Fifty Things I Will Miss About Antioch

Today is my last Sunday and my last day as pastor at Antioch Bible Church. The last 7.5 years have been the best of my life. I sat down and made a rather stream-of-consciousness list of 50 things that I will miss about Antioch. More things could be added, but these are the things that have been on my mind during the last couple days.

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Getting to morning prayer at 5:25 am and wondering if anyone else was going to come then being surprised and blessed by the people who come.

Watching students start their own prayer meetings and consistently meet to pray on their own.

Listening to students pray, and hearing how their vocabulary of prayer changes over time

Laying hands on students to pray for them

Hearing students pray for me

Prayer times when we surround people to send them off to college, to marriage, to missions, etc.

Trying to think of songs that everyone knows that I haven’t played in awhile for prayer meetings. The list seems so small.

Watching the awkward yet genuine attempts of students to love and welcome new visitors

Setting up chairs before Sunday service in an OCD way. (There are lines on the floor for a reason, people!)

Giving the opening pastoral prayer at each service

Being led in worship by students that I’ve seen grow and mature (Kevin Oh, David Choi, David Park, Paul Yang, David Yoon, Brian Lee, Shawn Kim, Grace Nam, the list could keep going…)

The five-minute-long extended greeting and welcoming time prior to the sermon. I’ve never been in a church with such a long and genuine greeting time. It is a blessing to experience and raises the energy up for the sermon.

The moments in sermons when it is so still and focused in the room and it feels like God is speaking to his people.

Seeing students take notes during sermons

Giving this benediction at the end of every service: “Go now in the strong name of the Godhead, three-in-one. Go in the name of God the Father, who (application from the sermon), go in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, who came, lived, died and rose again for you, who (application from the sermon). Go in the name of God the Holy Spirit, who goes with you, who (application from the sermon), who opens your eyes to see more of Christ, who opens your heart to receive his love, who opens your hands so that you can embody him to a hurting and broken world. Go in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The excitement when we announce our mission trips or summer plans

The nervousness of students during mission interviews

How the first person to complete the workout during missions training goes to get water for everyone else

The intensive discipleship that occurs in preparation for and during mission trips

The last night of the mission trip when everyone receives their “word”

When the plan lands in America after the mission trip and everyone is on it.

When students contact me about wanting to be student leaders

Trying countless ministry experiments with the full support of student and leaders.(Remember when we had everyone bring their instruments and play during worship?!)

Driving the church van while everyone else falls asleep, especially the person next to me who is supposed to talk to me to keep me awake

“My soul / longs for / you Lord / in a / dry and / weary land” I never get tired of that song.

Hearing the basketball bouncing in the parking lot behind my house at all times of the day (especially back when it was Tony Pak vs. Peter Pak)

People stopping by my house (the parsonage) almost every day for the last six years to say hi, to get keys to the church, to work out, or to see the kids

How everyone hangs out at the church until late at night during the summer

Having everyone pack into our house for worship and fellowship

When a student (usually Jess) asks me a “quick question” that actually takes several hours to answer.

Mafia (Jenny Lee is always the mafia, Josh Hwang is always the cop, Paul Yang is always a troll. All should be eliminated as soon as possible)

When Jean Kim always pretends that I’ve caught her doing something wrong

How students always awkwardly say hi to me every single time they see me because they’re not sure of what else to say

EM feasts where we bring our own meat

Teaching students how to eat Oreos the “correct” way

Talent show on the last night of the Winter Retreat

ABC crew

XYZ crew

Waiting for photographers (usually Peter) to post the pictures after big events like the Winter Retreat, summer missions, senior banquet, etc.

Watching people limp across the finish line at the end of the Amazing Race

Cheering for the KACY basketball team

Watching students minister to each other

The unthanked and unseen service of our teachers over the years

The way that Sandy takes care of everything.

Feeling slightly annoyed when people crack the Communion cups after drinking the juice

The way everyone loves Ben and Sophia

How everyone crowds around the baptismal and then cheers after each baptism

When students return from college after being away and seeing how much they’ve grown

Preparing, praying and preaching. I have loved preaching to Antioch so much.

Each and every person that God has brought into our ministry. Thanks for letting me be your pastor. The best is yet to come!

