An Adolescent’s Identity Influences Their Decision and Choices

The life narratives of young people significantly impact their motivational profile as responsible agents and owners of their choices and actions. Duke University professor of philosophy Owen Flanagan defines life narratives as “imposing continuity on those salient experiences that serve to define the individual and enable persons to understand themselves and to be re-identified as the same entity over time.” The experiences that provide meaning to young people are framed by an amalgamation of lived experiences and memories. An adolescent’s assumed identity will be based on how well they have been prepared to process the sum of the identifications, real or perceived, superimposed on them by the common societal narratives within their community. The continuous and constant messages they receive influence the decisions and choices they make about who they are (identity) and how they feel about themselves (introspections).

Identity and introspection play a significant role in determining the self-conception and value adolescents ascribe to themselves. Identities are composed of self-identity, cultural and racial identity, collective identity, and identity in Christ. David Jopling defines identities as “the repositories for much of what we absorb in the world and are filters through which our lived experience is processed and interpreted.” Introspections are composed of self-awareness, self-understanding, self-experience, self-respect, self-worth, self-evaluation and self-verification. Ulric Neisser defines introspections as “levels of consciousness of oneself as the subject captured through self-specifying information from differing origins and social experiences.”

Youth are active agents in a broad ecology of relationships and every adult brings or provides different sets of social supports. Author Bonnie Benard, credited with creating the Resiliency Framework, says, “Studies have shown that caring and support are the most powerful adolescent development tools because they address a shared humanity and transcend ethnic, social class, geographical, and historical boundaries. It is the need for love, respect, connectedness, meaningful involvement and belonging.” Social support can be defined as “an individual’s perceptions of general support or specific supportive behaviors (available or enacted upon) from people in their social network which enhances functioning and/or may buffer them from adverse outcomes.” The development of resilience is disrupted when social location, social interaction, and individual experiences challenge normal youth development.


Protective factors such as family support system, a good educational environment, a church home, after school activities and sports play a role in helping youth overcome the potential negative effects associated with experiences and interactions faced in their community. The National Research Council defines protective factor as “a characteristic at the biological, psychological, family, or community (including peers and culture) level that is associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor on problem outcomes.” While the parents and family members have the primary responsibility for providing the protective factors to overcome risk, on a symbolic or experiential level, mentors are an important contributor to the adolescent through their relational activities. Researcher Dennis Roedder says, “Relationships socialize youth and subsequently encourage identity development.” The adolescent’s development and ability to process their experiences depends on trustworthy interactions with the adults, peers, and community in which they reside. Erik Erickson says, “Identity formation employs a process of simultaneous reflection and observation, a process taking place on all levels of mental functioning, by which the individual judges himself in the light of what they perceives to be the way in which others judge them in comparison to themselves.”


When provided the tools to grapple jointly with developing a resilient response to their challenges, youth can use societal challenges as motivation to fuel their destiny rather than as roadblocks that lead them in a negative direction. Some use things like academics, athletics, or the arts as agency and motivation to succeed and disprove the narrative. For others, their awareness of societal inconsistencies overwhelms their identity development. The constant internal negotiation of their identity, contextualized by their surrounding conditions, can lead to the conscious choice of an oppositional stance in order to survive. They ignore the real consequences of embracing a high-risk lifestyle as they internalize mounting frustrations and make life-altering decisions to define who they are by what they are against.


Well-formed identities can only be incrementally changed by social context and relationships. Youth make thousands of decisions each day in response to their understanding of their experiences; each decision having a cumulative effect on their future. Their experiences lead to a need to share not only their hopes, dreams, and experiences but also their questions, disappointments, and fears while depending on adults to help them discern unspoken moods and desires to ensure proper decision making and implementation. Never stop speaking and living truth into their lives, but don’t be surprised if they don’t immediately care to hear or embrace what you are saying. On one hand our youth are living lives that create a common source of conflict about their future:

  • They don’t know where they are;
  • They don’t know where they are going;
  • They don’t know when they will get there;
  • They don’t want to be told what they should be doing;
  • They are in a great hurry to go somewhere.

