I learned a lot this past week. I guess that should come as no surprise given that I was teaching. One of the fringe benefits of passing on knowledge, sharing insight, and facilitating learning is that the teacher receives a double portion of any learning dispensed. This happens through the process of preparation and from the interaction with the students who make up the class. My takeaways were many. I will share one, but first let me provide a little context.Spanish River Church has an educational partnership with Capital Seminary & Graduate School. Working together we offer a Master of Arts in Ministry in Church Planting. This fully accredited program has been a few years in the making and is beginning to produce recognizable fruit. Case in point, two students from our first cohort will graduate this Friday. God has given us amazing educational partners in Capital Seminary and its parent, Lancaster Bible College.
This MAM cohort is a mixed group (geographically, racially, denominationally) with a common passion to serve Christ by planting gospel-centered reproducing churches. They are sharp, savvy, love Jesus, and are some amazing pastors and leaders. I spent two full days working with them in Boca and will follow-up that time with five weeks of online interaction.
As my foray into academe has been predominantly focused on leadership and leadership development and given my experience as a church planter and a church practitioner, I have the privilege of teaching the course "The Leader's Life & Work." So that is how I ended up working with this great group of men last Thursday and Friday. At one point I stepped back into class after a break to find several of the cohort huddled around a computer. They were watching a video, produced by Trinity Grace Church (NYC).
The video (you can view it below) was birthed from a TGC student camp experience. As one of the leaders shared, "one portion of their camp experience is a group lip sync contest, with students as judges. The kids really get into it." Notably, 99% of the songs that the groups choose are borderline inappropriate rap songs from the radio. As the leader noted, the hood-culture of Trinity Grace Youth is a constant battle. But this camp was different. Here are the words of the leader:
This camp however there was a shift. Honestly one of the most beautiful shifts I have ever been able to witness. The high school boys actually wrote/recorded and performed a song this year. Each boy took a section and wrote about his experience at TGC he had and how his life had change. Let me tell you..I never imagined some of these boys ever arriving to this point especially in front of everybody. Holy goodness it was awesome! (It is more significant to see them actually perform this and to know them), but I thought I would share anyways. Also, a few camps ago they all got RUN TGC shirts like RUN DMC and that is the significance of the chorus:).
Back to "my takeaway." As I watched the video I was reminded afresh of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform the human heart. Paul writes, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). I was also reminded why we partner with church planters to help start works of God like Trinity Grace Church.
Take a few moments to watch this video. To think that the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the borough of Brooklyn are being renewed by the power of Christ is both comforting and thrilling. I like to think what might happen one, five, or ten years from now in the lives of any of the students.
Jesus said, "Behold, I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). Indeed he is. He is doing this in New York City, but he is also doing this in your neck of the woods. If you ever need to be reminded of the power of the gospel, just take a look at this video (the lyrics are below).
There’s a God above, and I know he cares for me,
Tells me of his love, how He’s got a plan for me
I’m alive, cause he died, took a stand for me.
Yo my lifes been hard and it aint like no other
One day comin home from school they tell me bout my mother
Caught up in an overdose, they took her to the doc
They put me in to foster care my brothers all apart
Long story short I never saw my mom since
My brother went to jail and my life was getting tense
Tears every night, pain all day
Feeling all alone like this God was just a game
God why me, where you at, I was asking
Jesus , I thought your love was everlasting
Lonely, am I doing this without you?
losing all my strength, but you know I’ll never doubt you
Wait though, this story ends right
Jesus heard my prayer, and he came to help me fight
He put his arms around me, and he told be bout his love
Now I know he’s there giving grace from up above
Last year, chillin with my goons
Playin with some water guns, actin like a fool
Girl got mad so she called her brah
I was so scared, thought I was gonna die
Prayed to God, needing protection
Flowed through my veins like a holy infection
My God is real, aint no fakin
When God is at my right hand I will not be shaken
4 years now, 4 years now
TGC Youth runnin 4 years proud
Lower East side and the Bronx came together
Every Wednesday night helping souls get better
Learnin the Bible, hearin bout that peace
Romans 8:38, His love will never cease
Ask me the truth, how does He count me?
I’m a child of God, that’s the truest thing about me.