Thursday, November 30, 2017

Planting Faith Communities

As we've stated in the last few blog entries, Sun Ministries is focusing on what we've always wanted to do: make disciples and plant faith communities.  The Church@HydePark is the first faith community planted by Sun Ministries. We say planted because like a seed we will nurture it and help it grow. Modern Christianity in America is largely an institutional endeavor. The New Testament contains no instructions for establishing an institution over the church. It does contain ample instruction on how the church should be organized, led and operate. We are looking to help people discover the organic and mission oriented nature of the Christian faith as instructed in the Bible.

Sun Ministries supports the leadership and provides resources to stabilize and establish the local church. Then Sun Ministries releases the faith community to pastor the community by sharing the Gospel of Jesus and meeting the needs of those around them. Sun Ministries plays an ongoing leadership role by promoting unity through service among the local faith communities.

For many years we have referred to those supported by Sun Ministries as “Missionaries”. We did this because without a local faith community it was hard to put what we were doing into generally understood terms. We are no longer using this designation. The staff of Sun Ministries is simply spiritually gifted leaders who have dedicated their whole lives to the vision and mission of Sun Ministries. Our goal is to plant faith communities that operate on the basis of spiritual gifts under biblical leadership and function by God's design. In order to facilitate that we must start with spiritually gifted leaders who will equip people for the works of ministry. These leaders are the staff of Sun Ministries.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The New Opportunity Center Expansion

The facility that will replace the Penrose Project is located at the corner of 14th and Salisbury. The first stage will be to finish the garage at 3624 N. 14th. This will house our woodshop, maintenance services, rehab and auto repair shop. Phase two will finish the lower level of 3628 N. 14th where we will relocate The Second Chance Bazaar. Phase 3 will bring the sewing center into the building. Phase four will add the audio and video recording studio.

There is no time frame for completing this project. We are still recovering from the damage that was done to us. We invested two years, hundreds of man hours, a considerable amount of money, and our reputation into a project that was ended outside of our control. We also realized the need to focus on making disciples and developing faith communities. We will spend 2018 rebuilding our relationships with volunteer groups and our supporters. There is a lot to do.

Our goal is to focus our energy on the core businesses that allow us the flexibility in our schedules to do what our mission and name declares. We are first and foremost a ministry.

If a business is not accomplishing our vision and mission then it does not serve its intended purpose. This is the conclusion we have come to regarding Sun Cafe. Sun Cafe has become the most visible expression of our ministry. Some people even refer to us as Sun Cafe and not Sun Ministries. This is not what we want to be known as. We are not a restaurant. We have also concluded that Sun Cafe has not moved the mission of Sun Ministries forward in proportion to the effort, management time, and cash required to operate it. So we have made the decision to permanently close Sun Cafe.

Upon completion of the Opportunity Center Expansion, we will have all of our core businesses operating out of our own facility. We will prioritize adding alternative energy sources to the building to lower our overhead. This will give us the lowest possible operating overhead and allow us to operate with as little management time as possible. It will give us new tools for empowerment and the operation of our core mission. We are ready to plant more faith communities.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Moving Forward

We had embarked on the Penrose Project because it was an incredible opportunity. The building would have been an impressive resource, we could stabilize and expand our businesses and offer all kinds of empowerment for the community. And then, after two years of labor, networking, and promotion, we got the letter from the city that they didn't own the building and were immediately cancelling the lease.

We have suffered greatly due to this error. Our reputation has been damaged. We have alienated financial supporters. Our relationships with volunteer groups were damaged as we had to cancel at the last minute, leaving them no place to serve. We lost revenue from our woodshop. We incurred debt and spent thousands of dollars on obtaining the building. Most importantly, we did not get to add the Art and Technology Center to our community. Instead, the building is used as storage by the City Treasurer's office as it sits and deteriorates. What could have been an incredible community asset will instead sit and continue to be a blight on our neighborhood.

The result of these events over the last two years have caused us to re-examine how we approach our work in the city and the businesses we run. Sun Ministries is going back to basics. We have wandered off track a little. Our good intentions to build the community and form beneficial partnerships did not take into account the greed, corruption and incompetency that has led to the current conditions all around us. We firmly believe that God is doing a great work in the inner city and we are called to facilitate that work.

