By Jeremy | October 28, 2011
On Saturday, October 29, 2,000+ young people will prayer walk theÂ streets of Manhattan with t-shirts that proclaim: â€œGod Belongs in My City.â€
At the same time, thousands of other young people will be entering their seventh week encamped at Liberty Square in Manhattanâ€™s Financial District under the banner Occupy Wall Street. Their cry for economic justice that began on September 17, has so far inspired similar demonstrations in 100 US cities and 1,500 cities around the world.
The GBIMC prayer route, planned months in advance, walks right past Liberty Square.
The GBIMC organizers have embraced the idea that they cannot walk past the OWS Occupiers and ignore whatâ€™s happening in their City. Especially since the God who Belongs in New York and elsewhere cares about poverty too. Nor should they pray for or against the occupiers from the outskirts when they are otherwise celebrating a God who dwells among us.
For these reasons, they have chosen to engage. Below is their prayer for the day. Please join them in proclaiming Godâ€™s heart for justice in ever city and community throughout the nation and world.
WALL STREET PRAYER REFLECTION: A JUST WORLD
Today we pray in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and those who occupy the offices along Wall Street, Main Street, and every street.
We pray as Jesus taught His disciples:
â€œYour Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.â€
Our prayer aligns with the Gospel Jesus preached:
â€œThe Kingdom of God is at hand.â€
The Kingdom Heâ€™s building â€“ on earth, not just in heaven â€“ rests on a foundational mission:
â€œThe Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
BECAUSE he has anointed me to preach
GOOD NEWS to the poor
â€¦ freedom for prisoners
â€¦ sight for the blind
â€¦ to release the oppressed, and
to proclaim the year of the Lordâ€™s favor.â€
We embrace Jesusâ€™ Kingdom vision for a renewed New York City, nation, and world that restores justice for:
â€¢ The poor
â€¢ The incarcerated
â€¢ The sick and infirmed
â€¢ The oppressed, put down, and neglected
â€¢ The 600,000 children who cannot read or do math at grade level in our cityâ€™s schools each year.
We embrace the Year of the Lordâ€™s Favor which proclaims JUBILEE JUSTICE that forgives debts and restores equities.
Not only for Wall Street bankers, but for developing nations and credit dependent New Yorkers.
Let us renew a vision â€“ both as Christ followers and as New Yorkers â€“ to create a more just city. Indeed, a more just world. One that rights the underlying wrongs that perpetuate injustices everyday. One grounded in the Old Testament truth conveyed by the prophets:
â€œWhat does the Lord require of us?â€
â€œTo act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.â€
â€œFor I the Lord love justice.â€
In Christâ€™s name we pray.
By Jeremy | October 11, 2011
20/20 Vision for Schools practices what they preach, building a “resume of trust” with the New York City Department of Education by serving schools in meaningful ways. Today the DOE featured the “Welcome to PS 102″ mural documentary on its website homepage. Watch the documentary on DOE’s website here.
By Jeremy | October 10, 2011
One of the greatest joys attached to my eclectic work life is the life-giving relationships forged with hundreds of dedicated youth workers throughout the metro New York area. Today, I rejoice with Daniel Sanabria and Jack Redmond, two local champions whose book God Belongs in My City releases today.
Full disclosure: I have been privileged to be Danny’s friend for a decade or so, and we’re practically related by marriage as one of my former youth leaders is now his sister-in-law. Jack and I have been friends for years as well, and shared a transformational cohort experience with DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative. But personal affection aside, God Belongs in My City is one of the most exciting student-led prayer movements that I’ve experienced in my lifetime, which is why I blog about it so often and agreed to write the book’s Foreword (republished with permission below).
The biblical figure, David, was an untested teenager, a shepherd boy with no military training. Yet he simultaneously proved to be the only man among soldiers courageous enough to confront the giant, Goliath. For forty days, Goliathâ€™s taunts had paralyzed Israelâ€™s king and army with fear. Then David overheard the mockery, witnessed the cowardice of the adults around him, and was moved to action. King Saul reluctantly agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I first became gripped by the idea that youth can and must be empowered to lead as a thirteen-year-old on a weekend retreat. My youth pastor challenged one hundred or so teens to find a solitary place for Bible reading and prayer for an hour. Struggling to decide where to start, I remembered hearing that Timothy was a young guy when his mentor, Paul, wrote him a letter. So I read the letter start to finish, and what I found awakened something in me that changed me forever.
“Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
I was blown away. Whitney Houston was still relevant at the time, and her latest, greatest hit said I was the future, not the present! The idea that â€œyouth are the futureâ€â€”and, therefore, not particularly useful nowâ€”was echoed everywhere around me, especially in church. All the important people on Sunday mornings were fully grown. The people my age were segregated to the junior congregation with the junior Holy Spirit, supervised by a couple of adults crazy enough to lead us.
And here the Apostle Paul was challenging me (not just his protÃ©gÃ©, Timothy) to let no one look down on me because I was young. To be an example to believers of all ages. To reject adult condescension and actually lead!
Every day since then, in one form or another, Iâ€™ve attempted to empower young people to lead change in their cultures and communities by cultivating their character and competence and then getting out of their way.
Twenty or so years later felt like dÃ©jÃ vu all over again. Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera, founder and president of Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) in the Bronx, believes students are essential to efforts to transform communities. In 2009, that conviction motivated LPAC to produce â€œKickinâ€™ It Old Skool,â€ the first student leadership conference in LPACâ€™s and my collective memory that was actually led by students. Paradoxically, so-called student leadership events typically involve adults teaching students, or adults teaching other adults, how to lead students. Rarely do adults voluntarily play a supporting role to students leading the event.
Kickinâ€™ It stood in stark contrast to this tradition. LPAC empowered twelve student organizers from four New York City boroughs to defy the stereotype and design a leadership event that they and other students would lead, armed with a budget to pull it off. Sixty-eight of their peers gathered for the conference at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan on September 12, 2009, and 175 enjoyed the evening concert as well. Dr. Riveraâ€™s message that day: â€œShare your story. Declare your future. Inspire other students. Remember, tomorrow needs you. Prepare for it today.â€
Little did he know that two months later, three of the Kickinâ€™ It student organizers would rally a dozen or so other students to coordinate God Belongs In My City (GBIMC), the largest student-led prayer walk in New York City. Fifteen hundred marchers walked a total of eight miles in Manhattan, culminating in a Times Square rally and silent prayer â€œflash mobâ€ in the main lobby of Grand Central Station.
The catalyst for the day was a dismayed youth pastor who asked some of his student leaders why Christians were publicly silent after atheists launched a citywide ad blitz that October claiming one million New Yorkers reject the existence of God.
They responded as only youth can: by launching a movement. Their tools of the trade: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and smartphones, social media inventions by their generation for their generation that empowered their efforts.
Less than two weeks later, on November 14, despite a storm bearing down on the Northeast and flash floods forecast throughout the day, fifteen hundred people showed up at the two rally points at 9:00 a.m. God smiled on them. The sun began to shine, and the rains held for four hours, just long enough to complete the walk. They walked with a purpose: to radiate love and affection for God and neighbor, while praying that God would be glorified in our city by lives that love others well.
In the last year and a half, God Belongs In My City student-led prayer walks have occurred in twenty cities. Over twenty thousand GBIMC T-shirts have been worn by teens around the country. The GBIMC story has reverberated at conferences and churches, and catalyzed similar student leadership. And GBIMC collaborated with 20/20 Vision for Schools to launch a related student-led education reform initiative called I Am My School. This book tells their story. Itâ€™s a story of leadership, student leadership, because â€œGod belongs in my city,â€ and God requires students to lead.
If youâ€™re a young person reading this, be inspired. But donâ€™t stay that way. Do something. Pray. Serve. Lead. Catalyze change.
If youâ€™re an adult reading this, experience the awe and joy that come after we get out of Davidâ€™s way long enough to watch Goliath topple.
Buy the Book
Watch C-Lite’s “In My City” Music Video
Walk and Pray
Attend the New York City walk October 29. Or plan one for your city.
