I have spent 26 years planting New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, NYC. That is over a quarter of a century ago. That was my assigned task from God (1 Cor. 3:5-11). It has been a great journey. On Sunday I will hand over the “watering of these seeds” to Rich Villodas, my 34 year-old successor. (I will then take my new role as Teaching Pastor/Pastor-at-Large in NLF). For months I pondered the final sermon I would offer to the NLF family. What is the essence of the seeds I have planted? What are the seeds I pray they cherish, water, and grasp more deeply in the years to come? I distilled the answer to four seeds:1. Being precedes doing2. God is hidden in the marginalized3. Race matters4. God’s ways are little and slow. Take a look. You can also download the mp3 also from the NLF website. 26 Years of Lessons at NLF from New Life Fellowship on Vimeo.
This poem by Emily Ruth Hazel, a poet in our church, was written and dedicated to us at our 26th Celebration on Sept. 27th, 2013. It captured the essence of our lives, leadership, ministry, and transition at NLF. Enjoy! “Under These Green Leaves” by Emily Ruth HazelDedicated to Pastors Pete and Geri ScazzeroPresented September 27, 2013Queens, New York City Twenty-six years to arrive atthis day. Another doorway:after all the transformationsyou have ushered us through,now we frame this space for you. What started growing years agoin a sidewalk crack in Queenshas taken hold—its rootsnow reaching deep, uplifting even concrete.The ministry you planted has becomea canopy of shade and shelter.Only God could have imaginedthese generous branches,how wide they would spread.Under these green leaves,the next generation is emergingout of this fertile ground. In the beginning, you stood aloneat the edge of what you knewas waves redefined their boundariesand brought you to your knees.You waded in and walked. Read more.
The center of Christianity is endings and new beginnings, death and resurrection, leaving and launching into new unknowns. I have written and preached it. Now I am living it in a new way. Tonight is the Celebration of our 26 years at New Life Fellowship Church. This Sunday I preach my final message as Senior Pastor on “Lessons Learned in 26 Years at NLF.” I then officially transition to a new role within New Life under the new leadership (i.e. Rich Villodas and the Elder Board) on October 6th. I am continually asked by leaders around the country: “Really, Pete, how are you?” My answer: “I am thrilled and excited beyond words. I could never have imagined such a gift. Yes. I have some normal apprehensions, but this has been one of the highlights of my life. I would recommend it to every senior pastor!” This is the culmination of a 4½ year succession process.. Read more.
Bob Mulholland Jr. was a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary for most of his adult life. His life work included a study on the “false self” as the primary hindrance that keeps us from loving union with Jesus (i.e. abiding/remaining in Him, John 15:5). He described his findings in The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self (IVP). I called him last week to talk about this theme in preparation for my sermon on John 5:17-19. We talked about how, like an archeological tell, deeper and deeper layers of our false self must be shed over the years. His list includes: Fear– vs. trust Protectiveness – fear of disclosure. Possessiveness – vs. letting go. Manipulation – attempting to manipulate those around me, or God, to my agenda. Destructiveness –using others. Self-promotion Indulgence – even in excessive religious practices. Distinction/judgmentalism He notes how the religious false self is the most insidious. Read more.
The center of Christianity is endings and new beginnings, death and resurrection, leaving and launching into new unknowns. Last Sunday, at our NLF Annual Vision meeting, I took 30 minutes to update our church on my process of transition at New Life Fellowship as I move from being the Senior Pastor (after 26 years) into a new role as a Teaching Pastor and Pastor-at-Large. It has been an awesome experience. I hope this video encourages you to be responsive to God’s invitation, at different seasons of your own life, and to let go as He leads — for the sake of His glory, other people’s development, and yourself.
Every third Wednesday of the month our pastoral staff takes a Day Alone With God. Each person finds a park, beach, a quiet place outside their home to intentionally spend time in silence, Scripture, etc. Take a look at Rich Villodas’ recent blog called “Yes, our pastors get paid to pray and rest about his experience and to see specific instructions he gave our staff just last week around that day. As I look at my schedule, however, I realize I have moved to Days Alone with God almost weekly. And I wondered why? I believe it relates to the unique season of transition in which I find myself. We are in the final year of my stepping back from the role of Lead Pastor at NLF to a Teaching Pastor/Pastor-at-Large role. (Go to Pete’s Transition for the congregational announcement of our four-year process). It has been wonderful and a joy to coach Rich (along. Read more.