How Starbucks Gained My Respect

drB8iDadTNCPp41IZRTeEQI live in Seattle. One of the things I’ve adopted as a Seattle dweller is a wee bit of coffee snobbery. I like craft, local coffee roasters that don’t over burn their beans. So my dislike of Starbucks coffee is pretty high. I go to coffee shops to drink coffee, not coffee related drinks with 4 pumps of mocha-lappa-chocolatta-carmelita with extra foam. (See, coffee snobbery) Though there are two exceptions for me – the nitro cold brew and their small lot coffee that they serve in the roastery or in the Reserve stores are pretty decent, though they are a bit over priced. All that to say, I’m not a lover of Starbucks coffee.

Despite my lack of love of their coffee offerings, I’ve long respected their commitment to quality control. Whether you like it or think it tastes like boiled paper bag ashes, Starbucks tastes the same everywhere you go. You can go to the “original” store in Pike Place Market or the Starbucks in Jonesboro, AR – it tastes the same. That’s amazing to me. But its been their latest move that earned my respect on a much deeper level.

By now you’ve seen what’s happened with the two Black gentlemen being arrested in the Philadelphia area Starbucks for waiting for a friend for 2 whole minutes. One thing (of the many) Starbucks has done in response is to close 8,000 stores and hold a diversity training for it’s employees. Some people looking on think its a PR move and they are pandering. If you talk to employees in their corporate locations, you’ll hear a different tune. But whether or not you think its genuine, their chosen path of action is incredible. Its incredible both for what they did and what they didn’t do.

Starbucks does a LOT of good that largely goes unreported in large part due to them not putting out a press release for all they do. Honestly, I only know of some of the stuff they do because I either volunteered at an event or a corporate employee told me. Its amazing all the things they do. And when this ordeal in Philadelphia went down, they could’ve went on a PR spree highlighting all the work they do both here in America and abroad. They could’ve defended their record with their philanthropy, economic drivers, the things they do for the poor, the refugees, and more. They could’ve regained their lost title of “St. Arbucks” for all of the saintly work they do. They could’ve defended their integrity by highlighting their record. That’s what I would’ve done. Its what you would’ve done. “You think I’m racist? You think I’m self serving? Let me show you all the ways I’m not any of those things! Meet my minority friends. See all the money I give away. See all of my volunteer hours. See my foster care record. Look at my adopted kids. Check my 4H Club card.” We would’ve defended our record in the face of intense public scrutiny.

But they didn’t.

They didn’t remind us of how good they are and why we should just call this an isolated incident. Instead, they addressed the issue at hand and took it head on. All of the times they got it right didn’t matter, they got THIS one wrong and they wanted to deal with THIS one. No defense of their honor. No reminder of their record. None of that. They saw this situation, said we got this one wrong and moved to address it.

There’s a lot for us learn from that example. And for me, there’s a lot to respect in that example.

2017 Guest Preaching Recap

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2017 was a wild year. Yes we planted Reunion Seattle – WOW – but I also did more guest preaching than I had done in previous years. Which was an actual answer to prayer as I wanted to have more opportunities to exercise the gift God seemed to be trusting me with and use it build up the Body (ala Ephesians 4).

Outside of the churches I was a part of in 2017 (Reach & Reunion), God then put me in front of 7,000+ people to preach 20 times in 8 cities, 4 churches, 2 conferences, 1 retreat for at risk youth and 1 school to declare His good news! Unfortunately, I had to turn down 2 other requests for 2017 because I needed to be present with my wife, children and new church family.

I want to thank everyone that brought me in to share with their people in 2017: Dan Kimball & Jay Kim @ Vintage Faith Church and Regeneration Project (I got to preach there TWICE in 2017!), Darren Larson @ Imprint Church, Thomas Terry and the Humble Beast crew for Canvas Conference, Christian Simas @ Reality Stockton, Nathan Smith @ Valley Christian School, Chris Tenny @ Dwell Christian Church & Paul Dean @ Soma Eastside.

It was a GREAT year for that and we are praying about what it would look like to continue to preach outside of Reunion and build up the Body outside of our local church context. We’ve already put a couple of dates on the calendar with some wonderful churches and events in 2018.

If you’re interested in having me come preach at your church or event in 2018, email me at steve@reunionseattle.org. I’d love talk to you and see if its a good fit for us both.

Check out some pics from the yearIMG_4427.jpg

 

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Reunion Seattle…so far

I can’t believe that 2017 is almost over. Its a WILD year for sure. One of the wildest things of 2017 has ABSOLUTELY been the launching of our church Reunion Seattle.

