On the Other Side

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

I have been going to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s library this whole week. It has been interesting to see some of the younger seminary students. It brought back a lot of memories of my seminary years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

I couldn’t help but to think about the excitement, enthusiasm and the energy that I had when I first started. It seemed like everything was new. But over a period of time, it was easy to lose the focus, the freshness and the fervor.

Now that I am at another stage of graduate studies, I have noticed that the focus and fervor is back. The difference? I think there are a lot of things that have happened to me from the seminary years until now. All the various experiences have affected my perspective on things. My perspective now compared to my seminary days is deeper and wider, which I am thankful to have even though there were a lot of bumps along the way.

Before, I was studying as a means to get somewhere. But now, my studies are a reflection of a journey that I have been on. It just has a different feel which is something hard to describe. I am just praying that what I am writing about will somehow contribute a little bit to the Kingdom work here on earth.

Backward Masking

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

In the early 1980’s with the rise of the holiness movement, people were encouraged to throw away their secular records (we did not have CD’s or mp3 back then). Some of the youth pastors and Christian leaders held “Rock & Roll Seminars” to explain the various dangers of listening to secular music. One specific aspect of these seminars that I will never forget is the backward masking. This is when they would play a song “backwards” (one of the advantages of having a record album). Some of the songs had subliminal messages, whether it was purposely put in there or “influenced by Satan.” Either way, it got our attention.

Now, I have to confess that afterwards I was on a mission to tell everyone about the new discovery. Later, I even gave some of the same seminars when I was a youth pastor, but by that time CD’s were in therefore I had to talk more about the lyrics of a song.

Nevertheless, it was pretty weird how a song can be played backwards and there would be a message. This is why when someone forwarded this YouTube video it brought back a flood of memory (good and bad).

This guy is pretty good.

You have to listen to the whole thing first, even though you don’t know what he is singing.

Check it out.

Dissertation Research Update

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

It is not easy to keep up with fitness when a person is away from home or traveling. All the extra items (i.e. running shoes, extra shirts and socks, etc) that have to be packed deter a person from keeping their commitment to health. But on this trip I decided to be faithful to my New Year’s resolution of running 2 miles a day.

After working out, I went to Gordon-Conwell’s library to do some research. I was so engaged in the research I didn’t realize that about 9 hours passed. It was a productive day. I am hoping for another productive day tomorrow.

Starbucks and Lessons on Leadership

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

Yesterday for 3 hours (5:30PM to 8:30PM), all 7,100 Starbucks stores in the United States closed for a barista re-education. This equals to about 135,000 baristas getting trained or shall we say re-trained.

In the last quarter, Starbucks have seen a drop in profits which has caused layoffs, the closing of stores and a slower growth on opening up new stores. One cause of the drop in profits is due to competition. Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds have stepped up on the coffee market, not only with competitive prices but better coffee.

Another cause is the deteriorating quality of drinks made by Starbucks baristas. Some have attributed it to the coffee arrogance by Starbucks and how the baristas have lost the enthusiasm and attention that needs to go in to make a good cup of joe.

Whatever the reason or the cause, there are some good leadership lessons involved here.

1) Good leadership will always set the bar. John Maxwell, the leadership guru said, “Everything rises and falls with leadership.” In the wake of weakening sales, the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz came back as the CEO to help run the corporation again. In all organizations when things are not going well, the first area you have to check up on is the leadership. It is easy to blame various people and factors, but ultimately everything goes back to the leader. This is the nature of the leadership – everyone can tell when there is poor leadership.

2) Good leadership will always go back to the basics of vision, mission and values. When Howard Schultz, now the CEO (2nd time around) was asked about the 3 hour closing, he said, “We believe that this is a bold demonstration of our commitment to our core and a reaffirmation of our coffee leadership.” In some sense, Starbucks is going back to the basics of what made them into a coffee powerhouse.

3) Good leadership will always strive for improvement and help people reach their full potential. When you are on top is it is easy to get complacent and gloat over your successes. Comfortability is one of the major causes for an organization to breakdown or fall into their demise. In order to stay on top, a company has to always be improving and reaching new levels. If not, then there is someone or another company that will be in the wings waiting to take the lead.

