Saturday, January 14, 2017

Focus

We have talked a lot about vision in our blog. It is essential to what we do. It is the “why behind the what,” as some people have said. It establishes our core values and directs all our decisions. It affects everything from how we run a business to how we interact with the homeless guy on the street.

So it's very important for vision to be clear. So what happens when you lose focus? Does the vision get blurry?

Ask any one of us, and we will likely agree that this past year has been rough. Our businesses have suffered, our health has suffered, we've had attacks on property and have lost much of our staff. In the midst of all that, we are still trying to run 6 businesses and keep the lights on in the middle of one of the most desolate areas of our city.

God started trying to get our attention about 6 months ago. He generally begins with restlessness – with a sense that something isn't quite right. Initially, we usually chalk that up to a failure to perform. Maybe there's just too much chaos with our employees, maybe we didn't plan well enough, maybe we need to manage better, maybe we forgot too much. But God kept applying pressure. Business would not turn around. Our personal interactions involved more friction. Our worship gatherings became lifeless.

As we became more aware something was wrong, we became more willing to listen to God's direction. He began to tell us that we had lost our focus. At first, it was the focus on spiritual warfare. So He turned our eyes back to the real spiritual battle that we are in every day, and the fact that we must be engaging it with great intentionality. And not just on our own, but together as a Body, as a united group of soldiers following one Lord into battle.

Through this, God was able to turn our eyes to other concerns. We had tried to escape the burden of constant physical tasks. Which is absurd, since God called us to start businesses so we could work next to those in need of hope. So He started showing us how to manage better and how to minister better in a work environment. Then He showed us that we had lost our first love – the making of disciples.

All the work of Sun Ministries began with a call to go outside the structured American church and make disciples that make disciples; to obey the Great Commission and set captives free. But this wasn't a call to add members to a church. This was a call to obey our Lord Jesus Christ, to walk in the same manner He did, to disciple people because that is God's design of reproduction. That's how He wants His church to bring transformation to others. It is a very costly form of relationship, but one that also creates life-giving environments. This seems to be God's pattern. “Give up everything so I can give you life more abundant.” We often fail to see how all the things we hold on to are small, temporal, and meaningless. The holy things of God are immense, eternal, and full of real goodness. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Jesus will find it.

So what does disciple-making have to do with running a cafe in north city? Nothing, if your goal is to run a cafe in north city. But EVERYTHING if your goal is to bring any amount of lasting transformation. And this goes for anyone, whether they are a middle class college kid raised in the church, or a fifty-year-old homeless man who hasn't had a license in 15 years. God was intentional of His design for the church, and from the very beginning, Jesus was calling disciples. He then instructed His disciples to make disciples. And we see this play out in the midst of a church that was sharing all things, mourning and rejoicing together, and utilizing spiritual gifts together in order to build up the body in love.

Man has looked for many solutions to pain and evil. Conquest, Pax Romana, genocide, large-scale behavior modification, social welfare, education, fascism, socialism, communism, democracy, legislation, amendments, and a cornucopia of non-profit organizations. Though well-intentioned, these often disregard God's design for His creation. So what does this mean for us? Providing a job does not change a person's heart. Providing a space to live does not destroy the works of satan in their lives. Picking up trash, rehabbing houses, and publishing blogs does not transform areas long bound by oppression. And if you're just focused on trying to alleviate the chaos around you, you will do little to reform the church.

Discipleship is God's creation, His people, these little image bearers, taking the gifts they've been given and using them to help others come to know the Good Shepherd. It is laying down your life for your brother. Discipleship isn't a sunday school class, or a seminar, or weekend retreat. It is a way of life that unites you with others through the Spirit, and leads people to the goal of becoming Spirit-transformed followers of Christ.

Are you making a place for this in your life? Keep in mind that you are not meant to be alone. The Body needs to make a place for the “least of these”, to build each other up so that we can be united in the mission to make disciples and teach them what Christ has taught us.

As we move forward in 2017, we will be intentional to remain focused on the vision – to bring Good News to the afflicted, to share with them the good things the Father has given us, and to teach our disciples to obey Jesus and go and make disciples of their own.

