Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Urban Thinkers Campus in Singapore

The details are finally out about the Urban Shalom Forum and Urban Thinkers Campus for faith leaders in Singapore from November 10-15, 2017. I'll be facilitating the youth and leadership development track, and this will be an amazing opportunity for global advocacy with faith leaders from around the world.

Check out the details here:

Don't miss out on this historic gathering where leaders will be exchanging ideas, shaping policies, and collaborating together to take on some of the most significant challenges in our rapidly urbanizing modern world. Contact me at if you're interested in participating. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer Urban Immersion

A group of more than 30 people from North Way Christian Community participated in a summer urban immersion opportunity in July. It was an amazing time together! First we gathered for a day of preparation on July 15th where I did some teaching on how Christians can effectively engage cities and work toward poverty alleviation, and my sister, Shannon Libengood, who happens to be North Way's missions director, did some great teaching on calling and God's heart for reaching the world through participating in his redemptive mission.

Here is our group in the classroom, preparing to go out:

Our group chose from several different serving opportunities, including serving in Homewood through House of Manna's Feed The People outreach event and serving refugees in Pittsburgh's Prospect Park neighborhood. Our team was trained on how to build effective relationships with the people that they would be serving with, and they did a great job at these events. And it was so much fun! I was proud of how everyone did.

Here are some pictures of our time serving in Homewood and with refugees:

We did a group debrief after each serving opportunity, and we discussed next steps as we all prepared to engage more in God's redemptive mission to reach people in the cities of the world. After such a great experience this time around, the group also plans to participate in future urban immersion opportunities through the Transformational Urban Leadership Institute at North Way. Another next step will be to expand the urban immersion opportunities to all North Way campuses. I'm looking forward to seeing what God has in mind for these opportunities at our church. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Final Day of MDGC 2016 NYC

The last day of the Movement Day Global Cities experience in New York City was significant. We heard from another diverse cross section of leaders in the global church, including leaders from places like India, South Africa, Canada, Belgium, and Rwanda. It was so interesting to learn from the different perspectives, and I gained a lot of material for teaching, training, and mobilizing Christians to serve in cities within a variety of different sectors.

There is so much to report about what God is doing in cities around the world. Here are a few things I'd like to highlight:

We were led in worship by a multiethnic worship team that incorporated diverse musical sounds into the worship sets. They also utilized imagery during the worship time which highlighted assets in cities such as skylines. This was done intentionally as to engage the urban people in attendance from around the world. All of the times of worship were incredible!

They mayor's office sent a representative, Jonathan Soto, to proclaim that the day is officially Movement Day in NYC. I appreciated all of the interaction between leaders from religious, economic, and political sectors gathered together to participate collaboratively in urban transformation.

Tim Keller shared one of the most profound talks of the entire event. He presented the challenges that face Christian leaders operating in urban environments, reasons to be hopeful that the gospel will spread in cities, and practical steps toward engaging in God's redemptive mission in cities.

The official ceremony closing out MDGC 2016 featured representatives from 95 different countries processing with their flags through the convention center where the conference was located. It is always a special experience to gather with so many different people from around the world. Christian leaders in the U.S. have so much to learn from Christian leaders serving in places where Christianity is exploding in growth... in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Pastor Randy and I are making our way home. I'm looking forward to one of the biggest outreach events of the year tonight... the Harvest Party in Homewood! I can't wait to be back in the 'Burgh!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

MDGC 2016 NYC Day Two

It was another intense day at MDGC in New York. The day started with speakers from Australia, South Africa, China, and concluded with speakers from several cities throughout the United States. Topics included empowering women in the workplace, collaboration across sectors in cities, church planting in cities where Christians are persecuted, race and class reconciliation, research for ministry in cities, and leadership principles.

