this post was written by Pastor Chilly Chilton, the founding pastor of Courage Church. Chilly is currently preparing to launch Revolution Youth Ministry in Burlington, Vermont.
I have always loved the concept of “poiema” -
a friend of ours owned a tattoo shop in Southern California, and that was what he called it. “Poiema” - this was actually the first exposure I had to this powerful Greek word. Some of my best friends worked there, and it taught me so much about the gospel.
When Dawn and I got married, one of our first stops was to poiema, to get matching tattoos together.
For a short period in our lives, we lived near the shop, and it amazed me that every morning, before they started tattooing, they would have a bible study. They would open it up to anyone, and the times that we joined them were amazing. It was honest, it was real, there was depth… and then after they prayed out, they got out the tattoo guns and started tattooing.
This type of thing seems to be more common now, but 15 years ago, the idea of a tattoo shop that started every day with a Bible study was not exactly normal. And that is what we loved so much about it.
Because an industry that, for whatever misguided reason, the world viewed as something that is “anti-Christian” was actually creating the safest spaces I had seen a long time, for someone to not only BE a Christian, but also BE who they are at the same time.
and that is the gospel. That Jesus loves you just as you are… that He meets you, just as you are. That He laid down His life for the you that you are right now, and that He will take everything broken and from bring forth something beautiful… something that He can use to reach others.
And he breathes life into things that others may not see any life in.
And no matter what anyone has said about you… or spoken over you… Jesus loves you and he wants to use you for his glory.
This next example is totally different… because I don’t believe that it is sinful to own a tattoo shop or get a tattoo (I have them)…
but just yesterday, I toured a church that meets in what used to be a XXX theatre. They bought the theatre, and turned it into a church. And suddenly a building with years of dark history that fueled addiction and perversion was in a moment redeemed for the Glory of God and turned into a house of worship and restoration and reconciliation. Because that is what Jesus does…
He makes all things new.
He can redeem the broken things.
(like XXX theatres)
And He will work through the unorthodox things.
(like Christian-owned tattoo shops that look more like Jesus than even some churches sometimes do!)
So no matter where you found yourself yesterday, and no matter what people may say about you today… just remember:
You are God’s workmanship.
The post was written by Drew Borowsky. Drew was responsible for leading the "poiema" project.
If you were to ask me what this curious golden metal container in the middle of downtown was several months ago, that question is what I would have responded with.
I was curious myself when it popped up, and once I found out what it was for, I knew it had to be a part of this project.
You see these containers painted gold and dropped in the middle of seemingly random areas, are dark when you walk in, but then, all of a sudden, right in front of you, appears a person from a distant land, in as much awe and wonder and confusion as yourself.
Using hidden audio visual technology they are able to connect you with others in similar portals, new friends in some of the most misunderstood places in the world. This is all in an effort to de-stigmatize cultures, cities, and nations through creating unlikely community. From Afghanistan to Cuba, from Myanmar to Korea, and Rwanda to The United Kingdom, it’s no wonder Detroit is on that list.
See we have a tendency to see a movie or hear news that paints an area or group in a bad or dangerous light. This only naturally makes us not want to go there, whether it is out of concern for our safety or just thinking it would make us uncomfortable.
We take bad testimony pretty seriously. Sometimes more seriously than good. But something even more powerful happens when a relationship is sparked.
Preconceived notions start to dissipate and new ideas about people or places begin to form. Someone who is prejudice towards a people group can’t be for long if they make an unlikely connection in an elevator, embrace one of them as a friend, or hear their plight. Friendship changes minds and hearts. I watched from my place of business across the street for months as groups of people from the city and the suburbs would walk into this golden box and learn from someone across the world their history, a traditional dance, play music together with them, or just listen to their personal stories. When they left they were so often astonished.
In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul says we have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” and “From now on, regard no one according to the flesh.”
This is actually the only time ministry is really referenced in scripture.
The church as a whole is a beautiful, multi-faceted, multi-cultural tapestry of diverse ideas and people that are united by a come thread; the spirit of our Lord Jesus christ that unites us, His image. When someone wanders into our church culture, what should they walk away with? When it is truly seen, what should people say it looks like?
What draws them in?
Can they relate?
Jesus can relate to them but if we don’t look like Him in our ways, how will they know Him and how good He is?
The reconciliation Paul was talking about means friendship and we see how powerful that can be.
This is our job.
Our one job is friendship with the world Jesus so loved.
That is what changes peoples hearts and minds.