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If you'd like to know more about making disciples, you can download our free book (or order a physical copy), “The Disciple-Maker's Handbook” here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sacrifice


Has the Gospel of Jesus caused you to sacrifice? In what ways?

Jesus is God. He lacks nothing. He has all power and authority. He has all this in ways we can't begin to understand. And He gave it all up. He humbled Himself. He let go of all of His rights and privilege, His immense power and transcendence, to appear here on earth as a baby. A baby born in poverty, in a stable, and laid in a feeding trough built for animals. Just after that, his family had to flee an abusive government murdering thousands of innocent children.

And then He had to grow up. And feel pain. And experience loss, frustration, disappointment. And we all know how His story ends. Ridiculed and challenged by authorities. Betrayed and abandoned by His closest friends. Humiliated, tortured, and executed.

His disciples had similar experiences. Ridicule, persecution, and martyrdom. Paul himself shares an impressive list of hardships that all came as a result of the Good News (for a quick pick-me-up, you can read it in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

And the Bible leaves us with daunting messages concerning our future and the sacrifices awaiting us:
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first.”
“Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple.”
“...none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
“The one who says he abides in Him ought to himself walk in the same manner as He walked.”

So if we're walking the same path as Jesus, it's safe to assume our destinations will be similar.

The Good News of the Kingdom is inherently selfless. It removes our selves from the center of our universe, and replaces us with the will of God. The Good News is a message of giving up of your self for the sake of others. It is laying down status, rights, privilege, power, for the sake of those who have none of those things. For the sake of those who ignore you, mock you, abandon you, betray you, and persecute you. Like Jesus, we must remove our outer clothes, get down on our hands and knees, and wash the feet of Judas.

So, has the Gospel of Jesus caused you to sacrifice? In what ways? Please share in a comment below. This isn't an opportunity to pat yourself on the back, but to share your story with others so we may celebrate together how God is bringing Good News to the world.



Friday, December 16, 2016

The Disciple-Maker's Handbook



In the beginning, God made mankind and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).”

Does this still apply to you? If so, how do you do it?

Much later, after Jesus rose from the dead, He said to His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Does this still apply to you? If so, how do you do it?

We see these two sets of instructions as being vitally linked. When God made man and set him in His good creation, He instructed them to increase in number and to steward creation. When the work of Jesus created the New Humanity, washed clean by His sacrifice and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given new instructions for being fruitful and multiplying. Because this New Humanity is not simply one of flesh and blood, the result of human reproduction. This is a humanity united in the Spirit. Not simply sons of man, but children of God.

So how do these children “reproduce”?

Jesus made disciples. He did not plant a church. He instructed His disciples to make disciples, to teach them to obey Jesus, and to baptize them, and then reassured them that He would always be with them. We are to make disciples. But how? Have you been discipled? Have you made a disciple?

Discipleship is at the core of what we do and how we do it. We know that no amount of money or programming will change a person's life. But personal investment, a costly love, a real relationship, all directed at observing what Christ as commanded, will bring significant and lasting change.

Because this is so important to us, we have thought a lot about it, and written about it. The third book written by Dr. Terry Goodwin is “The Disciple-Maker's Handbook.” His first book, “Disciple Driven Church” could be summarized as “what not to do”, and the second book, “Being the Church” could be summarized as “what to do.” This book could be summarized as “how to do what to do.” It is a guide for how to prepare yourself to make a disciple, and teach that disciple to make a disciple. It realigns our focus concerning “church growth” away from increasing numbers of attendees, and puts it on to our responsibility to obey Christ's commands to make disciples, teach them, and baptize them.

You can download a free pdf of the book, or buy a physical copy, in our online store. What follows is an excerpt from the book.

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What is the Christian Life? It appears that the farther we get from the death and resurrection of Jesus, the more difficult this question has become to answer. Modern teachers and evangelists have distorted and maligned the basic purpose of the work of Jesus on the cross. The work of Jesus stands as the means to reconcile man to God. There is no other way to make this happen. Jesus paid the price to repair what was broken.

Once we realize this and accept His sacrifice by faith, we obtain the right to become children of God - John 1:12. What is often missed in today's church circles is that God is building something that only He can build. God is building a bride for His son Jesus. This bride does not consist of those that attend a service on a set day of the week at a building we call the church. This bride is built through the power and presence of God's Spirit. This bride must operate by God's design. This bride must be built by God's design.

