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For the next few weeks, The Foundry will be digging into the book of Proverbs. Our staff will take time each week to reflect on how they can see the wisdom presented from Proverbs on Sunday morning playing out in their own lives. This week, Lindsay Ferguson, Director of Outreach & Operations, reflects on the pursuit of happiness from Proverbs 15:13-18
Check out the message from Sunday on happiness.
For the next few weeks, The Foundry will be digging into the book of Proverbs. Our staff will take time each week to reflect on how they can see the wisdom presented from Proverbs on Sunday morning playing out in their own lives. This week, Josie Barton, Director of Worship and Creative Arts, reflects on the fear of the Lord from Proverbs 1:7.
To hear Scott's message from this past week, go to our Messages page.
I want my life to matter.
I spent years after college looking for my purpose and my call. When we first heard about the Foundry, Scott’s passion and clear articulation of The Foundry’s mission was attractive to us for many reasons, but lingering under the surface, whether I wanted to admit it or not, was the feeling that I’d finally be a part of something that was set up to help me succeed.
Let me explain. I graduated college in 2008 after an extremely… er… “challenging” break-up. And by “challenging” I mean, there are still months of my life I don’t recall because I was in so much despair that I just shut down. My plans and dreams with this guy shattered, I moved back to New Jersey, rented a room from my brother, and got an eleventh hour job teaching at a very small Christian school. Though I was very involved in church ministries and the worship team, I never felt like I was really giving everything for the good of my community in New Jersey. I kept longing for something else.
Two years post-graduation, in 2010, I got the opportunity to move to and teach in Honduras, a country I’d already been to and very deeply loved. I could feel it—my life was about to begin.
Little did I know that my apathy and lack of motivation were bilingual and could speak to me even in Honduras. I had been sure moving would be the catalyst for living a life that mattered and making a difference in my sphere of influence, but unfortunately, my weaknesses stowed away in my suitcases and I couldn’t shake them. I spent the next two years living in a constant state of anxiety and insecurity, and though I enjoyed my time, became a better worker, and met my husband while there, I never sold myself out for the good of my neighbors while in Honduras.
But, guys, it was okay, because moving to Annapolis and marrying Trevor was definitely going to be the catalyst I needed. He would inspire and encourage me to action. But what I didn’t know was that 2+ hours of commute a day and adjusting to married life, on top of full time jobs, weren’t a recipe for self-sacrifice. Instead, I found myself retreating ever inward, away from others, away from my husband, away from anyone who would ask anything of me. Like a “good” Christian lady, I served at church, but I was not pouring myself out for Annapolis.
You can see why The Foundry was so appealing to me. In looking back, I can see that part of what I wanted when we joined The Foundry was a plug-and-play life, one in which I could do the least amount of work and make the greatest impact.
But, as He usually does, God had other plans for us.
For primarily financial reasons, Trevor and I settled down in Pigtown. We rented on a quiet, out of the way street, and our first year in Baltimore was calm. If you’d asked me during that time, I would have said that I was living the mission of being ‘for the city.’
Shortly after our first son was born, we moved streets, and it was like we had moved to a different world. Suddenly, my ‘commitment’ to my neighborhood and my grandiose explanations about how I loved the racial and socioeconomic diversity of our neighborhood were put seriously to the test. In the course of a year, from October 2014 to October 2015, we experienced a car break in (which required a replacement window), a house break in (which required an extensive clean up and insurance claim, as well as raising our homeowners’ insurance rates), and, tragically, a drug related shooting death in front of our home.
I realized in that year that I was not as committed to being ‘for the city’ as I thought I was. After each one of these increasingly traumatic events, I railed at Trevor for moving us there. I railed at God for asking this of us. I railed at myself for not being able to control the situation I was living in. I spent much of my time complaining and trying to convince myself it was okay to leave “this” place.
But every time I convinced myself I had every right to move and that no one would blame me, I felt a gentle weight from a gentle God, saying, “You aren’t done here yet.”
