Thirty weeks in

I may have lost focus. I may have been selfish. I may have forgotten where I was—or where I was going—or where I’ve been and why this was a blessing from God. But here I am, only writing about this when I feel things are a bit rocky and unsure if I’m catching us as we’re falling or if I’m trying to pick up the pieces.

I was originally going to write why we worked. I first spoke of this small group in my 2012 review.

I heard the church was putting a new small groups meeting on Sunday. This was after I already discovered the young adults group and was thinking about passing on the small group thing and just try to build a small group out in young adults. Even though I intended to go to the meeting, I was making up excuses not to go. Ultimately, I dragged myself and walked back over to the church. I didn’t recognize anyone at this meeting. I sat in the back with a table that looked like young couples. I looked around and it seemed like it was mostly couples and families. Definitely not my demographic. We were asked to break up and find a small group according to location and then similar demographic. I just sat there. I figure I’ll leave unnoticed.

On my way out, I did notice a somewhat younger group to my left. I was compelled to approach them and sit down. It was rather awkward. I came in relatively late and it seemed like I killed the conversation. So now I’m thinking of a not so awkward exit. Well, that didn’t happen. I tried to break the ice with small talk. Eventually the group came back together after we were instructed to answer a few small group questions. It was time to assign roles to the group. Again, up until this point, I still expected to just sort of duck out. I didn’t fill out my sheet. In the end, I was nominated to be the group’s leader—well, more specifically, the group’s facilitator—liaison to the church. That was most unexpected.

After the meeting concluded, I gathered everyone’s contact information, took the small group facilitator folder, and walked over to Starbucks to think this out. I was nervous. I didn’t want this to fail. I felt it was now my responsibility for this small group to be successful. From my past experience, it’s so difficult organize a small group of young adults—who are also busy with their professional career—to consistently get together for something like this. I sat there reading the material figuring out what can I possibly do?

The answer? Nothing.

God made it clear that this is His group. It’s not mine at all. He put us all together for His glory. I was told to act accordingly. I asked for patience and wisdom. I asked that he takes away the anxiousness. I ask that this group will recognize the purpose He wants to give us. That we go on our own little adventure to discover why He put us together.

I remember our first meeting as a small group. We decided to meet at a Panera Bread at the corner of Culver and Barranca. It must have been finals week or something, the place was crowded with college students. I knew there were going to be around 10 new possible members who wants to do this small group thing. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a table. That worrying thought went away in about 3 seconds when I found this huge rectangle table in the middle of the restaurant with roughly 10 chairs surrounding it. I had to look around. There were groups of students everywhere huddled together around these smaller tables. I was a bit confused why this large table remained open despite how crowded the restaurant was. I thanked God, sat, and waited.

As somewhat a joke, I asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell an embarrassing story. I didn’t think it would stick, but the group agreed to do it. We got along pretty well. It was a good first meeting despite not quite knowing what we ought to do. I told everyone I would email them the details of the next meeting.

#yopro Christmas party

The group met consistently through the rest of December despite there being holidays. We kept meeting at the same Panera Bread (except for the Christmas party) until sometime past the New Year. We started to meet at Newsong’s prayer room. The original group of people who signed from the start—with the exception of two (and one of them recently sounds like she is making a comeback)—has been very consistent every single week.

It didn’t take long—actually it was almost immediate—that there was a brand new young adults small group at New Song. I’m sure the constant Facebook posts of us hanging out and having a good time helped the publicity, but almost every single time I went to Thursday night’s NYA1, I would get questions about the small group. I didn’t officially close the small group, but I also didn’t actively invite anyone either. I wanted to keep it small. For those who have joined since then has been more like on the heart’s of the other members inviting people in. “I felt really led to invite Chris,” as my friend Jin put it for one of the late members into the group. I wanted to make sure that this group moved as God moved us.

I was asked a number of times why did this new small group work. Why is this one still going after seven months while others failed to meet for a single month. I did answer with placing God as the focus of the group and asking Him to guide us through. Though, I also followed up with an important idea that I quickly discovered after the first week. Everyone in the group had to be willing to be there. I know we all have our own personal hidden agendas of why we want to be a part of a small close-knit community. But more importantly, I think in order to place yourself there, you really wanted to be there and commit to it. Every single person who attended was searching for something missing in their life, and they wanted to see to it if that missing something can be found in a group whose commitment is to both Christ and to each other.

And strangely enough, in order to do so, they actually needed to surrender themselves completely in order for it to work. We needed to give control back to our God. We were all in a similar place of being in the “in-between” life of post-college and pre-marriage. As individuals, we have been controlling our own lives as we moved through these years. But I think the day we all signed up to try this small group thing, we were tired of holding onto said control and wanted to see how we could do it if we did surrender.

