Nate Loucks

Blog

Nate Loucks is the pastor of State Street Community Church and the President of the Pax Center in downtown LaPorte, Indiana. These are thoughts on faith, social entrepreneurship, and the beauty of life.

The Pax Center | Downtown LaPorte

Revive my imagination. That’s been a central prayer in my life over the last few years. It wasn’t until I had children that I realized that I had lost a bit of the imaginative spirit somewhere along the path to adulthood. My children never lack in creating worlds in their mind where anything can exist. Seeing their imagination work and lead to questions about possibilities within our present reality is one of the great joys of parenting. But, somewhere along the path to adulthood, my ability to imagine new worlds and possibilities started to slowly corrode. It seems to be a common path for many of us. In its place was a staunch and subtle form of cynicism that cleverly masqueraded as stoic realism. After seeing the violence and hurt within this world caused by the bitter poverties of loneliness, hunger, and cultural maladies, we can fashion a belief that the way of brokenness is an essential, if not determined, way of life for much of humanity.

There exists today a war of theological imagination. Central to this theological war are these crucial questions: is Jesus Christ also Lord of creation? If so, what particular way of living should manifest from such a confession? What if what we previously believed to be a determined fact of the way of life isn't necessarily so within the Kingdom of God?

Jesus was not a stranger to employing a healthy dose of theological imagination in His teachings. He was a master at it. We call these parables. They invite the reader/listener to imagine possibilities or scenarios outside of the normative path. Jesus was also quite proficient at asking the world around Him to imagine a certain way of being that confronts and engages the injustices surrounding them. Instead of perpetuating the systems of violence and brokenness, this would be a way of restoration, resurrection, and peace. In the midst of a volatile culture that featured many social, societal, and religious divisions, Jesus invited His followers to believe that the way of such broken systems is not the way of God. He also challenged them to believe that they are not an indeterminate form of being that must follow the status quo of power and influence.

Change can happen. Prior to giving perhaps the most profound sermon known to man [recorded in the Gospel of Matthew], Jesus gave an explanation and illustration of the way of the Kingdom of God called the Beatitudes. In them, Jesus has a particularly relevant benediction, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ” In Christ’s economy, happy are those who make peace within their lives with God, their families, and their neighbors. Often we mistakenly read this as an instruction for peace-keeping. As important as peace-keeping may be, Christ has invited us into something even deeper: peace-making. Peace is a form of reconciliation. It starts with acknowledging that there are systems and people and events within this world that are broken and their brokenness affects themselves and those around them. This brokenness permeates the world in which we live. We see it in our families, communities, and even ourselves. Peacemaking challenges brokenness. More than that, peace-making is allowing Christ to have space to do His justice work of bringing that which is broken and chaotic and unjust back to rights. We believe this world could use a few more peacemakers at work.

When we planted the State Street community, we sought to be purposeful in our engagement with LaPorte. In that time, we have witnessed the many forms of division that is happening within our neighborhoods. Many of these patterns of brokenness we see already starting in childhood, patterns of poverty, loneliness, and despair. There is no absence of forces and collectives that seek to divide those within our communities. But, what if we sought to be a particular community that countered those voices of division with that of unity and reconciliation? That earnestly believed Christ can break down the walls of division between us [whoever we may be] and them [whoever they may be.] That said, “enough is enough! We seek unity over division."

This work is nothing new for Christ. It’s been the vocation that He has asked His Church to do since the beginning. The Apostle Paul acknowledges this work in Ephesians, "Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.” It’s certainly not easy work, but with Christ, we are tasked to imagine a world where it is possible. How many of the world’s greatest innovations and ideas were birthed by first allowing oneself to imagine a world where such a product, event, or idea would be possible? Peace within our community is possible. Engaging injustice within this world is possible. Christ has made a way. Can you imagine it?

I’d like to introduce you to a place in our community that is committed to the good news that makes all things well: the Pax Center. Pax is Latin for peace.