What is God's design for building the church, Christ's bride? God has given us ample instruction of how the church is designed to gather, function and be led. In today's modern organized religion, many rely on the structure of the organization to make disciples. No such structure is outlined in scripture and the responsibility for making disciples is only commanded of the disciples. When we delegate the task to others, we miss out on God's chief means by which He builds the bride of Christ, His church. Only by returning to God's design for making disciples and building the church will we ever participate in the goal of redemption.

We must study the Great Commission in order to understand this process and apply it to our lives. We will never accidentally make disciples. We must prepare ourselves to make disciples. We must discipline ourselves to make disciples. We must first learn to be a disciple if we want to make disciples. This can all sound like hard work and it may be. This might be why the modern religious institutions focus on making converts or church members. We are never commanded by Christ to make converts or church members.

In Matthew 23:15 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for making converts and teaching them to be like themselves. God wants us to make disciples His way. He has not given us the green light to teach them whatever we want. We are to teach disciples to seek and follow Jesus, not our leaders or ourselves.

In order to go and make disciples we must first "BE" a disciple. Whose disciple are you? Are you a disciple of Jesus or someone else? Many people have accepted Christ by faith but have never been discipled. You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are. Do not fall into the same trap the Pharisees fell into. Don't convince yourself that you are making disciples and end up making them into followers of man.

What does it take to be a disciple of Jesus? You must define what a disciple is before you can make one or even be one. The best place to find the definition of a disciple is by looking to the one that commanded you to make them. This is what Jesus said about being His disciple.

[Luke 14:26] "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

[Luke 14:27]27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. ...

[Luke 14:33] "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

By Jesus' own words, we must love nothing above Him, even our own lives. We must be willing to suffer for His cause. We must also give up all of our own possessions. Do you meet His requirements? If you do then He says you will bear much fruit and prove to be His disciple - John 15:8.

In order to be a disciple of Jesus we must sacrifice. To become like Christ is to do what He did. Jesus had everything. He gave it all up to come here to people that had nothing and no hope. He served us and died for us so we could live forever with Him and share in everything. This is what Jesus did. We should do as He did. This is the Gospel.

The Goal of disciple-making is to bring believers to spiritual transformation and full maturity in Christ as they learn to follow Him in obedience and love. This must result in believers gathering together and living sacrificially together for others. These gathered disciples must learn to walk in both the physical and spiritual realms. This will result in the church being the supernatural, self-sacrificing, manifestation of God on earth. This is the bride that Jesus will return to claim! Disciples are meant to live like Christ, act like Christ, love like Christ and value what Christ valued. The church will display Christ to the world when this happens.

Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus gave a task to the remaining 11 disciples. This task is referred to as the Great Commission. In it, Jesus was giving instructions to His followers as to what they were to do after His departure. They are His final words to them and have great significance for us, especially as those who are called to continue their apostolic work (John 17:20-21). To study the Great Commission is to study the task to which we have been called by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you agree that the Great Commission is the mission of the Christ follower? Do you believe it is as relevant today as it was in the days in which He spoke it to the eleven?

If we really believe the Great Commission is the mission given to the Christ follower by our Lord and Savior, and if we believe it was not an option but a command, then we must commit ourselves to know it, understand it, own it, preach it, live it, and above all do it. Anything less dishonors it and the One Who gave it.

Therefore, a vital question to ask yourself as a Christ follower is: “Do I have a personal, specific, and intentional strategy to make disciples in my own life?”

Jesus not only laid down the challenge of what we were supposed to do in order to win the world, He lived it out personally. Notice how He spent His three years of public ministry.
  • He preached and ministered to the crowds (the multitudes).
  • He taught and deployed the convinced (the “seventy”).
  • He trained and challenged the committed (the “twelve”).
  • He focused on and mentored the core (the “three”).


Jesus knew that though there was a time and place to teach and preach to the larger numbers of people, the success or failure of His movement would be in the hands of the smaller numbers. This strategic investment in individual people through organic, lifestyle discipleship was the key to the continuation of Jesus’ message and the establishment of His kingdom.