My family, our friends Sam & AstaireSmith, and 9 other wild and crazy people agreed to be in on what God is up to in the Southend of Seattle and plant a new church there. So on July 23rd we hosted our first gathering as Reunion Seattle! The Smith’s opened up their home on 15th Ave in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and just said “eh, we’ll see who shows up.” Well…the house was packed! Fortunately the summer was very dry and the days were nice so the kids could have their space in the backyard without being inside on a hot summer day.

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IMG_0048.jpgWe wanted to take our time and build a healthy rhythm in the early days. We wanted to worship together and a develop relationships so we decided to have worship gatherings every other week and have picnic days at a local park in between. We had this notion that this irregular rhythm would slow us down and keep us small enough to meet in the house until at least the new year. Well…not so much. Throughout the summer, despite our best ideas, we continued to grow. People would text us “hey we can’t make it this week” and Sam and I would think “Whew! Maybe there will be room for some new people!” So early on we began praying for a space big enough, and cheap enough, for our new church.

Then, on Sept 17th we hosted our info meeting and held our first gathering in what would become the second home of Reunion – Centilia Cultural Center, only a few blocks away from where we met in Sam & Astaire’s house. And more people showed up! God kept adding to our number with stories of people encountering the Gospel for the first time! Some put their faith in Jesus for the first time, others plugged back in to a faith community for the first time in a long time. Since then, God has been wildly faithful to us and His mission in South Seattle.

IMG_0061.jpgIMG_0056.jpgOn Dec 10th we concluded our first sermon series at Reunion. Its small milestone for us but we celebrated it! Since we’ve launched we also have added a total of 4 Groups that meet throughout the city of Seattle, We’ve hosted our 4 “Basics” classes, and began a canned food drive for Seattle Union Gospel Mission. IMG_0197 2.png

But beginning Jan 2018, we will be launching our WEEKLY gatherings and those sermons will be recorded and available online. But forget the audio, if you’re in the Seattle area you should join us in person! We’re in awe of what God is up to and excited to see what He would decide to do through us at Reunion Seattle.

IMG_0063.jpgIts already been a wild ride, and we’re excited for more!

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A Gospel & Race Liturgy

This Sunday I was invited to preach at Soma Eastside in Issaquah, WA, a suburb located just east of Seattle. Paul Dean, the lead elder of the church and friend of mine, has been compelled to do something to help lead his people into a thoughtful, Christ centered view of the Gospel and the way it should shape our view of race. IMG_2664.JPG.jpeg

He knew that doing “the talk” with his church would help, but only so much. He knew responding to the events of the moment wouldn’t be enough, it it would even be effective at all. Then, after reading about Seattle Pacific University professor and Associate Pastor of Teaching at Quest Church, Brenda Salter McNeil, share her fears as a Black person in a Christianity Today piece he felt compelled to respond. He felt he had to do something.

The first thing he did was ask me would it be weird if he reached out to Salter McNeil to show solidarity with her. I said “it might be, but do it anyway.” (insert your favorite “lol” gif) I genuinely thought the act would be a good step in fostering true family love in the Seattle region for one another as well it being a good gesture to show solidarity between a White man and a Black woman. It was a good step, but he knew he needed to do more. He had love for his sister across the region, but he needed to love and lead the people in his community, in his congregation.

Compelled by the belief that the Gospel is the answer to all of our ills and that the church should be overt in its rejection of the evils of racism, Paul and Soma Eastside created a Gospel & Race liturgy to lead the congregation through. And its not a one time “we did the thing” event. The church does this scripture reading and response EVERY WEEK. I was there when they did it. And let me tell you with no hesitation – IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL. It was powerful. An absolutely stunning view of scripture and humanity and a wonderful way to change people for the better with with the Gospel.

Paul sent me the reading and response they use each week and has given me permission to post it here. May it inspire many other churches to do something similar as it communicates masterfully, especially in a predominantly White context like Issaquah, that God dignifies all human beings. Its shows everyone that despite being a cultural minority you can be at home among people who look different than you because you are among the family of God.

Read: Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

Response: God created human beings in his image, and thus all people share in divine dignity

Read: Gal. 3:26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Response: No race, gender, or ethnicity is greater or more valuable than another.

 

Read: Eph 2:14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 

Response: The good news of Jesus Christ has the power to break down racial and ethnic barriers

 

(btw, if you’re interested in hearing the sermon I preached, you can check it out here. 0:00-3:00 Paul is introducing and praying for me and Reunion Seattle, 3:00-7:00 I’m telling my salvation and ministry journey, 7:00-11:45 I’m talking about Reunion from conception through today, then the sermon starts at the 11:45 mark. If you want to skip straight to the sermon, just fast forward to the 11:45 mark and jump in!)

