There are several cool things they do at my home church in Houston that I thought I would share, since it doesn’t take much time. One thing is, all the deacons (at a Baptist church there are no elders) serve for 4 years, and every 4 years must take a year of sabbatical. After that year, they must pass a vote of confidence by the congregation, a 2/3 vote. I thought this is the greatest idea. I’ve just seen and heard of a lot of churches where just one or a couple of bad elders make life difficult for the entire church, and there’s this pride and power at stake. It just totally sucks. This system gets people who are widely recognized as not working for the benefit of the church out of there. Good idea.

It doesn’t stop there. The pastor goes through the same thing, just in 6 year cycles, and the sabbatical year is optional. My dad’s thinking is that 6 years is about enough time for a pastor to get his ministry established, and by then you can tell if things are going to work out. Even if the vote of confidence passes, it gives the congregation an opportunity to let the pastor know directly what things are and are not working. I think it’s a fabulous idea.

I’ve been learning more and more about the cell church structure. You may or may not have heard of Ralph Neighbour (is that how you spell it?) but he’s this big guy in the cell church movement. His book Where Do We Go From Here, which I have not read, is very influential. I should read it. At any rate, he’s based in Houston and is apparently a good guy and likes our church. When my dad goes to conferences or other churches or just travels for whatever reason, sometimes our EM pastor Eric Shin preaches, and sometimes Ralph Neighbor preaches! For the Korean service! (someone translates) So my mom says Ralph Neighbor speaks at our church at least 1 or 2 times a year. Pretty dope.

At any rate, the cell church idea, it’s pretty interesting, especially how our church implements it. I’ve learned that a key aspect of it really is the sharing. It builds a sense of community, which a church is. The cell churches themselves are very interesting also; honestly they’re a lot like college small groups. Except they perform the functions of the church. Each one is a church. Incidentally, my dad would not mind if the cell churches themselves did the sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist) it’s just that others are uncomfortable with it. Anyway.

So they range in size from I think 8-9 to 15. 15 is the absolute limit – as groups grow past it they split. And if groups shrink I believe they merge. Anyway, the interesting thing about it all is that (I’m not totally sure how it works) at the beginning, you can go to whatever cell church you want to. That is, you’re not assigned to one by leaders or anything, or constained by geography. But you can go to any one you want. Again, I’m hazy on the details, but that just struck me as a really interesting idea.

Apparently it’s working. When we got to Houston it was around 300 people. Now it’s around 800. This is including everyone, from kids to old people, English ministry included. In 5 years, that’s pretty good. Especially in Houston. The greatest thing, though, is the number of people who have accepted Christ in that time. I once heard the average, and it’s like in number of people per week. Pretty insane. And exciting. It’s not a Presbyterian church.

The church really is blessed in so many ways. Everyone needs to visit Houston just to see our building. It is so incredibly dope. We just built this new complex which includes tons of classrooms, nurseries, a huge gym (full court!) and an upstairs lounge with big-screen TV and DVD player. You really do need to see it. Anyway, it’s amazing how this was all possible. The church has gone through like 3 stages of building since I’ve been there, but through it all, they’ve never had to buy land. Land is cheap in Houston, and they have long owned this big plot in the northwest area of the city. So there was no land to buy, just buildings to erect.

But the biggest blessing is David and Tina Park’s dad. He’s an architect. Anyway, he was able to build an amazing amount for amazingly little. On the projects, he was the architect, contractor, foreman, worker, just everything. I won’t tell you how much it all cost, but suffice to say it was way way less than it should have been. All because one of the deacons is a dope architect.

The Sunday before I left, I was in the gym, and all the males were in one side of the gym playing ball, and all the girls on the other playing volleyball. And all the little kids were just running around everywhere. It was a beautiful sight.

And the church isn’t in debt! Praise God!

My dad’s a little unusual. One time, he went to Israel to visit the Holy Land. While he was there, he discovered the dates (the fruit) were incredible. I mean, really good dates. So he brought a bunch home, and after one service, made everyone get in a line and as they went out, he fed them a date. I mean, literally put it in their mouth. Some people were embarassed, but they were reportedly mighty fine dates.

A strange thing though is that even in the short time I’ve been there, I’ve noticed how the Asian population/influence has really grown. It’s crazy. My year, at my sister’s high school, there were just a handful of Koreans; now they’re everywhere. The whole Chinese section of town, you know, along Bellaire, is exploding also. And many more Korean stores. I went to the Barnes and Nobles in Town and Country on I-10 at Beltway 8, and the Starbucks there was filled with only Asians, all high schoolers studying. All hardcore ones, with the bizarre hair and typical clothes. I swear it felt like Cerritos. Really strange.

Another interesting thing is that even with all these facilities, the English Ministry meets in a converted trailer. It’s a great idea. Ownership is a really important thing, and although it’s small, the EM owns the trailer, uses it exclusively, and takes care of it. It really makes the EM feel like it’s got its own place, its own ministry.

At any rate, I’m a believer in churches / ministries having their own buildings, no matter how small they are. There are just many advantages to it. A lot of churches nowadays (Vineyard, The River) don’t find this so important, but I don’t know, when Henry starts his church, I want us to get a building, even if it’s just office space.

Of course, I’m just talking out of my rectum, since I haven’t really lived in Houston (although, George’s assertion is incorrect – I have lived there cumulatively for more than a year), so who knows if anything I wrote is true? I do know this – Jieun is the most wonderful woman in the world.

Again, read salon.com’s articles regarding Columbine. The title is “Everything You Know About Columbine Is Wrong.” The guy did his research and I am very inclined to believe him. Media likes to pick up on easy sound bites but that’s not always the way it is. As the brilliant movie Pleasantville showed so memorably, real life has no easy answers and it’s a messy, confusing thing. But it’s real.

I saw the Runaway Bride, and the entire time I was watching the movie I could not help but think of a person I know. Crazy.