SUBMITTED TO BAKKE GRADUATE UNIVERSITY OF MINISTRY
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE DEGREE REQUIREMENTS OF A
DOCTOR OF MINISTRY
OVI 701/OVERTURE I: SEATTLE – PERSPECTIVES ON
LEADERSHIP/SPIRITUAL RESOURCES FOR THE TRANSFORMATIONAL
I verify that the following list represents all of the books I have read for this course, the
page on which you will find my book review, and the number of pages read for each
Transforming Power 6 204
Sub-Merge 7 280
A Theology as Big as the City 8 221
Orthodox Alaska 9 252
The Call 10 249
Globalizing Theology 11 382
Street Signs 12 285
The Lexus and the Olive Tree 13 490
Transforming Mission 14 587
Missional Church 15 280
Reclaiming Our Prodigal Sons and Daughters 16 200
Stewardship 17 264
Renewing the city 18 240
TOTAL PAGES READ 3934
Transforming Power: Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference in Your Community
Robert C. Linthicum
Inter Varsity Press (2003)
The main idea of this book is relational power, especially as it relates to the
engagement of Christians in urban ministry and community development. The first part
of the book provides a foundation for a theology of power through such Biblical
examples as the lives of Nehemiah and Jesus. The second part of the book is more
practical with strategies clearly outlined for people who want to make a difference in
developing their communities.
The author argues that Christians must engage in the proper understanding and
usage of power through relationships, although many evangelical Christians have tended
to shy away from the use of power in the world over the past century. The first couple of
chapters present the various dynamics of healthy and dysfunctional communities. The
next section focuses on specific ways that Christians utilize relational power to engage
broken systems, with Jesus and Paul serving as guides. Linthicum says that Paul was
“very sophisticated in his understanding of and use of power, and that use of power was
built upon a highly developed theology of public life.” (113) From the material that is
presented, the reader gathers that Christians have a crucial role to play in public life in
our modern society. In fact, many aspects of a healthy community, or what the author
describes as shalom in the city, become broken when Christians fail to engage in the use
The remaining chapters in the book focus on the exchange of relational power
through individual meetings, which lead to the mobilization of the broader church, or
body of Christ, en mass in the engagement of relational power. The author also presents
strategies for strengths and weaknesses that can occur when the church becomes
powerful. For instance, Linthicum cites accountability, confrontation, civil disobedience,
negotiation, and agitation as five biblically-based strategies that the church can use to
take on corrupt systems. Of all of these actions, the author argues that confrontation is
the most difficult for the church to utilize because they “believe it to be inconsistent with
a loving, Christ-like faith. But… you can’t hope to bring about change – in a church or in
a Christian organization or the world – and avoid confrontation.” (171)
Linthicum’s main points are very timely in a modern climate in America where
Christians are disengaging from systematic power issues in order to pursue a more
individualized brand of spirituality apart from the inconveniences and messiness of
power struggles. I believe that this generates a huge void that many government and
social service agencies are more than willing to fill. Unfortunately, a healthy society will
never be fully restored if the church disengages. However, one common misconception
that I hear from people is that the church, defined by some as the people located in a
building on Sunday mornings, must be the only source of power to rise up in order for
communities to be transformed. I’m learning about the power of a theology of work,
which outlines the need to build relational power with Christians who are leaders in the
business world, politics, and other “secular” systems in society. These leaders also must
be considered in the mobilization of the church toward issues of systemic change.
Sub-Merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World
John B. Hayes
This book is a call to serve God by working with the poor, vulnerable, and
marginalized people of society. The author goes into detail about several missions
strategies that are currently being utilized throughout the urban world, with a special
emphasis on incarnational living as a key to transformational leadership. He points out
that “nearly 1 in 10 verses in the Bible speaks of the poor in some way.” (101)
The author does a good job describing the needs of the poor around the world, but
that is not really the major theme of the book. The focus is on mobilizing people to join
in community with other incarnational leaders in order to connect more effectively with
people in need. Great joy can be found in discovering shared experiences within a
missional community. The author suggests that the Western church is obsessed with
process, and not necessarily solutions. We are also driven to succeed according to
Western norms. This modern culture of performance and outcomes presents an
enormous obstacle for those that choose to sub-merge into inner city ministry. Innovative
and creative strategies are outlined in the book to equip leaders who are interested in
moving counter-culturally to work amongst the poor.
At first impression, an observer might think that the author is advocating for
everyone to move to inner cities around the world in order to become effective Christians
by living incarnationally among the poor. Actually, while the author presents a good case
for living purposefully as a Christian among the poor, he also presents a unique
perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of this aspect of purposeful living. The
stories in the book are very inspirational, and good stories move people to action. The
author throws out a tremendous challenge to the body of Christ in the first part of the
book, but then he seems to let up toward the end by describing in detail all of the many
challenges and difficulties associated with sub-merging. So, the strategies about
incarnational living are a strong point of the book, but the difficulties outlined can be
perceived by the reader as discouraging.
I must admit that I have considered living incarnationally prior to reading this
book. Ray Bakke and Robert Linthicum introduced this idea in books I had previously
read on urban ministry. After reading this book, I really took a step back from everything
to consider incarnational ministry as a calling. I have been equally torn between
developing the property I live on as a mentoring center for LAMP, or moving to the east
end of Pittsburgh to live incarnationally with the children and families that I am
mentoring. I have actually delayed making a decision on this matter because I wanted to
read books like this and spend time in Seattle for Overture I to gain a broader perspective
on God’s calling for my life.
The incarnational strategies really resonated with me, and I can see myself living
in the city. On the other hand, I am now more interested in developing relationships with
others who might want to sub-merge with me instead of obsessing over real estate. This
book taught me that community is the key to incarnational ministry, although the actual
location needs to be we well thought out.
A Theology as Big as the City
Inter Varsity Press (1997)
The main concept of this book is to present both the need for an urban theology
and also Ray Bakke’s search for a theology of the city based on his life experiences. God
values cities, although most systematic theologies are developed through a rural lens.
After an overview of the need for an urban theology, the author addresses urban theology
from Genesis all of the way through the Bible to Revelation.
The author argues that the primary challenge to effective urban ministry in the 21st
century is theological, although other challenges are demographic, missiological,
ecclesiastical, and financial. Christian leaders will not be effective in addressing global
urban issues unless they are solidly grounded and equipped with an urban theological
base. An important aspect of urban theology is a sense of place, a concept that has been
lost on many Protestant churches in recent years. Power is also a theme often addressed
by the author.
The chapters of this book actually present the information along the lines of the
chapters in the Bible. For instance, the second chapter entitled “God’s Hands Are in the
Mud” presents an overview of the urban theological concepts found in the book of
Genesis. God demonstrates in Genesis that He values His creation, and that He partners
with us to steward its resources. From an urban perspective, many Christians “throw
away” deteriorated city neighborhoods even though God values their redemption.
Bakke identifies Philippians and Colossians as two different and unique
perspectives on community development and spiritual transformation. He presents
insight into the public spirituality of Colossians and the personal spirituality of
Philippians. The author argues that both forms of spirituality are crucial to the fabric of a
healthy urban community. He writes, “Of this I am sure: we will never have healthy
ministry in our largest cities until we can affirm both Philippian and Colossian
Christologies and the spiritualities they embody and then bring them together in the
ministry of the church.” (162) This concept is great, but one limitation of this book is
that much more could have been written about each of the concepts covered in the
chapters. A great foundation has been put in place by this book, and perhaps future
authors will expand on Bakke’s arguments which would expand the field of urban
This book was most valuable to my work in the area of urban and suburban
partnerships. The ideas also carried over very well to the LAMP partnerships between
churches and schools. Although the social gospel concepts were emphasized, I also
gleaned a great deal of practical application toward my personal spirituality. I was forced
to ask myself, “What biases do I have toward reading and understanding the Bible?”
Because of my life experiences, I would definitely say that I have always read the Bible
through a rural, white, middle class, American lens. Reading this book encouraged me to
expand my view of scripture.
Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission
SVS Press (1992)
The author wrote this book because two centuries of Christian mission in Alaska
have produced unique truths and principles that are significant, not only locally in
relation to Alaskan societal issues, but also globally for the universal body of Christ. He
presents a unique historical overview of issues that have many distinctive applications to
contemporary missional contexts. Oleska says about the book, “There is much history in
this volume, however its focus is not the past but the future. Its primary purpose is to
remind the Church that her mission extends beyond human concerns and issues, beyond
politics, economics and even beyond “religion,” as the subject is popularly understood.”