One of the most powerful talks to me came from a pastor in Charlotte, Claude Alexander. He described the many ways that his city is healthy, and he also described that racial tension that was always under the surface, not being dealt with, that finally boiled over resulting in recent protests in that city. He described the reconciling power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how followers of Christ can lead the way in cities like Charlotte that are currently experiencing so much tension between people of different ethnicities and cultures. My prayer is that the leaders in attendance here at Movement Day will take up that charge. The work is so important. I'm praying that God will continue to work toward our church in Pittsburgh to work toward racial reconciliation, empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit.

Here are some more of our adventures from today:

The Convention Center in New York where Movement Day is being held is a great space to collaborate with so many different leaders. I love the diversity that is present here with our group which represents leaders from 95 different countries. I bumped into friends from India and the Philippines today. It's a small world!

Alan Platt from South Africa shared about the importance of collaboration and gospel movements in cities that are recovering from painful situations like apartheid. The church can have such a significant impact in places that have experienced loss, brokenness and pain.

These researchers from Germany, South Africa, and the U.S. shared about the importance of doing effective research with people in urban environments. Too often researches actually cause harm when research in cities is down irresponsibly. These practitioners presented some effective research models to our group.

I'm enjoying the time that I'm getting to spend in this world class city with Pastor Randy. We had a fun time exploring Times Square tonight. Such an amazing place!

We have one more full day of learning and leading tomorrow, and then we'll be heading back to Pittsburgh. We're excited to build capacity at North Way with what we're learning, and we're also looking forward to participating more in the transformational work that is happening in so many different places in Pittsburgh. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Movement Day NYC Adventures

Over the summer I stepped into a new challenge on staff at North Way Christian Community. I handed over the reigns of North Way East End to a new pastor, and I'm now fully engaged in my role as pastor of transformational urban leadership. With hopes of building a solid foundation for the urban leadership teaching, training, writing, and advocacy efforts that I'll be involved in, I set out to travel to Los Angeles for the national CCDA conference, Quito for The Gospel and the Future of Cities Summit and Habitat III, and, finally, Movement Day in New York City. I'm in the home stretch of this national and global training and advocacy here in New York City, and I've been joined in this stretch of the journey by North Way's executive pastor, Randy Blincow.

We are really processing through a lot of great speakers and break out sessions from today. The speakers who shared about urban transformation and Christians leading movements in cities around the world included Mac Pier, Mutua Mahiaini, Billy Hybels, Jayakumar Christian, Leslie Doll, Son Kazanjian, Steve Douglass, One Hock Siew, Tony Evans, Pete Scazzero, Samuel Harrell, Gabriel Salguero, and Noel Castellanos. Each of the speakers shared different perspectives on how followers of Jesus can take on some of the most significant challenges and issues facing our cities, including such topics as the refugee crisis, biblical justice, incarnational leadership, racism, classism, reaching millennials, emotionally healthy leadership, economic and political systemic transformation, family restoration, asset-based community development, sex trafficking, urban slums and squatter neighborhoods, prayer movements, trauma healing, education, health care, integral mission, and visionary leadership.

Here are some of the highlights from the day:

Randy and I are committed to participating in God's redemptive mission in cities like Pittsburgh and in places around the world. We're being further equipped to expand God's kingdom. We're also enjoying spending time together and having some theological debates (Randy was on my pastoral ordination committee years ago so we have a history of theological discussions over the years).

Jayakumar Christian's book God of the Empty-Handed is one of the most powerful books on poverty alleviation and Christian development that I have ever read. It was a privilege to hear him speak at Movement Day and he shared an inspirational message.

Noel Castellanos from CCDA presented a compelling theological foundation for biblical justice and how God's heart is close to the poor and marginalized people in our world.

I caught up with my sister, Cameron, who lives in New York. We had so many great discussions about life, and she was an awesome sounding board for some of the things that I was processing from the day. She's very close to graduating with a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary... so proud of her!

I love exploring cities, and I love how New York lights up at night. This is one of the most fascinating places in the world. I'm always thankful to be spending time here.