We know our primary function as Sun Ministries is to plant faith communities that operate by God's design. These faith communities will rebuild the inner cities of America. We cannot do this in partnership with the government, people motivated by greed, or people looking to control our work or control those in our community. We want to see unity in our community and these things can never achieve unity. They are fundamentally divisive. They bring their unholy motivations into everything they do.

Sun Ministries has had a rough year. We are turning the corner as we move into 2018. We are refocused and ready to continue planting faith communities that are united to serve by showing the justice, mercy and love of Christ to the world. We plan to do this by multiplying disciples that live under the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. We have already been doing this through the Church@HydePark.

Today we are announcing that the Opportunity Center expansion will still take place. It will happen in a building we already own. It will take a little longer to accomplish but it will happen. Once it is finished we will have an incredible tool of empowerment in the Hyde Park neighborhood. The goal is to concentrate on our core businesses and the tools we need to fulfill our mission. The complex will house an expanded woodshop and sewing center, an audio and video recording studio, our second hand store, our maintenance services and rehab operations and give us space for the Opportunity Garage.

What will be missing from this version of the project? There will be no space dedicated to community use. This facility will be for our use. It is unfortunate, but the facility is not as large as 1901 Penrose. We really wanted to facilitate that kind of space but we are not able to do that in this building.

Monday, November 20, 2017

What happened to the Penrose Project? Part 2

In order to complete the lease of the property, a law would have to be passed through the Board of Alderman and signed by the mayor. The bill was submitted by our alderman and passed through the board vote. When I got the paperwork, I noticed that the original proposed lease document had been passed and signed. I asked why they changed their minds only to find out they submitted the wrong bill. They quickly submitted a repeal and replace bill (Board Bill 304) which included the correct version of the lease with the shorter term and oversight board requirements. That bill also passed the Board and was signed by the mayor and all required parties.

We were full speed ahead and very excited. We had hundreds of volunteers lined up. It was spring break time and the weather was cooperating. All we needed were the keys. We insured the building, as was required by the lease terms and asked for the keys. We were told it would only take a few days. We started working on the outside of the building. We were cleaning, landscaping and painting. We asked to get let into the building and started removing the trash and debris. The project was on track and looked like it would soon be open.

As we worked with a large volunteer group one day, we were told to leave the premises. Immediately after this my emails and phone calls were not returned. I still did not have keys but I had a signed copy of the lease and insurance on the building. I couldn't understand what the problem could possibly be. Several influential people agreed to look into it for me. Everyone that did would soon stop returning my phone calls and emails. I knew there was a problem but I never expected what came next.

Approximately three months after the lease was signed, over two years since we started the whole process, I got a letter from the city of St. Louis. Are you ready for this? They didn't actually own the building! They had offered an RFP to sell a building that they did not own. They passed two bills through the Board of Alderman, had both signed by the mayor, signed and executed a lease with us, supplied us with copies of all of these documents and did not own the building.

We were floored. We had invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in the project. We had weathered all the issues and obstacles. We accepted the restrictions and the shorter lease terms. We arranged for and scheduled hundreds of volunteers. The cost to us was staggering. We had taken on debt expecting to have facilities for expansion. We shut down our woodshop in order to prepare it for the move. We invested labor and money over a 2 year period. All we got was a letter saying the city didn't own the building so the deal was over. The Penrose Project was dead. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

What happened to the Penrose Project?

It was our most ambitious project in our ten year history. We proposed to take a long vacant police station and turn it into an asset of empowerment for the community. The property is located at 1901 Penrose in the Hyde Park neighborhood of north St. Louis. It sits across the street from Windsor Park. We proposed a facility that would house our woodshop, sewing center, maintenance services and our main offices. We would add to that a computer lab, an audio and video recording studio, a metal shop, an auto shop and common space for the development of art and technology programming for the community by providing the space at cost for other community groups to use.

The City of St. Louis offered the property through an RFP (Request for Proposal) in the summer of 2015. We answered with our proposal and were selected to purchase the building. Over the course of the next year and a half we put hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into the Penrose Project. We developed the plans, wrote dozens of grant proposals, lined up hundreds of volunteer hours and spent time and money stabilizing the property. We met with the city building division for the details of the plan. Everyone was helpful and excited for what we were doing.