By Jeremy | October 10, 2011
Yesterday, family crowded mom and dad’s apartment to celebrate my 37th birthday. Â My favorite birthday tradition is preparing a gourmet feast. Â Here’s this year’s menu:
- Heirloom tomato salad with an olive medley and fresh mozzarella
- Whole wheat penne with basil pesto or chicken meatballs
- Roasted vegetables including yellow and red beets; portobello mushrooms; white, green, and purple asparagus; red and yellow onions; and garlic
- Ciopinno and sourdough croutons with lump crab meat, little neck clams, steamers, shrimp, flounder and tilapia (adapted from this Bobby Flay recipe)
- Plus homemade flan (thanks Lorena!) and Tiramisu from Veniero’s (thanks Jamie and Taina!) for dessert.
- Special thanks to my spectacular sous chefs Vinny, Diana, and mom for all your help too!
Healthy, festive, and scrumptious — just the way I like it! I think my family enjoyed it too.
By Jeremy | October 4, 2011
Opportunity often presents itself when we least expect it. Like when I got a call on August 25 from TBN asking if I would guest host a special tenth anniversary of 9/11, 90-minute television talk show.
Uh, sure. Sounds like fun. Does it matter that I’ve never hosted a talk show before?
OK, so I left out the part about never having done this before. Didn’t seem as important as the opportunity, especially because TBN wanted to feature my dad and his ministry at Ground Zero on 9/11, and beyond 9/11 at Abounding Grace.
They granted incredible flexibility, only asking that the show not feel like an infomercial for an event or product, and carving out time for the local PTL show’s regular opening and closing. And while they wanted to honor 9/11 throughout, they wanted to remember the tragedy and hope of 9/11 within a larger city ministry context. Deal!
We filmed on September 2nd for a September 9th air date. Experience the opportunity with us.
Where Grace Abounds
By Jeremy | September 27, 2011
Dr. Ben Carson is one of my heroes.
Partly because he was the first black man to lead Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery.
Partly because of his groundbreaking medical achievements, including being the first doctor to successfully separate siamese twins conjoined at the head.
Partly because he is what I as an urban youth worker envision city kids becoming.
His early story feels eerily familiar, like scores of students in my youth group. He grew up a latchkey kid in a father absent home. Poor, his mom worked two to three jobs and raised him in the projects. Angry and hot tempered, he was an academic underachiever, firmly planted at the bottom of his class by fifth grade.
No Excuses Not to See
For little Ben, fifth grade was a pivotal year. Fed up with his failures in school, Ben’s mother instituted some new rules for her two sons. Now, instead of watching TV after school, they’d have to go — of all places! — to the library, and — horror of horrors! — complete book reports from library books for her every week.
She didn’t have a budget for fancy after school programs or sports leagues or extra curricular activities. But a library card was free. And library books were free too.
For Ben and his brother, the library card became their passport to travel the world as deep sea divers, astronauts, athletes, or fantasy heros. Their worldview expanded beyond the block, beyond the projects, beyond the ‘hood, and suddenly opportunities they previously didn’t know existed seemed attainable.
Within months, Ben’s school performance transformed from bottom wrung to straight A’s. He finished elementary school, middle school, high school, Yale College, and the University of Michigan Medical School at the top of his class. Â He went on to become one the world’s foremost medical doctors — literally, a brain surgeon — at one of the world’s great hospitals.
At Ben’s medical school graduation, his mother embraced him with tears streaming down her face. For the first time, she revealed a shameful secret: all those years he and his brother wrote book reports for her, she couldn’t read any of them. Â As a third grade dropout, she was illiterate. And yet the library was her son’s ticket out of ignorance and poverty.
Free and, for most of his schoolmates and neighbors, hidden in plain sight.
What FREE, Life Changing Resources Are You Overlooking?
Dr. Carson’s lessons for youth workers are legion. Here are my top three.
1) The lack of money or expensive programs is no excuse for failure. With a little redirected energy and follow-through even our worst-performing students can realize previously untapped potential.