Since we started, I’ve been invited out to a number of leadership-type events at my church. I was asked to speak at two other small group launches at Newsong, I’ve been more or less a part of another new small group where their leaders asked me to come out a few times, I somehow took a leadership role in a feeding ministry for Santa Ana, took yet a somewhat leadership role in a morning prayer group that meets twice a week, and had the chance to lead out a couple impromptu worship sessions for different groups at Newsong. I’ve been very busy.

#yopro Worship

Being constantly busy prevented me of getting the needed rest, prayer, and study that I needed on a weekly basis. Even though I was out for good reason with a good community in Christ, my own prayer and devotional life has been suffering. My first ministry at Newsong was this small group, and it was made apparent to me earlier this week that the slow spiritual growth in my personal life bled over to the overall spiritual growth of our small group. I know I am not the leader or even hold a pastoral role for the group, but I do organize and set the tone for it. And it’s been evident that even though we all love each other and have a lot of fun with each other, we’ve been spiritually stagnant as a group.

We do have a structure where we get into the Word every other week—it alternates between Bible study, a group activity night, and a worship night. It was great at the start of the group. I would ask people to lead out the study and wouldn’t receive any resistance. Nowadays, it’s been getting difficult to get people to lead. And when they do, the group itself doesn’t seem to be in the right mindset to accept the teachings of their fellow peers.

We’re thirty weeks in. That’s thirty weeks in a row that we’ve met since the start of the group’s formation. Our 31st meeting is tomorrow. As an appointed leader for this group, I have a number of decisions to make. I do have a vision for this group. I also have a period of healthy time for this group. Though, these are just my thoughts all with consulting God. I can only pray that as I share my concern and vision for us, that God prepare the hearts and minds of these people who first brought together nearly 8 months ago.

  1. Newsong Young Adults []

A ministry that started with muffins

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”1

Thirteen weeks ago, I was engulfed in a story God wrote into my life where He explicitly showed me that He can and will place me wherever He wanted whenever He wanted. During that time there was the first night of worship at the Wilder conference held at Newsong2, God ignited a passion for the spiritually starved in a young woman’s heart. She left the night of worship early to go home and bake muffins. I’m unsure of exactly what God wrote on her heart, but from what I heard she wanted to reach out into the homeless of Santa Ana—not to just feed the people with food, but ultimately feed them with the love and justice of Jesus Christ.

I first heard about the outreach to Santa Ana early on when I joined Newsong. It was an idea that was in the hearts of the leaders at the church. When talking about where the new physical home of the church will be, there were always talks about going into Santa Ana. Everyone felt there was a huge calling that our church ought to dive in headfirst and do outreach to the lost and hungry in that city. But even with the murmuring with Santa Ana, I didn’t have the same heart as the leaders.

During Lent, a number of Newsong Young Adults held a 6AM morning prayer meeting twice a week. That is dedication from a group that most likely don’t sleep any time before midnight. I had to go check it out for two reasons: 1) who is crazy enough to pray at six in the morning; and 2) the girls constantly outnumbered the guys every morning.3. I witnessed amazing things happening almost every morning prayer. For one, I knew with absolute assurance and clarity when the Holy Spirit would speak to and for me. There were mornings where multiple prayer warriors would wake up without any assistance to get up and to pray as part of this community. There were times where a number of us would have vivid visions in dreams that occurred at the same time in the early mornings. The Holy Spirit would speak into our hearts and show us the same things so when it was time for us to share with one another, we would constantly share the same pieces of God’s living Word. This was happening. It was real. God was moving in our midst in prayer and communion. And it was there when we brought up the outreach to feed the homeless and needy of Santa Ana. But even with that prayer on our hearts, no one moved until muffins were made.

After Kiana baked muffins, she went out into Santa Ana with two other—Jane and Caleb—with the purpose of meeting individuals and showing their love of Christ. They understood their purpose. They were made to love and to show said love to all they would meet along their path.

I didn’t hear any of this until nearly a week later. There were two other girls in my small group—well, they’re both named Sarah—that wanted to do the same the following Saturday. When I found out that just the two girls were going, I absolutely insisted that I would go with them. I know that most likely absolutely nothing was going to happen, but earlier that month I was going on this weird chivalristic kick.4 I went with the Sarahs, and I pretty much just stood around being a mule and carrying food for them to distribute. I don’t do well making friends. I didn’t know what I was doing. When the girls needed food, I gave them food. When they asked me to lay hands and pray, I did just that. I figure this whole feeding ministry thing was just going to be a one-off kind of event. I was wrong.

The following week, the group became bigger. It consisted with the original group that started the week before, Sarahs and myself, and there were a number of others that heard about it (mainly through the morning prayer meeting) to come out and serve. More people from the young adults heard about it. More people came out. This happened week after week.

Both Kiana and Jane felt like they needed to pass the leadership torch of this Saturday morning feeding ministry. They passed it to Virginia—who seemed completely on fire and passionate about the ministry. She’s outgoing and loves connecting with people. The other leader? Well, yours truly. I couldn’t be more opposite of Virginia.