While at the same time they are moldable, tender, wanting guidance; capable of great loyalty and commitment. When youth have no vision to see down the road, they don’t know how to live their lives. Their present has meaning only when they see the purpose and plan of their future.


The imperatives of how adults respond are based on the indicatives of who they are and the order is not reversible. In other words, what we think or believe about someone will determine how we define them, which will influence the way we treat them. Charged with providing developmental guidance to young people, we are called to seek the knowledge and understanding to become culturally attuned and prepared to support the challenges of identity development. Youth need adults to understand them and invest time to build relationships. Human nature is relational by definition. Relationships shape understandings, expectations, desires, and ideas about what is possible. We all can thrive in relational communities. The importance of this is that experiences affect their self-concept; self-concept is key to an achieved identity and social location plays a significant role in authenticating one’s self-concept. If we can compassionately accompany young people as their identities are amplified, challenged and rearranged by adolescent experiences then their identity will be secure and their decisions and choices will move them in a positive direction toward their DESTINY. Youth just need support and direction. Who knows, we may be helping the next doctor, lawyer, business owner or president.

Out of Purpose Comes A Servant

Every day God gives to us should be seen as “An Opportunity for Service.” Often the adversary will cause us to put emphasis on “the woes of this life” or “what we don’t have.” His desire is for us to concentrate on the negative that then leads us to be bound in a state of depression & helplessness. But when God allows us life, with our hearts to keep pumping and our lungs to inhale & exhale precious oxygen…. We owe God praise! “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)

And with each new day comes an occasion (or opportunity) to minister (or serve others). True ministry is not what others do for you, it’s what you can do for someone else. Remember Jesus declared, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister…” (Mark 10:45) What have you done for someone today? What kind words of encouragement have you given? What good deed have you administered? Consider the words of an old Christian song:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,

If I can show somebody, how they’re traveling wrong,

Then my living shall not be in vain.”

Study the lesson of ‘the good Samaritan’ in the 10th chapter of Luke. When a man was in distress and needed assistance, both a priest and a Levite (the religious ‘church folk’) passed him by and didn’t want to get involved! But when the Samaritan saw the man, the scriptures declared, “…he had compassion on him.” That compassion moved him to make the effort to get involved! The Samaritan saw the opportunity for service and made that his priority, even at his personal cost! At the conclusion of lesson, Jesus tells us, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37 NIV)

Today, understand you’ve been blessed to help someone else!

Thank you to Pastor A. Glenn Brady of The New Bethel Church for your inspiration.

Building Leadership with Thought-Provoking Questions

Today I read an article from Leadership That Creates the Future and want to share it with those of you who are engaging in Community Engagement, Revitalization or Restoration.  The environment you create as a leader is more important than the persona you want to project.  True leadership is about others, not yourself.  Enjoy reading:


Building Leadership with Thought-Provoking Questions

Posted on March 16, 2015

Leadership – there are likely few topics in the world about which more has been written. With so many resources and sometimes contradictory theories to consider (think “Servant Leadership” and “Machiavellian”), finding a personal leadership style that feels authentically “you” can sometimes seem like an unending quest. Establishing the leadership culture in an organization can be an equally challenging and continuously evolving process.

Leadership That Creates the Future reached out to experts in Creating the Future’s Facebook group for consultants to community benefit organizations and asked them –What compelling questions about leadership do you like to explore? Their questions provide a framework for discovering personal insights, values, and beliefs that can help anyone on a journey toward reaching their highest potential as a leader.

Consider the following:

• How do you approach conflict and confrontation?

• How do you identify what motivates your team – not just imposing what motivates you onto them – and how do you use that to inspire greatness?

• How do you identify and develop natural leaders in your community – those with no formal power but to whom people listen?

