It's hard to believe that we will be returning to our church family in less than two weeks. I will be preaching on June 1 as I return from the one year study sabbatical at Asbury Theological Seminary. Throughout the year, the church has been so supportive of me, Amy and our kids, Zach, Lia and Sam. Pastor Jason Argo and the rest of the leadership team at Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church have done an exceptional job of lovingly leading us.
As I prepare for return to full-time ministry, I realize how much my priorities have shifted. I'm coming back to the local church with an even greater sense of urgency about proclaiming the Gospel in the world, along with a heightened conviction that the local church is the tool for answering this urgency. There have been several key emphases that have risen to the surface of my heart this year in relation to ministry. They are the power of prayer, the necessity of a global ministry perspective, serving the poor in our community, and preaching the meta-narrative of Scripture in a way that compellingly invites the people of God to experience and embody the reality of God's kingdom on "earth as it is in heaven."
God has reminded me throughout the year that ministry is really not about me at all; it's all about Him. At various points in the year I felt as if God was whispering in my ear, "Len, do you have the commitment, courage and confidence in Me to be who I want you to be, to do what I want you to do, and to go where I want you to go, no matter how much it will cost you?" This sobering question sort of haunts me, really. I am truly humbled that God has invested so many resources in me throughout this Beeson Doctor of Ministry Program. And He didn't do this to enhance my resume or marketability as a pastor; He did it so that He might use my life as a force to advance the kingdom of the Son of His love-Jesus Christ.
While God's love for me is not contingent upon my ministry, Jesus did say that "to whom much is given, much is required." Much has been given to me through the Beeson Program and now the ministry bar has been set way higher for me. This does not cause me to feel the unhealthy pressure of acquiring worldly success, but it does challenge me to rely fully upon the power of God's Spirit to do what I could never accomplish without Him. And this is the reliance upon God that makes a minister of the Gospel dangerously good!