It’s been another great month of God’s work, with exciting ministry opportunities everywhere. Here are some highlights:
This month, we held our first team meeting to begin dreaming and praying about reaching the increasingly young neighborhood around our church (Roxborough and Manayunk). One of the unique things about our neighborhood – and church – is that it features two very different groups of people – “old-timers” who have been raised in the neighborhood, and “new-comers” who are often here for their education or their career. The challenge our church faces is reaching and keeping those who have settled here more recently without losing those who have always called it home. This is no easy task – apart from the more obvious, superficial differences such as age, these populations gravitate toward different music, relational styles and just about everything else you can think of. The potential is certainly there for disunity!
I was very pleased, then, to see a great demonstration of unity at our initial meeting. From the outset, it was very clear that what I feared could be two different “sides” was in reality one diverse group with a single passion – reaching our neighborhood for Christ. Although the meeting’s goal was primarily to get the ball rolling and build relationships, already I can see some core convictions emerging – the desire to involve dissimiliar voices in the process, the need to reach out in word and deed, and the belief that developing relationships are essential to successful outreach. This process has been tremendously energizing for me, and I’m excited to see what the Lord is going to do in and through us!
At Philadelphia University, I joined the students, as usual, for their Wednesday night meeting. This time, though, was different – instead of meeting at our typical location, the students decided it was time to reach out to their classmates. So, we offered free food and drinks to everyone who came by at one of the main dorms, and it was a huge success on many fronts.
First, it was a major step forward for the students in the fellowship. In the past, the group has struggled with being inwardly focused, so their desire to move outward was a wonderful start. The evening also gave me a great chance to connect with the students. During slower times, we had a chance to talk and process the outreach as it was unfolding. But my favorite part was watching unbelievers wrestle with the gospel in action. Time and time again, a look of shock and disbelief came over their faces: “Why are you doing this?!”
Peter, one of the student leaders, gave this great response, “As Christians, we believe that God has given us lots of stuff for free” [in other words, He’s been gracious!]. So, we want to do that on campus here.” Judging by the looks on the students’ faces, that didn’t quite explain it for them. Still, you could see them wrestling with the idea of grace, with getting something they hadn’t earned. We pray that this small experience of God’s kindness will begin to lead some of them on to its fulfillment in Christ.
At PCOM, I continue to enjoy large group meetings, men’s bible study, and getting together with students. A recent conversation with Sarun, a third-year student, reminded me of how vital medical ministry can be. Sarun has been on his family practice rotation, where he’s observed an older physician caring for his patients. A woman came in for something relatively minor, then confided to the doctor that her marriage was falling apart, but also that she did not necessarily want a divorce. The doctor, recently divorced himself, off-handedly suggested that she get a “bed-and-breakfast” divorce, which would allow her to essentially live as though she were single yet maintain her married status.
As I thought about this, I was fascinated. For one thing, it reminded me that physicians occupy a critical place in their patients’ lives. We depend on being physically healthy for pretty much everything we do, so we understandably place a great deal of value on our doctor’s advice concerning our body. At the same time, moments of physical suffering are moments of personal searching, and it’s natural to look for spiritual help during these times of crisis. Without perhaps even knowing it, that’s what this woman was looking for, and her physician was prescribing much more than medicine that day – he was also prescribing deeply significant, moral advice. Unfortunately, his counsel was not only uninformed, it was biblically-misguided. The issue is this: due to their position, the question is not whether physicians will give spiritual counsel, but what kind of spiritual counsel they will give. I work with medical students so that, when the times comes, they will stand in Christ’s place as healers who minister faithfully not only to the body, but also to the soul.
Thank you, friends, for standing behind us with your encouragement, prayers and gifts so that this work can continue. Together we are making a real impact for the kingdom in Philadelphia and beyond!
In and by His grace,
Bryan & Sharon
Please join us in lifting up these praises and prayer requests:
- Praise for God’s faithful work in our church’s neighborhood, as well as on campus at PCOM and Philadelphia University. Everywhere we turn we see clear signs of God’s gracious blessing!
- Please pray for wisdom as our new neighborhood outreach team considers its next steps. We are working not only on what God is asking to do, but on developing a specific vision that will inform the particular decisions we make. This is the critical piece.
- Pray for my discipleship with Steven, one of the male leaders at Philadelphia University. Please pray especially that God helps Steven fully forgive a family member who has treated he and his family poorly. I’m excited to see what God will do through him as he is freed from this burden.
- Pray for my times with Ted at PCOM. His schedule has recently made it harder to get together, but we’re looking for times where this will still be possible.
- Finally, we praise God that Sharon is now 15 weeks pregnant. Please continue to pray that she feels better, as this has been slow in coming.