The picture above was taking this past Sunday as all of the Beeson Pastor families worshiped together. Here Carolyn is teaching the kids about Christ's love for the lost sheep as they sit at her feet listening and learning (as well as looking back at their parents). These past few months I have felt like a kid sitting at the feet of some great teachers. Here is, in a nutshell, what God has been teaching me through the various classes and events I've experienced thus far:
Spirituality of Leadership Course: I was challenged to lead out of the depths of my relationships with Christ and others, as opposed to leading solely from the shallow waters of tasks and techniques. In other words, who I am as a leader makes a greater impact than what I do as a leader. The retreat at the monastery was a key component of this course and it provided some extended time for God to speak into my life about various obstacles that were preventing me from becoming the kind of person and leader He is shaping me to be.
Preaching Course: I had the opportunity in this class to preach two sermons, one from the OT and the other from the NT. After each of us preached we received both positive and constructively critical feedback from classmates and the professor. Through this experience of preaching, as well as course lectures and readings, I am learning to rediscover just how dependent I am upon the Holy Spirit to guide and empower my preaching. While methods and gifts are important for preaching, the Holy Spirit is the most indispensable requirement for impact in the preaching event.
Theology of Ministry Course: We wrestled with our true calling as pastors. We asked the question, according to Scripture and Church Tradition who are pastors called to be and what are we really called to do? To answer this question we considered how the ministry of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity form the foundation of our vocation. Jesus Christ laid down his life for the sheep, and the good shepherd/pastor, for the right reasons, does the same for the sheep/church. Pastoral ministry becomes most liberating and empowered when we realize that we are not called to recreate the wheel or do ministry on our own; the ministry we have been called to is the ministry of the Son to the Father through the Holy Spirit. Pastors are called to do what God is doing. Lots more could be said.
Anthropology Course: This week we are studying how to bring the timeless gospel of Christ cross cultures in a way that both maintains the gospel and the best of that culture. This is called contextualizing the gospel and involves putting the gospel in a container that a given culture can drink from, again without compromising either the gospel or the culture. One of my assignments will be to go to a church different from the one I pastor and compare the two church cultures. This is called an ethnographic study.
Dissertation: In addition to these courses, I'm steadily gathering resources and developing thoughts about my dissertation on the Spirituality of Preaching. My goal is to basically develop the dissertation into a project that will assist pastors in going about the development and delivery of sermons in a manner that infuses spiritual disciplines throughout the homiletic process.
Church Visits: Me, Amy and the kids have visited a different church just about every week. This is something I haven't been able to do for the 12 years that I've been a pastor. It's been an eye opening experience that both confirms and challenges some things at SWC (the church I pastor). This experience has given me lots of ideas and insights that I look forward to implementing in ministry.
Family/Friends: One of the greatest joys has been the extra time that I've had with Amy, Zach, Lia, and Sam. Our bond as a family is deepening as we go through this experience together. Zach is playing tee-ball, Lia is doing ballet lessons, and Sam continues to eat like a horse! Amy and I are getting a date night every other week by swapping baby sitting responsibilities with other couples in the program. We look at each other and our kids and realize, with gratitude to God, how blessed we are. We have also come to really value the others who are part of the Beeson Program. They have become our family. It's like having 10 brothers and 10 sisters with about 25 nieces and nephews. We genuinely love and care about each other. This has been the best fringe benefit of the program!