Context is an important theme in this book. In the Alaskan history of mission
efforts, early Orthodox mission leaders understood that the Holy Spirit was moving in the
region before they arrived. They were careful to maintain the integrity of local values,
traditions, and symbols in seeking a common understanding through valuable
relationships with the indigenous population. In more years, the author argues, Protestant
missionaries and the U.S. government have caused tremendous harm to the people in the
Alaskan region through their lack of cultural sensitivity and overbearing impositions of
religion and law. Many programs and missionary efforts in recent years have been well
intentioned, but they have actually created a cycle of oppression for many Alaskan
people. As Oleska puts it, “Indigenous peoples whose cultures have been disrupted and
denigrated by technologically superior societies inevitably suffer traumatic
demoralization and almost irreparable spiritual damage.” (194)
Other chapters in this book focus on the value of creation and relationships. The
indigenous Alaskan population has traditionally valued these things as inseparable from
their spirituality. However, the author argues that the rise of modernism and its secular
fragmentation or compartmentalization have proven to be detrimental to their spirituality
which places such a high value on creation and relationships. Thus, assimilation to the
mainstream American modern society (and many Western religious norms) is
counterintuitive to native Alaskan spirituality. The church has a crucial role to play in the
world. The body of Christ “must condemn and renounce all cultural imperialism, within
itself first of all, and then in society.” (214)
This book really gets to the heart of many things that are wrong in the Church
today. People all over the world with good intentions are causing great harm, both in the
church and in broader societies, through what Oleska describes very well in this book as
cultural imperialism. Sometimes when I am in church or having discussions with other
Christians, I get a check in my spirit about certain ideas or suggestions that are culturally
insensitive. I operate in a world of urban/suburban partnerships. I also operate in a world
of racial tension and misunderstandings related to class perspectives. A great deal of my
time is spent helping well-meaning Christians navigate through these issues. On a
personal level, an important aspect of this program at BGU is the focus on equipping me
to understand context in engaging culture as a Christian leader.
W Publishing Group (1998)
This is a powerful book about the purpose of life and discovering God’s call. The
author first gives a foundation of the reason for pursuing meaning to life through a
relationship with God. He gives an overview of the many different aspects of calling
which are often confused or misrepresented in modern society.
The author argues that we can only find our purpose in life by responding to the
call of Jesus Christ. This is the only way that we will ever find our true selves. He
argues that most of everything that our modern, Western culture directs us to in the area
of life purpose is false. He also argues that this is true amongst secular and Christian
movements in our modern culture such as the prosperity gospel that is being preached in
many American churches. He also goes into great detail about what he calls the Catholic
distortion and the Protestant distortion. He asserts that both of these distortions are
crippling followers of Christ from fulfilling the roles that they were meant to fill in a
society. Followers of Christ must first and foremost be called into life purpose for the
Audience of One (God).
Most of the chapters in the body of the book cover the aspects of calling such as
listening to God, giftedness, passion, heroism, morality, personal calling, corporate
calling, journeying, vision, embracing the ordinary, gratitude, suffering, rejection, timing,
and finishing well as a follower of Christ. Also, the chapters cover the various pitfalls of
the pursuit of calling such as the temptations of conceit, envy, greed, sloth, secularization,
privatization, and pluralization.
This book is strong in the deep insights that the author gives to the subject of
calling. The stories at the beginning of each chapter are very interesting, and they
provide a solid foundation for the main points. I honestly found no limitations in the
content. Many profound points are clearly presented on each topic in each chapter, and
seemingly in each paragraph.
I actually had to reread much of this book over and over again. It seems at the
first read as though the author is presenting fundamental information that should be
relatively basic. However, the fundamental information is presented in such a profound
way, and with such unique anecdotes, that I was forced to wrestle with my own calling
and worldview during the reading of each chapter. It took me a long time to read this
book because I really slowed down to process everything that the author was trying to
My favorite chapter was about how calling impacts vision. Guinness provided a
quote from T. E. Lawrence that I will never forget. Lawrence wrote about vision, “All
men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their
minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous
men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.” (175)
I would absolutely love to life a life with that kind of vision and purpose!
Craig Ott and Harold Netland
Baker Academic (2006)
These essays examine the impact of globalization on Christianity, and more
specifically, various aspects of Christian theology. The editors of this book argue that
“globalization and the emergence of world Christianity have profound implications on
how we do theology.” (15) The essays were written to develop an understanding of the
fusion between local trends in Christianity and universal perspectives that may transcend
The chapters in the book are grouped into three sections. The first section
outlines the significant challenges to theology brought about by the process of
globalization and a new, worldwide Christianity. The second section focuses on several
key methods utilized to understand globalizing theology. The third section presents more
comprehensive viewpoints into a range of issues connected to the church, theology, and
globalization. All of the sections work well together in the construction of a foundation
in which to examine global theological concepts, from both a historical and a modern
Andrew Walls argued that the “Christian life and thought, taking as its norm the
incarnation of the divine Word, requires incarnation, embodiment in the cultural specifics
of a particular time and place. Generations may be utterly diverse, therefore, in their
understanding and experience of the grace of God and yet belong together in the ultimate
purpose of God.” (76) This was great insight into the seemingly complicated realm of
context in the spread of worldwide Christianity.
I thought Kevin Vanhoozer made some great points when he described in depth
the importance of embracing context during the process of theological study. He argued
that “the most insidious effect of globalization is homogenization – of culture, of
religion.” (101) Many forms of Christianity in America are a homogenous blend of
culture and religion, or beliefism. Christian theologians must be careful to avoid the
negative factors associated with globalization.
In the section on methodology, Lois McKinney Douglas argued that “in doing
global theologizing, it is important for committed Christian theologians from around the
world to develop a metatheological framework that enables them to understand, compare,
and evaluate local theologies, the questions each is seeking to answer, and the
sociocultural contexts in which each must define the gospel.” (302) Christians can be
easily led astray as a result of globalization if they are unable or unwilling to develop a
solid framework with which to study scripture.
This book had some major impact on the perspectives I take into my work on a
daily basis. I often feel terribly ill-equipped to navigate through cross-cultural issues
related to LAMP’s suburban/urban relationships, church/state partnerships, and racial
reconciliation. The material presented in these essays has helped me to build a
foundation to be confident in understanding globalization and cross-cultural issues related
to Christianity. Many of the authors provided historical overviews of the nature of the
relationship between theology and many differing global worldviews. A major takeaway
for me was the importance of understanding context as I work with LAMP families and
Street Signs: A New Direction in Urban Ministry
Ray Bakke and Jon Sharpe
New Hope Publishers (2006)
Ray Bakke has said that people seem to be more interested in how he learns than
in what he has actually learned over a lifetime of urban ministry involvement. In this
book, the authors present many of the tangible strategies they have utilized in city
consultations all over the world so that modern Christian leaders might be more equipped
to lead in a global environment that is rapidly urbanizing and globalizing.
The authors break this book up into two sections. In the first section, Ray Bakke
gives an overview of his journey in urban ministry over the past fifty years. He also
provides some basic urban ministry concepts that will surely guide contemporary
Christian leaders in areas such as the processes of urbanization, embracing the city as a
parish, the importance of searching for signs of hope in modern cities, and a basic
overview of the urban consultation process in community development. Jon Sharpe
briefly describes his journey of involvement in urban ministry, followed by an overview
of the leadership style of Barnabas and the process of completing effective consultations
applicable to urban environments all over the world.
Ray Bakke argues that “fundamentally, for Christians, especially for church and
mission leaders, we need a new way of thinking about missions, a new worldview or
paradigm, if you please.” (83) He goes on to state that “missions is no longer across the
ocean and geographically distant: it is across the street and is culturally distant, in our
cities and in cities on all six continents.” (83) Christian leaders need to adjust their
worldview to “incorporate thinking globally while living locally.” (83)
Jon Sharpe describes a powerful process of city consultations, in which “the best
consultations come as a result of a long-term networking effort by trusted facilitators and
the input of an outsider. The outsider brings a listening ear, a desire to learn from the
city, and his or her power to convene the leadership of a city – social, political, and
religious.” (216) In essence, Christian leaders in cities all over the world need to
understand who needs to be at the table, what will be consulted upon, and how will the
strategies be implemented. The whole process is very clearly articulated.
I was very encouraged by this book. One of the things I have learned about urban
ministry in Pittsburgh is that many leaders are willing to partner for the betterment of the
city. Organizations from all over the city, including the Pittsburgh Leadership
Foundation, the Pittsburgh Board of Education, nonprofit organizations, and churches
have displayed a willingness to work together for positive outcomes on the overall
development of the city.
With so many people willing to partner, including organizations that are non-
Christian, there are many opportunities for city consultations. I have been intimidated by
this process at times, in which I often find myself in the position of building relationships
in order to partner more effectively for the common good of the city. Inevitably, this
process from which I often shy away is actually the process which might end up having
the most impact in terms of community development and empowerment of the folks who
are benefiting from services and support.
The Lexus and the Olive Tree
Anchor Books (2000)
This book is about understanding globalization as an international system that is
shaping the modern world. Although globalization is not new to humanity, this modern
version is much more essential to understand than in the past because technology has
accelerated it at a pace never before witnessed in human history. Friedman argues that
globalization also has a wider societal impact now than ever before in the major facets of
life such as economics, geography, politics, and the environment.
The early chapters of the book focus on introducing globalization as the major
global system replacing the Cold War system. The remaining sections of the book focus
on the major systems in society and how they have been impacted, for better or worse, by
globalization. One of the key arguments of the author is that nobody is in charge of the
globalization system, so accountability and influence over the system are difficult to
achieve. For instance, Friedman gives examples of economic collapses in remote, third
world countries that now send huge shock waves throughout the entire global economic
community via the connectedness of what he calls the Electronic Herd.