The Pax Center is a place that will ungrudgingly engage the divisions within our community caused by poverty, hunger, and loneliness.

The Pax Center is a place that will be willing to celebrate creativity and innovation within LaPorte.

The Pax Center is a place that will partner with other organization in LaPorte that is seeking the restoration of our community.

The Pax Center is a place with open doors, humble hearts, and joyful spirits.

May Christ continue to light the fires of restoration and reconciliation within His people that bring peace within this world. You can now like the Pax Center on Facebook or visit our website [which is currently under construction.] If you would like more information about the Pax Center and how to be involved, I encourage you to contact the Pax Center Director Jason Clemons on Facebook or through email. Finally, to echo the words of Paul in Colossians, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Happy Thanksgiving and Pax vobiscum [Peace be with you!], everyone!

LOCATION: 605 Washington Street [the former Friend's Night Club]
TWITTER
: /paxcenterlp
FACEBOOK: /thepaxcenter
WEBSITE: thepaxcenter.com [still in progress]

Reclaiming the Art of Neighboring

I have a very special place in my heart for Bethel College. It was at Bethel that was introduced to a form of Wesleyan-Anabaptism that gave my faith a sense of vitality and substance that has propelled it into adulthood. It was there that the words of Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, and John Wesley first introduced themselves into my theological paradigm. I'm really grateful for that season of life. So much of who I am today is a profound reflection of that growing season. 

When Shawn Holtgren emailed me and asked if I'd be willing to speak in chapel, I was thrilled. To be able to give back in some small way to the institution and people that have given so much to me was an honor and challenge that I was excited about. As my wife could attest, it was also probably the most nervous I had been in many years of speaking. But, for those that wanted to watch the message, here's the video. I entitled it, "Reclaiming the Art of Neighboring." It's a bit about what we've learned in community at State Street. 

OUTLINE

IDEA: Challenge for the church today: Reclaim the art of neighboring. 

"The Church doesn’t need more revolutionaries, we need more people being faithful to the already revolutionary message of neighboring in Christ.”

MICAH 6:6-8 CEB
6 With what should I approach the Lord
        and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings,
        with year-old calves?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
        with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
        the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?
8 He has told you, human one, what is good and
        what the Lord requires from you:
            to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. 

ISAIAH 58 (CEB)
58 Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
3 “Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
if you want to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
7 Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family? 

JOHN WESLEY ON NEIGHBORING, “One of the principle rules of religion is to lose no occasion of serving God. And since he is invisible to our eyes, we are to serve him in our neighbor; which he receives as if done to himself in person, standing visibly before us.”

THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT NEIGHBORING
1. Be honest. 
2. Be kind. 
3. Do something. 

BILL LOUCKS, “Do something. Even if it’s wrong. Do something.” 

As a bonus, here's the picture of the white-water trip that I talk about in the video:

Hey Washington Street, State Street is coming!

I learned early when planting State Street that the act of planning is essential, but our plans shouldn't be held too rigidly. The goal of our community has always been to facilitate and encounter a profound sense of love with Christ and our neighbors. How this is done, however, can change and evolve to places and with people that never played a part in the initial plans of grandeur. The State Street vision that we had five years ago doesn't necessarily look too closely to the State Street vision we have today in particulars, but it does in heart and passion. 

We have always felt it was part of our calling and vocation to be in downtown LaPorte. Having these convictions has made some decisions more difficult, but we have tried not to allow the easiness of a decision effect whether or not it's the best thing for us as a whole. For example, many days (and some nights!) were spent thinking about how to build our addition at State Street to fit enough space in our spare yard while also equipping the ministries and initiatives we started with the tools necessary to continue to grow and help others. After a few months and countless changes, we had a plan. That plan is now in Indianapolis being reviewed. If the review is approved, we will hopefully start construction in October. But, even with this approval, it still leaves us continuing to find a location for our community garden and space for our neighborhood children to play [we have one of the only yards in our area.] When we get to the point of making a plan, it's after weeks-and-weeks or even months-and-months of thought, prayer, and planning. 

