Thursday, April 14, 2016

Reflecting at 15 Years - Learn

As I take a short break from preaching to gear up for our next series, I have been reflecting on my call to ministry, and as pastor because next month will be five years since I became the pastor at my current church. I share a little of that reflection here.

In late June of 2001, I remember listening to a pastor deliver a sermon. I do not recall anything about that particular sermon, other than realizing that God was beginning to call me into ministry during that period of time, and the call was coming to a climax on that day. As I listened, I began to think of all the sermons this man had preached and I wondered, “How does he come up with something original every week?” And the following question was even more daunting, “I am not creative, so how can I come up with something original if I am called to preach?” Well, thankfully, I was not called to serve as a pastor (yet!), and therefore did not have to worry about this issue – yet!

How naive I was! Certainly, I understood that the source for a message/sermon was the Bible, and, as a text it is expansive (wide) and has a great deal of depth (deep). But fifty-two Sunday morning messages, plus the potential of Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, and other studies. That is in excess of 150, if not 200 messages/studies per year. Being in my early 30's at the time, that meant that I might prepare as many as 8000 lessons, sermons, etc., over a forty-year ministry! (For what it is worth, that is about one lesson for every four verses in the Bible).

But what I had not truly grasped was the impact of God upon the process. First, He has given me more creativity that I would have ever dreamed possible, especially since moving to Fairfax five years ago. Second, some lessons take more time. For instance, I recently completed a series on Jesus promise to build His church (from Matthew 16) that took five weeks to cover each of His five words – I will build my church. On April 24, we are embarking on a journey through the book of Mark to discover both the Jewishness of Jesus and how He responded to the various opportunities that came His way. These examples are just two of many, but suffice it to say, God has taught me that He has a never ending well from which to quench my thirst for learning, and from which I can also teach.

But more than anything, I have learned that I must never stop learning. That is actually a mantra of mine, though the mantra developed during this time and stands in stark contrast to how I felt when I finished my undergrad. Specifically, I can be quoted as saying, “When you stop learning, you start dying.” From that day in the summer of 2001, I have started and fulfilled learning requirements for both a master's and a doctoral degree at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. But more importantly, a hunger for learning developed, and I realize that, even (especially) pertaining to the Bible, I have more to learn than I already know. And having recently traveled to Israel, learning biblical details in light of the cultural context has become even more important to me,

Ultimately, I now know that even if God grants me forty more years to teach, I will never run out of material because I will never run out of material to learn. And even if the material were to be fully absorbed, I would still need to perfect applying it to my life and helping others to do the same.

Truthfully, I have learned a great deal about myself and my God over these past fifteen years. I look forward to seeing what the next fifteen years hold for me as well.

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