The complexities of globalization generate many questions, which are clearly
outlined by the author. However, concrete solutions are presented to many of the
questions. Friedman asserts that countries can compete in the modern globalization by
implementing what he calls the Golden Straitjacket, which has many different pieces that
are clearly outlined in the content of this book. In basic terms, when a country “puts on
the Golden Straitjacket, two things tend to happen: your economy grows and your
politics shrinks.” (105) Countries need to see the globalization system, plug into the
system, and continually deal with the backlash of the system.
Friedman argues that “if there is a common denominator that runs through this
book it is the notion that globalization is everything and its opposite. It can be incredibly
empowering and incredibly coercive.” (406) Globalization as a system has the power to
destroy itself or do great good for humanity. He published this book about ten years ago,
but the concepts are remarkably applicable to the global economic crisis that is plaguing
the world today. The globalization system has caused great economic harm recently, but
it may also be just the thing that lifts the world out of the current troubles. Leaders in all
sectors of life must seek to understand globalization. That is the only way that we will
I was appreciative of the understanding that I gained from reading this book on
globalization. I believe it has profound implications for the local and universal church, in
particular mission efforts. Church leaders must learn to understand systems, but
unfortunately many Christian leaders today are shying away from systematic justice
issues. When the church fails to fulfill her societal role, the world suffers. When
Christians sink back from involvement in the complex issues, it creates a huge void in
any society. I have conversations with Christians all of the time who throw their hands
up in the air and say things like, “This whole world is going down the drain, I’ve lost all
hope, and I’m just biding my time until Jesus comes back.” Although I hope for Jesus to
come back just as much as the next person, I am amazed at how people disengage at
complex systematic injustices. Our society needs Christian leaders to engage!
David J. Bosch
Orbis Books (1993)
In this book the author describes a major paradigm shift that is needed in the
context of the current state of Christian missionary efforts. He argues that the Christian
church is experiencing a major crisis that is not reversible, and it is one that is also
reflective of the challenges of postmodern society. This book examines the
contemporary missional crisis through the lens of two thousand years of missionary
history in the church.
The author of the book is David Bosch, an expert on Christian missionary efforts
from South Africa who died tragically in an automobile accident in 1992. He broke the
thirteen chapters of the book up into three sections. In the first section he clearly outlines
the mission models found in the New Testament. Churches in the New Testament era are
often held up as model versions of effective church activity, but the churches from that
time period did not employ one specific type of missional model. They utilized a wide
variety of models based on the context of the geographic regions and the movements of
the Holy Spirit. In this sense, the author argues that “the New Testament witnesses to a
fundamental shift when compared with the Old Testament. In surveying the paradigm
shifts in missionary thinking I wish to suggest that the first and cardinal paradigm change
took place with the advent of Jesus of Nazareth and what followed after that.” (15)
In the second section, Bosch describes several historical paradigms of mission.
He describes many reasons for Christian leaders to be creative in bringing the message of
the gospel to the modern context. He says that “one of the basic reasons for having to do
this, lies in the fact that the Christian faith is a historical faith. God communicates his
revelation to people through human beings and through events, not by means of abstract
propositions. This is another way of saying that the biblical faith, both Old and New
Testament, is ‘incarnational’, the reality of God entering into human affairs.” (181)
In the third section the author presents various aspects of relevant missiology
including the paradigms of postmodernism, ecumenical missions, and the contemporary
diversity in missional approaches within the church. Most importantly, all previous
attempts at Christian missiology, especially those attempted during the Enlightenment
period of human history, will not be influential anymore. The modern pitfalls such as
purposeless individualism and overconfidence in one’s self have given way to what
Bosch describes as the need to “reaffirm the indispensableness of conviction and
commitment.” (362) We need to connect with other humans relationally for survival.
God is moving anew in today’s modern society, and I feel that He has placed me
uniquely in this situation at North Way Christian Community for the purpose that He has
called me to. In many ways, the externally focused efforts at North Way are not
understood as anything new in terms of the historical context of the church and the body
of Christ. However, this book has taught me that while God may have moved in many
different forms missionally in the past, He is up to something new in the postmodern
context of history. This new form of missiology will require me to be multifaceted and
multidimensional in my leadership approaches. The postmodern era is complex, and as
Bosch put it, “our mission has to be multidimensional in order to be credible and faithful
to its origins and character.” (512) As I see it, I need to lead with diverse strategies
because I live and lead in a diverse world.
Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America
Darrell L. Guder
Eerdmans Publishing Company (1998)
This book examines problems within the North American church from a spiritual
and theological perspective. Central to this focus is mission, or sending, which the
authors describe as “the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s action in
human history.” (4) The authors argue that the Western church has lost sight of this
missional focus, and the only way it can be rediscovered is through reshaping our
While the first chapter gives a general overview of the main thesis, chapters two
and three give an absolutely amazing historical portrait of the North American church
and Western culture since the Enlightenment period. I would highly recommend this
book to any person because these two chapters alone are so significant to understanding
the nuances of the make-up of the modern, and now postmodern, church. The authors
point out that “the churches in both the United States and Canada have developed a type
of functional Christendom in the form of a churched culture… Therefore today we find
churches seeking a public voice but finding that they are no longer taken seriously. Their
voice in the United States has been marginalized into a highly personalized and
privatized practice of faith.” (60)
Since the second and third chapters provide such a great context, chapters four
through six focus on how the church should express itself in terms of evangelization and
missional efforts. The remaining chapters focus on framing this vocation of the church in
tangible terms. As such, leadership and structures are listed as important components of
a modern missional church. The section on contextual leadership was of particular
importance to me. The authors describe how Christendom and modernity have shaped
current leadership efforts in the church, and they argue that “the shape of leadership in
any particular location is a matter of historical antecedents and deep cultural values.”
I feel as though I am unable to describe in words the powerful impact of this book
on my worldview. Modern Christian leaders really need to have a solid understanding of
historical perspective and a grasp of the modern context. God is always moving, and He
really desires for His church to be fully immersed in a missional vocation. The great
surprise for many North Americans is that due to the influences of modernism and
postmodernism, massive missional efforts are now needed in our own areas. This is a
shift away from the sending model of previous generations, which focused on sustaining
church health at home while sending missionaries overseas.
As a person who is involved in mobilizing a large North American church out into
the local community through efforts aimed at impacting troubled youth, orphans, seniors,
and the homeless population in Pittsburgh, this book helped me to grasp that the
problems faced in these mobilization efforts might have less to due with strategic
program planning or implementation and more to do with the spiritual and theological
base of our congregation. This is due in part to the larger cultural phenomenon known as
postmodernism which has a grip on contemporary culture, but church leaders should be
aware and ready to meet this challenge within an effective theological framework.
Reclaiming our Prodigal Sons and Daughters
Scott Larson and Larry Brendtro
National Education Service (2000)
Scott Larson and Larry Brendtro present a case for moving away from traditional
ineffective approaches used in connecting with at-risk youth in order to implement more
appropriate strategies with a particular focus on the spiritual, or heart, level of young
people. This book is timely because many books written about programs and
philosophies designed to impact troubled youth often bypass the importance of the
spiritual development of adolescents. These authors clearly articulate strategies that are
appropriately designed to address the multitude of complex youth development issues in
our modern society.
The book is divided into two sections. The first section focuses on the problem,
or what has gone wrong with wayward youth in modern society. The first chapter
presents a new type of adolescent. According to the authors, “teenagers of the twenty-
first century are worlds apart from the youth of a century earlier or from those being
raised in more traditional cultures.” (5) This is because of three major shifts in our
modern society: adolescents have become segregated from adults, they are being raised
in a spiritual vacuum, and they are being nurtured by the media. In the second chapter
the authors turn to the parable of the prodigal son, which “provides us with a fresh
understanding of how we can reclaim wayward youth, regardless of the cause of their
dilemma.” (11) The third, fourth, and fifth chapters focus on the brokenness in troubled
adolescents, and the causes present in families, communities, and broader society which
contribute to the brokenness.
The second section of the book focuses on fresh strategies that are needed to
support the development of adolescents. The authors clearly outline the basic concepts of
reclaiming troubled adolescents through reparenting, redirecting, reconciling, and
redeeming. The reparenting concept was very strong, defined as “providing a youth who
is not closely attached to adults with bonds to a positive adult.” (99) This represents the
heart of mentoring, and the authors demonstrate the huge need for this type of mentoring
because “contemporary society is faced with scores of underparented kids.” (99)
This was probably the most applicable book of any of the assigned readings for
Overture I to my work with LAMP. I am a strong advocate for mentoring because I
understand the unique power of individual relationships in supporting a wide variety of
problems experienced by young people today. The authors outlined the need to develop
courage in young people in order for them to thrive in society, and they said that
“disadvantaged youths may actually have an advantage when it comes to developing the
attribute of courage – as long as they have access to someone who can instill in them
some of the essential building blocks for healthy development.” (72)
The principles presented by these authors are easily transferable, and I have
already begun implementing these solid concepts in mentor training sessions, leadership
team meetings, and monthly mentor meetings. I have experienced an overwhelming
response to the need for these types of resources in providing ongoing support for
mentors involved in working with all types of adolescents.
Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. (1993)
Many organizations, as well as the people working within them, are struggling
from a lack of purpose and fragmentation. This book presents stewardship as the means
to moving past these issues. The author argues that individuals within an organization
should learn how to be stewards of resources for the common good of society.
Stewardship combats the compartmentalization process that is so rampant in American
culture by moving individuals toward reconciliation, and the distribution of power that
naturally follows. Through the application of stewardship principles, the leaders in an
organization are strengthened and the organization itself is strengthened.
The author presents the concepts of this book in three sections. In the first
section, the author describes the process by which leadership is replaced by stewardship,
patriarchy is replaced by partnership, safety is replaced by adventure and risk-taking, and
self-interest is replaced by service. Block argues that “the principles of stewardship bring
accountability into each act of governance, while partnership balances responsibility.”
In the second section of the book, the author describes the process of
redistribution of power, purpose, and wealth. Block opens this section with the concept
that “stewardship is a way to use power to serve through the practice of partnership and
empowerment. This is the alternative to the conventional notions of ‘strong leadership’
for implementing changes.” (63) A stewardship contract is clearly outlined, and the
ramifications for the organizational structure including management, staff, accounting,
human resources, compensation, and evaluation are described in detail. This is the
logistical part of the author’s ideas for stewardship principles.
Part three presents the triumph of hope over experience. One of the major
obstacles to stewardship is cosmetic reform. Patriarchy tends to regenerate itself when
stewardship principles are implemented in an organization at a surface level. Through
cosmetic change, “in a shifting, customer-driven environment, improvement efforts that
produce no redistribution of power, purpose, or privilege will produce no real
improvement.” (189) Stewardship principles provide an alternative to this approach.
Instead of patriarchy, each step in the change process “needs to foster ownership and
responsibility with all who touch it.” (204) Each person must own the vision of the
organization. In the end, Block views true democracy as the means to implementing
stewardship principles in order to change organizations more effectively.
This book applies to my current context in that I need to view myself as a steward
of the resources God has entrusted to me. A transformational leader is able to build
relationships up to the powerful and down to the powerless, in order to give themselves
away through the redistribution of resources.
A major part of my role in LAMP involves the redistribution of power and
resources, whether they involve people, money, or leadership, on behalf of the students
and the families who live in the Homewood and East Hills section of the city of
Pittsburgh. From this book, I learned it is important for leaders of initiatives to take care
that the principles and changes being implemented in a project move beyond the
Renewing the City: Reflections on Community Development and Urban Renewal
Inter Varsity Press (2005)
In this book Robert Lupton retells the story of Nehemiah through a process called
midrash, which is an ancient Jewish teaching method using imagination and imagery to
add context to Scriptures. The first part of the book focuses on adding depth to the study
of the Biblical book of Nehemiah. The second part of the book draws parallels between
Nehemiah’s community development work in Jerusalem and modern day development
efforts in American inner cities. Contemporary urban ministry principles are compared
to ancient urban ministry principles.
The author argues that the dilemmas facing urban ministry leaders long ago are
relevant in resolving similar dilemmas today. One highlight of the book was a chapter
about gentrification with justice, which argued that what is needed in cities is gentry
“who will use their competencies and connections to ensure that their lower-income
neighbors have a stake in their revitalizing neighborhood.” (124) Christians are called to
care for the poor, and those who move back into the city from the suburbs need to think
strategically about also caring for justice for their new neighbors.
The book has another great chapter about vision and risk taking. Lupton speaks
clearly and with credibility about need for strong visionary leadership from urban leaders.
He argues that “Vision that is divinely authored – the kind that extends me far beyond my
own abilities – requires a frightful level of risk taking. It is fundamentally different from
strategy planning and goal setting. It requires me to let go of the security of predictable
outcomes and venture into uncharted waters with little more than an inaudible internal
voice as a guide. Such vision is not a product of human creativity; it is divinely
conceived and implanted in the spirits of those who are willing to trust miracle over
plan.” (151) Nehemiah was a visionary risk taker, and this is what is needed for all urban
ministry leaders today. This is one of the author’s strongest points.
The final chapters focus on different aspects of incarnational living. Cities may
have a romantic appeal on people from an outside perspective (with their violence, noise,
and drama), but everything becomes much more meaningful once the inner cities issues
begin impacting one’s family and home. Programs are important, but good neighbors are
much more important to the renewing of the city.
I had been wrestling with many questions directly related to the content in this
book before I started reading it. How can I be more effective as an urban ministry
leader? Robert Lupton ministered in inner cities without living there for about ten years
prior to moving incarnationally to the city. In this book he describes the process of how
his ministry became much more effective once he moved to where he was serving. I
have been wondering how much more effective I would be as a leader if I moved to inner
city Pittsburgh. I also have had many questions about how this would impact my family,
and Lupton gives some very unique perspectives on this subject in this book. I am
grateful for the principles and stories he outlines in this book, which are in many ways
timeless due to the midrash process he utilized to pull out applicable information from
events that happened thousands of years ago. The most important principle I learned was
that it matters where the people of God choose to locate themselves.
Day 1: January 12, 2009
Wow, today was incredible! I have been looking forward to this day for a long
time, and it was such a great experience. My first class started this morning, and I am
writing this at night from my hotel room in downtown Seattle. About twenty students
from around the world are at this class, representing places such as America, India,
China, the Philippines, Amsterdam, Kenya, and Nigeria.
This morning the academic dean at BGU, Grace Barnes, gave a lecture about
being strangers since we are all meeting each other for the first time. She described the
nature of transition because this program is a major life transition for all students. She
also provided a helpful overview of the Transformational Leadership for the Global City
Then, Ray Bakke lectured for about an hour. This was a real treat for me as this
was the first time I have heard this amazing urban ministry leader speak. He talked about
how God is urbanizing the world. In 1900, only 8 percent of the world’s population lived
in cities. Now, over 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. Five hundred
eight cities in the world have over a million people. Bakke also discussed the need for
Christians to plunge into global urban ministry. In 1900, 80 percent of the world’s
Christians were white and Western. Now, 80 percent of Christians are outside the West.
China and India are the largest English speaking countries in the world. Africa is the
fastest growing urban continent.
Brad Smith, the president of BGU, then lectured about the unique learning
environment at BGU. He described it as structured, but also designed to incorporate
creativity, stories, and experiences into the learning model. Cities are the labs, and
students serve as the practitioners. The faculty will ask tough questions instead of simply
providing information. Sometimes even professors disagree on viewpoints, and they see
that as a good thing. This program is a pioneering environment for advanced learners. It
has an intentionally lower structure and higher dissonance.
I had lunch with Ronnie McCowan, an African American pastor from Kansas
City. He has a great life story, and it was fun meeting someone new. I am looking
forward to meeting many new and interesting people.
Brad Smith then lectured about his perspective on the world, and how it has
changed over the past century. Technology and a global economy have significantly
impacted the world, and especially ministry. Christians need to understand what is going
on in the world in order to engage effectively. He also gave an overview of urban
ministry 101: relief, development, and advocacy, or justice. He said that in urban
ministry while it is important to give someone a fish, it is also important to teach
someone how to fish. But, what happens when the lake is contaminated, or there is a
fence around the lake that keeps the person from fishing? Christians must also be
involved in advocacy and justice.
Ray Bakke then led us on a tour of downtown Seattle. Seattle is beautiful, and it
has experienced many collective accomplishments. However, it has also been built on
injustices, mostly to the Native American people who were here before settlers arrived.
We visited Columbia Tower, the tallest building in Seattle. Then, we walked across the
city to have dinner at a pizza restaurant in a huge mall. Bakke lectured as we walked,
explaining that Seattle is a Pacific Rim city now. It faces west across the Pacific to China
and Japan instead of east as it has typically in the past. When the freeway systems were
built in America, they were not neutral. Many people were discriminated against when
highways were built after World War II. He also discussed the analogy of Colossians and
Philippians in relation to urban ministry. Colossians tends to lead the reader to see how
Jesus is involved socially and in systems. Philippians tends to lead the reader to see how
Jesus is personal. What is needed most is a balance between the social and personal
perspectives of Christianity in order for leaders to be effective.
I must admit this first day was exciting and overwhelming. This was just the
beginning of my learning here, and I can already sense that my urban ministry paradigm
is being shifted. This hands-on learning model is a fit for me.
Also, I am learning from some amazing leaders. Everyone who lectures here
leads from a base of credibility in urban ministry developed over a number of years. All
of the leaders were impressive, but I was probably most impacted by the time with Ray
Bakke. Having read books about his unique perspectives on Christianity, it was a real
pleasure to interact with him for a whole day.
I love the diversity represented in my classmates who have traveled here from all
over the world. The table I sat at for dinner was representative of this. To my left was a
man who directs a mission organization in Kazakhstan. Beside him were two Africans,
one who pastors a church in Kenya and another man from Nigeria who attended seminary
in London and now serves as a missionary in Houston, Texas. To my right were two
women from Hong Kong who shared their experiences in training pastors in rural China.
This entire program ties in so well with LAMP and other outreach efforts at North
Way Christian Community. The information is practical, and I am so blessed to be
mentored by people who are on the cutting edge of innovation in the church and urban
ministry. I am very encouraged that the ministry efforts in Pittsburgh are on the right
track. Furthermore, I am being resourced and equipped for issues related to mentoring,
church and state partnerships, urban and suburban partnerships, cross-cultural
relationships, and much more.