• How do you help develop everyone’s leadership abilities?

• How do you create an environment where others feel safe to fail?

• How do great system or network leaders differ, if at all, from great organizational leaders?

• How do we help our followers become great followers?

• What would be possible if we stopped talking about leaders and, instead, focused on leadership?

• What do we hope that leadership makes possible and how can everyone benefit as a result of it?

• How do we move away from “hero” leadership (focused on individual traits) to transformational leadership (focused on positive social change)?

• How do we make leadership more inclusive?

Through a thoughtful exploration of questions such as these, leaders, potential leaders, and followers can better identify the conditions through which leadership can make a positive difference in our organizations, communities, and the world.

What are some additional questions that are helping you to identify the principles and practices that shape you and your organization’s approach to leadership?


Thank you to Freya Bradford, Kimberly Diggs Lauth, Jane Garthson, Andrea John-Smith, Joyce Lee-Ibarra, Rhonda Lorch, Justin Pollock, and Kelly Trusty for contributing questions for this blog post.


Leadership That Creates the Future:

Freya Bradford: LinkedIn

Kimberly Diggs Lauth: Kim Lauth Consulting

Jane Garthson: Garthson Leadership Centre

Andrea John-Smith: LinkedIn

Joyce Lee-Ibarra: JLI Consulting

Rhonda Lorch: Lorch and Associates

Justin Pollock: OrgForward

Kelly Trusty: LinkedIn

Get to know my mentor and inspiration Bishop Arthur M. Brazier

Today I honor one of my mentors who was a advocate for justice, a man of integrity and a spiritual leader who epitomizes community transformation through individual self-determination.  Bishop Brazier has gone on to be with The Lord; but his impact across the United States continues to be felt even today.  Those that knew Bishop Brazier will tell you that he was a very humble man whose life’s work was for the advancement of community, not for personal recognition and awards.  He believed for individuals to change their situations their mentality had to shift from victims to victors.
He was honored by Presidents, from Kennedy to Obama, worked tirelessly in Washington for the betterment of others and held local politicians accountable by measuring their actions through the lens of scripture.
Because he worked behind the scenes, most people don’t know his role in advocacy, about his fight to end school segregation, illegal housing practices and his role in bringing Dr. King to Chicago.  And that was just the beginning… Here is a look back at the early days of Bishop Arthur M. Brazier – The Activist.
Today the struggle has been redefined, but the fundamental issues of perceived privilege and injustice remain the same.  If we are training young people to understand their DESTINY, we can’t approach it from a victim mentality; teach them to be overcomes.  Scripture says – They can do all things through Christ which strengthens them.

Don’t Neglect Your First Ministry












We in the ministry spend considerable time with young people or Youth Workers at the expense of our families.  This simple post is designed to remind you to not neglect taking time to get away with your family.  Take time to rev up your family relationship, read, rest and recharge.  (Oh yes, and let your wife shop)  Before you can be a blessing to anyone else, your own home must first be blessed.  Home ministry is the God-given requirement we have as husbands or wives to love our spouses as God loves us.  If we are parents, it includes our role to love and raise our children according to His truth.  The Bible commands us to invest in our spouse and children by nurturing them, helping them develop intellectually, physically, relationally, and spiritually.

A Husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25)

Wives are to submit to their husbands “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22)

Parents are to raise godly children to be the next generation of those who love the Lord with all their hearts (Proverbs 22:6Ephesians 6:4)

The scriptural order of priorities is God, spouse, children and then others.


Thanks for reading


Stay encouraged, stay engaged and don’t give up on our young people.  It’s not their desire to fall so hold them up.

