The Praxis Gathering facilitates interaction among missional practitioners through the exchange of real-world, hands-in-the-soil experiences. Every Praxis Gathering presenter is currently engaging in missional practices and comes to the conversation with a passion to share what’s working in church planting and to inform against what’s not.
One such missional practitioner is Gideon Tsang, a pastor at Vox Veniae in Austin, Texas. His church, Vox Veniae, is a multi-ethnic faith community that truly understands what it means to be “for” the neighborhood.
Seeing an opportunity to bless a community through the use of space, Gideon and the leaders of Vox Veniae decided to purchase what once was a night club associated with community tensions due to a fatal police shooting. The church knew that restoring creation was a call that carried very practical implications. The space was revitalized, and Space 12 began.
In 2013, The New York Times published an article about Gideon, Vox Veniae, and Space 12. The article, “Breaking the Evangelical Mold at a Church With Ethnic Roots,” touches on the arc of Gideon’s jouney as pastor of an Austin Chinese Church church plant intended to reach university students in the heart of the city. It goes on to reveal how this missional community organically grew to becoming a diverse, neighborhood church with a heart for the plight of the less fortunate living on the city’s historically overlooked east side.
From the article:
“’Keep Austin Weird,’ the local slogan goes. And the approach to coffee is just one unusual feature of this rule-breaking church in the notably alternative Texas capital. There’s the building, for example. The church meets in what used to be Chester’s, an after-hours B.Y.O.B. club that shut down in 2007 after a fatal shooting close by. Members of Vox, as the church is known, cleaned up the building, christened it Space 12 and made it a hub for Austin-style activity. It’s their church hall, yes, but also a Wi-Fi-equipped space that freelancers can use for a small daily donation; a yoga studio; an art gallery; and the home of the Inside Books Project, which sends books to prison inmates.”
You can read the entire article here.
Pillar of the Community
Austin’s Tribeza magazine recently feature Vox Veniae in their “Pillars of the Community” series.
The exterior is covered in minimal geometric murals created by an in-demand local designer, the interior is walled with Pinterest-worthy shelving housing a library for community service project Inside Books, and ambiance is provided by strands of tastefully strung Christmas lights fulfilling the religious context of their name.
If the whole thing sounds a little Portlandia-ish, well, it is. There’s a crew of baristas manning fancy Chemex coffee makers at the entrance, a three-piece band kicks off the music with a dissonant swell of feedback and a pulsing synth organ, and the crowd is filled with fashionable twenty-somethings. But despite the hip window-dressing, this is a church — and a very devoted one at that.
Once services start, the unity is palpable, from the chorus of voices raised in song, to the rapt attention paid to the guest speaker who is visiting from a partnering NGO in New Delhi. Pastor Gideon Tsang, a tattooed 41-year-old in selvedge denim and tightly-rolled shirt sleeves, asks the guest a series of questions about schooling disabled children in a format that wouldn’t be out of place on NPR. It’s no surprise that the tone carries over to their weekly podcast in which scripture is peppered with pop culture references.
“We really see this as a group art project,” says Pastor Gideon. “Liturgy means work of the people, so whatever you’re passionate about and whatever you’re good at, just bring it to the table.”
Read the rest of the article here.
Gideon also showed up as one of Tribeza’s “Instagrammer’s of the Month” for this picture:
Gideon Tsang: a Funny Story about Becoming a Pastor
I didn’t know what to do. So someone recommended, “Hey, why don’t you go to seminary?”
So I went. (Um, I wouldn’t recommend that path. That’s a very expensive way of discerning what you want to do.) I showed up at Trinity [Evangelical Divinity School] and people are like, “Hey, you wanna be a pastor?” I’m like, “I don’t know.”
Got to seminary. I didn’t like it; I had a tough time. I grew up in Canada, where there really isn’t a Christian subculture. You follow Jesus–or you don’t. It doesn’t come (as much) with the language, with the books, with the whole insular, American-Christian subculture.
So I came to seminary in Chicago, and while I was learning, while I was meeting professors that I admired and deeply respected, I had a really tough time with the cultural aspects of Christianity.
So, I was there a couple of years. I was invited to Detroit to speak. I was just a seminary student; had never spoken before. A church was like “Hey, you wanna come speak?”
“Yeah! Alright! Let’s go!”
I had never spoken. I got there. I spoke for this little, tiny English ministry. The English ministry of this Chinese church was fourteen high school students. So I did my best. Preached. The elder board sat me down at the end of that retreat and I was like, “Oh God, this is not good.” They sat me down and said, “Gideon, we’ve been praying for a pastor for the last five years. We’d like to call you to be our pastor, and we’ll pay for the rest of your seminary.” I was like–I didn’t hear the first part, I just heard the second part. “I am in!” I called my girlfriend, who’s now my wife. I was like “Hey, just got a job!” She’s like “What! Doing what?” I was like “I’m gunna be a pastor.” She’s like, “WHAT!”
So, uh, I moved to Detroit not knowing whether I wanted to be a pastor. And in these first few weeks of pastoring this English congregation, this EM of fourteen students, I would drive from 14 Mile to 13 Mile–from my little apartment–and there was this sense that, you know, this is what God put me on earth to do. I could do this every day for the rest of my life. It was almost overwhelming how clear it was.
Hear Gideon Tsang tell his hilarious story and share insights on multiethnic congregations, as well as numerous, other missional topics.
Gideon Tsang Joins John Chandler on the SermonSmith Podcast
Among many other things discussed in this podcast, Gideon discusses “how mornings are more valuable than afternoons, how preaching should be considered as performance art, and how he finds great creative freedom in his self-imposed structures.” Listen here.
The Work of the People (i.e., Liturgy)
In his unique, witty style, Gideon writes about the obligatory “meet and greet” of church culture in Q Ideas. From the article:
There are many things I loathe. Preaching with my fly exposed. Conversations with spinach in my teeth. Reality TV. The “meet and greet” during church services.
“Thanks for attending our church and please take a moment to greet your neighbor!”
There are several reasons why those words make me want to respond like a vampire ostrich. An overwhelming desire to dig a hole and stick my head into the ground consumes me. Unfortunately, I never have the foresight to bring with me a jackhammer to pre-dig my hole.
In my opinion, my repulsion for the “meet and greet” comes with valid reasons:
Read Gideon’s humorous reasons here.
Meet Gideon at Praxis Gathering 2015
Gideon and his wife Karen have two boys, Joshua and Noah, and two dogs, Trixie and Mochi. In addition to being a gifted pastor, writer and church planter, Gideon is an exceptionally talented photographer. You can enjoy his eye for art and beauty on Instagram and Flickr.