Day 2: January 13, 2009
Today I spent most of the day in the lab, which is the city of Seattle. Before we
left this morning, a geographer named Ron Boyce gave a lecture about the nature of
cities. The special emphasis of his talk was on Seattle. He described the importance of
avoiding distractions while investigating a city. I should also try to understand the
importance of the shaping forces in history while discovering the present.
Next, Ray Bakke lectured about the difference between urbanization and
urbanism. Urbanization is the city described as a gigantic magnet. It sucks all of the
resources out of entire regions. Bakke said that urban people are identified by what they
do. Often when an urban man loses his job, it is devastating because he also loses his
identity. This is why many urban males do not go to church, and 70 percent of most
inner city church members are women. Many urban men do not want to go to a church
with a male pastor whose job, or identity, is stable when theirs is not. Emasculation
occurs when these men see the pastor’s name all over the bulletins and on the sign
entering the church. Urbanism is the city described as a magnifier, or the woofer and
tweeter of society. It is the city as a stage prop, a process by which urban ideas and
culture are spread throughout the world.
Many cities now are building up into airspace trying to draw rich people and
young professionals back in from the suburbs. So, taller buildings are being built, which
include condos to buy instead of apartments to rent. It is working, and these people are
moving back into cities which is forcing poor people out into the suburbs. This trend will
be important for the church to understand over the coming years. He also shared about
the importance of pastors being for their communities, not just of their communities. It is
important for pastors to partner with the police, clergy, school administrators, hospitals,
and other organizations that are a part of the fabric of the community.
Most of the rest of the day we explored Seattle. We went to First Presbyterian
Church, St. James Cathedral, Harborview Medical Center, Skid Row, World Relief, the
International District, Waterfall Garden, Occidental Park, Pioneer Square, and Pike Place
Market. The two highlights of this tour were World Relief and Pike Place Market.
At World Relief we learned about the difference between immigrants and
refugees. The organization is a Christian ministry helping to place refugees from around
the world in homes and communities in Seattle. Refugees are different from immigrants
in that they do not come to America out of choice. They come here because they are
forced to come, often as a result of conditions involving intense persecution, rape,
violence, or war. Their needs are great, but this is also an amazing opportunity to
minister to people in need.
Pike Place Market is a shopping area in Seattle which happens to be the number
one tourist attraction in the area. Ray Bakke challenged us to tour this facility for an
hour, and then come back to the group to discuss why a place like this could be so
successful and diverse. Most shopping malls are homogenous, just like most churches in
America. This area has managed to transcend any class or racial boundaries. What can
the church learn from Pike Place Market? How can churches become more multicultural
The biggest question posed for this day was by Randy White. He asked, “Do you
love your city as much as Ray Bakke loves Seattle?” I was challenged to really get to
know Pittsburgh. I generally know some things about Pittsburgh, but I have not
intentionally tried to develop a deep love and understanding of all of its people and
places. I am really looking forward to going through this process on my own, or perhaps
with some friends, when I return to Pittsburgh. I will now be viewing the city through a
I also need to continue to be intentional about building relationships in Pittsburgh.
This applies to relationships that go up to the powerful and down to the powerless. If I
am ever going to be an effective leader in LAMP over the coming years, my most
important role will be to invest in relationships.
Day 3: January 14, 2009
Today we had lectures all day from urban ministry leaders. Randy White talked
about conceptualizing the city, and specifically, how this applies to transformational
leadership. He asked us to imagine, see, hear, and sense what is going on in cities in
order to transform them. He presented the apostle Paul as a model of conceptualization.
When Paul arrived in Athens he took the time to observe the objects of worship in the
city. The city impacted him and he was deeply disturbed. Paul chose to engage in the
key sectors of the city, such as markets, synagogues, and political arenas, in order to
communicate the gospel. A physical exploration of cities is crucial in order to formulate
strategies. Urban leaders should seek to understand to trinity of a city. The Urbs are the
infrastructure of systems in the city, Anima is shared knowledge of the residents and their
unconscious beliefs and assumptions, and Civitas are the behaviors for which cities are
known for. Another type of trinity describes the city as religion, politics, and economics.
All cities are products of collective sin, and when things go wrong a religion of control,
an economics of exploitation, and a politics of oppression results.
H. Spees from Leadership Foundations of America then lectured about connecting
the city, or operationalizing unity. He gave a great overview of systems in cities, and
pointed out that great transformational leaders seek to understand systems so that they
can impact them. Cities are composed of institutions. Public schools, government, and
law enforcement make up the public sector. Media, business, and labor make up the
private sector. Religious groups, non-profits, and churches make up the social sector. A
healthy community sector involves all of these institutions working together for the
common good. A major breakdown occurs when these institutions do not work together.
The church can engage these institutions by understanding that there are hidden
Christians in each sector. Christian leaders can serve as connectors between institutions.
Christians with an overly individualized view of the gospel neglect the social aspects of
the gospel. Engaging in the city is complex, and it requires leaders who understand the
importance of building relationships. Christians seeking an easy or simple answer to city
issues are setting themselves up for failure in the long run.
David Hillis from Leadership Foundations of America then lectured about
concretizing organizations. He believes the way you do something is as important, if not
more important, than the thing being done. Many Christians are activity rich and
relationally poor. We have a high theology and low anthropology. He said the best
organizational leaders are trinitarian, which means they understand that the fundamental
truth is relational as represented in the triune Godhead. The trinitarian leader is also
incarnational by valuing relationships. Desire is an important aspect of this leadership
model, and leaders should also be transparent and give power away freely.
Kris Rocke from the Center for Transforming Leaders lectured on contextualizing
leadership. He said Jesus listened and reflected well, so good leaders should do likewise.
Many of us are conditioned to read scriptures from a position of power, but it is important
to learn to understand the Bible from the position of the powerless. Rocke believes
scripture is an invitation to a conversation. It is not a blueprint. God is big enough to
protect the integrity of the scriptures. He suggests prayer, praise, and pain are the three
gateways to transformation. Pain is the widest gateway to transformation, and we can
read scripture from the perspective of pain. Most of us have set up our lives to avoid
pain, and the greatest disability in the church today is the inability to suffer. We divorce
ourselves from painful places, and we become unable to enter effectively into the pain of
Damian Emetuche, a West African missionary to Seattle, lectured about
multicultural interactions and worldviews. He said that the West values time orientation,
dichotomistic thinking, crisis orientation, and task orientation. Many other cultures in the
world value event orientation, holistic thinking, noncrisis orientation, and person
orientation. It is important for American Christians to understand the worldviews, or life
philosophies, of other cultures. Relationships are vital, language is critical, a holistic
ministry approach is necessary, and people of a different culture can be viewed as a
potential ministry force.
Skip Li, an influential lawyer from Seattle who is Chinese, defined incarnational
leadership as leadership that transforms communities through personal relationships.
Jesus chose to come to earth to be one of us, and he transformed the world by the way he
did this. Jesus taught us all how to live incarnationally. Good leaders live intelligently.
Our culture is powerful, and it makes us conform to its way of thinking. Christians are
called to be countercultural. Actions are needed more than words in proclaiming the
gospel in this culture. Incarnational leadership tears down stereotypes in culture.
Brad Smith then lectured about the body of Christ around the world. He talked
about the concept of convergence. For Doctor of Ministry students, three things come
together: career, calling, and spirituality. Every 500 years something big happens in the
church, and we are due at about this time. Our earth is changing, and Christians need to
respond. Leaders understand history in order to be good stewards. Studying church
history requires discipline.
A lot of the information presented today challenged my worldview. The biggest
stretch came for me when Kris Rocke lectured on the topic of pain. Pain is very intimate,
and it drives a countercultural perspective on the gospel. As a leader with LAMP, this
has been a tough subject for me to try to implement. I do not know if I want to
understand the pain that my mentees experience every day. I do not know what it is like
to be fatherless, or to live in fear all of the time that someone might do something bad to
me, or what it is like to live in poverty all of the time. I feel much more comfortable if I
think that I am able to lead the kids that I work with out of pain and generational poverty,
a process that is itself painful and complex.
I was challenged when Brad Smith lectured on the geography of the world, and
how the world is changing in the global culture. I seem to like my place in the world,
even if I do not admit it. I am uncomfortable when I am required to wrestle with global
and urban perspectives from around the world that are shaping Christian ministry in this
So how does all of this apply to my ministry context? How does it apply to North
Way, or LAMP, or Pittsburgh, or America, or the world? I was presented with many
different viewpoints today, and many different perspectives on the world and the
importance of God in it. It seems to me that all of it is applicable. Every time I hear a
new perspective on the gospel, or how it applies to someone else’s context, I gain a new
perspective on how it applies to my context.
Day 4: January 15, 2009
This morning I led a devotional time for the whole group with two new African
American friends, Richard and Ronnie. We sang an old hymn followed by a good time
of reflection. After the devotion, Randy White divided us into three groups for a visual
debriefing of what we learned on the previous day. I was in the artistic group, and we
drew symbols that represented the collision of cities with the kingdom of God.