2) If at first you think your cupboard is bare, look again. At a minimum, every inner city neighborhood has a library. Not to mention schools, parks, churches, and people power. Leverage community assets and make them flourish again.
3) Reading is fundamental. Lead your students by example. To create good students, be a good student. Encourage reading by modeling it. Â Start with a book a month. If money is an issue, use the library!
Urban Ministry Spotlight: Free Resources
For my Urban Ministry Friends, here are three free resources that can help train, equip, and multiply effective ministry in your context.
1) THE FREE URBANMINISTRY.ORG LIBRARY: The largest online library of free urban ministry resources, 100,000 volumes and counting, including:Â Volunteer ActivitiesÂ (5818),Â JobsÂ (3309),Â GrantsÂ (1803),Â VideosÂ (10655),Â SermonsÂ (2004),Â PodcastsÂ (213), and more.
2) THE FREE UYWI LIBRARY: Over 750 MP3s and videos of youth ministry workshops from past UYWI conferences and RELOAD trainings available for free.
3) RELOAD 2006-2007 Workshop: “Bagged Lunch and a Drop of Oil: Multiplying Re$ource$ for Urban Ministry.” Workshop description:
Called, but underfunded. Impassioned, and hungry for more. Broke, and feeling alone. How do bi-vocational youth workers pay the bills and buy the stuff necessary to get the job done? Jesus received one recorded offering in his career. The disciples didn’t get it. The masses were confused. But a boy with a bagged lunch understood, and his tuna fish sandwich fed 5,000. A husband’s debts nearly cost a widow her sonâ€™s freedom. The prophet’s response: â€œWhat’s in your hand?â€ A few drops of oil and a town full of jars later, she bought their freedom. Let’s explore how to turn tuna fish and empty bottles into resources for urban ministry.
By Jeremy | September 26, 2011
Jeremiah 29: The Rest of the Story
Recorded at Abounding Grace Ministries on August 14, 2011
Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite passage for celebrating milestones like weddings and graduations. But it was written to 10,000 political prisoners who had been been stripped of their power, possessions, and positions and forced to march across the desert into exile. Listen to the backstory of one of America’s most misunderstood verses, and explore how Hebrew slaves at the University of Babylon internalized its real meaning.
If the flash player doesn’t work in your browser, download the MP3 directly.
By Jeremy | September 20, 2011
This morning I had a pleasant surprise when my FaceBook newsfeed included this NoteÂ from a former student.
I remember being 15 years old when I first recited this pledge to the instructors at Xcel. Today, this community pledge still remains part of the foundation of who I am and the values I strive to live by every single day.
“I am committed to becoming a first rate community leader who strives for personal and professional excellence in everything I do. I will approach problems as opportunities for victory. I will never use lack as an excuse for failure instead, use what resources I have and watch them grow into more. I will take initiative and lead others by my lifeâ€™s example. I will be resilient never allowing short-term defeats to break my spirit. I will endeavor to unite my efforts with others to transform both my life and my community as well.”
Every day I will continue to recite this pledge and ask myself these questions:
- “Am I striving for perfection in both my personal and professional life?”
- “Am I looking at problems in a positive viewpoint to create win-win solutions?”
- “Am I using the resources I have and being grateful instead of complaining about what I lack?”
- “Am I giving back to my community and leading by example?”
- “Am I fighting to change and be resilient despite small failures in my life?”
- “Am I collaborating with others to change my life and impact those around me?”
Thank you to all those who have supported me and continue to support me as I rebuild and reconnect with a resilient spirit. One important lesson I have learned this year is that as much as I love to help others, I also need to ask for support and take my life step-by-step. Peace and Love.
Johnny is a twenty-something college student and entrepreneur whose appreciation reverberated through cyberspace today. So glad to see him giving to others what he received as a student leader at Generation Xcel. Thanks, Johnny, for reminding me why youth workers do what we do.
What pledges are you making to your students and encouraging them to make in the community around them?
