’s sovereignty. Embracing the will of the Lord has given me enormous confidence. Much of the anxiety and fear I once felt ceased to exist as I began to understand that the Lord is sovereign. Not calling me to apathy and inaction, rather calling me to be bold in my obedience. Through prayer for an understanding of His sovereignty, the Lord provides me discernment between what is within my control and what is beyond it. God shows me what is just and what isn’t. My friend doesn’t always tell me what I want to hear, rather provides wisdom for what I need to hear instead. He does this by helping me to see different aspects of myself and how to properly view my circumstances. My friend created a positive disruption from my normal way of coping and satiated my desire to live faithfully by pointing me to the sovereignty of God.

My friend opened the door to the meaning of prayer and mission. Initially, my prayer life was focused on my hope to see my family come to faith, but the more I pray, I recognize that it is I who needs to have faith. The real need for change is in me. I am called to continue to follow Christ and lead my family through His example. My prayers are not to put timelines and result driven expectations on my God. I still pray for His enduring grace and love upon my family. My friend reminded me that I am called to surrender with confidence to Christ and share Christ continuously.

My friend opened the door of Scripture. My friend has been a conduit of God’s Word and has shared Scripture with me (lots of scripture!). He has helped me to understand the original context of the Scripture, how to apply it to my daily life and reevaluate my circumstances through the Word. Now, the Word is an essential part of my life. I pray through the Word and I enjoy sharing the Word.

I pray to remain aware of the doors that are continuously opening for me and I count them as blessings. Like the door that welcomed me into Christ’s church. Christ’s house is of endless doors and I hope to cross each threshold with continued thirst, reverence and awe. I have felt the love of Christ through the sound of corporate worship in my local church, the experience of God’s grace, and the gift of my family and friends.

Lord, I praise you. The generous love You have granted me is beyond measure. I continue to feel your powerful mercy, love and grace through the support of Your faithful children who guide me and desire that my family and I might know who You are. You have blessed me with a wife who I grow to love more each day and children who might desire to know You as well. You have proven that you love all of Your children and You saturate us with Your love through Christ and the love we share with one another. I pray that I may somehow demonstrate my gratitude for my friend by continuing to share Your good name and providing the same love I have received.

In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

For my friend - Logan.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. - Ezekiel 36:26

I've never done this before

I've never done this before

"I’ve never done this before"

I find this phrase in my head regularly these days. In fact, I’d say I’ve had this phrase ringing in my head for the last 4 years but I'm finally settling into it being more fun than frustrating.

At times it has caused anxieties, other times excitement and it has provided the opportunities of greatest learning. It has become my teacher, educating me about myself, the church, organizational leadership and life. I’d prefer to do the things I’ve done, that which I am comfortable with and that which I know I’m good at. Instead, I get a chance to test the waters I’ve never known. As Franklin D. Roosevelt put it "A smooth sea never made a skilled savior."

Here's 3 things that have happened recently that I've never done before

Transitioning without the Future Planned

I've made a number of career transitions including moving from engineering into pastoral ministry in NYC. All of these changes had the next steps lined up with easy means of transition.

This transition was nothing like the past. It was quick, emotional and the future was uncertain. I knew it was right and would eventually be good, but I didn't know what would happen next. I don't naturally like that. I'm a planner with an engineer's brain that likes to map out the strategy, plan the next steps and then execute. 

The truth is the future is always unplanned and the idea that we have control, security and ease in our current situations is often a myth. Each day comes with its own challenges and potential plot twists in our story. It has taught me to fix my eyes on Jesus, to trust God's character of goodness, and to focus on what I can control.

Fundraising for that future

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Christ Crucified Fellowship during this season as the next step that I didn't know would come. I don't know the long-term future, but fundraising for our current needs is new and so rewarding.

I have never raised funds for my personal ministry activities and now I am learning to trust the provision of God through individual people and not just through an institution. You could say it was always the case when I was a pastor relying on the generous tithes and offerings of a faithful congregation. That would be true, but personal fundraising is so different and in many ways more rewarding.

It is transforming my fears of rejection and longing for approval as I ask friends and loved ones for money for my family needs and our future ministry. I also suck at asking and haven't even sent out that many personal letters. It has taken me too long to make this website and too many of our friends have asked why it has taken me so long to share. That's on me and this is one step out as a means to overcome my fears.

It is also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There are few instances outside of your wedding rehearsal and your funeral where people will share about the impact you have had on their lives and fundraising has been one of them. 

For Amber and I, we have always thought it was a gift to be invited into the lives of college students, young professionals, marriages, and families to share God's love and truth. It has been humbling and encouraging to see how that gift has helped others and in turn has caused them to want to help us.

Church in a minority context

Lastly, and potentially the most rewarding has been being a part of church in a minority context.