As the plan came into focus, we took on a couple of private investors to help cover the costs we were incurring through the project. We cleared one hurdle after another. The only hurdle we could not clear was the purchase price of the building. So Plan B was proposed: the city would lease the building to us for 99 years for a dollar a year. We would invest the money needed to improve and repair the building.

Then the obstacles came. The local developer that had written the RFP objected to the lease terms. Then the Alderman changed the terms. Our agreement for a 99 year lease was reduced to a 20 year lease that would have to be renewed every 5 years. Other restrictions were added as people tried to use their influence to take control of the facility. A community oversight board would be required and have say in how we used the building. All of these terms were imposed on the project after we agreed to the 99 year lease.

Our goal was to have a place that would benefit the community. We were taking all the risk. The building was vacant (and still is). We were the ones investing the time and money into repairing the building. There was no guaranty in the new lease that we would retain the building for more than six months. It could be taken away at any time and for any reason with six months notice.

Our Board of Directors considered aborting the whole project. Our desire to empower the residents and rebuild the neighborhood outweighed our concerns over the powers that were souring the deal. We were willing to risk much because we felt the benefit far outweighed the negative possibilities, so we proceeded with the plan.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Origins - Part 4

The first three parts of this series were written in 2006 as I was starting Sun Ministries. Much of what is cited about the condition and operation of the American church is still true today. The decline has increased. Sun Ministries was started in order to facilitate the planting of faith communities (some would call churches). We needed to undergo some training in God's design for the church before we could facilitate others in that work. God was faithful to take us on a great journey that has equipped us to help others find the church that God designed.

The church that God designed has some very unique features. Here are a few.
  1. It is formed, led and operates on the basis of spiritual gifts that God bestows on those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
  2. It is led by the operation of spiritual gifts and not offices.
  3. It is unified with other locations through a common bond and dedication to God.
  4. It focuses on making disciples and teaching them to make disciples.
  5. It cares for each other and the community where it is located.
Sun Ministries has planted the first of these faith communities in the Hyde Park neighborhood of North St. Louis. It is called the Church at Hyde Park. It is named simply so that it is easier to interact with future faith communities. It is named by its location because that is the pattern we see in Scripture. This first work is now growing by making disciples and teaching them to make disciples. It is led by spiritually gifted leaders. It shares what it has as we see the early church did in the Book of Acts. 

We now have a functioning model of what God called us to facilitate. We have learned how to make disciples that can make disciples. We understand how spiritual gifts are to operate and leaf the church. We are ready to multiply the movement towards God design for His church.

As we prepare to increase our efforts in the area of our original calling we have discovered that some of our businesses actually hindered our work instead of helping it progress. One example is Sun Cafe. The demands of running the cafe were drawing too much resource and energy away from our ministry goals. It was not facilitating the work we feel is our primary mission. The cafe was also a highly visible expression of our work. We were becoming known by Sun Cafe. So we shut it down. We are looking at ways to make Sun Cafe work for the goals of the ministry. If we can see a way to make that happen we will reopen. If we do not see a way to do that, it will remain closed. All of our businesses are tools to facilitate the spiritual work of Sun Ministries. We cannot invest time and resources into any business that does not support our mission.

So today, after ten years of preparation, we are ready. We are planting faith communities that operate by God's design for His church. These communities are based in spiritual gifts and led by Biblical leadership. They make disciples and teach them how to make disciples. They care for each other and their community. They all work together in unity to support each other and serve the world. I thinks things are just getting started.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Origins - Part 3

Larger suburban churches are seeing their growth as blessing from God when in actuality they are losing ground. According to Barna Research only 1% of American churches are actually growing from anything other than transfer growth from existing churches. In his book titled “Planting Growing Churches”, author Aubrey Malphurs points out some startling facts about the American church. He says 80 – 85% of American churches have stopped growing or in a state of decline. There are approximately 350,000 congregations in America. 30, 000 ceased to exist in the 80’s and it is estimated that another 100,000 have ceased to exist between then and now. Why is the church in America dying at such a pace? The eye has told the hand it has no need of it. What will be the result of this? See what the rest of the 1 Corinthians passage has to say.