Wilderness Journeys Perfect Your Faith To Move Forward

Thank you to those who have supported me during this time of silence and transition.  A good friend asked me “what did you do wrong to be silenced?”, to which I replied not that kind of silence.  It is the silence you experience when God is moving you to a new place and new assignment that causes you to stop, reflect on the past, review His promises for your life and recall the provisions He has provided when you were entering into other places that stretched you beyond your current situation.  When God instructs, prepare to move forward in a way that requires your faith to be strong.  I have been silent on this blog for the past four weeks out of obedience to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.  A preparation process for moving forward.  The New Urban is not about showing hopeless kids hope; it’s about changing attitudes of kingdom building among the adults and young adults charged with leading our youth through this transitional state to adulthood.  It’s about a collective vision of moving young people forward, not a siloed classification of young people.  The Bible teaches that all have sinned and come short of the glory.  All need him, not just the poor, not just those experiencing challenging circumstances but everyone.  I truly believe God is moving Youth Ministry to a new understanding of faith, vision and  equipping of young people.

Faith can be idle when circumstances are calm.  But, when adversity hits then our faith is exercised.  Like muscles, our faith grows stronger when exercised.  I have learned that faith states the dream, examines all options, uses all resources, removes all nonessentials and then moves forward.  I now understand what it means to say – “a man able to see in faith sees things that do not yet exist in the natural realm and sees the potential to bring to pass something marvelous.”

In the Bible, the Hebrew  word  forward is about taking a journey that has many stages to it.  In Exodus 14: 13 – 15 the people had to first stand still and then go forward.  This has been an incredible journey the Lord has me on to this point.  I walk in expectancy of all that He has for me going forward.


I invite you to also move forward in your relationship with Jesus Christ, in your ministry and in exalting God, engaging unbelievers and edifying the believers:

F – represents the future.  Things do not happen by chance, they happen according to His will.  Don’t be distracted by circumstances seen with the natural eye.   (Prov. 19:21)

O – signifies ordinary people. God uses ordinary people to accomplish His will.  Throughout history it wasn’t about titles, degrees or pedigree – just ordinary people.  In Romans 16 Paul mentions 24 people used,  Luke 10:1 speaks of 70 that went out 2 by 2.

R – stands for resiliency.  The Bible tells us that “a man who holds his ground can become strong like the oak” (Prov 24:10).  As Christian leaders we are to cultivate our ability to endure under pressure, rise after failure and push ahead when others quit.  Spurgeon said, “by perseverance, the snail reached the ark”.

W –  represents wholehearted prayer. Prayer is an intense dialogue with diety. It is your decision to personally pursue and seek guidance from the Lord.  It is an intense, continual, wholehearted seeking of relationship and conversation.

A – indicates the attitude of faith and courage that fuels your moving forward to fulfill the vision God gave you.   Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the mastery of it.  You must be able to see your vision, say it and seize it.  You must have faith to see what God is doing.

R – stands for remember. Looking back over your life, recall what God has done for you.  Even as you look back over your test and trials, you will see where God has brought you through.  That which seemed like there was no way out, no solution or now path forward . . . look at you now.  And if you are in the midst of a storm now, look around and remember – “you have been here before.”

D – signifies decisions.  Decisions determine your DESTINY. Every decision in your life has a consequence; some positive and some negative.  When we take matters into our own hands, that is when God allows us to struggle in the darkness created by our decisions.  To move forward, learn from wise men’s (and women’s) lifestyles and decision making processes.  Don’t be afraid to seek wise counsel. (This is the biggest mistake most young leaders make – The I Know It All Syndrome).  Don’t take my word, read Prov. 1:5; 8:33; 9:8,9.


Your path forward belongs to the Lord .  Be confident and stay conscience . . .


Is The Right To Vote A Racial Entitlement? Oh How Far Have We Moved From God

Scripture teaches us we are to view  government through the lens of scripture, attempting to persuade them to make laws consistent with biblical standards of morality.   I know I have readers who are Republican and who are Democrats and I don’t want to alienate any of you.  Preaching on politics is just too divisive.  But I like Paul will challenge you, as Christians, to faithfully discharge your responsibilities before God on issues of  justice.


