Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Big Is My God?

Being a pastor has many elements to it, but one biblical responsibility is to equip others for the work of ministry. One way I do this is to allow others to teach from the pulpit in what I call Teaching Moments. These “Moments” provide a link to what I am teaching and may provide further context or perhaps have an element of devotion. However, beyond these “Moments” I try to provide a few opportunities each year for others to preach even when I am present. I know many churches do this, but most churches that are single-staff churches do not. Yet, by providing this opportunity, one other individual is away preaching at other churches as much or more as he is present at ours. Another individual has grown a great deal as well, and is stepping into new ventures because of it.

It seems to me that two periods during the year find me away from the pulpit for a period of weeks. One is just after Resurrection Sunday and the other is August.  During these times, I take some time to reflect on my own preaching, but also to learn from others. On August 6th, I was challenged in our service to consider How Big is God? That was the sermon title, and the answer is that “the answer is unknowable because God is immeasurable” (Rick Sons). But the concluding idea was not really about how big God is, but how big is my God. As I return to reflecting on sermons in this blog, I thought this was a good sermon to consider.

This blog is entitled fotonni which is a reversal of the phrase, “in not of.” If my God is truly big (to me), then I should be willing to live, in, not of, instead of chasing this world. The series I finished last month on my vision, mission, strategy, and steps, is designed to keep me focused in that direction, but I am far from perfect in following my own sequence. However, my God has “grown” a great deal over the past twelve months which is largely reflected in the most recent posts on what is next for me.

Three days from now will be one year since I departed for my first international mission trip. Being in my mid-forties, this is late for engaging in this way, and although I believe my reasons are sufficient for having not gone before, they are merely excuses. Our family has long supported missions financially, including specific missionary families, and children through various organizations. Additionally, having received theological instruction at a seminary for over a decade, I am certainly aware of the need for missions and have a grasp of the history, theory, and practice of missions as well. I have also been on more than a handful of mission trips within the United States, so I was not ignorant of missions – nor of what God can do to a person on such a trip.

But...having gone to Kenya, my world has truly enlarged over this past year. Some of that is geographically, but most of that enlarging relates to what (or is that where?) God is calling me to do (go). When I left for Kenya, I knew I would be going into the "bush" to talk about Jesus, but I knew my main responsibility was to train pastors. Those few days have now shaped a new organization as I have mentioned in my last couple of posts. My thoughts now are not just related to training pastors in Kenya (although I look very forward to continuing to doing that), but in locations all around the world. Who knew that one little trip could have such a tremendous impact? 

Ok, yes, God knew. And that is why I know my God is big. It is also why I say He is growing. Not in a literal sense, of course, but to me. I have a high view of God, and my recent series on vision, mission, strategy, and steps should indicate how I desire to live my life according to that high view. But as I continue to learn more about Him, and more about what He wants me to do, I must decide if I will follow my desires, or follow Him. Ultimately, I must choose to follow Him because only He knows where I am going.

How big is my God? Big, but not yet big enough. As John the baptizer said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30). As I make John’s mantra my own, I will truly begin to see how big my God really is!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Next...(Part 3)

Over the last two weeks I have revealed what I will now be professionally pursuing in addition to pastoring and teaching as an adjunct. Week 1 was painted in broad strokes (here) while I got more specific last week providing the name of our new organization and a brief overview of why the organization now exists (here). Both posts come immediately following an extended look at my process for evaluating what I pursue, how I pursue, and why it matters. The purpose of this brief series of posts (ending with this one), is to show how PTC fits into the overall process. I completed part of that discussion last week moving from the bottom (Steps) up (to Strategy), and will complete that look this week by putting PTC in context of my Mission and Vision.

MISSION:

Several weeks ago, I reviewed each of the four aspects of my Mission statement. In review, my mission is to:
  • Love Jesus and submit to Him in order to serve others – beginning with my family.
  • Grow in my knowledge and understanding of God and His will for me.
  • Trust His provision.
  • Externalize my faith, in part by, teaching others and encourage others in their relationship to Christ so that they will then disciple others.

PTC fits these extremely well. First, the goal of PTC is to train pastors and church leaders who are in areas which may prevent them from having opportunities to receive training in traditional ways. Thus, we must go beyond the normal means of providing training, which requires us to not only provide information, but to make the presentation possible. This will require grand efforts in many cases and a good deal of money and coordination among many people who will be necessary to accomplish this task.

Second, making disciples is undoubtedly a part of God’s will for all who follow Jesus. The question is how to do it. Without a doubt, I believe God has positioned certain people and instances in my life over these past couple of years to lead me to the development of PTC. I must continue to seek what God would have me do, but for now, I know that includes the context of PTC.

Third, this organization will be non-profit (paperwork is currently being reviewed). To not only provide the coordination for training, but also the physical equipment needed in these remote places, will require a great amount of financial resources, time, and energy. As for the time and energy, I must cling to Colossians 1.28-29 personally. As for the financial, I must allow God to move the hearts who steward the “cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50.10) to provide the necessary resources PTC needs to make this opportunity a reality.

Finally, the aim of PTC is to train others who will then train others. That is the essence of the Great Commission, and that is the ultimate purpose of PTC.

