Thanks to each of you for your prayers and feedback over the last several months as I have explored various opportunities placed before me. I found it to be a blessing (temptation) of abundance and was uncertain of what direction to go.
It has been important for me to remember several things along the way:
1. My first responsibility calling is to my spiritual life – created in God’s image out of love, and called by God into relationship.
2. My calling as a husband and father. No one else can or will fill these roles for me (nor would I want them to).
3. My calling as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world, ordained by God, affirmed by the church, called out from among the body of Christ to live as a servant leader.
4. My calling to serve as Pastor of Forest Grove Christian Church, for as long as God wills. To lead as an elder among Elders – as such to teach, preach and pray in ways that promote Spiritual Formation, Theological Reflection and Leader Development among believers, so that we grow up in Christ as Paul calls us in Ephesians 4:11-16.
I believe that two of my areas of greatest gifting are in teaching, and in helping people learn to think theologically about their own lives and the world in which they live (an expression of the gift of wisdom). Therefore I believe the church is best served when I spend time and energy in these areas. There are other areas where my SHAPE is, let me say, flabbier. For example, administration does not come naturally, and I’m not the most compassionate and nurturing person. These ministries still need to be done, and while not removing myself from them totally or neglecting things that are my responsibility, everyone is better served by folks gifted in those areas taking the lead, while I for my part exercise to develop greater strength.
Since I came here in October of 2002, I have sought to be intentional to develop leaders, and more specifically, to create opportunities for people to ‘Discern [their] Call’ and grow up in pursuit of that Call. My work with Pam and Sandra was largely focused on this idea. I encouraged Shirley to enter the Lay Ministry Training Program, which after 4 years was instrumental in her decision to pursue a seminary education, Tyler L went through it and is now studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry, and we now have 4 more people involved in the LMTP (Gary R, Tish F, Terri M & Andrew A), along with Judy B studying to be a Stephen Minister. Our Ministry Intern Program has become a manifestation of the dream held in the ‘Discerning Your Call’ documents – and now we’ve had Tyler, Andrew and Shirley move through it. These experiences have provided an environment (Time, Space and Permission) for people to grow spiritually and in their ability to think theologically as they develop their own leadership personality.
A week of silence at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Grand Coteau, LA, helped confirm for me that I am very much a spiritual contemplative – that is – I need extended periods of solitude and silence to nurture my walk with God so that, as Micah says, it stays humble (6:8). Fortunately the prayer, study, sermon prep, and other writing that are part of my ministerial role and consistent with my gifts are supported by such time. I just need to be more intentional about claiming and protecting it.
As to discernment on what ministry beyond the walls of FGCC to pursue?
1) Doing it – Chaplain – For now, I continue my work as Chaplain of Twin Creeks Hospital in Allen. It is hugely important ministry, and provides us opportunity to bless folk who are unable to attend church, and many of whom do not even have a church home. This work – 5 hrs/wk – is very much an extension of our pastoral and evangelism ministries. That said, as my earlier comment about SHAPE might suggest, this is a ministry that is not at the center of my gift cluster. I can do it, and pretty well, but it is not something that energizes me, and, given my druthers, I’d probably be doing something else with that time. For now, I remain.
Disciples Ministry – Area & Region
Committee on the Ministry Chair and Lay Ministry Training Program Dean. I came to a place of peace with either or neither direction, and then told Larry Ross that I would leave the decision to him – wherever he most needed/wanted me to serve.
2) Doing it – Lay Ministry Training Program Dean – Larry asked me (and I agreed) to serve with Rev. Norm Stolpe, pastor at Central Christian Church, as co-deans of the LMTP for the two year period beginning in June of 2009 thru May 2011. This program is the one which Shirley J has completed, and in which Tish, Terri, Gary and Andrew are now enrolled. The purpose, as named, is to train people for ministry (right at the center of my sense of call and gift cluster). Many of these people are serving in ministry in various congregations as Licensed Ministers. Others are serving as laity seeking greater skill and knowledge. This is a wonderful way for us to support Disciples of Christ congregations throughout the North Texas Area. My role will be to help shape the curriculum and facilitate the program on 4 Saturdays during the year. I expect to learn much about theological education that will help strengthen our ministry here at FGCC and through us out into our community. This is approximately a 6-8 day/year commitment of time and directly benefits our FGCC members.
3) Not doing it – NTA Committee on the Ministry Chair – My term on the NTA COM concludes in May 2009. I attended the January meeting of the Regional COM, by special invitation of our Area Minister Larry Ross. It was a wonderful experience to be in conversation with women and men who are candidates for ordination. I received some nice affirmations from colleagues on the committee who appreciated my participation and the way I asked questions and offered feedback. It is definitely something I would enjoy being part of in the future. The time commitment was significant – at least 4 Mondays plus 3 three-day periods each year (13 days minimum). Given my work with staff and interns on Mondays, and my other off campus obligations, I was concerned about being gone that much.
Disciples Ministry – General Church
4) Doing it – Barnabas Ministry – When I first arrived at FGCC I was told repeatedly in different ways that part of the vision of this congregation was to seed new congregations. This was in part out of a desire to continue in faithful ministry while not growing beyond 300-500 members. While this has not been our challenge, I still take seriously that spirit which I heard. The best way I know to understand what starting new churches in today’s culture is about it to spend time with folks who are doing it. AND, by spending time in this ministry of Encouragement, we are part of the work of starting new congregations! I am learning from this ministry how to better read our culture, how to understand the minds and hearts of un-churched and de-churched adults, and am challenged to help FGCC reach them with the gospel. I am not called to start a church, but I believe that our ministries of Spiritual Formation and Theological Education, and Leadership Development, will help to raise up people who are from within our congregation, and that my skills in these areas help to support the often lonely and discouraging work of New Church Planters. – This work involves 2-3 trips per year of a few days, and 1 hour/week of phone conversation with the pastors. Being a part of this ministry on behalf of FGCC is invigorating, and breathes life into the work that we do.
I believe that the more each of us are able to live out of the center of our spiritual lives and our gifting for ministry, the healthier Forest Grove will be and the more we will contribute to the increase of the Kingdom of God among us.
* SHAPE – From the work of Rick Warren & the Saddleback Church team – Spirit
ual gifts, Heart (passions), Aptitudes & abilities, Personality, and Experiences