Sunday, August 31, 2008

Brandt Russo continues work in Lakeland Florida

Brandt Russo was released from jail in Lakeland, Florida on Friday, August 29th. Russo plans on returning to minister to the group of homeless living near Ignited Church, who had him arrested in the first place (article here). Brandt goes into further detail, clearing up some of the questions about his arrest in his blog. Brandt says after attempts to have Ignited Church help the homeless, he heard from Stephen Strader, pastor of Ignited Church.

"He wrote me back saying he appreciated what I did for those people, but he didn't know what to do with them. That they were not a homeless shelter and basically weren't equipped to help anyone but his congregation and the people at the "outpouring". He went on to tell me he wanted to talk to me but couldn't because of his busyness due to the fact that his church was losing thousands of dollars a day."

Russo also tells about his time in jail.
"My cellmates were the most beautiful spirited men I have ever met. Just so broken and humble. We stayed up late reading the bible together and joking around about how horrible the food was (as the food network played in the background...torture). The two days I was there, God was there with me the entire time. It was so beautiful walking in the cell with the orange jumpsuit and having all the inmates immediately call me preacher boy because of my tattoos. I felt so blessed to not only see another side of the least of these Jesus spoke of in matthew 25, but to be one. We stayed up late talking about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus, and the early christians and apostles who also seemed to be getting into so much trouble. We discussed how amazing it was that some of the most powerful parts of the new testament, and King and Gandhi's most powerful letters and speachesI(sp) were birthed by the spirit of God in a cold jail cell."

We must now wait and see what will unfold in Lakeland. Though Russo has been bailed out of jail, he still is to go before a judge September 25th. Some have speculated that Ignited Church will drop the charges due to the negative publicity they have been receiving. If that is so, I wonder how they will deal with the homeless in the future. Again I urge you to continue to pray for Brandt and his ministry, and the homeless of Lakeland, Florida, as well as how God would have each of us minister to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is Ignited Church Ignoring The Hurting In Their Own Backyard?

Perhaps you saw it on The 700 Club or you heard about it in an email, I'm talking about the phenomenon in Lakeland, Florida. It is being hailed as "The Great Florida Healing Revival." The services have been a coalition between Ignited Church and Todd Bentley.

Here is a clip about the ordeal

The "revival" has been mostly based around healing , with an emphasis on being blessed by God if you use your money to serve him. Healing services every night were aired on GodTV. People have been traveling from all over the world to be healed at one of these services. Yet in the last week some findings have been less than glamorous.

First came the news of Todd Bentley's failing marriage. Todd and his wife Shonnah Bentley are separated and now are seeking a divorce. Todd's own ministry announced August 15th that they "have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff."
Rev. Stephen Strader, pastor of Ignited Church stated “Three years ago, he did the exact same thing. He grew out of his relationship to his wife and transferred his affection to another. That’s the biggest frustration with us. The bottom line is that he was traveling too much and not taking care of his wife and family like he should,”

Yesterday I received news of a new development with Ignited Church. Lakeland has a large homeless homeless population, and Brandt Russo, a 24 year old homeless minister, traveled to the area after hearing hearing horror stories of the homeless living in a swamp within walking distance of Ignited Church. From Brandt's blog, one homeless man "asked one of the staff at Ignited church if the community could use the church to sleep in during the tropical storm, and they just told him 'this church isnt set up for that'. Soon after the pastor multiple times told the revival attendees not to help the homeless camped out, and they have to go through the church for permission to help (which they don't do much either). He did say that they could sleep under the awning in front of the church when it rains, but if the cops come they have to leave or be arrested. One beautiful old man used to sit out and make crosses out of palm leaves and hand them to people going in, not expecting a thing, and was arrested for trespassing (they called the cops on him)." After trying to meet with the pastor of Ignited Church to try to find a way the church could minister to the homeless in their own backyard, Rev. Stephen Strader had Brandt Russo arrested for trespassing on private property. (the church parking lot)

This brings up some important questions of what ministry should look like. I ask what did Jesus' ministry look like. Was it not Jesus who said
"For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

How we treat others is how we treat Christ. How can we claim we are in the middle of a "revival" and forget those hurting on our doorstep?

I would like to encourage you in the following ways.

1.Please pray for Brandt. Please consider supporting his ministry, and pray that God will sustain him and use him in mighty ways while he is in jail.

2.Pray for the leaders of Ignite Church. These are fellow brothers in Christ, and we should be praying for them. Pray that God may show them how to reach ALL for Christ. It is not impossible that God may show them the error of their ways, and they may develop a TRUE healing ministry, healing the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those at their own doorstep.

3.Pray for Todd Bentley and his family. Again this is a brother in Christ, who it seems found success too fast, and let the Deceiver get a foothold in his life. God could change his life and heal this hurt marriage. We should not condemn him, but pray that God deliver him.

4. Seek your role in ministry to the hurt. We are all called to minister to the hurt and dying of this world. Our American version of Christianity places far to much emphasis on receiving rather than giving. All of these popular church services have one thing in common, its about "what can God do for me?" I urge you to focus on what can you do for God. Read the gospels and study how Jesus did ministry, you may be surprised.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Times They Are A Changing

In nine days I will be leaving my home for the last 4 years, Hannibal, Missouri. I spent three and a half years here going to school at Hannibal LaGrange College, met my wife, got married, helped start a church, and ran a music venue all here in Hannibal. Hannibal is the home of many great memories in my life. It was here that I first came out of my shell, and learned how to have a healthy social life. Courtney and I spent many days days together, going to movies, concerts, demolition derbies, parks, skating rinks, and a plethora of other places. It was here in Hannibal where I met friends like Chad, Matt, Andy, Richard, Jake, Stephen, and Sean. I learned to grow in my faith. I learned a great deal about leadership. I was mentored by Joe, Ron, Sam, and Dr. Hufty.

