Friday, February 12, 2016

Interview with Jessamyn

This year, we hope to host many events at Sun Cafe, including concerts, poetry readings, community groups, and presentations. Last year we did a "Summer Concert Series". This year, we're starting early and hoping to get more events and more patrons to each event. We already have two concerts and a poetry reading scheduled, as well as Dr. Terry Goodwin's "Tuesdays With Terry". We also hosted "Coffee with a Cop" last week.

Our first musical guest is Jessamyn, a singer-songwriter from south St. Louis, playing Friday, February 19 at 6PM. You can find out more about her at, or listen to and download (for free!) her ep, "Songs of the Living", here:

We asked her a few questions about the motivations behind the music. Here's what she had to say.

Why do you make music?
I think I make music because it is an art form that transcends words. Though I make music that is accompanied by words, there is usually something I am trying to communicate that is bigger than the words themselves or that is hard to put into words. My theory is that words correspond to the intellectual/discursive part of us and that melody corresponds to the emotional part of us. Songwriting, I think, is an art form that tries to bring the two together.

What do you most often express through your music and why?
Wordsworth said that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” I think that’s what I most often express through my music—“the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” The feelings, though, are not just random emotions or mood swings…they are the kind of feelings that accompany truth, insight, or some kind of revelation.

What do you hope to accomplish with your expressions, if anything?
I hope that, by being honest and thoughtful, and by hopefully creating something of beauty, I will connect with people on a deep level through music.

How do faith and creative expression intersect for you?
I think creative expression, like faith, requires honesty, humility, discipline, a willingness to take steps into the unknown, and a willingness to be vulnerable.

Have your own expressions, or those of others, helped you heal, know truth, know God, know yourself, etc.? Elaborate.
Yes, all of the above, I think. Certainly creative expression has brought me healing and relief. Songwriting often feels like a kind of breakthrough—being able to put into words and melody the truth that God has been trying to communicate to me.

Come and listen on Friday, February 19 at Sun Cafe, located at 1435 Salisbury, St. Louis, MO.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt. 6: What is the Isaiah 61 Initiative?

We've spent the last few weeks discussing Isaiah 61, the scripture that inspired the Isaiah 61 Initiative. So what is the Isaiah 61 Initiative anyway? It's sort of a big picture thing, so we'll start with the vision.

To declare God’s Glory through the spiritual renewal and physical restoration of the people and the land of America starting in the most desperate areas of our major cities.

To call for and facilitate a major missionary movement back to the devastated areas of our inner cities to establish homes and businesses, restore the land, and serve the people living there with the love of Jesus Christ.

The Isaiah 61 Initiative
Sun Ministries launched this nationwide effort to rebuild America's most devastated inner cities in 2009, starting in north St. Louis, Missouri. This aggressive initiative utilizes three main components (Leadership Center, Opportunity Center, Narrow Gate), along with some creative community engagement and use of resources, to solve problems that have plagued these areas for generations. By training and relocating young missionaries to live and work in these areas we will rebuild the decaying structures, minister to the neediest residents and make a generational impact.

So how do we actually do that? How does it work?

We will break down the three components in future blogs, but let's cover some big picture purposes here:

The Leadership Center
The Leadership Center trains and equips people for this work – primarily missionaries. The important aspect of this is that missionaries live and work in the neighborhoods where they minister. They are personally invested because it is their neighborhood, too. They walk the same streets, breathe the same air, hear the same gunshots, etc. They interact with other institutions as members of the community instead of as temporary outsiders. Furthermore, they do all of this without pay. Missionaries have basic needs met, and live meager lifestyles. This does two things. It puts the maximum amount of our resources towards our mission. It also prevents us from being motivated by money.

The Opportunity Center
This is essentially the business/employment aspect of the ministry. The businesses provide for the ministry, so that we can achieve financial sustainability. We work with our hands and lead a quiet life, gaining skills we can teach to others, and providing employment environments for people needing to turn their lives around.

The Narrow Gate
This is our approach to life change. It addresses major obstacles, with the goal being a transformed person. We lead people to the opportunities for owning a vehicle and a home. We provide housing as available and as needed. This is also the aspect that provides housing for missionaries. Our missionaries continue to move out into the community in their own homes.

Those three components work in concert to not only address an individual's problems, but the obstacles that weigh down an entire community. We call this approach, “Pastoring the Community.”

Pastoring the Community
What does it take to pastor a community? It takes faith, hard work, commitment, self-sacrifice, and more. It takes people willing to serve others. We pray, serve, assist, support, and give. We use what God has given us physically, spiritually, and materially and dedicate it to serving others. We preserve what is decaying. We inspire what has been discouraged. We challenge what has been unmotivated. We provide where we are able. We empower what has been hindered. We rebuild what has been broken down. We revive those that have become faint at heart. We restore the Spirit of God to mankind through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Because the issues facing communities are complex and longstanding, we have to get outside the box in every area. We have to be humble, flexible, and patient. Poverty is not simply a lack of money. Racism is not simply judgmental people. Violence is not solved by arrests. We interact with people and institutions in nearly every social realm: politicians, educators, police, churches, non-profits, residents, etc.