After this brief exercise we visited an organization called New Horizons. This is
a faith-based youth facility that provides services to over 1,500 street children each year.
Our tour guide was Ron Ruthruff, who Ray Bakke introduced as the most gifted youth
leader in the country. We toured the facility, examining the fellowship spaces such as the
waiting room, cafeteria, and chapel. This holistic ministry model to street kids involves
outreach, relationships, a place to belong, food, life discovery, and a mentoring program
called Adoptive Life Skills Mentorships. This was a career-based mentoring program
where adolescents shadow a mentor for eight to ten hours per week for a minimum of one
year. Over 2 million children in America run away from home each year. Areas like
Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco have a large amount of street children because of the
climate and culture. Ron said that 80 percent of the street kids have suffered from some
type of physical or sexual abuse from their families. New Horizons has an intentionally
diverse staff that includes about a 50 percent black or Hispanic population. Although
alcohol and drugs are prominent in street children, the biggest problem for street kids is
prostitution. Over 50 percent of street children are involved in prostitution. New
Horizons also utilizes an effective volunteer management system, and they have very
high standards for volunteer outreach workers. This kind of volunteer work is very
demanding, so it is not for everyone.
We left New Horizons and went to the Church on the Hill, led by a young man
named Jason Hubbard. He planted a church that now meets in an old building that is
used as an underground theater. This church intentionally ministers to people on the
margins of society. The churchgoers are a very diverse group of people. Our group
discussed the first chapter of Daniel, which describes how Daniel was an adolescent
growing up in Babylonian captivity. We examined this chapter of the Bible with context,
a summary, theological application, and anthropology. Hubbard said that many churches
today rush to the anthropology of scripture, but there is much to be learned and applied
by examining scripture through other areas. The simple purpose of Church on the Hill is
to connect life with Jesus. The church values relationships, not growth figures.
After lunch each of us had about ten minutes to share our testimonies, and it was
an amazing experience hearing all of the life stories of people from all over the world. I
shared about the move Julie and I made to California, then to Ohio, and on to Pittsburgh.
There were many amazing positive and painful situations along that journey!
I was really impacted by the presentation at New Horizons. I was confirmed in
my interest to pursue urban youth ministry as my specialization at BGU. I love planning
new ways to reach young people. I was impressed by the way New Horizons had thought
out specific details of their ministry. Ruthruff is really living out God’s calling on his
life. I hope that I can develop such an understanding of the needs of troubled youth in
America as him. I love to meet people who are passionate about their callings. I also
picked up a great deal of insight into New Horizons’ mentoring program. They have high
standards for their mentors, which is also a strong point of LAMP. Over the years
Ruthruff had progressed to the point that he did not let anyone work directly with kids
unless they committed to serve at least once a week for at least one year. This is very
similar to LAMP! Relationships do matter to children, and we as leaders do not need to
introduce any additional harmful or short term adult relationships into their already
The Church on the Hill was a new experience for me. I have heard of these types
of churches in Pittsburgh, but I have not visited any of them to try to learn how God is
moving in these types of congregations. I was fortunate to see a great picture of a church
that is reaching people on the margins, the type of people that many Christians try to
avoid. Many churches are more concerned with sending missions groups overseas than
in reaching out to people in troubled parts of their own cities.
I learned a lot about urban youth ministry today. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed
by LAMP in Pittsburgh because of the nature of the children that we serve. After
experiencing this organization in Seattle, I do not feel as overwhelmed. I only hope that I
am able to demonstrate the kind of leadership that is necessary to sustain a mentoring
partnership over time. I did sense the affirmation for continuing to hold high standards
for the mentors who want to get involved in LAMP. It is much better to have them
commit for a year than it is to push an uncommitted volunteer through the system just
because we need more mentors.
I also better understood the role of a leader today. I need to be vigilant in
equipping and connecting with the volunteers who participate in LAMP and the other
urban ministries at North Way. Relationships are the key to LAMP’s mission.
Day 5: January 16, 2009
Ray Bakke started the day off with a lecture on reflective leadership. This year
marks his 50th
year in ministry, so he gave us an overview of his life experiences over the
years. People have accused Bakke of being anti-rural, but he told us that was not true.
He values all environments, including urban, suburban, or rural. If we are all made by
God, there is no reason to hate or dislike people based on where they choose to live.
Bakke’s experiences as a young pastor propelled him into a lifelong journey to
explore a theology of the city. Many Christians view cities as evil places, believing that
God is only found in the wilderness. However, the word city is found 1,250 times in the
Bible. Over 140 cities are mentioned in the Bible. In urban theology, cities are all
connected. Urban and suburban areas are connected to one another. Suburbs are the
sisters of cities, and we need to love them just like we would our own family member.
He said James Dobson fails to consider the community as a part of the family, and he
disagrees with Dobson’s view of the family as only a nuclear unit. Bakke challenged us
to read Genesis 41 and 47 to determine if Joseph was a capitalist or a socialist. Actually,
he was both. Daniel is another fascinating case study in urban ministry.
The New Testament is an urban book. Paul’s missionary strategies focused on
cities in order to spread the Gospel. Theology should be shaped by scripture, history,
context, and the church. Western theology is viewed in lateral, or horizontal, terms. For
instance, how far can we send missionaries around the world? Eastern theology is
viewed vertically. For instance, will the next generation embrace Christ in light of the
past two thousand years of Christian history? Both horizontal and vertical aspects of the
great commission are essential to an effective missiology.
Bakke gave an overview of urban theology from the Old Testament through such
examples as Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ruth, each of whom God used differently to
transform cities. The book of Matthew opens by presenting grandmothers of the faith
from the Old Testament. They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheeba. Each woman
was a foreigner where she lived, and God uses this as a reminder that foreigners and
people who are different than us should never be left out of missions work. Mary and
Joseph were both descendants of these women. God chose scandalous blood lines to
incorporate into His own body. By doing this, Jesus smashed racism! He was the mixed-
racial Savior of the world! He was also an Asian-born baby who became an African
refugee, as noted in the story of the flight to Egypt. In knowing how God values all of
these things, how should this shape our current views in America on race and
Janet Morrow, founder of the TRUST organization in Chicago, lectured about
engaging stakeholders in cities in working toward transformation of cities. She really
believes that all Christian leaders need to be able to understand and influence systems.
Many Christians, especially those with an overly individualized view of the Gospel, tend
to shy away from systems because they think they are all evil or corrupt. Actually, God
calls us to engage systems. There are many examples of this throughout the Bible.
Systematic change works best because we are all connected.
Grace Barnes then lectured on servant leadership. This was an interesting topic in
a group as diverse as this class. Servant leadership is a bottom up approach in which
leaders lead by serving. The hierarchy is turned upside down, and the leader views their
role as equipping others to succeed. It is a leadership style that is focused on other
people. Although servant leadership is important, it cannot and should not be the only
type of leadership style used by a good leader. Leadership is a paradox. For instance,
personal development in a leader is also important.
Today’s content was very interesting. Christianity is a countercultural way of life,
and servant leadership is countercultural. I know plenty of leaders who I would not
consider to be servant leaders. They lead authoritatively. Many of these leaders are not
reflective, and they are not very interested in personal development. I enjoy serving
others, but it is not something I do when I get overcommitted. I really need to make sure
I remain in the mode of servant leadership as much as possible.
I would love to learn to be more reflective. As an example, moving to California
to teach was a great cross-cultural experience for me. I remember the very first class I
taught. It was about 110 degrees outside, and four teachers brought their first grade
students to me for a physical education class. As these children sat and listened to my
instructions, I suddenly realized that about 50 percent of them had no idea what I was
saying because they only spoke Spanish! Also, 80 percent of my students were Hispanic.
It became very obvious that I would need to change my approach. I was really stretched
through this experience to try to understand the struggles of immigrants in America. I
wish I would have understood reflective and contextual leadership better during that time.
Moving back to Pittsburgh to work with LAMP was another similar learning
curve for me. As a leader, I had to navigate through many cross-cultural issues as a result
of serving children in the Homewood and East Hills neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.
Thankfully, Errika Jones from the Pittsburgh Board of Education was an excellent mentor
and she was very patient with me. She continues to model effective cross cultural
relationships, and systematic thinking, for many people in Pittsburgh. Joanne
Galinowski, one of our LAMP partners from Family Guidance, Inc., is also very effective
at cross-cultural relationships. I continue to be grateful for her servant leadership style as
I share these personal stories because they are a part of my journey toward
hopefully becoming a better follower of Jesus. I am enrolled in this DMin program at
BGU to broaden my worldview and strengthen my leadership abilities. I am trying to
develop an understanding of the whole body of Christ, not just a white American view of
God. Only 13 percent of the world’s population is white. Less than 5 percent of the
world’s population is American, yet American Christians seem to have an ingrained
imperialistic mindset. My journey in life definitely involves a process of changing my
Day 6: January 17, 2009
We traveled to Ray Bakke’s home, called Bakken, today. This was quite an
experience. He lives about two hours away from Seattle, and his home is gorgeous! He
lives on twelve acres, and his property includes a trail of twenty different locations called
the mission trail. Each stop, or stake in the ground, represented a century of the Christian
The trail was a unique experience because Bakke is such a student of Christian
history. His mind is like an encyclopedia. He is a life long learner. Also, he loves to
share what he has learned with other people. For instance, his library has over 9,000
books from all over the world organized by time and topic.