I am wondering how many churches are stagnant because leaders are too comfortable or just resting on their laurels. We have to learn to have short-term memory when it comes to success in the ministry. We can always be growing and learning new things. This is how we reach levels that we have never reached before.

Maybe the church needs to close shop for a little bit and take a day to just re-train the leaders. It will be great to regain our heart for the Gospel, transformation, missions and evangelism, love for people, sacrifice, and other basics in the Christian life.

The Arts Breaking Through

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint, Vision

NY Philharmonic in N.Korea.jpg
With New York Philharmonic going to Pyongyang, North Korea recently, it made me think once again about the importance of the Arts and Media in the whole Transformasphere Movement.

I am a believer that music and the arts are universal languages. Whenever I travel, I am constantly struck with how music and arts are able to speak to the heart of the human being, regardless of what color, creed or country. Maybe God purposely designed it this way.

The New York Philharmonic (NYP) made history as it played for a packed audience in the East Pyongyang Grand Theater. The NYP is considered the first American cultural group to perform in the country. They were also the largest delegation from the United States to visit North Korea. The national anthems of both North Korea and the United States were played as the audience stood and withheld their applause until the end (incredible).

Lorin Maazel, the music director of the NYP said some interesting things. He alluded to the fact that the orchestra was a “force for change in the past” as he referred to its 1959 performance in the Soviet Union and how that allowed the outside world to come in which resulted to the end of Communism many years later.

When Maazel was asked if there are some parallels with this visit he said, “To draw a parallel would be to do a disservice to the people who live here and who are trying through their art and through their culture to reach out to other human beings, to make a better world for themselves and for all of us. We are very humbled. We are here to make music.”

And music they made.

This is the reason why we need to cultivate and raise up more artists in our church. Can you imagine one day some of the people in our churches will be able to “prepare the way” for the Gospel to be preached in some of the most difficult places around the world?

You can watch some CNN videos here.

You can look at some of the NYP pictures here
Here is a Associated Press video summarizing what happened at this historical event

Dissertation Writing In Boston

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

I arrived in Boston yesterday in the evening. I am going to spend this whole week writing some portions of my dissertation for my doctor of ministry degree that I am trying to finish at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Not too long ago, I felt a great burden to hurry up and finish this paper. A lot of what I am going to write about will give direction for future things in our church. Sometimes there are so many different thoughts floating around in my mind, but until I can capture them and write it down, they will be just be passing thoughts.

Once I put some of my thoughts into writing, I am confident that some of the things that we are trying to do at HMCC will make more sense. God is giving me greater revelation for how church planting (both nationally and internationally), the Student Volunteer Movement, college campuses, transformasphere, and global evangelization are all fitting together. It is exciting!

Google Calendar for Destiny Campaign

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

I just signed up for prayer on various slot for the 40-Days to Destiny (40D2D) on the Google Calendar. It is going to be exciting to see many people in our church sign up for a prayer time slot. The 40-Days to Destiny will help focus the whole church (and even the alumni) to prepare ourselves to respond to God on April 13th.

We are heading into an incredible adventure and we have already resolved that without God, the destiny will not be actualized. As in the words of William Carey, we are “expecting great things from God, attempting great things for God.”

I have always been a big advocate for accountability. There is no greater accountability when it comes to prayer than to put your name on a public calendar and let people know at that specific time you are going to pray. I understand that some people will argue that Jesus taught us to do things in secret (which I whole heartedly agree with). But one thing we have to keep in mind is the context. The Destiny Campaign is not a personal journey for one person. It is a corporate journey, where the whole community of faith is involved. Therefore, when we think about the corporate prayer movement, we need to have some corporate accountability.

By publicly signing up for a prayer time slot, we are publicly being accountability to the corporate body. On a practical note, it is also encouraging to know that when you are praying for a timeslot that there are other people praying along with you in Spirit.