So, we’ve stayed, and God has shown us what the mission of being ‘for the city’ can really mean. Over the course of the past year and a half, we’ve begun to build relationships, and I’ve realized that all of the issues I have with my neighbors or neighborhood are reflected in my own heart. When I’m angry because my neighbors don’t care for their property the way I want, what I’m able to ignore are the weeds in front of my own steps, or the ways I neglect to care for the people in my own family. When I feel judgment rising up against the way a neighbor chooses to raise money for their family, what I ignore is the fact that I was able to access a quality higher education and escape without debt. As we’ve committed ourselves to loving our neighbors because God loves our neighbors, and for no other reason, we’ve begun to see that our neighbors need to extend the same love and grace to us – because we are equally flawed, equally broken, and equally loved by God. Suddenly, being ‘for the city’ is nothing more than being ‘for’ someone that God created and loves enough to die for. And that’s a mission that’s easy to get behind.
Things haven’t gotten all that much easier. The issues in our neighborhood didn’t just go away overnight because we feel God’s call to live out His love here. But I believe that God has brought us to Baltimore for more than feeling good and sitting in Tabrizi’s on Sunday mornings. It is time to put rubber to the road and see if I really mean it when I say I want to be ‘for the city.’
Because, let’s be honest, it’s easy to be ‘for’ something that doesn’t require anything of you. What our time at The Foundry has begun to teach us, and what we love about The Foundry’s mission, is the recognition that being ‘for’ something that doesn’t seem to be ‘for’ you is a mission of self-sacrifice. It’s hard work. It asks a lot and it takes a lot and sometimes it can be draining. But knowing we’re in it with other Christ followers – that there are many of us committed to being ‘for’ the city – makes it easier to see how our little families, spread out over this city, can begin to make an actual impact on the lives of people around us. It also reveals us to ourselves and reminds us of the grace others have to extend to us on a day to day basis – it reminds us that all around us, and especially in our home at The Foundry, people are ‘for’ us.
And over all of that hovers the love of a God who is truly for us. Everything we do falls under the umbrella of the One who champions our cause, celebrates our victories, encourages us in our defeats, cries with us in our sorrows, stretches us in our weaknesses, and heals us in our brokenness. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
If God is for us, who can we be against?
Over the next three weeks our church is looking at the DNA of The Foundry. Each week we will talk through one of the key aspects of who we are: our Vision, Mission, and Strategy. In the first week of this series we are talking through “our vision”, which is “To see lives, neighborhoods, the city, and the world transformed by Jesus.
Watching my son, Micah, play with legos is fantastic. He is three years old. So thankfully all of his legos are the large “DUPLO” legos. These connecting blocks are one of only a few things that hold his attention for a decent amount of time. When we hear that sound of him dumping the bucket of legos on the floor, we know that he is busy constructing a “robot”, “airplane”, “restaurant”, or whatever his little creative mind thinks of. As a three year old (who is also incredibly imaginative and creative) he NEVER follows the little 3x5 card telling him how to construct the intended object. Instead he has an idea in his head, and he builds it. He version of “vision” or “plan” is 100% on his imagination (which is incredible to watch, and another conversation for another time).
Could you image an organization that had this approach? There is no plan or direction other than what pops in our brain. This would be catastrophic to customer relationships, business growth, business partner relations, accounting, just to name a few things. Rather it’s important for organizations have a vision. The vision is the written form of “what are we going for”. It provides the direction. For example, in lego building the vision is says “we are building a tower”. It doesn’t answer questions of “what kind of tower” or “what is our strategy for building a tower”. In fact multiple companies can have the same vision, but look extremely different because their strategy is different.
If you were to research Fortune’s or Forbes’ top companies to work for, over the years you’ll see many of the same names pop up. These organizations in large part have very clear vision, mission, and strategy (although they may use different words to describe the same thing). They understand who they are uniquely and what they want to accomplish. One of the organizations that is always on the top ten and is number one in 2017 is Google. Google’s vision is simple, "to provide access to the world’s information in one click”. This is the direction that guides every decision. In essence they are saying, “let’s create a way to synthesize all the information in the world and make it accessible to anyone in the the world in an easy way”. From my perspective they achieve this. I don’t think a day goes by without me searching for some information on Google.
Church should be the same. We should have a vision statement that guides all decisions we make. At The Foundry our vision statement is this, "To see lives, neighborhoods, the city, and the world transformed by Jesus”. This is our 3x5 lego card, helping us know “what we are building”. But what does it look like for these four areas to be transformed?