After a lunch of Chinese food, Corean Bakke played a concert on her piano from
the main room of their home. She has an amazing gift, and she must have performed
fifteen songs from memory on her piano. I was amazed by her abilities. After the
concert we toured the house and property for a while. Then, we went to Ray and Lowell
Bakke’s childhood home a few miles away. The property is currently being utilized as a
retreat center. It was also quite an amazing place.
I loved every minute of this day! This was an amazing experience to learn from a
leader who has led so many people around the world over the past fifty years. Ray Bakke
is truly serving as a mentor to me, and I am so privileged to be experiencing this
I have considered living incarnationally in Homewood as a possible next step, but
the thought of continuing to live on the LAMP Post property is also very appealing. The
LAMP Post is six acres of property that I currently live on which I use for ministry
purposes. Bakken is a great example of the concept of utilizing a rural property for
ministry purposes. The cabin is available for people to stay for a while to write their
dissertations. The library is available for students. The concert piano is available to
people for concerts. In many ways, the Bakkes continue to give themselves away as
transformational leaders even though they are no longer in an urban environment. I hope
that I am always able to be transformational as well, regardless of whether I stay on the
LAMP Post property or move to the inner city.
When I return to Pittsburgh I would like to spend some time with my mentees in
places that have historical significance. Many of the young people I work with are
caught up in the distractions of modern life, such as television, video games, and music.
Many of them lack an understanding of a vertical reality, so it will be important to
introduce them to experiences rooted in history. This time spent at Bakken has helped
me to find my place within the broader context of God’s redemptive plan for the ages.
The young people in my life also need to find their unique place in God’s plan. It is
important for all people to find their purpose, and it is much easier to find with a healthy
understanding of where the church has been and where the church is going.
I am looking forward to having a day off. We have really been pushing over this
past week, and it will be good to have a chance to reflect on what I have learned. In my
ministry context, I push very hard and then I do my best to make sure that I get time away
from everything to rest. That principle applies to this course as well. I pushed very hard
this week, so I need to make sure I rest so that I can be refreshed for next week. My goal
is to spend some time with my Lord and Savior on this adventure in Seattle.
Day 7: January 18, 2009
Today I had a day off from studying, so I decided to explore some more of the
city before watching the Steelers game this afternoon. I walked about ten blocks
downhill from my hotel to the Seattle waterfront. The weather was perfect! I spent some
time in the Seattle Aquarium. A friend of mine once told me that there is nothing more
relaxing in life that looking at fish. I think there is some truth to that! My favorite fish
was one that glowed in the dark in order to attract prey.
After the Aquarium I headed up to Pike Place Market where I bumped into four
friends from Overture I. They invited me to have lunch with them at a seafood buffet, so
of course I had to join them. I can never pass up a buffet! This informal time together
was actually a great time to get to know one another. The had gone to Rob Bell’s church
that morning, and I thought it was interesting that I never thought to go to church on my
day off while I was in Seattle. It made me think about the concept of having church on
Sunday morning, versus the church experience I had gained throughout the week during
my conversations with others and field experiences in the city.
I went on a boat tour of Puget Sound after lunch. The tour guide said that Seattle
has 220 cloudy days each year, but today I was blessed with perfect sunshine. I could see
for miles in all directions. I love exploring the west coast. It is such an adventure.
Seattle is set against a dramatic backdrop of hills, islands, and snow capped mountains on
all sides. Also, most of the skyscrapers were built after the World Fair in the 1960s so
the skyline is very modern. The most interesting part of the tour was the huge boats,
cranes, and locks in the shipyard areas. As was the case with most of this trip, it was a lot
to take in! I reflected on God’s amazing natural creation all around me, and I reflected on
the amazing vocational gifts God has blessed people with related to the building of ships,
bridges, and buildings. Even the tour guide on the boat was passionate about his job. I
think I am starting to understand the concept of common grace in society. God is
everywhere even though we live in a fallen world. His beauty can be found everywhere,
and I am enjoying it here in this area.
I rested in my hotel room and watched the Steelers game after the boat ride. Go
Steelers! They are going to the Super Bowl! I cannot wait to get back to Pittsburgh
because there is nothing like a city that is involved in a sports championship run. It is an
incredible sense of community. I also cannot wait to get back to Pittsburgh because I
miss my wife and kids so much. Two weeks is a long time to be away. I am glad many
of the trips I will be taking over the next few years will be only one week in length.
I have a goal to travel internationally once I have graduated from this program. I
am encouraged that I will be able to build up a solid network of global relationships
through BGU over time. I wonder what adventures God has in store for me and my
family. Will my ministry experience in Pittsburgh translate over into other cultures?
Will my experiences in other cultures translate back into my ministry context in
Pittsburgh? This time in Seattle is a great way to see if takeaways will be applicable in
I am so thankful for everyone who is praying for me! This whole experience is
causing me to depend on God in a way that I never have before. It is amazing how God
meets us when we take risks.
Day 8: January 19, 2009
This morning Brad Smith lectured about theology, which he defined as the
scientific study of God. People can study God from a detached perspective, so the term
has lost much of its meaning. BGU is interested in submitting to God, and trying to
understand Him in relevant ways. The intent of the author is very important when
studying the Bible. The understanding of God is superintended by the Holy Spirit. God
wants to know us by incarnation, the Bible, tradition, and general revelation. Systematic
theology is important, but it has also produced many varying forms of cultural
Christianity. BGU values Biblical theology instead of one particular type of systematic
theology, and consistency with scripture is important.
Other cultures and major religions are becoming more open to Christianity. This
is true, in part, because of some of the impact of globalization. When other world
religions become more Christian over time and people are searching for answers, will the
church have trained leaders who are prepared to take this on? Global theology urges
Christians to search for common language with other religions while maintaining certain
concepts, such as Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, as nonnegotiable. Through this
missional lens, Christians will need to bring back the first commission with the Great
The key to all of this is stewardship, which is taking care of something that
belongs to someone else. Smith pointed out that we were created to work as stewards of
the Earth. God’s creation is now corrupt and we have reduced power and purity as
stewards, a concept called futility. Three of the most difficult areas of our stewardship
are power, money, and human sexuality, yet Christians are the only ones who can
ultimately steward these areas as intended by God. Four ways to approach power,
money, and human sexuality are through piety, consumerism, pragmatism, or
According to Smith, we are created to be in business. Business for stewardship
and mission sees its purpose is to serve the needs of society, both locally and cross-
culturally, in a way that transforms economies, societies, cultures and people’s
connections to God. When Christians detach themselves from the business of the world,
it creates much pain and confusion. Reclaiming the original purpose of business is part
of our stewardship. Humans were made for working, being in community, making
decisions, reproducing, and worshiping. The world becomes dysfunctional if we fail to
do even one of these things. We are supposed to have a stewardship theology. It is not
complicated, just reorienting.
Neal Johnson, the dean of the business school at BGU, then spoke more about a
theology of work. Christians should not detach from the business world. There needs to
be a dialogue between the pew and the pulpit, and a clear connection between Sunday
and Monday. Transformation in communities will not begin without involving the
business world. A secular/sacred divide has been perpetuated by the church. Decision
making in business should be informed by scripture. God wants us to come alongside
people in business. Living the gospel throughout the week is important to God, and
pastors should see themselves as equippers of people living out their callings in the
Jack Van Hartsfelt, a BGU board member and businessman, then lectured about
the role of the business world in partnering with churches for community projects. He
showed a video of a church renovation project he led as a businessman that took two
weekends and involved over 800 volunteers. He stressed the importance of coming
alongside people who are already out there doing big things, with the mindset of
equipping them with resources and visionary leadership.
Lowell Bakke spoke about the local church and a theology of work. He defined
theology of work as the calling of God in the lives of people. He shared about his
brothers, Ray and Dennis, and the difference in their callings. Ray has been successful in
missions in life, and Dennis has been successful in business. Both have felt equally
called by God to their areas of impact. The church should pay more attention to
equipping people who have a calling for business. Is the church’s role to attract people
from the community to the church, or is it to send people from the church to invest in the
community? Is Sunday more important for churches than the other six days of the week?
Sometimes church programs actually lead people away from their callings in the world.
Maybe when 20 percent of the people are doing 80 percent of the work in church
programs, it is because the other 80 percent of the people are out in the world potentially
making a difference where the people in need are.
After lunch Brad Smith showed us a feature film called Power Trip. The story
was about Dennis Bakke’s company, AES, who tried to solve the electricity problem in
the country of Georgia. It was an amazing story about how corporations can make a very
positive or negative impact in the world. It emphasized the need for Christians to
empower and equip people in business for the sake of gains in the kingdom.
My first analysis of all of this is that it seems to make sense, but it is going to take
me a while to process through it all. I hope to develop more of a theology of work, but
that is difficult to do working in a full time ministry environment.