             “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for i did not shrink       

                                     from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27)


Scripture  point to believers who spoke out on behalf of government doing what was right.  Jesus taught, in Matthew 22:21, about the distinction between the things that belong to Caesar and the things that are God’s.  Daniel, in Daniel 4:27 called out Nebuchadnezzar to hear his council and break off his sin by practicing righteousness.  Verse 49 says he was regularly at the king’s court.  Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 29:7 told the Jewish exiles in Babylon to seek the welfare of the city because in it they would find their welfare, the laws and policies consistent with the Word of God.  Joseph oversaw Pharaoh’s great wealth.  Moses demanded freedom for the people of Israel – “let my people go” (Exodus 8:1).   Nehemiah orchestrated the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Queen Esther had influence on the king in changing the “policy” that were created.  Several of the prophets witnessed to the moral standards and requirements of treatment of people and how to conduct themselves.  John the Baptist rebuked Herod for the things he had done (Luke 3:19).  In Acts 24:25 Paul spoke to Felix about “righteousness and self control and the coming judgment”.



Today I am honored to bring to you a man who has been in the fight for justice for a long time.  A man who has stood on the front lines, the soup line, the unemployment lines and the prayer lines in an effort to bring justice to every man. I thank him for inviting me to be a guest on his TV program this Saturday night and for  joining the conversation today.





Weekly Commentary | Chicago Sun-Times

In oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act, Justice Antonin Scalia slandered the act as a “racial entitlement,” arguing, “whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.” So, the right-wing justice intimated, the conservative “Gang of Five” on the Supreme Court had every right to step in and overrule the 98 senators who voted unanimously to reauthorize the act (including the senators of every state and jurisdiction required to seek pre-clearance of any changes in their voting laws).

The justice proved once more that he is not a neutral arbiter of the Constitution but a right-wing activist with an agenda to enforce. Deference to the popularly elected Congress and president is, apparently, only when they do what Scalia considers to be proper. When they choose to reauthorize a Voting Rights Act that has protected the rights of millions and transformed America’s democracy since its passage in 1965, Justice Scalia thinks the court should negate their act, since he somehow considers protection of the right to vote a “racial entitlement.”

Scalia’s racial taunt has received the scorn it deserves. It makes more sense to apply his reasoning to the real “racial entitlements” that still scar our nation.

For example, a recent study by Brandeis University revealed a stunning increase in the wealth gap between whites and blacks in America. The gap tripled between 1984 and 2009. In 2009, the median wealth (the difference between what you own and what you owe) of a white household was $113,149. The median wealth of a black household was $5,677.

Why the difference? The study found five contributing factors.

First, whites were more likely to be homeowners than blacks, often because their families are more able to help with down payments. Black families who worked for 200 years in slavery and 100 years in segregation had less ability to accumulate wealth.

Second, whites made more income than blacks, even for comparable work.

Third, blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites, and, with less of a family cushion to rely on, more likely to deplete their savings when unemployed.

Fourth, whites are five times more likely to inherit money, and their inheritance averages 10 times as much. Again, this surely is in part a legacy of our scarred history.

Finally, whites are more likely to have a college education than blacks. Blacks are more likely to find advanced training difficult to finance. They are more likely to graduate with debt, and their average debt on graduation is greater.

The wealth gap is, in Scalia’s words, a “racial entitlement.” Only this entitlement favors whites, not blacks. As Scalia wrote, “whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.” That’s why it took a Civil War to end slavery, and to amend the Constitution to guarantee equal protection of the laws. It took the sacrifice of lives and limbs in a civil rights movement to end segregation, and to pass the Voting Rights Act to provide minorities with an equal right to vote. On economic inequality, the promise of 40 acres and a mule for freed slaves was broken. Dr. King marched on Washington to redeem a “canceled check” marked “insufficient funds.”

If Scalia is right, “the normal political processes” won’t solve this racial entitlement. Nor, for that matter, will the right-wing Gang of Five on the Supreme Court.

Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at

Maybe The Unity In The Body Of Christ Is Not Important To Youth Workers

I was recently asked what is the Biblical basis for the concept of The New Urban and how do we know it when we see it and how do we live it out.  In framing my answer to this person the narrative of the conversation moves from games, gimmicks and entertainment of young people to authentic collective ministry focused on equipping young people for the pressures and challenges they are facing day to day.

First and foremost the Bible teaches us that we are no longer separated and are all in the same spirit.  Ministry to young people is not urban, suburban or rural; its Jesus Christ crucified.  And our unity is an integral part of that dialogue.


For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  For the body is not one member, but many.  

1 Corinthians 12:12-14


Second, the equipping of young people is also about our own walk with Christ, for how can we convince young people to live a life that we ourselves are not willing to live.  If we never engage with people unlike ourselves we plant an image of divisiveness in our young people that is not the reality of the world in which they exist.

I believe as the Body of Christ that we are “to present our bodies a living sacrifice” in honor and praise to God (Romans 12:1-2; Eph. 1:6), to reflect the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our lives, to evangelize the world by the preaching and sharing of the Gospel (Acts 1:8) and to equip Believers with God’s Word to face the struggles of this world.


Third, people have differing skills; ministries have different talents and resources.  Working together enables our varying gifts to work together to advance the gospel to young people.   We must do ministry with young people together, not just conferences and meetings of youth workers.

Jesus Christ has given different ministerial gifts to the Church For the perfecting of the saints .  . . for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16) and it’s through our unity not separation that we bring young people to the full understanding of the gospel. The ultimate mission of the Church is winning souls to Christ through the preaching of the Gospel.


The individual looked at me with a blank stare on their face.  He said, but I don’t get it, what events should we do first?  I replied, before you focus on events lets spend some time in prayer and ask God to make sure our hearts are pure.  That the life we live be pleasing to Him.  Ask Him to help us to view everyone as equal, to not think of ourselves as above others and open our hearts and minds to how we work together with people of all types.  That our walk be an example to those under our care and we point them to Christ not us.  Let’s pray for the issues our young people are facing.

He then said, now what? How about we go visit someone at a church outside your circle of influence and let’s spend some time with them in prayer about the issues their young people are facing.

He replied, ok let’s hurry up and get through this, I need to setup the dodgeball game for the kids tonight. I wondered how do you tie it to the Word of God?  “Oh we don’t really, the kids like it and it’s how we keep them engaged.  We’ll do a quick lesson at the end.”


Spiritual Formation for Motley Crews by Gabriel Salguero

Last week on our consciousness cruise, we metaphorically stopped on the corner of Praise & Judgment to refuel.  As we left that station headed for the ramp to get back on the highway; through a series of detours and events, I was blessed to meet Pastor Gabriel Salguero.  Gabriel is the Senior Pastor of The Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene, a multi-ethnic church in New York.  I had an opportunity to speak with him to discuss what God is doing in his neck of the woods.  He has given me permission to share with you his view on Spiritual Formation for Motley Crews.  He discussed his belief that urban churches are presented with unique opportunities to model the rich diversity of the kingdom of God as seen in Isaiah 11 and Rev 7:9.  I am honored to share his words today with all of you.

This continues our mission of continuing to broaden your understanding and consciousness of  The New Urban.  Bringing you this view from multiple perspectives from around the country.  Enjoy and please comment below.





These days “discipleship” and “Spiritual Formation” are ubiquitous terms. Blogs, books, conferences, and conversations all strive to respond to the question, “How do we nurture Christ-like disciples in our generation?” While I know well that there is some great writing and teaching being done in this area my hope is that my musings as a “young” (I’m 39 and not sure what young is anymore) urban pastor of a multi-ethnic church restart can in some way contribute to this important conversation. I am of the conviction that spiritual formation and diversity are deeply interrelated.

