Mere Fidelity is a helpful Christian podcast, with some smart, biblically faithful, and intellectually curious guys who interview a range of authors and thinkers. They recently interviewed Chris Arnade, a former high-powered investment banker, who quit his job some years ago in order to travel the country and document (through photos and the written word) the struggles of those in what he calls ‘back row America’ – the many people who don’t have the education and opportunities of the privileged and more affluent classes. The result of Chris Arnade’s travels, writings, and photos is a gripping book called Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. I read it recently, during vacation, and could hardly put it down (I read it in the middle of the night while I was jet-lagged). It’s an honest, disturbing, important look at those in America who are less privileged, and it forces us to ask hard questions. The combination of writing and photos is particularly effective.
There’s a new documentary out called Jesus in Athens, in which God’s exciting work among the migrant communities of Athens is documented and celebrated. It looks really good. One of those who produced it is the man who produced and directed the popular Dispatches From the Front series.
Here’s a short write-up about Jesus in Athens, which includes how to access and watch the full documentary.
Here’s a link to the website for the documentary.
And here’s a trailer:
On Wednesday, May 22, pastors, laypeople, and ministry leaders from around New Hampshire (and beyond) gathered at Christ Community Church in Weare for our New Hampshire 2.0 Summit (our first New Hampshire Summit was in Loudon in November 2017).
It was an important day in many respects – not least, because those who participated told us that they were strengthened and encouraged. New friendships were begun and existing partnerships deepened. Christ was praised as we ate together, sang together, and discussed the rhythms that can make our ministry in small places soul-satisfying and sustainable.
Three things in particular felt very significant to me:
- This was the smallest Summit we’ve hosted. 36 people participated. And it was none the worse for its smallness. On the contrary, there was a sweetness and energy and excitement throughout the day that demonstrated the presence of the Spirit and the importance of the gathering. We all need constant reminding – because we are children of our culture – that numbers are not ultimate. This was one such clear reminder. It’s deeply freeing to know that a gathering of 36 people can be so very satisfying and so greatly successful. What remote corners of New England can we not venture into now?!
- This was our most collaborative Summit yet – it really put the ‘Summit’ in ‘Small Town Summits.’ The only plenary talk was a twenty-minute welcome and introduction to the topic of the day. After that, the participants were divided into four groups that cycled through guided-discussion groups over the course of the day. In each group, a leader taught for 10-15 minutes on a topic that helped us consider how to set sustainable rhythms for small-place ministry (e.g. relationships, rest, heart motivations for ministry). This teaching served as a springboard for the collaborative discussion that followed. We got to know one another throughout the course of the day. And we heard from those in the trenches of small-town ministry, learning how they’re struggling and also what they’re finding effective. That’s what a summit, by definition, is: leaders discussing important issues for the purpose of taking important action.
- This 2.0 Summit grew out of a friendship between several New Hampshire pastors that emerged out of our first New Hampshire Summit. These pastors have been meeting regularly. They planned and led this Summit together. We’d love to see more of this happening across New England. As the years go by, I see more and more clearly how important it is to build healthy relationships, and what fruitful ministry can be done within and from these relationships. Our Summit in Weare on May 22 was a beautiful example of fruitful ministry growing out of sweet friendship.
We’re praising God for STS New Hampshire 2.0 and already looking ahead to more Small Town Summit Events in September and October!
I’m thankful to pastor a church that joyfully sends me out to minister in other places and prays for me as I serve! Here’s a talk I recently gave in Minneapolis, at Bethlehem College & Seminary, on small-town ministry.
We had a God-blessed Small Town Summit on March 18 at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, with 240 pastors, laypeople, and ministry leaders gathered from around New England. The videos of the plenary talks (and a panel discussion) are now up, and you can watch them here.