What does it look like for lives to be transformed? Lives are transformed when we are freed from the weight of sin. When our burdens and stresses are cast aside. Transformation is finding community and common ground with people that our world or society says shouldn’t find common ground with. It’s stepping out in faith to be vulnerable and honest with others. It’s serving everyone. Transformation is putting others before yourself and sharing the hope that you have found. It’s being quick to listen and slow to speak and become angry. It’s laying down your life for someone else. Transformation is restoring lives and forgiving transgressions. And it’s living on mission each and every day in the context you are in. So what is it that you need to do for you life to be transformed? And how can you help transform the lives of others?
How about transformation of neighborhoods. Baltimore is a city of Neighborhoods. Over 250 neighborhoods exist in Baltimore. Each with their own unique attribute and quirks. But the neighborhoods are where we go home each night. They are where we spend our weekends. They are the epicenter of where we live, play, and rest. Transforming neighborhoods starts with transforming lives. And when individuals are on mission where they live they impact a neighborhood. When we are intentional with the people we run into at the local coffee shop or restaurant, by knowing names, taking interest in them, and finding common ground, we build relationships that can ultimately lead to a neighborhood transformed. Transforming neighborhoods means finding community in a densely populated part of a city that is overran with loneliness. Transformation brings beautification and hope to homes, gardens, lots, and streets. Neighborhood transformation digs deep roots. How can you help transform your neighborhood?
As I mentioned before, Baltimore is a city of Neighborhoods. So for our city to be transformed it starts neighborhood by neighborhood. It looks like groups of people gathering in respective neighborhoods. And leads to those groups joining with other nearby groups to impact their region of the city. City transformation happens when we move beyond segregation of all kinds. (Check out this Map the New York Times put out, where you can see the segregation in Baltimore). When we get our of our bubbles and under stand someone different than us. City transformation happens when the poor and the rich rub shoulders and truly care about one another. Transformation in our city can happen when our lives are transformed, and we begin to see our job as a place to share about our transformation in order to impact others. City transformation happens when we step outside our own comforts to care about individuals in are city dealing with homelessness, drug addiction, sex trafficking, and/or loneliness. City transformation happens when we can step in and help reduce murder rates, corruption, and division present in our city. What role will you play in transforming Baltimore?
How does a church in Baltimore, Maryland reach the world? There are nearly 7.4 billion people in the world. First we want to be a people that are marked by generosity. One of the ways we do this is by supporting individuals in other cities in the US and other countries in the world to help provide funding for them to transform the particular city they call home. Second we open our eyes. We send teams of people to see other areas of the world. This helps us gain a global perspective while reminding ourselves to be on mission where we are. Lastly we are in a part of the country and in a particular city for a reason. There are major brands/corporations/hospitals in our city. We have incredible non-profits that are inspiring individuals in different cities to copy models. The reach of one life transformed can have is huge in this perspective. Ask yourself, which of these areas allows you to help transform the world?
If you are in our community, my hope is that your life has been transformed. My second hope is that you see the incredible potential you have to help transform our neighborhoods, city, and world. Allow God to use you and join (or continue to join) us as we aim to transform lives, neighborhoods, Baltimore, and the world through Jesus.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a teacher. In ways both encouraging and soul crushing, this title tells you almost everything you need to know about who I am.
Recently, I have been teaching through a pair of essays written by two educational theorists about the relationship between teachers and their students. The first, written in 1968 by a devoutly Catholic Brazilian Marxist (!) named Paulo Freire, is called “The ‘Banking’ Concept of Education.” In that essay, Freire argues that education has been poisoned by something he calls the “narrative” approach to teaching. In this approach, the teacher is the real Subject of the classroom, and he or she presents information to students not as a vibrant tool for discovery, but as an exclusive story being generously “shared” with students. The consequence of this approach is that it trains students to play the parts of the patient, listening “objects” of their own education, and as a result, they never actually learn how to become “learners.” Freire suggests that this framework betrays the fundamentally communal nature of education, and strips us of our humanity. To fix this, Freire suggests that we begin to see one another as co-learners and partners in education, exploring the world as a set of “posed problems” rather than as a collection of “facts” or “information.”
