I Am a Failed & Abusive Leader


O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
~ Jeremiah 23.1-4
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I Am Scared I’ll Never Serve in Ministry Again, and that I Don’t Deserve To


O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me,
O Lord God of hosts;
do not let those who seek you be dishonored because of me,
O God of Israel.
It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.

~ Psalm 69.5-8

Who has a brand new Masters of Divinity degree? This guy.


Grad2016-310

After going to seminary nearly 8 years ago, dropping out after a year, and then returning 5 years later, I have now graduated with my Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies program at Western Theological Seminary. (Sorry for all those links.)

I was also proud and humbled to have been voted by the faculty to receive the Stanley A. Rock award in Pastoral Care and Counseling, “for outstanding work in pastoral care and counseling courses and formation for ministry assignments”.

So what now? Well, first I have to finish my last six weeks of classes before actually getting my actual degree. Then I will need to finish my requirements for ordination as a minister in the Reformed Church in America. After that? I’m still figuring it out.

I’ll still be in Philadelphia. I won’t be looking for a ministerial job outside my own church. I’ll continue my job in social work while other opportunities work themselves out. I still hope to do Ph.D. work in the future, but I’m taking a breather for the immediate moment.

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The Trinity building the Church! | Acts 20.28


Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

Acts 20.28

Wow, here’s the whole Trinity at work in leading God’s church! Would that we give more attention to this Trinitarian nature to the sustaining of our churches. Also, notice how Jesus’ blood “obtained” the Church. He didn’t merely create the space of possibility. He went out and got it. It is is his.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Is There No Rest for God’s Weary Ministers? | Mark 6


Lucien Simon-Christ Performing MiraclesReading through the sixth chapter of Mark, I recently noticed a way that Jesus relates to his disciples which is, at first, incredibly encouraging, but then gets exceedingly hard.

This is right after he had sent his disciples out, two by two, to try out this whole “ministry thing” by themselves. According to Mark, it was an incredibly powerful and effective time of ministry for them. They saw powerful things done, and they were able to play a part in them. They return from their first “ministry internship”, and this is where we pick up the story.

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6.30-31

Jesus’ pastoral concern extends not only to his flock but also to the shepherds. They have done so much ministry and now he insists that they withdraw and rest and eat. Also, they shouldn’t simply do this by themselves as individuals, but with those who are also doing ministry. The leaders of the church should rest together as fellow weary workers.
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When your church’s “cultural relevance” fails | Acts 14.11-18


When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice.

 

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”

 

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14.11-18

This is in contrast to Paul’s later methods at Mars Hill in Chapter 17. Here we see that not every “contextualization” is created equal. Sometimes, your “relevance” could be dragging people to worship yourself or false idols. As preachers, we should always be on the lookout for this, and to constantly speak against it.

On another note, that bold part (v.15) should be the model for every single sermon.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Seminary & Ministry in the Post-Everything World


Grace-words-mouth-poetry-psalms

All last week I was in Holland, MI attending another one of our in-person sessions for my seminary program. It was another week with amazing people, at an amazing place, learning and discussing amazing things.

One of that classes I had was my preaching class. Over the course of five days, every one of us in the class got up and preached a 15-20 minute sermon. Every person–again, every. single. person.–did amazingly well. There were many surprises. People delivered messages that we could not have anticipated, in both skill and content.

Imagine listening to 14 full-on sermons in the course of a few days. It’s emotionally draining; it’s intense; it’s life-giving. It’s trying to drink from a fire hose of God’s Word and Spirit.

One benefit of this is that I got to get a glimpse into the future of the Church’s preaching ministry, and I am happy to say that I am really encouraged.

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I’m terrified of becoming a Pastor


paul-art-wingThis seminary semester, I’m taking classes on both Preaching and the Emotional/Spiritual/Psychological Identity of Pastors. So yeah, get used to seeing more posts like this on the blog. This week, in my “Pastor class” we did readings and had a lecture on “vocational hazards” and discerning one’s “call” to ministry. We were asked about what challenges and encourages us most about this possibility of being “called” to serve the Church in pastoring. Here were my thoughts. 

The biggest fear going into this course–and reinforced in the lecture–is the whole question of whether it is my “False Self” that is called, rather than my True Self. I have spent much of my life following Spurgeon’s (I think) advice that if you feel called to ministry at all, try to do everything else in your life you possibly could do. If you still end up in ministry, then congratulations, you were called.