So, the focus of PTC is well-established within my personal Mission Statement. And, as I have previously stated, fulfillment of my Mission moves me closer to my Vision of becoming the man God has called me to be.

VISION:

I do not pretend to be anywhere close to whom God would have me to be. But I know that I move closer when I am obedient, and as I mentioned above, I have no doubt that my engagement in PTC is a step of obedience. It is also a step of faith. The combination of obedience of faith are also an expression of love towards God. Thus, I fully believe that being a part of organizing and leading PTC will be one of the most rewarding endeavors I will experience. It will likely also be one of the most challenging which is why I believe the timing is right. I have learned a great deal about myself in completing my doctoral work. I have learned a great deal about others in the process as well. Additionally, I now know better what it means to lead a church, teach others who lead churches of all sizes, and am learning how that fits into the global context.

By looking back over the past couple of decades I can see how God has been preparing me for this venture. My learning has been expedited over the past few years and the context of that learning is more apparent to me now as well. While I still have far to go to become the man God desires, I certainly see His guidance in preparing me for the present, and I know He will be with me going forward as well.

CONCLUSION

So that is a brief look at how PTC fits within my overall approach to life. It is exciting to do something you love and be invigorated by a calling to change course a bit even as I approach fifty years of age. I watch so many people who seem to go through the motions. My personal prayer is that I do not come to that point and that is why I have developed a comprehensive process to help guide me and make sure I stay true to where I believe God is leading me.

While I do hope you will continue to engage with this blog each week in the years to come, I also hope you will find yourself checking in on the work of PTC on the company blog which will begin the week of Labor Day. The blog will be hosted on our website at pastortrainingcommunity.org. Until then, keep reading here where next week, I will reflect on the big God I serve.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Next...(Part 2)

Last week, having concluded my series on how the 4L Model of Discipleship fits my Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps, I hinted at what my next venture includes. That venture is named Pastor Training Community (PTC for short).

PTC came to mind last year when I returned from Kenya. Having been a part of a team who trained over 100 pastors in 4 days in two different locations, the question became how to consistently train without having to be there physically. As I mentioned last week, many organizations around the world exist to share the gospel and train indigenous leaders. But no single organization can reach them all. Thus, PTC is seeking to do our part to train a part of the nearly two million pastors who need training worldwide. Our primary focus is to train pastors in remote locations, many of whom may be considered underprivileged.

My focus here is not to elaborate on PTC, but rather to show how this venture fits into my overall plan. If you wish to follow the happenings of PTC, a new blog will begin there in September. You may access the blog through the website. Additional social media outlets include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can find PTC at:

Website – pastortrainingcommunity.org
For Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, please search for "Pastor Training Community" and if you see this logo, you have the correct account.




As for how PTC fits my plans, let me briefly comment based upon each component of my overall process starting from the bottom (Steps) and moving to the top (Vision). To keep the post relatively brief, this week, I will focus on the Steps and Strategy. I will conclude this short series of posts by comparing the launch of PTC with my Mission and Vision.

STEPS:
LEARN – I am realizing each week how much I have to LEARN. I currently lead a church and have owned a small corporation before, but I have never organized a non-profit organization. Beyond the logistics of effectively leading the organization, because the primary task of PTC is to train pastors and church leaders around the globe, constant learning will be required to understand how to adapt the training to the people we will serve.

LIVE – The entirety of this venture is to LIVE what I know to be true. I must love God, love others and be a part of those who make disciples of all nations.

LOVE – If I am successful in the LIVE step, it should be because I am doing so with LOVE. I know I deeply care for the people I met in Kenya last year and presume the same will be true of the other places that God may send me.

LEAD – Training others abroad also requires me to LEAD those who are serving here. Over time, many of the daily/weekly responsibilities will be executed by others, but I must never lose my focus to LEAD.

STRATEGY:
LOVE – Again, this venture starts with my desire to serve God which requires loving God and loving others. PTC has already required a large sacrifice of time, and a modest amount of money to date, it will require much more in the coming weeks, let alone the years ahead. Of course, these sacrifices pale in comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made for me, but I doubt I would consider the sacrifice worth it if I did not love God and was learning to better love others.

EXERCISE – Discipline will be very important. Spiritual discipline because this venture is primarily focused on the spiritual aspects of life and ministry. Financial discipline (personally and for PTC) in order to accomplish the goals I/we have. Physical discipline because to travel to various places will require a body that is healthy.

ACTION – This relates to LIVE in the Steps portion. I know what I am to do (generally, and in this case, I am learning specifically), so I need to be doing what I know to do.

READ – I have been reading a great deal about a variety of topics this year, but much of the reading centers on leadership, and non-profit principles. Additionally, as I mentioned in the LEARN Step, I have so much to learn in general, that reading will be a constant – and that reading must include the Word of God.

NURTURE – One of the core values of PTC is to train leaders. Of course, PTC was founded to train pastors abroad, but the full measure is to make sure all individuals associated with PTC are nurtured in their faith and life to become leaders in their own right.

So, that is how the practical part of the process – my Strategy and Steps – relates to the launch of PTC. Next week, I will clarify how I see this new venture relating to my Mission and my Vision statements.