You can check out who’s signed up on the prayer calendar here.
If you have not heard about our Destiny Campaign, read about it on our Transformation Vision webpage.
“Attempt something so impossible that unless God is in it, it’s doomed to failure.” (John Haggai)

Ministry in Chicago 02.23.08

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Visits

I am heading out to Chicago right now. It is going to be a full weekend of ministry. I will have the opportunity to impart the DNA of our church, as well as meeting up with people to encourage them to live for God’s Kingdom. I will also be doing our first pre-marital counseling in Chicago for an engaged couple. As we reach students, we will be able to reach out to single adults; and as we reach single adults we will eventually be able to reach out to married couples. It is exciting to see some of the married couple in our church grow in their relationship with one another and with God.

Tonight I am going to meet up with the TEAM Community (leadership team). This is always my passion to focus in on the leaders. I have strongly believed that “everything rises and falls with leadership” whether in the context of the Church or in any organization in the world.

Global ACCESS Retreat Update

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Vision

Last night, we had our opening worship session for our first-ever Global ACCESS retreat. It was a great joy to see so many people there at the retreat. I realized that we have a good percentage of international students in our church.

This retreat has really been a dream in the making. We have always envisioned and talked about having a retreat just for the international students so that we can equip and empower people to reach the nations. We had many nations represented.

In the first night I talked about “The Bi-Cultural Calling.” It is interesting to see many people in the Bible that used who were “bi-cultural.” We looked at Joseph, Moses, Daniel and Paul. As the international students are adjusting to the American culture they are learning how to be “bridges” for two cultures.

In fact, we even talked about the Third Culture Kids (TCK). Sociologist David Pollock describes a TCK as “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership of any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of a similar background.”

It is interesting how an increasing number of people from other countries, who have come to the United States to study, go back to their country and find themselves feeling like they are in a whole new culture. This is especially true for those people who have come to experience Jesus Christ here in the States. In some ways, they are forming their own “third culture.”

This is one of the reasons why the possibility of starting up an expatriate international church might become a reality in the future. Not only are there “westerns” who are in that international city to work but there are many college graduates who have studied in the States, UK and Australia who have adopted this “third culture” mentality.

As we plant the seeds in the hearts and minds of the international students in our church, we will see a vision of planting international churches blossom into something beautiful.

Faith of a Child

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

This morning, as I was getting ready to drive the kids to school, I couldn’t find my wallet. Then as we were driving, it dawned upon me that I lost it as the family and I were sitting down and enjoying our dessert at a mall.

I was sharing with the kids how it was frustrating since I had to get things ready for my trip this coming weekend. Then from the back of the car a little voice said, “Daddy, maybe we should pray and ask God to help us find it.” In my mind, I was thinking, “Yeah right! The wallet is gone little girl.” But of course, I did not want to shatter the faith of a little child so I said, “yeah we should pray and lift it up in prayer.” So we included that in our regular school drive prayers (we normally go around and lift up prayers for various things before the kids get dropped off at school).

After frantically calling the security at the mall and with no success, I called up all the credit card company to put a hold on my account. But I found out that if I put a hold on the account then it will be irreversible – the account will be closed and I will be issued a new card, which will be mailed within 7-10 days. The problem is that I need the credit card now since I will be away this weekend and all of next week.

So I held off. I did another search through the car, house… I even back traced my steps. After wasting hours of precious time, I conceded and determined that it was lost. I called up the credit card company and told them to cancel the cards.

As soon as I did that, I rechecked with the mall security and told me that they found it!

Can you believe that?!

The humbling part of all this was that I was schooled by a little girl who indirectly challenged my lack of faith. I couldn’t wait to come home and tell her that her prayers and faith helped find my wallet. What a teaching moment – not for the 4 year old girl but for her father.

Why is it that as we get older we lose the kind of faith that pleases and honors God? We get more cynical and calculating. It is hard for us to completely trust in God for everything. Maybe this is why we miss out on so much of what God is doing all over the world.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”
(Heb 11:1, 6).

God, gives us more of a child-like faith, which is pure and pleasing to You.

Global ACCESS Retreat

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Vision

Global Access Retreat 08.jpg
We are having our first international student’s retreat in our church over this coming weekend. Global ACCESS, our international ministry in our church started with a handful of people but now it has grown into a viable and expanding ministry reaching out to many nations here on the University of Michigan campus.