We immediately found connections to help us out with the ministry. There was a local church that reached out to the same area we were present every Saturday. They actually fed the people there for breakfast. What they didn’t have was the kind of group of people to go out there. So from the get go, we wanted to keep the vision simple and true to how it began—show the love of Christ by loving these people. We held on to the muffins as a catalyst to start a conversation We wanted to create meaningful relationships. We didn’t want to be a single-serving friend. We wanted to be a familiar face and that we can be accepted into their community and in turn tell them a love story that they are also accepted in the community with God’s family.

While Virginia worked the front-end of things such as increasing exposure so more young adults would come out as well as connecting with other people with the same heart to donate resources; I worked the back-end of things such as making this ministry official at Newsong and receiving our own church’s help. I also met another servant with the same heart for the same location at our church: Vinny. Vinny is very connected in the Santa Ana community and greatly aids us every week with free coffee and pastries from the local Starbucks.

It’s been an amazing three months serving in this ministry Saturday after Saturday. I don’t know how long this ministry will go. I don’t know how long I’ll be placed as a leader. The one thing about these people who are actively serving in this ministry is that we’re in this fluid life stage—post-college but not married. Many of these servants are still finding their identity and place in God’s story. It’s an amazing life stage because you really can do anything your heart’s desire. When we’re all in for something, we are all in for it. But without any real anchor (like family) keeping us in one place, we can move at a whim. This ministry—dubbed the Muffin Ministry—will not look the same today as it will be by summer’s end. About a third or more of the core group will not longer be serving just because they won’t even be in the area. Also, I don’t know how long the fire in their eyes will burn for this ministry. What do I need to do as a leader to prevent something feeling like a chore and keep them motivated that what we do here every week is out of love for our Savior?

The only constant I know is God. He placed us here in this place at this time to serve. I pray that He blesses me as well as the other leaders with a passion and wisdom to keep serving no matter where it takes us.

There are actually a number of stories that came out of this ministry. More of them need to be written, but here’s another blog.

  1. Matthew 25:34-40 NLT []
  2. Mar 16th, 2013. I also mentioned it briefly in Unexpected friends []
  3. I am doing my part to represent the young adult men in our church! []
  4. I was finding my identify of what it meant to be just a man. I figure one of qualities I failed to express is a “chivalristic” one—but really just as simple as being outward protective like walking a girl to her car in a dark parking lot, walking on the street side, facing the exits in rooms, etc. []

A Definition of Success

Before the foundation of the earth, I believe that my Creator had a blueprint for my life. And when I discover what that is and I live it. That’s success.

When I first heard this quote, it completely blew my mind. I’ve heard a number of definitions of success—generic ones, definitions from very successful, well-regarded people from the secular sector, and God-first sounding ones from the spiritual section. It’s probably because of where I’m at in life 1 why this particular quote hit me. Unfortunately, I do not have a definitive answer who said this. I’m sure there have been many variations of it, but this exact copy of this quote has an inexact origin.

I heard this this past Sunday at church. Our guest speaker was Gideon Sang of Vox Veniae in Austin, Texas. Gideon attributed this quote to Daniel Smith of Danielson Famile. Gideon heard it in the Danielson Famile’s documentary called Danielson: A Family Movie (or, Make a Joyful Noise Here). Knowing Gideon’s source, I was originally going to attribute that quote to Daniel Smith. But after the service on Sunday, I wanted to know the quote word for word. I searched all over the web looking up terms from whatever I remembered from the quote: “foundation”, “success”, “Daniel Smith”, “blueprint”. I couldn’t find anything close to it. Finally, I had to find the movie myself.

I did manage to procure said movie. The movie, Danielson: A Family Movie (or, Make a Joyful Noise Here), is a great documentary. It’s a story of Daniel Smith starting a band, brought his family in as members, and performed in clubs and bars in front of (mostly) a secular audience. His lyrics are faith-based and the music has a an “indie”2 feel to it. Anyway, whether or not you’re Christian, it’s a definite watch.

So I watched the movie from beginning to end, and there is nowhere in that film where Daniel Smith said that particular quote. Gideon mentioned Daniel said this quote in a press interview near the end. Daniel did say this about success:

Success to me, first and foremost, is staying to true to who you’re made to be. Who you’re created to be. I believe from the beginning of time—before time—there’s a plan that’s been written for each and one of us. And when you’re born those things that are in you. Our life’s journey is to find out what those things are… And to discover those tools within us… And to exercise those skills… And refine them… To me, that’s success.

— Daniel Smith of Danielson Famile

Gideon Sang wasn’t too far off. His version is more direct and a bit more eloquent compared to Daniel Smith’s, but both men drove the point home.  We were given a purpose. We are driven to find it. (I also have a good idea what the general theme is to everyone’s purpose in life, but I’ll save that for another post.)


  1. Which is sort of like where I was about two years ago, but slightly better []
  2. Yup, I’m bad with genres, and it definitely does not sound like pop music. []