We begin to relate with others and it is so powerful that even those who hate have to reconsider themselves in the throws of real relationship.
So if you see a portal in the middle of your city, Don’t be afraid.
They bridge places and reveal things we couldn’t have seen otherwise. That is their nature.
They connect us.
That connection causes us to grow and look more and more like the image of Christ that we are.
In the Poeima video, Pastor Jacob talks about how poems, songs, and art are expressions that become tools to connect us when we’ve been through pain and heartbreak, Laughter, joy and tears.
This sort of art, much like the golden box in capitol park, show us that we have more in common than we think.
What does it look like when we act with an understanding of this commonality?
It becomes a picture of grace.
We see this acted out in scripture in Acts 2:42-47, an image painted for us of what the early church looked like.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Drew Blogs at DidDraw.com
This post was written by Pastor Chris Hooten.
It is common for people to describe Detroit as a blank canvas. Half of it’s buildings are vacant, abandoned, and deteriorating. It is attractive to frame the abundant possibilities as a canvas waiting to be filled. Certainly it is this positive vision Pastor Jacob has in mind when he talks about ministry at Courage Church. We as a church don’t have many established programs demanding loyalty or sacred cows that cannot be touched. We are invited as members to create something beautiful. If we have ideas for ministry there is a place for us to paint with all our creativity.
There is another side of the blank canvas metaphor that is darker and more problematic. Detroit is already full of color and beauty. To say that Detroit is a blank canvas is to whitewash the character of the residents of the city. It sets up the New Detroit, the young, hip, and white as the saviors of the city. That narrative can be even more tempting when we are talking about Christians earnestly hoping to bring the light of the gospel to Detroit.
So how do we embrace our opportunity to minister in the Detroit context without being paternalistic, colonial, gentrifying, or minimizing the experiences of our black and brown neighbors? The key comes in the concept of poiēma. What may appear to be a blank canvas is in fact God’s handiwork and God’s artistic expression.
As I look around Detroit, I see the imago dei, the image of God in the faces around me. God is already at work in the city before we get there. Scripture is full of references of how God is with the poor and suffering. In their book Geography of Grace, Rocke and Van Dyke posit that like water, grace flows downhill and pools in the low and depressed places. If we want to encounter God that is where we should look, and around Detroit there are many such places. Far from being blank spaces, these are places richly painted with the grace of God, inviting us to join in God’s poiēma.
We are invited to be collaborators with God in God’s own artistic endeavors. In the neighborhoods, among abandoned buildings and vibrant places where families have struggled and held it down for years, we find the presence of God working grace in beautiful brush strokes. Joining with God and our neighbors to make something beautiful starts at a different perspective than imposing our vision on a blank canvas alone. Collaborative, spontaneous, and beautiful, the interactions work grace in us as much as those around us.
Artist Lilla Watson encapsulates this well when she says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
This post was written by Emily Morss, our worship pastor.
For the longest time I measured my own success in creativity by the success of others; often minimizing my own. I wanted to be leading worship from an instrument, I wanted to be writing original songs, I wanted a music side project (and maybe some extra time to do it in haha) I was so focused on my inability to do all of the above I lost sight of my actual abilities. It wasn't until I was at a conference with hundreds of other musicians and I kept hearing the same thing over and over from different speakers - "stay in your own lane."
It all made sense after that. If you look up success it says "achievement of a goal"...so WHY would my success look like anyone else's?
My goals aren't the same as anyone else's.
So if my goals don't look like yours..then my success isn't going to look like yours - and your success isn't going to look like mine.
Comparison not only kills our joy, it also kills our own unique individual creativity.
At the end of the day I am successful if I'm faithful with what God has put in front of me.
And so are you.
a lot of us still dream about the way things used to be, because it was good… and God was in it…
but sometimes we miss what God is doing NOW,
BECAUSE IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE WHAT HE WAS DOING, THEN.
Jesus says (Matthew 9:17):
you can’t put old wine into new wineskins.
He says that when you do that, the skins burst, and the wine spills…
and just this morning, as I thought about this verse… I realized something so simple about it... its not profound at all, but it shook me a little, because I have a lot of great stories... I have had a LOT of fun over the years... and a lot of times I look back wondering how do I create something “like that” again?
but Jesus says that if you put new wine into old wine skins, the skins burst, AND the wine spills.
which would mean that BOTH ARE WASTED.
BOTH ARE RUINED… BOTH ARE USELESS.