When our church first got started back in 1996, we had a vision of reaching the nations. Little did we know that it would be connected to the nations that were coming to UM. We have close to 122 nations that are represented here on campus. Instead of trying to raise up an American to go to some of these nations, we came to the conclusion that it would be more effective if a national was raised up and trained to go back to their nation. This approach makes sense because they do not need to learn a new language or get used to a new culture, which will make them more effective right from the beginning.

But now, the vision is evolving due to the changes in the global climate. We want to see teams made up of nationals and Americans being sent out to powerfully impact the international scene. With various skills and experiences, it is our prayer that different spheres of society (CHARGED) will be reached with the Gospel.

I am praying for a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit at this first-ever Global ACCESS Retreat. Before the early disciples were sent out to the nations in the Book of Acts, they were anointed by the Holy Spirit. We are praying for the same visitation. We covet your prayers for this retreat.

Tea Connoisseur

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various

After lunch, we went to a place called the Tea Gallery, owned by one of Pastor Victor’s members. It is an Asian furniture store and tea gallery all in one. We ended up tasting some great tea. I am amazed at all the skill and technique that goes into preparing the tea.

I ended up buying some “green oolong” tea which is supposed to be good for your body and taste good. Even though I didn’t understand all that the tea was suppose to do for the body, I just trusted him because of his passion as he was explaining things to us.

This got me thinking about how passion is very important in life. It doesn’t matter what it is but as long as you are passionate about it, you can cause people to inquire. This is the kind of passion I want to exude in my life for the things of God and His Kingdom.
Tea Connoisseur.JPG
Our tea connoisseur put so much attention to the preparation of the tea that it was inspiring.

Living and Leaving a Legacy

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

Abraham Piper introduced his father, John Piper at one of the Pastor’s Conferences that the Desiring God Ministries held back in February. Someone forwarded me the actual text and the video of Abraham’s introduction and it really moved me.

So often when a person is a public figure (especially pastors), it is easy to fool people about who you really are. The members just see you up on the stage live (or video) and think that you are larger than life. It is easy to hide behind the pulpit, put on a façade and present yourself a certain way. But it is the family members who know the real you. They see you every single day. They are able to cut through all the fluff and see your moments of weakness and frailty as a human being.

This is why when John Piper’s son introduced John Piper with so much respect and honor; it really showed that John Piper is the real deal both in public and in private. It is my prayer that one day my children will be able to speak of me with the same level of respect and honor. It is all about living a legacy and leaving a legacy. The story is being told every single day.

You can check out Abraham’s introduction video here.

The Tragedy at NIU

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Viewpoint

Last Friday morning I read about the tragedy that happened on the campus of Northern Illinois University. I had some time to reflect on the incident and there were some lessons and reminders for me:

1) God is drawing attention to the college campuses. I don’t know why but within the last couple of years, it seems as if God is drawing the world’s attention to the college campuses. Even though the attention was a result of tragedies, nevertheless, God has gotten our attention.

2) The urgency to reach campuses around the world. In light of all the craziness that happened in Virginia Tech and now NIU, the need for the Gospel to penetrate the campuses is becoming more blaring clear. These students will be the next generation leaders for our society. What would happen if more people are transformed with the power of the Gospel message? We would see a different society in the future.

3) There are many lonely and hurting people in the world, especially on the college campuses. What if we all saw people the way God sees them? I think many of us would not be able to bear the burden. There are so many people who are in desperate need to experience a touch from God. Sometimes the only way they will be able to experience it is by encountering a Christ-follower who is really living out the Gospel message. We need to pray and open our eyes and ask God to reap the harvest field.

4) We need to raise up and train more people in our church to reach the campus. I had the opportunity to eat at a dorm recently and I was overwhelmed with the myriad of opportunities to talk with people. So often we get caught up in our own little world that we don’t see the lost people around. What if we prayed everyday this kind of prayer – “Lord, help me to see what you see, hear what you hear, and feel what you feel.” We might be pleasantly surprised.

5) Life is short and we have to live everyday with purpose and passion. It is so easy to get up in the morning and just go through the routine of life. But when tragedy like this happens, it is like a wake up call for us. We have to live every day as if it is our last. This will radically change the way we look at any given day.

NIU Shooting Vigil.jpg
NIU Students gathering after the tragedy. What would it be like if students gathered like this to seek God on campus?