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Stop waiting for your “call” into ministry

I have resigned as a pastor in New Jersey and I am looking forward to what God has in store for me next. Here is one of the issues that I have begun working through mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I have always allowed the church where I serve to give me my sense of “call”. When I say “call” I mean a sense of purpose, belonging, rootedness, misssional intensity, etc…

Alas, I am thinking that the word “call” is loaded with all kinds of unbiblical baggage. For example:

  • We mistakenly believe that some people are called to ministry, others are not.
  • Unfortunately, those who don’t feel called fail to center their life, their family, around the imperative of “seeking first the kingdom of God.”
  • We tend to regard those who are called as the Navy Seals of the Christian world. One look at the disciples in the New Testament should dispel this myth.
  • The lion’s share of kingdom work is placed on the shoulders of those who are called.
  • We (unintentionally) postpone meaningful ministry until we receive our call. Life begins to feel like it is in a holding pattern.
  • If we conclude that we have not been called we may begin to doubt God, his love for us, our value, gifts, talents, etc…

If I end up teaching in a public school or go on staff at a church I am called to live out the gospel to my family, neighbors, church family, colleagues. As someone else has once written (paraphrasing), “we are all called into full-time ministry, God just chooses to route our paychecks through different sources.”

Part of the problem, no doubt, is the baggage that comes with the word “called”. Another issue is that many times we are waiting for a sign or a burning bush to indicate what we are to do next. Perhaps the only sign we need (confirmation of a call) is found in Matthew 28:18-20. In the middle of everyday life, regardless of our profession, we are called to make disciples who make disciples.

Wallenmeyers are moving to Dallas-Fort Worth!

June 25 we leave New Jersey and head out to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We are (sadly) saying good-bye to many wonderful friends and, yet, at the same time looking forward to this new season of life.

Marcie has already begun a training program that will lead to her teaching middle school kids in Fort Worth. I will be looking for work in the area once we get down there.

We are looking for someplace close to Fort Worth to live. Here is what we need from you. We would love to hear from people who know the area (FORT WORTH) when it comes to good cities, neighborhoods, churches, etc…Anything you can share, insights, will help us to determine where we will live!

Thanks!

Dallas-Ft-Worth

 

People Over Vision

About year four into my pastorate everything changed. I was hit like a Mack truck by the fact that the the church has been sent into our culture as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

Before my “conversion” I was satisfied with doing Sunday the best I could and trying to get people to come to church. It’s what I knew.

Once I began to see more clearly from Scripture that the role of leadership is to equip people (Ephesians 4) to live out the gospel (John 17:18) in the context of everyday life I became increasingly excited about this new/old (think Acts) vision.

One thing I would change If I could go back would be to lighten up on the vision and just enjoy spending time with people. I wrote statement papers about vision. I blogged about vision. Took our leaders on retreats and discussed our vision. It was vision 24/7.

Vision is important. Some level of holy dissatisfaction with the status quo is  healthy. Yet, if we are not careful, we can become impatient and forget to love people whether or not they are embracing the vision.

One lesson I have learned is people over vision.

I Have Resigned

I have resigned as the Lead Pastor of Mt. Laurel Evangelical Free Church in South Jersey. After nine years (June 22 will be my last Sunday) I sense that God is leading me into a new season of life. I thank God for all the wonderful memories and moments that I have had with the people of MLEFC! I am praying that God will richly bless them with a new pastor that loves Jesus, and the church, with all of his heart!

My future is uncertain at this point and time, which drives me absolutely crazy. When I know for certain what is next I will let you know…

Over the coming months I plan on doing a little soul searching and writing when it comes to the highs and lows of pastoral ministry. Blogging about things I have learned, what I would do differently, and other insights as I have time to process the past nine years.

The page turns…

Jeremiah 29:7. Does this apply to the church today?

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. -Jeremiah 29:7

How many times have you seen this verse quoted in such a way to encourage Christians to serve and love the city in which they reside? Let’s just say “a lot.”

The question must be asked, “do the words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in 600 B.C. really apply to the church today? And if so, how?” 

exileSo why should we apply the exhortations of Jeremiah 29 to the church today? In the Bible, we see the people of God living in three configurations. From Abraham’s day onward, God’s people existed as an extended biological family. From the days of Moses, they exited as a nation-state, with laws and a king and an army to enforce those laws by civil sanctions. During the exile, however, God’s people existed as a dispersed fellowship of congregations (synagogues) living in many different nation-states. God’s law did not take a civil form during that period-the disobedient were expelled from the congregation, but they were not executed.

After the exile, the Jews went back to being a nation-state. Yet the New Testament does not envision the Christian church in this way. Instead, it shows that the church continues to exist as a dispersion of people from every nation under heaven (Acts 2), just as Israel did in the exile (see Jas 1:1, Peter 1:1). Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that the church should continue to the human cities of our time, not as the people of God did under Abraham, Moses, or David, but as they did during the time of the exiles.” P.147-148, Center Church

Peter clearly tells us that as the church today we are called to live as exiles (1 Peter 2:11-12). One of the problems I see today is that many Christians are not taking the tone or posture of an exile, rather they are living as if they are in a position of power. Perhaps the post-Christian culture that we are living in today is going to force us to let go of the facade of being in a position of power and instead embrace the reality that God has called us to live as exiles for the good of the city/suburbs in which we reside. 

What does it look like when we live as if we are in a position of power?

  • We seek to impose our “rules” on society.
  • We come across as arrogant and angry.
  • We are shocked and outraged when others do not submit to our “rules”.
  • We end up putting too much hope and faith in politicians for the transformation of society.
  • Unfortunately we stop looking and sounding like Jesus (as demonstrated in the video below)

What does it look like when we live as exiles?

  • We listen to and serve people in our culture because we realize that we are not in a position of power.
  • We don’t assume that culture will play by our rules. Instead, we show them an alternative way to live. The way of Love.
  • Our tone and posture is less militant and more sacrificial and compassionate. Quoting John piper, “This is my main point: being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. Where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.”
  • We don’t hate culture, we see our role as salt (redemption) and light within culture.
  • We walk in the ways of Jesus (Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 20:28) and truly reflect the gospel to the world around us.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? -Psalm 137:4

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. -1 Peter 2:11-12

Complexity Makes An Organization Dumber

I was reading, “STRANGE LEADERSHIP: 40 Ways to Lead An Innovative Organization” by Greg Atkinson when I found this quote…

strange leadershipOn the podcast Andy Stanley said, “Everything drifts towards complexity. Complexity makes an organization dumber. Complexity is so distracting that nothing gets done as well as it could get done were fewer things being done. For some reason in church life we add and we add and we add, and we chase the new fad, and we chase the new program, and we never subtract and things become so incredibly complex that we often times just fold under the pressure.” Reggie Joiner continued by saying, “A lot of churches get distracted from their vision and become ADD. It dilutes your potential to make an impact. It takes all of your energy, budget, staff, and resources and divides it in a hundred different ways instead of it being focused and excellent.” Andy agreed and added, “Competition for resources, competition for rooms, competition within the organization. Ultimately what gets squeezed out is not ministry to believers but evangelism. Complexity kills the spirit of evangelism in the church…All the resources are consumed trying to make insiders happy.” p.103

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