The second essay was written by an American named Christopher Ferry in 1996, and it is a response to Freire’s essay, titled “When the Distressed Teach the Oppressed: Towards a Model of Communion and Commitment.” Ferry begins by summarizing the various efforts teachers and schools have made to implement Freire’s recommended changes since 1968, as well as the numerous reasons these efforts have been unsuccessful. Then, Ferry makes the following argument: he says that the reason we haven’t succeeded with Freire’s reforms is because we want them for students and not for ourselves. He says that truly successful teachers must undergo an “Easter experience,” where they kill off the desire for traditional, power-driven models of teaching within themselves, and experience a “true conversion” to a student-focused, cooperative classroom environment. Until teachers have this “conversion,” Ferry argues, they can’t be “preachers”—that is to say, they can’t effectively communicate their own personal, transformational experiences—and instead are merely “performers,” whose acting will never and can never transform the lives of students.
Now, I’m not trying to simply nerd out about pedagogical theory here, but I think these arguments matter for us, as Christians, too. What these texts have taught me is that I can’t convince people to share my beliefs about things unless those beliefs are already deeply and profoundly a part of who I am. My work requires more than knowledge: it requires my entire identity.
Technically, this post was supposed to be about Easter, and more specifically, about Holy Week. And, in some ways, I suppose it is: certainly, Easter is about conversion, and it’s also about the complete commitment of a teacher, in Jesus, to “equality” with his students, or all of humanity.
But even moreso, these readings have gotten me thinking about Holy Week itself. Holy Week is the week leading up to the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. What has long stood out to me about Holy Week is the apparent, rapid change in the public’s perception of who Jesus is: on Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem a redeemer and hero, welcomed with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna!” But by Friday, he has been abandoned, betrayed, tried, and executed as a common criminal, largely by crowds of those same people who had welcomed him only five days before. Their change of heart seems so sudden, and so aggressive—and so costly—it defies explanation or understanding.
But this week, I’ve started to change my mind about those crowds. I no longer think this is a story about the sudden reversal of public opinion. Instead, I think it’s the story a man who pays a dear price for failing to bring the same message to the citizens of Jerusalem that they had already decided they would be willing to die for. Their hearts don’t change—they still want revolution; they still want power; they still want their anger to be recognized and their voices to be heard. But Jesus doesn’t end up bringing them the message they are looking for. Instead, as soon as Jesus enters Jerusalem, he heads straight to the temple and turns over the tables of the moneylenders, who had been selling animals for sacrifice in the temple courts. He calls them “thieves,” and then condemns the management of the entire religious institution of the nation. More significantly, he did all of this instead of going straight to the palace, as his followers expected he would, to lead the revolution against the Roman governor. The crowds grow angry because Jesus doesn’t seem to be standing up for their beliefs…he seems to be directly confronting them.
This means that they don’t turn on Jesus: Jesus becomes incompatible with them.
To frame that idea within the discussion of Freire and Ferry from earlier, I think what happened in Jerusalem some two thousand years ago anticipates the anxiety we feel within our own hearts. We can’t talk about Jesus from a position of comfort. We can’t approach him (or Easter) honestly without first considering how we are being asked to change. Let’s face it: when Jesus comes into our lives, he heads straight for the temple, and it is his full intention to wreck up the place. If we truly want to understand him—or to effectively invite others into this encounter—we have to begin by accepting that the acts of demolition Jesus is carrying out within us aren’t secondary to his gospel, they are the actual working out of the gospel in praxis, within our lives. We can’t merely be “willing to die” for Christ…we have to have died already, and then been reborn. There is no real gospel, I would argue, otherwise.
I’m learning that Easter can’t be a message until it has been an experience. However, as a message, it can and ought to redefine who we are. I said at the beginning that I am a teacher, and that tells you almost everything you need to know about me. Why is this true? Because I’ve been converted: teaching isn’t just something I “do,” it’s who I am—it directs the way I see the world, it shapes my relationships, it empowers the way I parent. I can’t even shake it when I’m asked to write a guest blog entry! I wouldn’t know how to describe myself without using that word.
And yet being a Christian rarely seems worth that level of internalization. Instead, I often think of faith as something I act or perform…while at the same time imagining myself an evangelist! There is no better time than Easter—no better week than Holy Week—to look more closely at this insufficiency within me, and when I find it, to prayerfully ask not that I be made well, but that my heart be overturned and the moneylenders cast out. It’s time for me to remember: my reflection will only look more like Christ if I do.
Dr. Kenny Camacho