Well, that's it for today. I'm sure I'll be sending out a lot more about what we're learning tomorrow at Movement Day NYC. Can't wait to learn more about what God is doing in mobilizing Christians to transform urban environments. I'm praying through which of these concepts will build capacity with the work that North Way is engaged in back in Pittsburgh. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Final Quito Update

As I sit here in Quito watching the sun set behind one of the many beautiful mountains in the area, I can't help but be thankful for the opportunities that were presented this week to pray, reflect, and advocate at Habitat III. Our group of leaders continued to advocate today all the way through the end of the proceedings as the New Urban Agenda was officially adopted. We have opened up doors for participating in meaningful ways in urban transformation efforts in cities around the world.

We are an active group of leaders at the Urban Shalom Project. Outcomes from our time in Quito will include a press release, a call to action to millions of Christians around the world, a book with our published papers about the New Urban Agenda, a new website, an Urban Thinkers Camp, and many opportunities for collaboration in academic circles with people who are teaching urban ministry and planning.

Here are some photos from our last day in Quito:

Quito is an amazing place. The weather was great, the surrounding hills provided incredible views, and there was often a cool breeze rolling through the Habitat III areas. This was the perfect place for global leaders to gather.

The whole city came to life all week with entertainers, light shows, the arts, shops, awesome food, and welcoming people. We will never forget the warmth of the Ecuadorian people as they showed off their country to the world.

I'm leaving Quito with a full heart, not only because of the good time that I had in South America, but because it was such a powerful experience to be a part of the Christian witness here at this historic event with so many passionate leaders. I am excited about what God has in store from here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 6 Quito Update

Our group of faith leaders that has gathered here in Quito, Ecuador as part of the Urban Shalom Project is making a significant impact in many different areas of Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda. We are making a difference individually and collectively with urban planning, architecture, urban children and youth, academia, community development, migration and refugees, grass roots organizing, data involving cities, and faith-based implementation of goals that will impact billions of people around the world. We're accessing power, and we're working toward urban transformation. This is an amazing group of leaders, and it's an exciting time to be doing advocacy work with so many delegates and leaders from around the world who are shaping life in cities for decades to come.

Here's a little photo journey of our time in Quito today:

I'm pictured here with the fearless leaders of the Urban Shalom Project here at Habitat III... Dr. Chris Elisara from the World Evangelical Alliance and Dr. Ash Barker from Micah Global and the International Society for Urban Mission. Chris has been dreaming about having a Christian presence at Habitat III for the past three years, and Ash has been leading the way with Chris in making those dreams into reality. It's been a privilege to serve with these guys over the past week.

The Christian Community Development Association leaders played a huge role in our global advocacy efforts this week. CCDA board members Mary Nelson and John Liotti are pictured here with Chris and Ash, and board member Dr. Michael Mata (not pictured) also played a huge role in shaping our voice and direction this week. I'm thankful for these passionate and gifted leaders, in addition to many other gifted Christian leaders who participated in our work!

I'm pictured here in front of the United States booth in the huge exhibit hall that featured exhibitions from many different countries and organizations around the world. The U.S. booth at Habitat III wasn't as decked out as many of the booths that other countries had at this event, but I'm sure that will all change at Habitat 4 twenty years from now after the advocacy work that the U.S. members of our team did here this week. Watch out world!

Quito has some amazing churches and other architectural gems. Our team with the Urban Shalom Project has been fascinated by all of the unique buildings and streets that we have been navigating. Quito is really showing off for the world this week!

This photo was taken right before sunset when the city was just starting to come alive. What a view! Quito is such a beautiful place. Thousands of Quito residents have been making their way to this part of the town to watch light shows each evening. This city has embraced the events associated with Habitat III in so many ways. We're going to be sad to leave this place.

Please continue to pray for our team of leaders connected with the Urban Shalom Project as we prepare a press release, a statement from Evangelical leaders to the world about a call to action with implementing the new urban agenda, and other advocacy opportunities that emerge through our remaining time at Habitat III and beyond. We need strength from the Lord to see these advocacy efforts through to fruition. Thank you for praying!