One of the most tangible things I can do when I get back to Pittsburgh is to start
valuing business and government leaders more in light of the unique position to which
God has called them. In fact, over time I would hope that I will be able to encourage
people more effectively to understand their worth and influence in the world as it relates
to God’s purposes. As a mentor I would like to help my mentees to develop their
Day 9: January 20, 2009
This morning Ron Ruthruff spoke to our group. Ruthruff’s life has been to
advocate for troubled adolescents at the government and policy level. Adolescents are
just children, but most policies impacting them are formed for adults. Adolescents are
stuck in the middle between childhood and adulthood, rural and urban, and between
being kids of color and being white. Because of the way cities are set up, children all
over the country are listening to hip hop music and playing violent video games. For the
first time, young people are living in a world where the future is more fascinating to them
than the past. This comes as a result of modern culture. Young people are more cross-
cultural than adults, and they often know more than we do in areas such as technology.
We need to provide culturally appropriate services for children, biologically,
psychologically, socially, developmentally, and physically. Also, ministry models for at-
risk youth need to leave room for failure. Young people have been asked to grow up
even though they are not really developmentally prepared for adulthood. If young people
are obsessed with the future, they know more than we do in many areas, and they are
obsessed with individuality, then the question stands: How do we set up mentoring
relationships for these young people that takes these issues into consideration?
Many children are victims of abuse, and they are only able to become functional
adults if they have anchors in their lives. Anchors provide a support network to guide
adolescents through difficult years and traumatic experiences. Anchors are relatives,
schools, churches, programs, and mentors. When children do not have enough anchors in
their lives, they become troubled adults.
Cognitively, the older a person is, the better they cope. Children become
extremely desensitized to violence and sexuality if they experience it commonly at a
young age. Morally, children begin to develop discrepancies between those who have
power and those who do not if they are subjected to trauma at a young age. This often
leads to rebellion against authority in adolescents who have experienced trauma.
Children develop identities from what is right and what is. Adolescents form identities
from what is wrong and what is not. This is a gateway to rebellion. Adolescents form
identity based on person fable and imaginary audience. Young people can navigate
through all kinds of troubles when they are given the right kind of anchors. This is why
mentoring is so crucial!
In the late morning several people lectured about the missional and practicing
approaches to church. Our role as a church is to announce, demonstrate, and embody the
good news of Jesus Christ. Many churches seem to have different callings within the
body of Christ. Relationships are the key, and in many cases, people feel like they need
to belong before they believe. Churches love to create bounded sets, where people know
who is in and who is out. By contrast, in churches with a centered set everybody is
welcome and considered to be moving toward a relationship with Jesus. When people
belong to a faith community before they believe, it creates a mess. What do you do with
a gay couple, people who are living together, or Muslims who are seeking? Some pastors
prefer to have the mess of the centered set because the mess of the bounded set is even
more difficult to navigate through. In the bounded set, people take their struggles and
problems underground so that nobody talks about them and they are eventually
manifested in a major way at a later date.
Pastors can decide to grow a church big rather than grow a big church. This is
done through connections, conversations, and collaborations. Followers of Jesus serve in
three realms: personal, local, and global. The goal for Christians is spiritual
transformation into Christ’s likeness for the sake of the world. Our spiritual disciplines
empower us to go out into the world with what God gives us. If you depend on the
offering plate to grow missional dreams, it may not happen. Churches should also seek
Many pastors are more concerned about the view of insiders than outsiders. This
is wrong! People rate their pastors just like movies or restaurants. This is wrong! In
many churches, over 80 percent of the resources go toward creating a show, or program,
that draws people to the church. This is wrong! When people get bored with a church,
they just leave and go to another competing church with a better show. This is wrong!
Churches are becoming a business, or professional religion. They are developing
beliefism, which is the worship of right beliefs also known as our beliefs. In America,
we have generated a culture of professional Christians. There is really not much of a
foundation of professional ministry in the Bible. It is just something we have created.
The truth business leads to the morality business. Churches should be practicing
churches: personally, locally, and globally.
In the afternoon we toured a Four Square Church that has several different
multicultural churches operating within it, including English, Iranian, Spanish, and
Korean. It was an interesting glimpse into a model of diversity in the kingdom of God
that is not usually implemented in homogenous churches around the country. We also
discovered how this church is partnering with their local community through the police
department, nonprofit organizations, and city hall. BGU values diversity and
partnerships, and today I was able to see examples of these ideals in progress.
LAMP and the externally focused church movement at North Way stood out as
practical applications in my ministry context based on my experiences today. LAMP is
critical because we are working as mentors to so many troubled young people in the city
of Pittsburgh. The externally focused church initiative is critical because it provides a
framework for mobilizing the body of Christ in a strategic manner in areas all over
Pittsburgh and around the world. Christians are called by God to engage culture, and
influence the world.
I am also interested in learning how North Way can become a more diverse
community. I would like to be able to do this intentionally, perhaps through future multi-
site efforts in Pittsburgh. Even if we are unable to utilize our multi-site strategies to
become a more diverse congregation, would it be possible for us to use our new space for
other international communities to hold services in our facilities at different times of the
day on Saturday or Sunday?
Day 10: January 21, 2009
Two weeks is a long time to be away from my family! I am so thankful that my
wife has been so supportive of this time away, and I am also thankful for the prayers and
support that I have felt from my friends. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite the difficulties involved in life away from home, this Overture I class in Seattle
has been a life changing experience.
This morning Grace Barnes talked to us about balancing our lives while we are
working on a doctorate degree. Balance is not really a good word to use, because it
makes it seem that we have to make room in our lives to juggle another major
commitment. Instead, she asked us to integrate. Achieving balance is not possible, but
we can integrate. As an example of this, I should connect what I am learning,
researching, and writing into everything I am doing with LAMP and North Way. This
way it just integrates into what I am already doing, and my work will benefit as well. I
also need to find good mentors in Pittsburgh who will help me along the way. Mind
mapping is another helpful tool in staying on top of this amount of work. It is a process
where I take the time to focus on using my right brain to think creatively about my work.
Finally, I could try different reading and scanning styles to process through all of the
information I will be reading.
Judi Melton then talked to us about the importance of our personal learning
community. All of my assignments, including these journal entries, should be written to
people who know me. BGU requires students to involve their family members, friends,
and colleagues so that the innovative work can have a broader impact in the kingdom of
Ken Fong then lectured about organizational leadership. He believes that all
organizations are constantly changing. Static organizations are actually dying a slow
death. All organizations are either experiencing a slow death or deep change. He then
shared a seven step process that all organizations can apply to help deal with deep
change. The process involved questions that organizations should ask themselves. When
navigating change, is there enough leadership in place? What opportunities and
challenges are facing us today? Given who we are today, what do we see ourselves
becoming in the future? Do we have sufficient energy or motivation to take advantage of
our challenges and opportunities, while moving toward our future? How will we develop
goal oriented strategies on both organizational and individual levels that will most
effectively enable us to realize our future? With whom do we need to partner
organizationally and individually in order to effectively carry out our strategy and how
should we best develop those partnerships? Is there sufficient leadership to sustain
desired organizational change?
In the afternoon, Dave Pollard and Wes Johnson talked about spiritual formation.
Pollard described spiritual formation in terms of longing, listening, knowing, and
celebrating. He referred to Dallas Willard’s argument that spiritual formation is character
formation. Johnson led us through a process of transformational prayer and biblical
meditation. We basically studied some scriptures and spent some time in them to apply
their meaning to our hearts. It required a certain level of silence, which is not something
that comes natural to me. I am more of an active learner, so silence and meditation on
scripture are not practices that I spend a whole lot of time doing. I am hoping to learn
how to rest quietly in the Lord more often.
As I reflect on this day, I learned that I need to take more time to focus on the
spiritual discipline of being quiet and resting in God. Also, I can work with LAMP kids
to focus on being more contemplative when much of their lives are based on distractions.
I was able to connect the organizational leadership principles to both North Way
and LAMP. With North Way, I gained a new appreciation for the way that Pastor Jay
Passavant and the executive team have navigated through change over the past couple of
years. Although it has been a rough road at times, they were not afraid to take risks and
lead the organization in a new direction to overcome the forces of change in Pittsburgh.
With LAMP, I am learning that I need to continue to lead and cast vision well to navigate
through the various changes that we have encountered and will continue to encounter as
we move forward. We can never land in a place where we are comfortable with the
status quo, especially since we have children waiting for a mentor.
Day 11: January 22, 2009
The end is in sight! I really love this course work at BGU, but I am ready to be
home in Pittsburgh with my family and friends. I am sensing that everyone here is
feeling this same way. This has been a once in a lifetime experience, but we are ready to
begin implementing all that we have learned.
I was talking to Randy White today, explaining that I feel like I now have a tool
kit for urban ministry in Pittsburgh. Throughout the course of these past two weeks I
have learned about many different ministry models for urban and complex environments.
So much of what I have learned is directly applicable to LAMP and North Way.
This morning, we were asked to pick out three main ideas that we are taking back
with us to our ministry contexts. My three were: live intelligently, love Pittsburgh, and
embrace change. I think all of these ideas will help me tremendously when I return to
Our morning lecturer was Tim Svoboda, who served as a missionary in India for
almost thirty years, and who more recently has served as the director of YWAM outreach
efforts in San Francisco. He gave us a great history of missions work in India since the