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Discipleship: Making Good Little Pharisees?


Caravaggio-The Calling of Saint Matthew{summary: the way we disciple others in the church is far too often a results-based process, and not a grace-driven one. Here, I explore Jesus’ example in Matthew as a guide for us. And, once again, we see Jesus’ radical application of grace to his Disciples’ lives.}

I’m taking a class on “The Practice of Discipleship”. Some discussions on our online message boards inspired these thoughts. Discipleship, as many people could tell you is all about “following Jesus”. After all, that’s how Jesus himself invited his disciples into it. But as I was thinking about this, I realized something: Pharisees had disciples too.

Now, with “Pharisee Discipleship” the point was to let that Pharisee get all up in your business so that you could become a good, well-behaved Pharisee someday. Christian Discipleship, as we are often told, is not about following Christians per se, but following Christians who are following Christ. The ultimate goal is to follow Christ and to help one another do that.

This is how it works in theory. I can’t speak for everyone, but at least in my experience, a lot of Christian Discipleship subtly looks more like the type that creates well-behaved Pharisees than the one that truly follows Christ.
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Love well for Easter: liberti Easter outreach


jlwo-Blood-WaterLent has historically been a time where we look at things that we don’t like to look at, and dwell on things that are broken and painful. And when we do, we see that this darkness is to be found both in our hearts and in the wider world around us.

It’s not hard to see pain and injustice woven into the very fabric of our neighborhoods and the nations around the world.

What is hard, though, is figuring out how to respond to this pain and injustice in ways that are proper and truly loving.

Truly Loving

I believe that the most transformative efforts to address pain and injustice have several things in common: Continue reading

Some Lord’s Day Meditations on Paul’s Thorn | 2Cor 12:7-11


I’m almost done going through 2 Corinthians, and last night I came across that oh-so-familiar passage of 2 Corinthians 12:7-11:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I thought I’d share some of the things that really spoke to me as I meditated on it:

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Facebook for lent . . .


For lent, it was suggested that I give up Facebook.At first, I was very hesitant.Then I wondered, “why am I so hesitant?”I had been saying for a while that I would go a week or so off Facebook, but had yet to do so.Why?

This hesitancy revealed a very strong hold Facebook had on me.Whenever I got on the internet, I would check it.I would check it numerous times an hour, being disappointed every time that little red flag didn’t appear on the bottom right-hand corner of my screen.I would spend embarrassing amounts of time clicking through pictures, checking up on old friends, or reading notes.now these things are okay, but it had become a conditioned response to me getting on the internet.It wasted way too much time that I should have been doing work.

There’s this great booklet from CCEF on Procrastination.That is a topic I deal with greatly.I still do.I would rather do anything but my work.In this book, though, there is this great quote form the author, Walter Henegar.He talks about this peculiar thing that happened on the cross.When Jesus is about to die he cries out “it is finished!”, but here’s the thing: the majority of Jesus’ active redemptive work was yet to be done.He had so much of the world that was yet to be saved and brought to himself.Henegar writes concerning this:

Jesus could say this only because he had done “all the work the Father gave him to do.”The connection to my own [Henegar’s] sin was clear: Unless I’m doing what God has called me to do, I’m doing someone else’s work.When I procrastinate, I’m meddling in things that are “none of my business”—like a busy-body.

I struggle with needing to be God in my life.I need to control things.I need to be the one that determines what works I am doing.The second my passions are mandated to me, I suddenly will do anything I can not to do them.I have seen this in seminary.Facebook became my mechanism of controlling what things I spend my life doing and not doing.

So, I gave up Facebook for lent.

And I haven’t missed it, amazingly.(And for those wondering, yes I did take off the facebook-messages-to-my-phone thing)

When lent is over will I go back to Facebook?Yes, but I feel more equipped than ever to see it for what is: an ultimately unnecessary thing that can be used for good things in moderation.I do love Facebook, but just like anything, it can be made an idol.Lent is serving its purpose, I suppose.

Those Catholics are on to something . . .

p.s. – I still have Facebook set up to import the posts from my personal blog onto Facebook as notes.So, for those that see this on Facebook, know that I didn’t have to log in to get this on there.For those that get this far in the post, please pray for me.