Question: If this was the strategy that Jesus used, commanded, empowered, and authorized, why would we use any other? 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Being the Church



So what do you do when your experience and observations of faith don't add up to what you see in Scripture, or what you hear about happening overseas, or on the “front lines” of ministry, or the stories involving “heroes” of the faith? We have found ourselves in that place at one time or another, which is what led us on the path of looking for something more. That path finally led us to living the Gospel (to the best of our ability) here in north St. Louis.

In answering the call to live by God's design, make disciples, and minister in broken places, our flesh has been challenged and our understanding stretched. We have come to the place where faith is necessary, where we are truly interdependent, where our reasonings and strength consistently prove to be insufficient. This is a good place to be. You can't accept a gospel of grace by striving to be good. You can't love if you are not humbled. You can't know an invisible God by memorizing His biography, but only by walking with Him, listening to His voice, and obeying.

While we know we don't know everything, we are sure that God has called us to this work, and that part of this work is rediscovering God's patterns for the church – this supernatural body present here on the earth. We've been trying to find ways to communicate this, and so we started writing books. Dr. Terry Goodwin, our executive director, has written three books. The first we've already covered. The second is called “Being the Church: Planting faith communities in a post-modern world.” While “Disciple Driven Church” is a book about history and a discussion of hurtful practices, “Being the Church” is a guide to what we can start doing. It is also a collection of stories and vision from living this out in a place that has long been abused and oppressed.

Below are some excerpts from the book. You can download it for free, or purchase a physical copy, in our online store.

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There is a movement happening during our current age. Look around you. God is calling people out of the man made structure of religion that calls itself the church. The structured church organization maligns, labels and ridicules the movement. They don't see what God is doing. They call some of them the "Dones" and others are labeled as bitter or church haters. Don't be fooled by the name callers. This movement is a work of God. He is setting His children free from a religious system born out of pagan practices. He is returning them to their rightful place as stewards of His creation. It is in this position of God-given authority, working through God-given methods and power, that the church of God will once again transform the known world.

When the church functions by its design, it is the most powerful force on earth. It can correct every problem and thwart every kind of evil. The idea of a group of people laying down their lives for the common good of society may seem like fantasy. The truth is that even small groups of people throughout history have had huge impacts on society by living as Jesus did. The goal of every Christian should be to become more like Christ. You cannot do that if you do not follow God's design. Jesus knew this and communicated it in John 5:19 - "Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner."

I am a full believer in a simple Gospel of sola scriptura - sola fide - sola gracia. The truth I see in Scripture is that works are not required for our salvation. I also see the truth that our Salvation is not the only goal of the Gospel. There is a much bigger result desired by God. He designed the Gospel to produce His desired result. If we lose sight of the desired result, we will settle for a weaker, partial Gospel. God desires the Gospel to produce a royal priesthood zealous for good works. He desires the Gospel to produce a functioning body of believers that lives together by His design, set apart from the world and united by the Holy Spirit. This priesthood will fulfill the covenant of Adam as it is fruitful, multiplies, stewards and rules over God's creation.

In order to "Be the Church" we must be seeking the things of God. If we seek His ways we will find His ways. The hard part about finding God's ways is that He expects us to live his ways and obey His commands. Consecration is the process of setting ourselves apart from the things of the world and the ways of the world. One visible quality of the church should be that it lives differently than the rest of the world. It lives supernaturally. It does not live under the same priorities as the rest of the world. It does not seek the same things as the rest of the world. Its value system is God's value system. Jesus instructs His disciples to seek the Kingdom first. In order to "Be the Church" we must be set apart. The primary method that is outlined in scripture to accomplish this process is discipleship. If you go back to scripture you will see that we are never instructed to go and start churches. We are commanded to go and make disciples.

We didn't have to go start a church or grow a church. We had to Be the Church! We had to do for others what Jesus did for us. We had to give up everything and lay down our lives for others. What a great concept. Think of the greatness of this Gospel. As Jesus is proclaimed and people place their faith in Him, they will sell all they own, move to the desperate places and care for the oppressed. If you are the oppressed in this picture you will fully grasp the goodness of this news. Who else but God can compel people to do this?