1Cr 12:26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if {one} member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
1Cr 12:27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
1Cr 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, {various} kinds of tongues.
1Cr 12:29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not {workers of} miracles, are they?
1Cr 12:30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
1Cr 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

Two things are outlined in this section. All the members will suffer when any part of the body suffers and we will miss a more excellent way of fulfilling God’s ministry. It is with all of this in mind that God has brought me to this place today. I see the warning in Acts 20:28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” I look at the church in America today and I do not see the leaders heeding this warning. God did not say be on guard for a portion of the flock or shepherd some of the church.

So I asked myself “what am I to do”? I cannot sit and watch the bride of Christ suffer. This is where Sun Ministries comes in. I must ask you to stop at this point and consider what I have said. If you disagree with me at this point on the condition of, future of, and God’s intention for the church, you may want to stop reading. If God has not convicted you by now that the church needs help and inter-dependency then you will be following the idea for wrong motives. If you have examined the Scripture and your eyes have been opened or your existing convictions have been confirmed, then you should continue.

What is Sun Ministries?

The word Sun here is the Greek word sun {soon}. It means “with”. It denotes union, a companion or to come alongside. The purpose of the ministry is to come along side the local church and help to strengthen it. This will be a challenging and complex undertaking. Remember what I quoted earlier, no one knows how to do this. We are entering uncharted territory. I believe that God will build His church and that He can direct our steps. I have many ideas on how to accomplish this objective but I must remember what 1 Corinthians says.

1Cr 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.

Our basis for ministry will be the unity of the body of Christ around a core of truth. We will outline what we consider to be God's design for the church. Any church that can be dedicated to functioning by God's design can be included in our network of inter-dependent churches. Our goal is to provide all support free of charge. Faith communities we plant can request assistance of the ministry in many forms. We will utilize many different methods to meet the needs of these churches. Some of the support ideas already planned are financial assistance, short term work teams, ministry teams to assist the church in discipleship development, training materials designed with disciple multiplying and biblical church function in mind, and service opportunities with other small churches. 

We will be the organizer and overseer of many short-term mission opportunities. Imagine being able to go to Sun Ministries web page and sign your small group up for a short term mission trip that is within 3 or 4 hour drive from home. You load up the team on Friday night, work all day Saturday, feast with the church on Saturday night and join them in worship on Sunday. Your whole team can be back home by Sunday night. No time off work and the chance to be a blessing to another part of the body of Christ and with very little monetary expense. Now imagine a network of churches using the gifts of the body of Christ in such a manner to organize service events and reach their local area for Christ. When you start to see the picture I am painting here you can only imagine the impact we can have on America for Christ as we utilize the gifts and resources God has given us to reach all parts of America and not just the booming suburbs.

Our ministry will operate through spiritual gifts. At the core of this ministry is prayer. Without prayer we cannot be successful in ministry. It is the power of God. Team building will be an important part of our ministry. The Leadership Center trains and equips our teams and other volunteers for service. They will be responsible for equipping the leaders of our ministry with proper training, materials and opportunity. It will also make and distribute materials made especially for the needs of the small church and our ministry. They will also work with volunteer members to give them opportunity to use their God given gifts to care for the bride of Christ. They will organize short-term mission trips and put into action the priorities of the ministry. It will oversee the daily operations of the ministry

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Origins - Part 2

The model of planting churches today is often to send them out – support them for 2-5 years financially and then break ties with them. Most mother churches do not maintain a long term nurturing and supporting role in the church plant. I do not believe that God intended the church to operate this way. In Romans chapter 12 we find a discussion of how God planned for the church to operate.

Rom 12:4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
Rom 12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Rom 12:6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, {each of us is to exercise them accordingly:} if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
Rom 12:7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
Rom 12:8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Rom 12:9 {Let} love {be} without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Rom 12:10 {Be} devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
Rom 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Rom 12:12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
Rom 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

The picture the Bible gives us is one of an inter-dependent church sharing our gifts, prayers, and resources as God has given them to us. The church was meant to function as an organism that utilizes all the members and all the gifts in an inter-dependent relationship. The modern American church has dissected the body of Christ and turned its focus on itself. Planting new churches will only delay the repeat of the problems we already see. Church planting is not the solution to the problems faced by the American church. If the attitude of the church is not changed then we are still not operating as God designed and our failure will be just as sure to happen in the future.

Can leadership fix the American church? It can help. In order to help it must be Biblical leadership. This leadership is not to be confused with secular leadership. This leadership would examine the Scripture and see the division of the church in America for what it is – sin. This Biblical leadership would step up without fear of consequence and turn the focus outside their walls to the local churches around them. Take for example this passage in 1 Corinthians.