Pastoring the Community requires us to stand against evil. We are agents of reconciliation sent to serve and defend the defenseless. We build up the defenseless. We equip people to stand alone but teach them to always stand together. Pastoring the Community requires us to give up our rights to and ownership of the resources God provides for us. We Pastor the Community best when we stand as good stewards of that which we can never take with us.

The Isaiah 61 Initiative is the real life expression of what it means to Pastor the Community. It is the answer to the call that is essentially God's pattern for life. God demonstrates, teaches, and commands sacrificial love to restore the broken. No issue will be solved simply, so He has led us into a diverse and challenging approach to live, minister, and engage serious problems.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What is Tuesdays With Terry?

This previous Tuesday, we starting hosting teaching sessions at Sun Cafe, where Dr. Terry Goodwin, the founder and executive director of Sun Ministries, will be sharing some of the philosophy and principles of how we minister.

We are convinced that God has called us here, into this work, and that He has been building it faithfully. He has challenged us, broken us, healed us, enlightened us, and opened our eyes to things we never would have thought were real. The problems that He is addressing through our work are physical and spiritual, secular and religious, societal, cultural, relational, etc. While we know we don't have all the answers, we realize that there are some unique things going on here.

Most importantly, all the work and activity of Sun Ministries started in a spiritual place, and was borne out of a relationship with a real living God. The way we live our faith has become bigger and more real since the start of our work.

We know that not everyone is called to the same work. But we are convinced that what God has taught us here can be reproduced in other communities, so we want to share them with you. These are biblical principles that have come to life as we've walked them out in ministry and community. Here is the schedule for the remaining sessions:

Tuesdays at Sun Cafe, 6-8PM

February 9 – The Basics of Making Disciples

February 16 – Spiritual Disciplines

February 23 – Pastoring the Community

March 1 – Planting Faith Communities in a Post-Modern World

Please email to register.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt. 5: Rebuild

Ruined cities. We see them every day. On our drives to work. On the news. In political debates, infographics, and non-profit agendas. “Urban missions” is a growing trend, and has become a focus of study at many Christian colleges. It's obvious there is a problem, and that the problem is very old.

The Isaiah 61 Initiative was born several years ago at a disciple-making training. During a break, God started revealing different scriptures to people. When they reconvened, they shared what God had laid on their hearts, and it all pointed to Isaiah 61, to the ruined cities. This is why we know we are called to the inner cities of America.

Of course, we know that this is not merely a physical call. Yes, there are physical ruins that need rebuilt, and we are doing that by rehabbing and utilizing commercial and residential spaces. But what about the spiritual desolations of many generations? It is no secret that in America today there are deep wounds left by generations of abuse, neglect, prejudice, apathy, racism, and a multitude of other forms of division. The church has found itself on both sides of these divisions, being the pioneers into dark places, as well as those ridiculing or ignoring cries for help.

The problem with ancient ruins is that they are ancient. They didn't develop overnight, and they won't be alleviated that way. Many of the buildings are crumbling after decades of neglect. Windows are broken. Roofs are failing. Mortar is worn away from the joints between bricks. And this goes on for block after block, mile after mile of many inner-cities in America. It's been this way, to some degree, since the late 50's, as white-flight and the shift in domestic industry forever changed the “urban core”.

And yet this is just the physical side of the devastation. People, too, have been worn away over the decades. They have inherited heavy burdens of pain and distrust. They have been wounded. Not only that, but the Gospel itself has been twisted in the modern landscape. The focus has shifted to saying a prayer and getting into heaven, or simply attaining abundant physical blessings in this world. It has been intellectualized, marketed, programmed, diffused, and contextualized into every new popular movie franchise. Church buildings lay in ruins right next to boarded up two-family flats. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit and sent to proclaim good news to the poor for so much more than that, and so were you. There is a power in the Gospel, in the Spirit of the Living God, to enter into these ruins and begin the hard work of rebuilding. But it is a power that must be taken up, much like a cross, and carried. The mission of Isaiah 61 must be done, walked out. This requires you to lay down your own life and be willing to come alongside other people

The most amazing thing about this verse, however, is who is doing the rebuilding. Let's review the passage, starting at the beginning:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. [Isa 61:1-4 NASB]”

It is, in fact, those who have been transformed who will be doing the rebuilding. They have received the good news; they have been healed, set free, and comforted; they have exchanged their despair for rejoicing; and they are now a mighty oak, glorifying God. And now that they have been “rebuilt”, they will go and repair the ruined cities. This is glorious. This is redemption. This is what Jesus came for. It is the end result of the good news He brings.