By Jeremy | September 19, 2011
September 11 Ten Years Later: The City We Can Rebuild
Recorded September 11, 2011, at Shore Road Park, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, at a multi-congregational, open-air 9/11 Memorial Service
Ten years ago, the Towers fell and New York City began rebuilding. As we honor the memory of those who lost their lives that day, what City are we rebuilding?
If the flash player doesn’t work in your browser, download the MP3 directly.
By Jeremy | September 15, 2011
[Ed. note: published in the October 2011 issues of Tristate Voice and Love Express.]
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.â€ â€“ 2 Chronicles 7:14
What if the antidote to a self-obsessed, hyper-branded, me-first culture isnâ€™t more mega-ministries?
What if itâ€™s not customer service desks in church lobbies catering to consumer-driven church shoppers? Â What if arena preachers and sub-culture rock bands fuel the look-at-me virus rather than compel us to look at Him?Â What if, rather than stem the tide, churches have become propelled by it?
In the last thirty years, American evangelicalism has manufactured more larger-than-life personalities, corporate marketing, and self-improvement hype than ever before.
We parallel a cultural narcissism that accelerates at a dizzying rate â€“ 140 characters at a time on Twitter and elsewhere.
What if the Church became countercultural instead?Â What if churches and church leaders embraced a dose of old-fashioned humility?
Like the humility described in the oft-quoted passage from 2 Chronicles 7:14 promising national forgiveness and healing.Â The kind marked by associating less with logos and egos, and more with a God who calls and brands us as his own.
Often overlooked in the Chronicles passage is the conditional nature of its promise.Â Forgiveness and healing are not guarantees â€“ even when we pray and seek his face and turn from wickedness.
The underlying condition: church people who HUMBLE themselves, exchanging their names and brands for His, seek His face rather than promoting theirs, and turn from wickedness, including cultural obsessions with self.
On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in our nationâ€™s history, New York City glimpsed what this kind of humility looks like.
The gathering to commemorate 9/11 was simple.Â Reaching Out: A Sacred AssemblyÂ was organized in six weeks by a visionary associate pastor from a neighborhood church in Manhattanâ€™s lower east side, and a team of selfless volunteers.Â Three years earlier, just after his ordination, he envisioned his congregation and others in the neighborhood uniting as one Church to lift up one Jesus in their shared community.
As they would reach out to each other, Pastor Louis Carlo of Abounding Grace Ministries reasoned, in humility they could reach up to heaven and out to their neighbors.
He let the vision germinate for two years, then presented it to his senior pastor and three neighborhood colleagues in the fall of 2010.Â Two prayer and worship gatherings followed.Â The third was overdue.
On July 28, Pastor Lou and a friend were praying in an otherwise empty, seldom used amphitheater at East River Park along the FDR Drive.Â He left with a sense that the next Reaching Out prayer and worship gathering should be there, where church people could gather in a public space and declare with one voice the Lordship of Jesus and His selfless love for New York.
He was also persuaded to invite other churches from the city, not just his neighborhood, and to convene on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
Some members of his team called the idea insane, because how could any right-minded pastor expect to produce a citywide event in six weeks, when four and a half of those vacation-filled weeks were in August?Â His response: if one man or ministry couldnâ€™t pull it off, then maybe God would be glorified.
Undaunted, he led, and the pieces fell in place.Â Neighborhood, city, and even national ministries embraced the eventâ€™s nameless, faceless vision.Â Sixty ministries showed up, and thirty-five ministers â€“ many of them â€œlegendsâ€ within evangelical Christendom â€“ led prayer, read scriptures, and reflected from the platform.Â They were given the pulpit for 60, 120, or 180 seconds.Â Almost all of them stayed on time.Â Not one of them was introduced.
In their obscurity, Godâ€™s name and face was the only one that mattered.
What if the antidote to cultural narcissism is a Church that reflects and promotes Christ alone?
Imagine the possibilities.
- Jeremy Del Rio is trying to figure out what this kind of humility looks like. He still blogs (â€œin pursuit of authenticityâ€) atÂ JeremyDelRio.comÂ and tweets @JeremyDelRio. For info on future Reaching Out gatherings, visitÂ reachingoutnyc.com.