You + The District Church = #Winning

What a year! In the last twelve months at The District Church, I’ve:

  • preached the first seven sermons of my life;
  • continued to lead worship regularly; and
  • led a small group that, over the course of three semesters, involved almost 50 people, and saw three new small groups start out of it this fall.

But perhaps more gratifying is what’s happened in, through, around, and beyond myself, as the church itself has:

  • welcomed over 500 people at our Sunday services;
  • grown from a community of 50 to over 200 (and a second service);
  • multiplied from two small groups to eight, involving the vast majority of our church community;
  • combined with matching donors to raise over $100,000 for famine relief in the Horn of Africa;
  • put on a Kids Festival in the spring and a Fall Festival just last month that each connected us with several hundred people in our community; and
  • most recently, joined with other churches in our area to kick off an urban youth ministry program.

All of this comes down to your generosity–that helped me raise enough support to work part-time at the church–and your prayers–that, among other things, led me to my current part-time contract with ONE. I can’t offer a precise “dollars invested : lives impacted” ratio, but know that you have been and continue to make a difference in Washington, DC.

This next year, I’m sensing that God is calling me to this work full-time. Because our church is still young (at almost 18 months, I’d say we’re toddler-aged) and is reaching mostly young adults and unpaid interns, there’s a need for all of us to continue raising support. This year, I’m trusting God to provide $40,000 and I’m asking you to be a shareholder in this vision.Will you pray about how much of this you can give to help change lives, communities, and neighborhoods here in DC?

My ordination is only a week away. This is such a confirmation and affirmation of the calling God has for me. I know many of you won’t be able to make it to the actual ceremony, but one of the ways you can support me is by pledging your financial support for the next year.I also just want to issue an open invitation to you to come visit: come see the church that you (through me) have had a hand in planting here in the nation’s capital; come see the work that we’re engaging in; come see me in the place that God has called me to be, doing what I feel like I was always created to do. There’s guest space a-plenty!

Thankful for your part in my life and journey,
Justin.

P.S. We were just featured in the latest edition of the Religious Herald! Check it out. (Photo credit to me, my iPhone, and my Hipstamatic app.)


You can give online via Auto-Tithe. Please make sure to select “For the Ministry of Justin Fung” in the drop-down menu. Or you can make checks payable to “The District Church,” with “For the Ministry of Justin Fung” in the memo and send them to: The District Church, PO Box 3116, Washington, DC 20010.

All gifts are fully tax-deductible.

Caterpillar to Butterfly: A Poem

Caterpillar to butterfly
without the cocoon
Changing, growing, becoming
all out in the open for everyone to see
Wanting to be hidden
in the safety of obscurity

I feel like a child
jumping around trying to wave my arms so people will see me
“This is not who I’ll always be
Don’t write me off yet
Wait till you see who I become
what I become
I’ll make you proud”

I guess if you’re sticking with me now
you must love me more than I love myself
coz I don’t think I would …

Maybe that’s what I need:
your perspective

— Justin Fung, November 5, 2007

Time won't leave me as I am

Original post: March 4, 2008; update: January 26, 2010.

I like hanging out with God. Just me and him. Like old times. Like when I used to have lots of time to just be. For the last few years, life has become busier and responsibilities have piled up, and I’ve had to learn a new way of relating to God—amidst the busyness and craziness of life, when everything tries to distract me from spending time from the one Necessary in life, the only one I actually need to survive. So it’s been a different stage—a more laborious way of life. But perhaps that’s just what happens when one grows up.

And God’s been good. In the last few years, he’s brought people around me to be community: families to provide stability, guys to be accountable to and pray with, friends to laugh with and to challenge me. He’s been focusing my vision, and leading me where he wants me, gradually revealing piece by piece of the puzzle (though I may never see the whole picture). I love being in the now, being in the excitement of seeing where God leads and what he’s going to do.

In many ways, it’s still hard—as I like to quote from my songwriter friend James, “Life is hard; life is beautiful.” There are still things to contend with: time will always be at a premium; friends will move away, and it’s improbable that I’ll ever live in the same place as my best friends or family again. And I’m still not quite sure where my home is. I was praying the other night and came to the conclusion that “I just want to go home.” And then I realized that, actually, “I just want to know where home is.”

This morning, sitting in the sun, chilling out with God, the words of a song sounded: He is my home. My family will always be an international family, my friends will never all be in the same place, and I often wonder if my restless soul will ever let me stay in one place for a long stretch. But God will be my home.

I wrote a song almost three years ago; my brother and sister-in-law were about to have their first kid, and I wrote it from the perspective of a new parent. This morning, God spoke to me through it:

When all the world can’t seem to get you right,
and all the words you scream won’t bring you light,
when tears fill up your eyes and cover up your sight,
I will be your home.

***

Related to this, the realization that what goes around comes around.