While all of this was happening, something occurred to make us rethink our plans. A family within the community, after seeing the success of the State Street community center and the incredible growth taking place, graciously offered us a facility to house these ministries. The location has a commercial kitchen, space to feed 120+ (we can only feed about 80 people at a time in our community meal), located just a few blocks away from State Street, and best of all... it would be free! Seriously. It's someone allowing us to borrow this facility, it's being given as a gift to help further the mission and footprint into LaPorte. 

Now, admittedly, this offer didn't fit with our plans. We had a room in our new facility designed for the food pantry. It wasn't incredibly large, but bigger than the room we have currently. However, and this is the challenge of growing any organization, there are times when you stay firm to the plans laid out and there are times when you allow the unknown-but-now-opened door lead you to a place that you never thought you could go previously. As of this last week, we acquired keys to these doors and have taken possession of the former Friends Bar & Nightclub on Washington Street in LaPorte. Ladies and gents, the party can now commence...

Now it's time for us to make new plans. Though we have acquired this building, it means that we have to continue to think wisely about how to use it, how to fund it, how to facilitate the ministries in this new space, and other scenarios. The board at State Street is committed to being wise stewards of the resources Christ has entrusted us. They're also committed to seeing us take part in restoring LaPorte in whatever way we are able. We don't know when we'll move into the facility. We still have another addition getting ready to begin on our State Street location. Over the next few months, we'll be giving the Washington Street building a slight facelift. Jason Clemons, our community center director, will be going to other churches and organizations to invite them to take this journey with us in helping to end hunger and poverty in LaPorte. In many ways, the dream has just begun. But, in other ways, this seems to be another chapter in a dream that was started five years ago. 

New Music: Dry the River

For fans of music, Tuesdays are big events. It's on Tuesdays that a new crop of albums are released to the masses to enjoy, dissect, and interpret. There are few things as enjoyable during my week as listening to a new, highly-anticipated album from beginning to end for the first time. 

I love it. 

I had been looking forward to the release of Dry the River's sophomore album for a few months. Now it has arrived and it has proven to be well worth the two-year wait from their last (and first) album. 

Fantastic harmonies.
Sweeping choruses.
Thoughtful lyrics.
Distorted guitars.
A beautiful album and wonderful listening experience. 

Check it out.

Cleansing the Temple [or, what happened to the carpet!?]

When we made the decision to put carpet in our sanctuary at State Street in 2010, we hadn't yet started our community meal. It wasn't even a dream of ours yet. Our community meal happens every Monday at lunchtime. Sunday [after our final church gathering] volunteers stack the chairs in the sanctuary and, on Monday, the tables and chairs are set up to convert our sanctuary to a cafeteria. We try to maintain a seriousness about meals that are rivaled only by the Hobbits of the Shire. Over 100 people typically gather around the table with our volunteers and share a great meal. Feeding hungry folks has been a great source of communal integration and interaction for us. Our community comes alive during this time. It's one of my favorite things we get to do at State Street.

One of the unforeseen tragedies of our community meal [and Sunday gatherings] is the spilling that has happened on our sanctuary carpet. 

We made the decision recently to remove the carpet. Last night, a dozen or so volunteers from State Street arrived to remove the [disgusting] carpet. Within a half hour, all of the carpet was removed. 

In its place we will have installed a concrete overlay product. It will be easier to mop and clean spills. This overlap will be installed within the next few weeks. Eventually, this type of flooring will be installed in the foyer, bathrooms, hallways, and many of the rooms of the new addition. Here's a YouTube video to give you an idea of what the product is like and what installation looks like: 

Over the new few months, things will be changing to our building. On top of this flooring project, we are hoping to start the renovation of the men's bathroom. If all goes as planned in our fundraising goal (we need roughly $3,000 to meet our $200,000 goal), we will attempt to start the construction project this Fall as well. It's an exciting time for our community.