You see, if you live in the past, you are destroying it… you are actually damaging those memories and you are destroying its power… because it wasn’t meant to be relived over and over, the Bible says that “God is doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) - and if you spend your whole life trying to relive what was, missing out on what is… I would argue that it in many instances it would have been better had you NEVER HAD THAT ORIGINAL EXPERIENCE in the first place… it is debilitating to always look backwards. It robs you of your future when you long for the past…
and when you do that, you aren’t honoring the past, you are letting it distort your hope for a future.
IF THE PAST DOESN’T SPRING BOARD YOU INTO WHAT IS NEXT, THEN I DARE SAY THAT THOSE MOMENTS CAN BE COUNTED AS LOST.
So here is to a future that is shining its own light, no matter how bright the light of our past used to be.
One Sunday afternoon, Dawn and I were working in our yard, and our neighbor noticed us working and came over to see if he could help. The difference between us and our neighbors, is everything that we try to do, they actually have the tools to do. So he came with his tool and the job actually got done.
As we were working, we got to talking.
He, like most of our neighbors here in Southwest Detroit, is Catholic... and being that it was Sunday, we had both gotten home from church not long before this moment... and it was fresh on our minds.
Knowing that we pastor one of the only protestant churches around, He began asking all sorts of questions about our church, trying to understand if there was a difference between our church, and the church that he took his family to that was three blocks closer to his house.
During the conversation, the concept of "confession" came up, and he couldn’t believe that we don’t do “confession” at Courage…
I tried to explain to him as simply as possible, that where we believe in confessing our sins both to God (1 John 1:9) and to one another (James 5:16), we believe very strongly that we don’t have to live in the mistakes that we make every day until we can get to that booth, and that to us, the gospel is not about us doing something wrong… it is about Jesus doing something right… and about us becoming ALL THAT HE IS because He became all that we were when He died on the cross in our place.
and as we talked through our obvious differences, He couldn’t believe it… He loved the idea of being a part of a place where He didn’t have to go to “confession” every time he made a mistake… he had the biggest smile on his face.
but even though He loved the idea… you could tell that he didn’t quite buy it.
Like it was just a little too easy.
That was a huge reason for the Protestant Reformation in the first place… the Protestant Split from the Roman Catholic Church. The selling of indulgences for the forgiveness of sins. A free gift, that had been monetized. A gift that was for everyone, yet not accessible to all people.
and this verse was crucial in that:
Ephesians 8 - 9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
If you read the whole section of Ephesians 2:1-10, you will notice that this is the SECOND time in this short set of scriptures that Paul says “its by grace you have been saved.”
I love the way that this says “this is not your own doing.” -
He has to spell out what it means that it is by grace…
YOU DIDN’T EARN IT… THERE IS NO MERIT BY WHICH YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS!!!
people often ask me about this phrase: “born again.” - what does it mean to be “born again” - and that is obviously a COMMON QUESTION, because when Jesus was talking to a man named Nicodemus, and He said to him John 3:3) “you must be born again!” Nicodemus responded like any of us would respond, He said
“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)
Because it seems so backwards… really it seems so strange… how can a person be born again? But really, it is the absolute greatest image for what Jesus actually does to us…. Its just like how Paul talks about being dead, and the dead being made alive in Christ.
Birth and death are really the only ways to describe it…
Think about when you were first born… you were in your Mother’s womb. The truest statement that nobody can ever refute is this: You did nothing to earn your life.
The breath in your lungs, a heart that beats inside of your chest. You didn’t work for it, you were handed it. Two people came together, your mother carried you, giving up essentially her own body for 9 months and then many aspects of her life for the years that followed… you had nothing to do with you being made.
There is NOTHING about a child being born that has ANYTHING to do with the child. Life is an amazing image of grace. and that is what makes the idea of “being born” the perfect picture of what happens when Jesus comes into your life.
Jesus did everything… and we did nothing.
We contributed nothing to our first birth, and in the same way, we contribute nothing to be born again in Christ.
Otherwise it wouldn't be “being born”
and what Paul says here is so significant… it is not by your own doing…
but here is where it gets sticky…
A lot of people believe that IF grace really is that great… then why not keep living the way that we want to live, and clinging to grace. But first of all, if you actually are thinking that way, it is proof that you have not comprehended the first 9 verses of Ephesians 2. It is clear that you are still dead in your sins.