The Lamb’s in New York is the congregation my wife and I lead. The Lamb’s had its most recent restart in 2007 when we relocated from Times Square to the intersection of SoHo, Chinatown, Loisaida (a Spanish term given to this part of the Lower East Side). The average age of the new members is around 28, and we have some older Chinese and Hispanic immigrants whose average age is between 55-60. In addition, we have graduate students worshipping with folks who barely have any formal schooling. The Lamb’s has two worship services; one in English-Mandarin and the other in English-Spanish. In short, it’s a real motley crew. Honestly, we are probably violating the majority of rules and expectations for church-planters and church-restarters. I am often tempted to pursue the homogenous unit principle (HUP) as I see many of my dear friends growing in numbers at much faster rates. Still we are, at least for the present, pursuing a road less traveled. One main reason for pursuing this course is discipleship.

Many of the NY church-planting successes used as models across the country are paradigms of young urban professionals (Yuppies) that worship together. Indubitably, there is much to celebrate in reaching young urbanites. Still, a challenge remains. While some number of these congregations has some spattering racial-ethnic diversity they often lack economic and class diversity; not to mention leadership diversity. I do NOT believe all congregations have to be multi-ethnic and multi-class. However, I do believe that urban churches are presented with unique opportunities to model the rich diversity of the kingdom of God as seen in Isaiah 11 and Rev 7:9. Beyond modeling the ecclesiology of Pentecost, and the early church experiment of creating a new Christ-centered community of Jews and Gentiles, diversity is essential for spiritual formation in our generation. As this new community learned to work through difference and disagreement for the sake of the cross, they were becoming disciples who learned grace in action.

How does diversity inform spiritual formation? Simply put, Christians are broadened and deepened as they worship, study, do ministry, and share life-together in community. It is across difference where the most important of Christian virtues, love, is tested. Now this has to be beyond window-dressing of doing drive-by ministry “to” and “among” the urban poor, immigrants, and the rich, racially-ethnic diversity of the global church present in urban centers. When all these demographics form a vital part of our worship community and leadership, spiritual formation takes on a richer texture. As we listen to one another across differences, our own assumptions, prejudices, and limitations are challenged by other followers of Christ. This is precisely what Christian ecclesiology is; “unity in Christ with diversity.”

In the main stream, many congregations push for assimilation and homogenization in the name of “urban missiology” and is usually said as, “Whatever it takes to reach people.” However, Christian missiology has a distinctive. Our mission is not absent from ecclesiology. What makes our mission so distinctive is that Christ calls us to embrace the other. In Scripture, this radical hospitality is “xenophilia”–not just tolerance of the stranger but love and celebration of the other. It is not telling the other, “You must be just like me for us to be in community.” The cultural and class-homogenizing impulse while often facile is not the way of the cross. Our congregations ought not to be cultural or class silos that only gather us with people who make us comfortable. Much of culture is going in the direction of echo chambers. Google+, Facebook, and Twitter accounts will be custom-made so that we only have advertisements, friends, and links that reflect our own image. Church ought not to be simply a reflection of me, my class assumptions, my favorite songs, or cultural values. No! Spiritual formation requires that the church reflect Christ not in my image, but Christ as he is in the world.

Now if we seek diversity just for diversity’s sake we’ve missed the point. The motley crew congregation is not something we pursue to be “hip” or “trendy.” We do it because it has always been at the heart of the foundation of Christ’s church. The diversity of Christ’s body teaches us to exhibit and receive grace, to be slow to speak and quick to listen, and to value every member of Christ’s body. A motley crew church helps protect us from reducing the Gospel, to our hermeneutic, our preaching, our culture, our class, or political party. Yes, for in this kaleidoscope of people we can see the multiform grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This is not easy; we’ll trip all over ourselves. But we don’t do things because they’re easy. We do them because they’re right. Grace abounds.