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Life Stories: Counting Diamonds for an NBA Star

One thing that I decided to try out for 2012 is to use the “Life Story” category to recount some mildly amusing vignettes from my life.  Here’s one story I found myself telling a few weeks ago.

When I was in college, I worked 20-25 hours a week for a small, high end jewelry store in downtown Chicago.  Our clients included bankers, traders and a few celebrities like R. Kelly (before he went to jail!) and Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness).

My primary responsibility at the store was silver engraving (I have a few stories about that as well!) as well as watch band and battery replacement.  But every once in awhile, I was asked to do something singularly nerve-wracking, (like drive a $100,000 Mercedes around the block for 45 minutes).

One day, a newly drafted NBA player came into the store and presented the owner with a rather large piece of jewelry, which was hanging on a white gold chain around his neck. He said he had paid a certain amount for it and wanted to know if we could appraise it on the spot.

The piece actually turned out to be a custom sculpture of the player’s name and jersey number, along with a basketball going through a hoop.  It probably was about 6 inches wide and 10 inches long.

And it was covered with diamonds.

Much to my surprise, I was handed the bejeweled piece and asked to count the number of diamonds.

Trying not to let my panic show, I quickly reproduced a sketch of the piece and then began to count the number of diamonds on each part – the hoop, the basketball and each letter of his name.  It was a painstaking process and took about 15 minutes – all while the NBA rookie watched and made small talk with my boss.

After what seemed like an eternity, I came to a conclusion: there were 1,170 diamonds embedded in the piece.

My employer did some calculations and then gave the player this appraisal:

“For the piece, you’re probably looking at around $30,000.  The gold chain is another $10,000, so together this piece is worth about $40,000.”

“Yep, that’s about what I paid,” the player said.  He thanked my employer (not me the lowly diamond counter), hung the $40,000 emblem around his neck, and walked out of the store.

This anecdote might explain why 60% of NBA players are broke 5 years after they retire.

Question: What would you do if you got a fat NBA contract?

My Life Story: Foundations and Fundamentals

So I know that I have a few series that I have stalled in the middle of, but since the writer’s block is keeping me from regular posting, I thought I would begin a new series telling my story and reflecting on my spiritual formation throughout various seasons of my life.  Here’s the first post, in which I explore my foundations.

To say all that I have learned from my parents and how they have shaped me would require far more than a simple post like this.  Their influence on my life has been inestimable; they loved me and raised me to know Jesus.  This alone is worthy of my deepest thankfulness.

Whatever else my parents might have taught me, I learned one thing very early: God was a very important person.  He was important enough that we asked him to bless our every meal; for many years we did family devotions every night.  And we went to church all the time.

I was raised in a church that was proud to bear the Fundamentalist name.  I realize that I have in my audience both people who call themselves fundamentalists, and those who think of jihad when I use the word.  For us, it meant that we were in church every time the doors were open (twice on Sunday plus prayer meeting Wednesday nights).  I can’t say that I minded this so much; after all, it was all I knew.  Only in retrospect am I able to see how my church experience shaped me into the person I am today.

Fundamentalists do a good job of indoctrination.  I’m not necessarily using the word pejoratively.  Although I was often taught personal preferences as doctrine, I at least learned that doctrine is important.  Although too much emphasis was placed on the KJV, ultimately I learned that Scripture is an authority upon which I can build my life.  And while there was an unhelpful emphasis on what I would call “decisional regeneration”, what Christ had objectively done for my salvation was firmly established in my mind.

I am genuinely thankful for the church where I was learned basic Christianity.  And I was spared from whatever scars lead some to form Fundamentalism-recovery groups.

What I was not spared from was performance-based Christianity.

From an early age I learned that you put your best foot forward when you go to church; you smile; you wear your Sunday best.  As a natural born people-pleaser, I found that the way to please my parents and teachers was to know all of the right answers.  So I memorized all the stories and won all of the Scripture memory contests.

Achievement became my identity, both at church and at school, where I received perfect marks, won spelling bees and strove to be regarded as the smartest kid in the class.  It would be years before I would learn to live by grace rather than by performance; indeed, it is a lesson I must re-learn every day.

My tendency to people-pleasing and performance is a liability I will struggle with the rest of my life.

Question: Anyone else grow up in fundamentalism?  What were the benefits/drawbacks?