Sunday, December 31, 2006

A New Thing

Earlier this month, I finished what has been my toughest semester in divinity school so far. Someone should have warned me not to take Greek and Systematic Theology at the same time. but, everything turned out ok, and I have had some time to reflect on what has happened not only in the past semester but in the past year.

As I began my internship at FBC Statesville, there were those around me who encouraged me to investigate a career in the academic world. When you are on the kind of spiritual journey I am on, you tend to look for signposts: messages from God that give you an idea of which roads to take and which roads to pass by. So, a part of me began to wonder if these people were signposts from God pointing me in the direction of the academic world. In order to get a Ph.D., I would need to study German and French in addition to the Hebrew I had already studied and the Greek I was enrolled in. So, I decided I would think and pray about what my future would be this semester and try to make a decision by the end of the semester. To make a long story short, I feel like God has reaffirmed my call to work in the church during this past semester. I found myself enjoying ministry classes, like Pastoral Care and Art of Ministry, much more than the more academic classes like Theology and Greek.

Those of you who know me a little better, know that it has been a tough year. My home church in Tampa split, and the church I have been interning in has been struggling. But during my visit to Logos Dei, a new church start here in Tampa, the words from Isaiah 43 kept going through my head:

18Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

While this scripture definitely applies to the life of this new church, I also felt that God was applying this to me. Its time for me to put the events of the last year behind me and its time for me to look for the new things that God is doing. I think this not only applies to my specific situation, but to the situation of the church in general. I think in many churches, the current model is not working; and the time has arrived for something new. What is that something new? I don't know yet, but I have some ideas. This transition to a "new church" is not going to be something we can accomplish on our own. Rather, it will be something my wife calls a "God sized thing"; something so big that we cannot possibly accomplish it on our own.

We need pastors who are willing to set aside their own ideas and, as Henry Blackaby puts it it in Experiencing God, find where God is working and join him in this work. The church is not a business where the pastor is the CEO. We need pastors who recognize that being a senior pastor is not a higher calling than being a youth minister, a music minister, or a children's minister, and as a result, use team models of church organization rather than a hierarchical one. We need congregational leaders who understand that it is not "their church"; it is God's church. Finally, we need clergy and lay leadership who are willing to step out on faith; without faith, God sized things can't happen. This transition to a "new church" is not going to be something we can accomplish on our own. Rather, it will be something my wife calls a "God sized thing"; something so big that we cannot possibly accomplish it on our own.

I believe we have arrived at a pivotal moment in the life of the church. It is a time that is both scary and exciting. It is a time in which the church will need the gifts of all of its leaders, not just pastors. It is a time for everyone to understand that the church of the 21st century may look much different from the church we have come to know.


Anonymous said...

"We need pastors who are willing to set aside their own ideas and 'find where God is working and join him' in this work." I've heard these words from Daniel Vestel and from my own pastor. Yet proper credit to these words should have been given in both instances.

These are almost the very same words of Henry Blackaby in his book titled, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Visit this Web site
and check it out for yourself. Click on Summary 1 and you will see what I mean. "Watch to see where God is working and join Him"

Oh, and my goodness. Henry Blackaby--a Southern Baptist. You know, one of those "fundamentalists." I don't fault you. Daniel Vestel didn't give proper credit either. But being the coordinator of the CBF, how could he admit that he was using words from a Southern Baptist pastor and preacher.

Gil Gulick said...

I actually knew I was quoting Blackaby, but that's what you get when you are trying to blog and watch a football game. I meant to credit him, and I have edited the post to correct the oversight.

Eric said...

Oh for goodness' sake, Anon. Do we have to drag church politics into everything?

Gil, regarding the undertaking of "God-sized" projects, I have struggled with that type of faith my entire life. I know that you're on the mark about that, for God regularly calls people to join Him in doing the "impossible," but my relationship with Him is so intellectual that I have trouble working on things so "foolish."

I feel the need in my own church to set aside the old and take on something new and God-sized. Our church is struggling in different ways, but I think the cause is similar in many ways. When I look at our church's recent past and see that the area that has seen the most success in changed lives is where we stepped out to do something different, I feel that is God's confirmation.

I will keep you and FBC Statesville in my prayers and I look forward to hearing more about the journey.

Anonymous said...

Oh, have a heart, Eric. It's hardly "church politics" when you are talking about the CBF and the SBC. Theological differences are major.

But you are right. I guess I took it out on Rev. Gil when I saw those words again. So please forgive me both of you.