1Cr 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
1Cr 12:12 For even as the body is one and {yet} has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
1Cr 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1Cr 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

It is clear here that church walls do not separate the body of Christ. I am not promoting an ecumenical approach or a one church movement. There must always be unity around essential truth. What is clear today is that very little concern is shown from one church to another, even within the same denomination. God says He sees the church as one entity not as individual churches. If we only take care of one part of the body, have we really cared for the bride of Christ? Look further in 1 Corinthians.

1Cr 12:15 If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not {a part} of the body," it is not for this reason any the less {a part} of the body.
1Cr 12:16 And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not {a part} of the body," it is not for this reason any the less {a part} of the body.
1Cr 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
1Cr 12:18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
1Cr 12:19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?

1Cr 12:20 But now there are many members, but one body. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Origins - Part 1

What follows is based on the original vision document I wrote in 2006 when starting Sun Ministries. As I look back over the last ten years I have realized that I have gotten sidetracked a bit with the physical realities of ministry. These realities are a necessary part of our ministry but they are not the essence of what we do. Sun Ministries was being defined by these physical expressions of our work. To some we were the Cafe run by a ministry and not the ministry that was planting faith communities by multiplying disciples. Sun Ministries is now  correcting course to be true to the calling that God placed on my life, the calling that started the ministry. God is calling His people to live by His design. Sun Ministries is here to facilitate that work.

Dr. Terry M. Goodwin

Build up the family of God by supporting the local church. Building community among the church with truth at the core.

Twenty years after graduating from high school I returned to my old hometown. It was a town like thousands of other small American towns. In the time since I left, the town had grown a little. Including the surrounding area the population had almost doubled. I had visited several times since I left but this time was different. I was returning there to live. Since my graduation, God had become a central part of my life. As I looked at the local churches in this town I noticed something. None of them looked any different than they did 20 years earlier. One had even closed its doors and the building was now a day care. I had been living in large metropolitan areas and attending large growing churches so I wondered why were these so “dead”?

Over the next few years God began to open my eyes to some problems with the church. These problems have now become to me what Bill Hybel’s refers to as “holy discontent”. That is best described as the thing that bothers you that also bothers God. When you meet with God at your Holy discontent your emotions are stirred. You become choked up and overwhelmed. Your passion is stirred to the point that you cannot sit by and watch it go unnoticed. You want to run headlong into the problem yelling to everyone “Can’t you see it? This thing is breaking God’s heart.” That is where I am today with the condition of the American church. I am going to now ask you to open your hearts and minds to the plight of the American church and what is being done about it.

The consensus among large churches and large church movement leaders is that a lack of leadership is what’s wrong with the local church today. George Barna has identified this as the number one problem facing the church. I agree in part. The leaders of large churches have turned their focus internal and overseas neglecting the local church. Since Christ is the head of the church we have the best leadership possible if we do things His way and we have not. The buzz for today is to have an Acts 2 church. This is used to talk about the community that a church should have among believers. No where does the Bible indicate that this community is only within each individual church. Let’s look at a portion of Acts 2.

Act 2:44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; Act 2:45 and they {began} selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Act 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, Act 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The word all is used in this passage. As you look through the book of Acts you can see that the churches were very inter-dependent with each other. Inter-dependency is the battle cry of many small group ministries today. The idea of community and inter-dependency has been reformulated and turned to an internal focus in the church. The early church had built inter-dependency between the churches in other locations. The church today has lost that quality. We see churches supporting inner city churches and we see churches supporting churches with other racial make up but nowhere have I found where the church is inter-dependent like the church of Acts.

Take this simple test.
  1. How many churches are there in your own denomination within 100 miles of your church?
  2. How many does your church work with and support in ministry?
  3. How many are struggling under what the church today has deemed poor leadership?
If the only question above that you can answer accurately is number 2 and the answer is none then you can start to see where I am coming from. The modern church in America has answered the plight of the church in two ways. They look to building leadership and reform the church through church planting. Denominations will concede that it is easier to plant new churches than it is to strengthen the ones that remain. The reason they prefer this model is that they believe no one knows how to revive a dead church. I am going to test both of these solutions according to Scripture and see if the Bible tells us how God would have us minister to the church.