I have always attended a church that was majority white, but it has been a privilege to be in the minority at Christ Crucified Fellowship. It has opened my eyes and taught me much about following Christ.

This is a sensitive conversation right now in our society and it even feels awkward writing about it, which helps me to understand what it was like for others who have been the minority in the white churches I attended and even had the privilege to pastor. I'm amazed that people of color stuck it out, served faithfully, and endured countless experiences of being left out, ignored, or misunderstood at the churches I've been a part of.

It has also helped me understand the diversity of faith in America at a time where race in evangelicalism seems to be an indicator of how you feel about our current government and society. It is teaching me empathy, patience and to listen before I speak.

In so many ways, Christ Crucified is teaching and helping me follow Christ simply by faithfully being the culturally, ethnically and spiritually diverse community that God has made it.

"I've never done this before" and I having a lot more fun than I thought I would.

CCF: a culture of honor

CCF: a culture of honor

Have you ever been honored for something you did or achieved? It's an amazing feeling. 

But have you ever been in the midst of a culture of honor? An entire community that seems to go to great lengths to honor one another? This has been my experience at Christ Crucified Fellowship (CCF) these last 6 months.

From day one, I noticed how people praised one another and honored their efforts, thanked them for their time, for showing up and appreciated each other. It stood out to me because I don't often experience a culture of honor in our society, in my city and maybe even in the white culture I have been a part of. 

I didn't have words for it at first, until I witnessed it in great measure. The last Sunday that CCF had services in 2016, they honored the work of Kenny Hart, their pastor of over 3 years who is going to plant a church in Central Harlem. They spoke words of encouragement, washed him and his family's feet and recorded a video of people in the community sharing his impact. They even interviewed his father and his wife about his impact in their lives. This is a video of Kenneth Hart's Dad encouraging him as he goes to plant a church out of Christ Crucified Fellowship later this year.

There was not a dry eye in the house, crying because of joy to see someone's hard work celebrated and honored. It was great to see words of life and strength spoken into him as he and his family begin the challenging work of church planting.

It lifted the entire room by honoring someone so well. I believe the entire room was lifted because of the culture of honor in the community, not just a moment of honor for one person.

A few reflections from my experience

1. A culture of honor is different than moments of honor

I've talked about this with a few people and they will point to moments of honor they have seen, but few I know have experienced a culture of honor. Typically moments of honor are reserved for the great achievement, the big event anniversary and the "above and beyond" activity.

Living in a culture where only moments are honored can create a performance driven mentality that the privileged and talented only obtain honor.

A culture appreciates people for who they are, how they spend their time and aims to notice the small ways people make an impact everyday. Experiencing it I've observed a greater joy in the community and a natural feeling of acceptance.

A culture of honor doesn't wait for great performance, but exudes gratitude and appreciation.

2. Gratitude over entitlement

Churches and organizations can often feel entitled as though people are lucky to have them and obligated to serve or work for them. We are all no doubt lucky to have the various churches and organizations that we are a part of that add meaning and purpose to our lives.

A culture of honor humbly appreciates that the church or organization is nothing without the people who show up, give of themselves and create the culture of the community. A culture of honor gives time to gratitude and find ways to express appreciation. 

3. A culture of honor starts with you

CCF has taught me there is always an opportunity and a person to honor. There is always someone to thank, to speak a word of encouragement to and to acknowledge as present and valuable. The question is will you do it?

A culture of honor doesn't just happen, it is created when each of us choose to embrace honor as often as we can. 

It changes the way I live every day and leads me to ask regularly.

Who can you honor today?

What's Next for the Gentry's

What's Next for the Gentry's

Our work is only just beginning as we transition into a new season of ministry. In September, Logan resigned from his role at Apostles Church. As we transition out of Apostles, we see this as a season of growth through healing while we continue to serve God with a new church.

In this time of transition, we are asking God to make clear to us what role in building His kingdom here in NYC He is calling us to long-term for the future of our ministry.

We are excited that God has opened up an opportunity to serve an amazing vision to a more underrepresented population in Manhattan through Christ Crucified Fellowship in Washington Heights. Christ Crucified is a 5-year old church plant in the neighborhood where their founder, Pastor Rich Perez grew up. They are a vibrant church community that is planting a new church in Harlem in 2017. They aim to make family out of friends, friends out of enemies and wholeness from brokenness. We believe in their vision and look forward to supporting Pastor Rich and Christ Crucified in this next season of their church.

I will be helping Christ Crucified Fellowship in leadership development, executive oversight, and establishing justice initiatives as the church seeks to cultivate the culture of Washington Heights in the midst of gentrification. This will allow us to continue to invest in making disciples, planting churches and advancing justice just as God called us to in NYC 6 years ago.