We had no idea where we were supposed to do this thing God had called us to do. We began by seeking the Lord. We prayed and fasted and responded when God prompted us. It was a very strange experience when compared to how I had done things in the past. It was an exploration with God. In the end, God made it very clear where we were supposed to start. He prompted someone to give us a wood shop in the neighborhood He had been drawing us to for over a year. Once we were there, we continued to walk and pray and fast and listen. God had prepared a place for us to go and "Be the Church". I did not pick the place. In fact, I objected to His choice at first. I wanted to go somewhere else.

When we walk according to God's design we are powerful. We have the ability to change things. We can lift physical oppression through our own sacrifice and commitment. We can suffer and endure for others. We can intercede through prayer and fasting. We can use our spiritual gifts to bring to light the lies of the enemy. All of this is within our power.

Too often, we as Christians place our attention, time, resources, energy, dreams, gifts, and hopes on the growth of a church and doing things the church's way. When that is so, we face the danger that our focus will be on ourselves and we will use the community to grow our church instead of the church to bless our communities and show them how to follow God's ways. When we embrace God’s design to bless our communities and show them His ways, our focus will be outward rather than inward.


People are hungry for the supernatural things of God. They are leaving the institutional church by the thousands. God is preparing to receive this remnant by raising up groups of people that are dedicated to living by His design. The inner cities of America are prepared for revival and renewal. These places represent the worst of Satan's attacks on America. They are filled with neglect, racism, oppression and poverty. These places need God's people to come into them and live sacrificially for the sake of the residents that have suffered in them for generations.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The coming reformation?

Most people are familiar with The Reformation, the historical event that nominally began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a church door. Even that specific event, and the centuries of consequences, had a long preceding history. Church history is not a simple, linear path. Mostly because it involves real humans and a God that refuses to be put in a box. In any case, it is generally accepted the Reformation started with Luther, “ended” at some vague point in history, and now today we have Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, with something like 30,000 denominations world wide.

At the same time, there is a growing sense of discontent concerning the church. There are repeated calls for the church to “wake up” or “be revived” or get more truth, better doctrine, more meaningful practice, better art, music, and preaching, have more service projects, engage culture better, conserve traditions and values, progress to get with the times, be more innovative, get back to the book, etc.

Did the Reformation end? Is it over? Is it finished? Can it ever even be finished?

We at Sun Ministries are convinced that God is at work in America today, bringing reformation. He is, as He has always done, calling people to Himself and His ways, to declare His glory and minister to the world. This Reformation is not a collection of right answers, nor a more refined process. It is simply an act of surrender and obedience to the Maker of the universe and choosing to live by His designs.

There isn't much mysterious about this reformation, other than the Holy Spirit who moves like the wind wherever He pleases. God has given us His Bible, and His Spirit, and promised to be with us always to the very end. Along the way, man has corrupted these things. He has invented ways of living out our faith. In fact, the history of reformation is one of a repeating pattern: a person or group of people start to see the corruption of the time within the institutional church, go outside the church in some manner and stress values that have been forgotten (sometimes to the point of inventing new errors), are persecuted by the established, corrupted church system, and either the group fizzles out, or mutates over time to look a lot like the thing it left. Division runs rampant.

We have a deep conviction that God has called us to be involved in this reformation. We are not perfect, nor do we have all the answers. But He has been teaching us, both as we gather and pray, and as we lay down our lives and minister in a real world. Dr. Terry Goodwin, our executive director, has written about this in several books. The first one is “Disciple Driven Church: The Coming Reformation.”

Here are some excerpts from the book:

If you want to see the instructions for what the church should look like, you must first see the priorities of a Christ follower. Once you see the instructed priorities of a Christ follower you can then place the leadership structures of God over these priorities to help individuals to fulfill their purposes in Christ. What are some of these priorities? The greatest two are given by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39 as the things on which all the Law and Prophets hang. You must love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the first goal of any follower of Christ. Beyond these basics we are instructed to go and make disciples, care for the widows and orphans, care for the poor, and use our spiritual gifts to build up the Body of Christ, which is the church. As you can see, the ministry focus of the church was to be both the world and the Body of Christ. Leadership was established to oversee the administration of these ministries, protect the flock from false doctrine, and to equip the saints for these works of service. Over the course of history, men have grabbed more control and have moved the ministry to places of more control. Many church leadership structures oversee and control things that they are not instructed in scripture to control.”