Even Martin Luther, who championed the reformation and concept that we are saved by grace alone said this: “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Otherwise it is just a mask… its an act… being poor in Spirit doesn’t mean you stop sinning… it means that you realize you are sinning… it means you realize that you are destroying your eternity, and the lives of others around you… it means you make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life and in order to call Him Lord, you still need to do what He says…
Paul addresses this in Romans… (Romans 6) He says what shall we do, just keep on sinning so that grace can keep abounding? but Paul says NO! BY NO MEANS! and in fact, in the same way that Paul says in Ephesians that we were dead in our sins… He says in Romans, that when we come to Christ… we become DEAD TO OUR SINS. and I understand why this can be a lot to grasp… because you aren’t saved by what you do… but only by what Jesus does… but the evidence of whether or not you are following Jesus is by the FRUIT OF YOUR LIFE.
So though its not by works... its still work.
In early 2016, we began promoting that we wanted to start an internship/ discipleship school… a live in program here in Detroit.
and whenever people would ask me, “what will it be like?” the only thing that I could think to say was “a blank canvas.”
This post is part of a series we are doing called "poiema" - based on the video below (if you enjoyed the video or this post, please share it!):
and I know that it is a bit cliche to say that “Detroit is a blank canvas” - people around here hate that… and maybe Detroit isn’t… but Courage Church most definitely is. Our church is in a place where if you come in, and if you want to try something, and you have the capacity to do it, we will empower you, and do our absolute best to equip you to do it. It is not a machine, where you come here, and are instantly programmed to doing things the way that we do them… yes, we will teach you as much as we can, but we have a place where whatever you have to contribute, we absolutely want and believe there is space for.
So our angle here was, and still is, that this is still a place where you can come, and help be a part of creating… you can help us shape it. If that is something you are interested in being a part of, please reach out to us!
And what we did as our first video promo for the program, was we had our friend Jimmy (who is an AMAZING PAINTER) paint the Petersboro mansion in Midtown… so we went there, and set up, and he painted this broken down mansion, that literally had entire sections missing (it looks like an enormous bulldozer just destroyed half of the mansion.)
But in the video, what Jimmy did was he painted it, exactly as we saw it… he put the holes in it, the giant gaps, etc. So for the first half of the video, he painted what is.
Then, for the second half of the video, he stepped back, looked at it again, then began painting what could be… He started filling in the gaps, he painted a nice stairway… he finished the castle the way that he saw in his mind that it could be.
A castle that FOR YEARS, laid, wasting away. Ruined. Hopeless. Most people figured it would eventually get torn down… but in our video, we dared to dream again for that old castle.
While we were filming, several people walking by came up to us, and looked at the picture… and one man in particular, he looked at the painting, then he looked at the castle, then he looked back at the painting again, and he said to Jimmy: “oh, you finished it. you finished the castle… thats amazing.” then he said this:
“thank you for finishing it, instead of burning it down.”
Because that is what happens to a lot of the old houses here… at one point, somebody decided that they didn’t want to stay there anymore, so they moved out, and it sat. And as it sat, it rotted… people would break in and steal anything of value, and before long the weather would begin to destroy it because everything that protected it had been stolen, and eventually, you have neighborhoods full of historic homes and buildings that people are petitioning to have torn down because of the eyesores and dangers that they had become.
But God has called the church to rebuild the broken places.
Isaiah 58:12 (the Message) says:
“ You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
The ESV puts it like this: "You shall be called the repairers of the breach"
That is why we do what we do.
That is why we buy houses that are broken.
That is why we pour our lives into people who can’t give us anything in return.
That is why we give out backpacks, and Christmas’s to families… its why we show up at peoples doorsteps and see if they need anything… it is why we bought the first Courage House, and why we want to fix it, fill it with people, and then get another, and another as the Lord allows.
A little over a year after filming the first video, we went back to Petersboro street,
and that castle that had sat deteriorating for years had years had actually been restored (see the video “poiema”)! They were putting the finishing touches on it, and it looked just like what Jimmy painted!
We aren’t naive enough to think that our little video inspired the mansion to get rebuilt… our city is going through an amazing rebirth, and people are taking ownership of their communities. Still it was so incredible to see it, almost finished. The city is so alive, and the only reason that it has bounced back so quickly in the recent years is because a lot of people decided to see what nobody could see… they saw the castle finished, when everyone else saw it getting torn to the ground.
a match could have solved the problem a whole lot faster… but it would have left the city a bit little more empty.
And to me, there are not many greater images of the gospel.
Seeing hope in a broken down block, that was so contagious that it actually caught on.
Greater things truly are still to be done in our city.