Sermon: Isaiah 55 @ Imprint Church

Hey there!

On July 30th, I was invited to preach at Imprint Church in Woodinville, WA where my friend Darren Larson is the lead pastor. They are doing GREAT stuff for the community of Woodenville and they’re a faithful Gospel witness in a region that desperately needs it!

They asked me to preach as a part of their series in the book of Isaiah and they assigned me Isaiah 55. If you’re interested, check out the sermon from that Sunday below.

Along with preaching duties at our church plant, Reunion Seattle, I also preach at other churches, conferences and retreats. If you’re interested in having me come to your church or event, you can put in a request here.

 

So…we’re starting a new church

I’ve been involved in local church ministry for 15 years in churches of various sizes and stages. I’ve led in the newly started church of 25 people, the 3 year old 300 person church and a 4 year old 800-1000 person church. I’ve served in various capacities and at one point or another over the last 15 years, I’ve led, started or rebooted just about every type ministry in the church with the exception of a worship team. I was bi-vocational for nearly 12 years and I’ve been in the 3 most unreached/unchurched regions of America for my entire ministry life. I say all that to say that my whole life has been committed to serving in the local church and in many years specifically we’ve been committed to serving in church plants. (Plant is Christianese for a start up, in case you were wondering)

My wife and I moved to the PNW to, Lord willing, be a part of a team that would plant a multi-ethnic church in the city of Seattle in 2018. The time to begin that part of our adventure is here. Our time with the team at Reach Church has come to an end and the next phase is upon us. Along with our friends Sam and Astaire Smith, we will be heading  up a wildly gifted, diverse team of people to start a church in the South End of Seattle. It will be called Reunion and our mission is simply to be people that are “joining Jesus as He unites all things.”

We are pumped about to about the next season and phase and over the course of the next few days I’ll be giving you the full data dump about what’s going on with the church and how you can help. I’ll be sharing the website, a prayer update, you’ll hear from some of the folks of the team, and more.

For now, celebrate with us and pray for us as we get ready for our first launch team gathering on Sunday July 23rd.

You also follow some of the journey of Reunion on social media. Go here for Twitter and here for Instagram.

More coming soon!

God Isn’t Moved By Your Fakery

My friend Alex Faith said in his song “Had It All” from his seminal mixtape Honest 2 God “Life sucks sometimes but we can’t admit it, so we’re sitting in the church pew hoping we catch the spirit.” Its so spot on because we all do it. We fail to admit how life truly is so we fake it, fill our lives with things that mask it and beg God to show up in it. But God isn’t moved by our fakery.

Fakery.001God seemingly moves and does His work when we get out of the way deal with things as they are, not how we wish them to be.

We put up shields, masks and facades to hide how things really are so that others will think we’re better than we truly are. We put on heirs, a fake smile, and our best clothes to make people think everything is ok. We use the proper lingo, go to the right places and even share the right photos to make it look like all is well when things really aren’t well at all.

But the God of the universe shows us in His Holy Scriptures that he doesn’t function in our fakery. Rather, God shows off in ways that only He can when we deal with things as they are. “If we hide our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” Nope. If we CONFESS our sins then the God, whom we ultimately sin against, forgives us of our cosmic folly and repairs the damage done to our relationship with Him. (1 John 1:9)God functions in our honest reality, not our imagined alternate universe.

“When we pretend to be strong, God gives us the strength.” NOPE!

But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

God doesn’t show off His strength when we fake our way through our weaknesses. Rather, its when we deal with life as it is in those moments and honestly assess ourselves and admit “I am weak right now”, then God shows off the not the power of our disguises but rather His galaxy shaping, eternal power!

But Steve, what do I do when I know that people will use my admitted weakness against me for my shame? You rest knowing that Jesus, the Maker of all things seen and unseen, took on human flesh and hung bloodied, naked on a Roman torture device for all to see and He did it for our good. And if HE endured that level of shame for our good, we can endure insults (as the Apostle Paul said) and even be content in it because the power of their insults don’t compare to the power of God that He’ll put on display in your life. Remember, what happened after Jesus endured that level of shame and insult? He rose from the grave with all power and authority in His hands!

So let’s not be afraid of “looking bad” because you feel weak, insulted or even feeling like a failure. Times may be hard. You may feel drained. Own what the situation is, see the reality of your own frailty but not as some emotional kamikaze for Jesus bent on being a sacrifice. Do it knowing that in your reality and your recognition of it you pull off the masks and make space for God to show up and show out in His good timing for His good pleasure towards your joy. Now, I’m not saying that honest assessment or “authenticity” is a replacement for faith. However I am saying that our faith won’t be fully faith until we recognize the situation we’re asking God to be faithful in.