God sees the church as a living declaration of His glory. It is designed to live in the Holy Spirit, be defined by the Holy Spirit, and declare God’s glory to the spirit realm. The purpose of the church is to meet together to equip the saints for the works of service that express God’s glory. If the people that gather as the church do not possess the Holy Spirit, are not gifted with spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit, and do not understand what they are there to do through the Holy Spirit, then how effective is the church? Only as we gather the disciples together does the gathering declare to the spirit realm that God is God. Only as we teach disciples to obey does the spirit realm believe that we truly believe that God is God.”

The call for the disciple is clear. We are to obey Christ and join Him in tearing down the works of the devil. We are to do what we see in Isaiah 61:1-3. We begin by consecrating ourselves first...The part of our life that we withhold from God is the seat of our future troubles...Once we are free we will go and repair the devastated places. We will repair the damage that Satan and his army have accomplished. Through this, we will declare that God has dominion over all the earth.”

We fall to our enemy when we lean on our own understanding. We fall to our enemy when we fail to rest in the finished work of Christ.”


You can download the book for free at our online store.

You can also purchase a physical copy if you'd like.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Have you considered my servant Job?



Our missionaries have engaged in corporate prayer and fasting on and off over the years. We do it once a month, where we fast together and pray over serious concerns about our ministry, and then come together, pray and worship, and break fast. God has moved greatly though this. He led us to our first building donation this way. He revealed spiritual bondages we had come under. And He's brought clarity and guidance to our vision. Unfortunately, we get distracted from time to time and stop doing it. We get overwhelmed by the physical realities and quit. Or, it becomes too “religious”. It becomes a rote tradition that means less and less each time we do it. Then God brings conviction on us and says, “Did I ever tell you to stop?”

It's encouraging to look at what we have prayed for and what has come to pass. Though Sun Ministries has existed for 10 years, we've only been engaging the Isaiah 61 Initiative since 2009. In that short time we've accomplished a lot. And not without set backs.

For example, we are in the midst of renovating a house for one of our employees. We have owned the house for a few years now, and only occasionally would do some tear-out and clean up, or re-secure the building after someone breaks in. This summer, we bought the lumber necessary and started the hard work. And then a string of thunderstorms came. And then we lost one of our rehab workers. And then we lost several other employees, requiring our remaining rehab worker to switch to other tasks. And then the woodshop got an order, pulling me off of doing anything with the rehab. Then several months passed by. We started work again. More rain. More abundance of work in other departments. I broke my finger. We discovered we had bought the wrong lumber. Our generator died. Our air compressor died. But finally...finally...some progress. Some success.

Or look at our cafe. It is a constant challenge to keep it moving. There is so much personal interaction with customers. Equipment breaks down on a regular basis. Employees have crisis that must be addressed. We run out of inventory.

Our property maintenance has all the same problems. And so does the more spiritual aspects of our ministry. We struggle to produce training because we are constantly overwhelmed by physical obstacles. Terry, our executive director, gets pulled into all kinds of things that prevent him from organizing, planning, writing books, etc. We know things we should do and want to do that keep getting put on the back burner because a car got stolen, or someone called in, or a motor died, or the roof is leaking...


There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil. God had blessed him and protected him. And satan thought this was the only reason that Job bothered to honor God at all. Not that he feared Him, but because he had it good. Job never had to want or worry.

Satan turned out to be wrong about Job. I certainly don't envy Job's sufferings. Nor do I think I am as righteous as he or have lost as much as he did. But I do think there is something to be said for persevering through obstacles.

A while back our sewer line broke. It was annoying, gross, and costly. I clearly remember complaining to God, asking Him why He didn't just mend the line and protect us from all this hassle. He essentially said, “Everyone else here has to deal with aging, decaying sewer lines. Why do you get a pass?” Later, our cars were broken in to. I again brought the question to God, and He again brought the same response. Even later, someone broke into our yard and stole a stroller. In my arrogance, I repeated the exchange with God.