Follow Pastor on twitter @salgueros


The Church Website is



If you are in or near New York, Pastor invites you to join The Lamb’s this Wednesday, February 13, as they welcome the season of lent.  You can join them in the following ways:


1)  Ash Wednesday Prayer and Ashes

Time: 10 am – 2 pm

Location: The Lamb’s Church, 61 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002


2)  Joint Ash Wednesday Service at Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene: In lieu of our mid-week worship service we will be having a joint Ash Wednesday service in the Bronx at Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene.

Time: 7:30pm.

Location:Bronx Bethany Church of the Nazarene

971 East 227th Street

Bronx, NY 10466

Does The Burden You Have For The Young People You Serve Lead You To Your Knees Or In Search Of Another Curriculum Or Program


Today we begin looking at the details of Nehemiah’s four step process for dealing with the burden he had for the people in Jerusalem.  We as leaders should have a burden for the conditions our young people face and an action plan for supporting them.


Step 1 – Nehemiah heard the report of his city.  In response, he spent four months of fasting, praying, weeping and mourning.


Our communities are deeply broken by the conditions society, some self-imposed, others that have been created.  We face economic breakdown with parental loss of jobs or the inability to acquire employment.  Businesses are struggling or closing.  We face family breakdowns in two family homes, parental relationships and the relationships between parents and kids. Single family homes are overburdened by the responsibility of the one parent.  Our educational system now pits teacher union reps against administration looking to get control of massive budgets; while neither is really focused on the education of our young people.  The young people themselves don’t see the true value of education and the capable ones dummy down to fit in and avoid peer pressure, thus affecting their long-term prospects of economic self-sufficiency.  Our men are being broken by a system that has devalued them and targeted them in a way that makes high school to prison the norm for a large number of our men.  The political system is run by power brokers whose self-interest sacrifices any other efforts.  The little man with few financial resources has no voice.  Services and assistance are being cut or redirected to those who don’t have the greatest need.  People have lost hope and see no way out and are giving up.

The challenges described above are not just in the urban communities; I am describing all communities.  Unfortunately, we don’t always want to face up to the reality of trouble existing in our own community.  By not addressing these head on we leave our young people exposed to deal with what they see, in their own way.  I conducted a workshop, last week, at a suburban youth ministry and after the workshop the adults were amazed at the attitudes of their young people and the experiences they were having.  The youth workers assumed the issues were in the other communities, not theirs.   They said they have “the good kids” but learned they were not equipping the young people to effectively make Godly decisions.   The young people began to discuss not only their issues but also how they felt the youth workers didn’t understood them, were not equipping them or living as an example for them.  This was incredibly eye opening to these youth workers.  This upper middle class, suburban, curriculum rich ministry learned they had not spent much time in collective prayer seeking God’s guidance in equipping their young people to deal with the issues they face.  Now don’t confuse my point; curricula is necessary but not the end all be all to helping our young people grow.

As youth workers and leaders, we have to engage more in the lives of our young people to understand what they are dealing with day-to-day and not assume everything is ok.  Issues may not be the same in every neighborhood, but every neighborhood has issues.  Your burden for the young people should lead you to find your neighborhoods issues.   That search starts with prayer and fasting on their behalf.  Engaging them in conversation about their challenges and taking those issue to the Lord for guidance.


The Bible says when Nehemiah heard about the challenges of his people he was grieved –

3And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

 4And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

 5And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:


Nehemiah was a middle class person who had a seat at the table with those in control.  He was considered successful and set.  Even though, he was concerned about his people and felt he needed to take action. He knew that phrase the old folks us to say and we must understand today that – “but for the grace of God, go I”.  People have to care and we are the people who have to lead the caring.  Our young people are depending on us to step up and equip them to be able to discern and make Godly decisions.  Stay encouraged. Stay engaged. Stay upon the Wall.  Our young peoples DESTINY demand our diligence.


Next week we will look at Nehemiah’s next step after praying and fasting.


What is the burden you have for the young people?  How is your team collectively getting it’s understanding?  How are you engaging them?  Join the conversation and be a blessing to someone else.