I will miss the feel of this familiar town. I love the sleepy river feel. I loved the excitement with the teens on show night down at The Crux. I will miss those kids a great deal. I was able to live the dream for a while, and hopefully a venue will be in my future again. This town has become ingrained in who I am; from my corncob pipe, to my interest in bluegrass, its mark is evident on my life.

As I move it is an exciting and sad time. I will miss all the memories and friends here, but I know God has something great in store for us in Wisconsin. We will be working at Honey Rock Camp. I will be in a Graduate Program Assistantship and Courtney will be a Marketing Intern.

So I leave you with some Mark Twain quotes:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

“Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one's head.”

“The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”

Friday, August 15, 2008


I found a new blog yesterday, PhotoshopBlunders, which chronicles horrible Photoshop jobs that have made it into print and on corporate websites. Below are a few of the funniest blunders I found.

Here we see the Sun running the same story as the Metro, yet something seems to be missing. Notice the remaining knee, and the lack of an outboard motor.

This one is apparently an attempt by Iran to show a stronger military presence. Perhaps they should hire some better graphic designers if they expect us to tremble in fear over the clone tool.

Maybe this one isn't even a Photoshop blunder but an amazing story of a young man with a deformed arm who became a professional athlete in a sport where it was an advantage not to have fully functioning arms.

You can find more for yourself. Trust me that place is full of gems.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

End of a Chapter

When starting this blog one of my goals was to share insight into running a music venue. Unfortunately it seems that not something that will be happening. Two weeks ago we closed the doors of The Crux for the last time. A number of things led up to this event.

1. The Crux since its inception has been located at 421 Broadway. This arrangement was an agreement with Believer's Church of Hannibal. Believer's is church plant in Hannibal that Courtney and I have been a part of since last May. We starting going to Believer's before it official launch in August 07. Before August we met in 421 Broadway, then we started meeting at the YMCA. 421 Broadway, along with 423 and a house on 5th street were a donation to Believer's Church to get started. After the move one night we were loading some sound equipment back into The Crux (The building was named The Crux before the venue ever started.) when some young men stopped and asked if there was a concert going on. This sparked conversation, and we told Sam (the pastor) how Courtney and I wanted to run an all-ages music venue. Sam thought it was a good idea, and by October we had our first show.

2. We continued to run The Crux this way. Believer's church (BC) allowed us to use their building free of charge. We were only responsible for covering the monthly utility bill. It was officially run as a ministry of BC. This allowed us to work under BC's nonprofit umbrella, which saved us on a lot of fees and taxes.

3. The spring brought a new trouble to the equation as well. The roof began leaking, badly. We had a leak on 423 from the beginning, but once 421 began leaking it was the beginning of the end. I told Sam and hoped to get the roof fixed. He was afraid of the liability of a rapidly deteriorating building, and began looking for options to move.

4. We searched many locations and could not find a satisfactory location. We needed a location which was safe and accessible, large enough for our growing crowd (421 Broadway had a max capacity of 49), and was cheap enough to be possible on our budget.

5. At the same time as this process I graduated college, finished substitute teaching, and began looking for a full-time job. When I let Sam know that I was considering accepting a position which would have me move away from the area, the search for a new building came to a halt. He was sure that there was no one who was a part of BC who could fulfill the duties I had at The Crux with the same level of competence. I talked with Stephen Sprague, Jonas Mackey, and Rob from Eolia. When I went to talk to Rob he told me of his plans to open the Threshing Floor. Stephen was up for the challenge, but the leadership at BC felt he could not adequately take the responsibility at the same time as being a college freshman. I talked to Jonas about the possibility of my moving, and the need for someone to take over if I get the position, and the need for a new building. Jonas eventually decide to take the responsibility, trying to get an outside individual to get behind the idea and provide a location and monetary backing.

6. BC decided to give away the building to get under the liability it posed. This meant we had to be out of the building by July 23rd. I continued the search to secure a new building. I had still not received a job offer and was trying to get a job at HLG so I could stay in the area and continue to run The Crux in a new location.

7. I heard back from Honey Rock, and they asked Courtney and I both to come work for them starting September 8th. We knew if we took the job The Crux could very likely cease to exist, but for us it was the best move. I had been unemployed since May, and the position at Honey Rock will allow me to begin Graduate work towards a masters degree while working with teens in a camp setting.

8. Since the acceptance of the position, I have been working with Jonas Mackey to prepare him to take over The Crux, he submitted a proposal, but has been asked to submit a more detailed proposal. After the last show at 421 Broadway, I gave him everything we had sound system, lights, furniture, etc. Jonas will continue to work on the plan. Hopefully the backing will come, and The Crux will become much more than it ever was when I ran it.

Anyway, I was blessed greatly through the year I poured into The Crux. I met many great teenagers who shared a passion for music. We had a lot of great shows, and hopefully we provided a safe place for teens to enjoy music without the negative influences. My desire was to share the love of Christ to all who entered our doors, without preaching. I never wanted The Crux to become a Christian music venue. I wanted to be an all-ages music venue that was positive. Yet I wish I could have shared the hope that lies within Christ to the teens more. Hopefully we've laid a foundation on which others can build.