There is an aspect of trials, obstacles, problems that are just the result of living in a fallen world. There's an aspect that is our fault, dealing with the consequences of our choices (or lack of diligence). And there is an aspect of it all that is real spiritual warfare. Real attacks from real enemies, that God allows. Why? Because it declares who He is.

God didn't fail Job. He didn't stop being who He was simply because satan questioned Him. He didn't suspend His heart so that He could perform a cosmic experiment. And for us, God has continued to guide us and move us forward. He has brought correction and blessing and vision. He has brought last minute provision. He has brought strength and healing. He has brought much conviction so that we may turn more emphatically towards Him. He has taught and disciplined us, all the while being gracious and faithful. He has, in His sovereignty, shown what He can do through our weakness.

Had we engaged this work with all the needs met – endless supplies of cash, perfect equipment, all the necessary skills – it would hardly be impressive. It's like the Yankees getting to the World Series. Of course we would be successful. Of course we would be joyful and content. Of course we would praise God. We would never have had to want or worry.

As I've gone through each day or hour of the past month, I've been consistently discouraged. Mistakes, sickness, wounds, breakdowns, delays. But looking back now and seeing what has been accomplished despite all those things...I am amazed. Despite my ignorance, exhaustion, forgetfulness, and distraction, God has done what I could not. And He has given me a chance to work more closely with Him by reminding me that He is still here and doing what He has always done.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Second Chance Bazaar



Sun Ministries has opened it's sixth social enterprise: The Second Chance Bazaar. Since 2009, we have opened a wood shop, sewing center, cafe, maintenance services and lawncare, as well as engaging our own rehabs (3 complete and about 7 in the works), hosting dozens of work groups, assisting in and then running the Hyde Park Festival, and facilitating training for missionaries. No wonder we drink so much coffee!

The Second Chance Bazaar is a unique retail space. We offer a selection of second-hand items, including clothes, appliances, furniture, baby items, and other unique finds, as well as a great selection of our local, hand-made, repurposed goods, like coffee bag messenger bags and clutches, coffee bag wall art, pallet wood furniture, and children's furniture made from upcycled counter-top material.

for that bird-loving, coffee-drinking, glassware collector in your life

So why open Second Chance with so many other things going on? We have been making and selling items from day one with no real space to sell them. We've tried craft shows, earth day festivals, and online retailers with limited success. Once we opened Sun Cafe, it gave us a place to show items. But still, that's a cafe first, and a market second. Most people come in to buy a burger, not a table. We've also brought items to trade shows, but that limits us in both items offered and the audience. Having a dedicated retail space allows us to experiment with different items and get real-time feedback. It also allows us place to sell the numerous items we've been donated that have not found a home. We use items for our businesses, our missionaries, and our employees. But sometimes we get useful things that no one has need for. With The Second Chance Bazaar, we can turn those items into income, which means jobs and more ability to minister.


The Second Chance Bazaar is also a realization of our desire to repurpose, rebuild, and restore. We're repurposing burlap coffee bags, pallet wood, counter-top cut-offs, as well as fabric, yarn, and thread that has gone unused. And now we're giving new life to unwanted items, keeping them out of the landfill and using them to build a business and create jobs. We're rebuilding economy in our neighborhood. We've created 6 businesses, employed dozens of people, including over a hundred participants in SLATE's Summer Jobs League. We're rebuilding lives by offering opportunity through employment, encouragement, and training.

The Second Chance Bazaar is now open, but our grand opening celebration will be Thursday, November 3. Please visit our facebook page and give it a like. Stay tuned for give-aways in the coming months. Also, you can subscribe to our email newsletter to stay informed of developments and receive the occasional coupon.


If you'd like to donate items, please see our donation policy first. We simply aren't able to accept all items. To donate, you can contact Suzette Goodwin at 636-544-2152 or Suzette@sunministries.org
donation policy.  click to enlarge.


The Second Chance Bazaar is located at 1500 Salisbury Street, St. Louis, MO.  It is 2 blocks off I-70, across the street from Sun Cafe.  If you can't make it in, you can always check out our online store to see a limited selection of our handmade items.