Time and again, I’m astounded by how the songs I write for other people, or th are inspired by other people, come back and speak to me in another time and another circumstance, whether it’s a life challenge—“Are we going to put up a fight or let the world turn to rust?”, or a love challenge—“I can’t break free unless you find me; I am undone by you”, or something else—“What happens now? Will I fall down flat on my face or will I find the strength to get back to my knees?”

What happens is that when I write songs, I empathize with people and their situations, and then somehow, somewhere down the line, I end up in a similar scenario and need the same ministry. Maybe it’s God’s way of ingeniously incorporating all of our foibles and talents into his greater scheme. Or it’s just his unique sense of humor: God using my own words to challenge me and spur me on.

Thanks, God. I’m glad I know you love me.

Truth: Us < Life < God

Original post: September 25, 2007; update: January 25, 2010.

God spoke to me through my crazy dreams last night. Not so much in an audible booming voice, but more in what he revealed: about relationships, about life struggles, about my wanting to escape, feeling pressured and pursued (not in a good way).

I want to remain in Christ.

See, for the last couple weeks—I guess, since the end of summer assignments meant I had more time to process—I’ve been incredibly frustrated with life. And over the last few days, I’ve come to realize that one of the main reasons for this frustration is that I can’t have what I want. Not right now, anyway; and this applies to a number of things in my life. But I know that it’s not the right time, it’s not the right season.

Life—the Christian life—is made up of seasons. And the one that I’m in now is one of frustration, of helplessness, of waiting, of patience, of difficulty, of discontent, of struggle. And I’m realizing that that’s okay—I don’t think the psalmist was particularly exuberant when he expressed his feelings of abandonment by God in Psalm 22; I don’t think he was in a particularly happy place. But he knew where to turn. And so do I.

God is preparing me, reshaping me, pruning me. And it hurts. It hurts like hell. And I kick and shout because I don’t like it, because I don’t want to be hurting or in pain or in difficulty. But my Father holds me tighter in his arms, tears in his eyes because he hurts to see me in pain, and he whispers: “I know this isn’t nice; I know it hurts; I know you would rather be anywhere but here. But it’s for your good. It’s for your future. And after this season, there will be a season of joy. Though the sorrow may last for a night, the joy comes in the morning. After the hurricane, the sun will burst through.”

A few years ago, I had a vision of a horse, straining at the bit, wanting to be given its head and being released to run. And God, the rider, was crouched close to the horse’s ear and saying, “Just a little longer, and then you can go as fast as you want …” There is a time for everything, a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 6). If we try to push ahead, to force the right time to come around, we’re working on our agenda, on our timing, which doesn’t—can’t—take into consideration the bigger picture, the universal scheme of things.

There’s a human desire to see things done the way we want them done, at the time that we want. But life is bigger than us.

Fortunately, God is bigger than life. And it’s in trusting him—especially in the times when we just want out—that we grow the most. Coz that’s what relationship’s about: growing in trust and love, learning to let God do what he’s doing, coz he knows far better than we do what he’s up to.

Daring to be true

One of the points from this morning’s sermon, taken from Galatians 4:8-20, was that one of the pastor’s responsibilities is to tell the truth, even if it is hard to accept. That is integrity. To speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The challenge was this: what do we do when we are faced with a hard truth, an inconvenient truth? Do we face it and take it on, or do we flee from it, covering our ears and shouting to drown out the noise of truth?

I think it applies not just to the pastor/congregation relationship, but also more generally to people and the truth. As people of God, as followers of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, it is our responsibility, our obligation almost, to seek the truth, wherever it may be found. I believe that all truth is God’s truth. If it is truth, it will line up with the person of Jesus Christ; and if it does this, then it is true.

Take the example of the Apostle Paul: at the beginning of Acts, he was doing what he thought was the truth, persecuting the followers of Jesus, who claimed he was the Messiah. Based on his understanding of Scripture—“cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree”—it was impossible that the crucified man from Nazareth could be God’s anointed. And then he was confronted with the truth: that this same man who had been crucified was not only God’s anointed, but himself God. So Paul had to reorient his theology around the truths of Jesus as God, Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus as cursed. Not an easy reorientation, by any stretch of the imagination.

Even, and especially, when it isn’t an easy truth to digest, when it’s a truth that requires a paradigm shift, or learning a new way of being in relationship, or figuring out a new way of understanding God, it’s tempting to just give up. Any time there is opposition or difficulty or a mindset-shift, it always seems easier just to back down, to let it go, to move on, to continue just as we always have been. But it’s in coming through, with the help of God and with a community of support, that we really grow and learn and become more of who we were meant to be.

This weekend has been one of reorientation—and it’s still going on. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I know that—though it is and will be hard to live differently, though it will be a challenge and I will be tempted (again) to just throw in the towel—ultimately it is leading me to a truer way of living, a truer way of relating, a truer way of being who God meant me to be.

And whatever reward lies at the end of it will be all the sweeter for the striving.