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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Coming Home To Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church On June 1

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!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dissertation Proposal Hearing Results

Thank you for praying for me as I went before my Disseertation Committee at 1:30 today. I really did sense the peace and power of God's Spirit with me throughout the two hour meeting. The committee was very encouraging and approved my proposal with a few recommendations to further enhance my study. So, at this point, my project is approved. If all goes well, I will complete the project described in the post below and write the final two chapters of my five chapter dissertation in time to graduate in May of 2010! I'm not officially a Doctor until then.

Again, thanks for praying and celebrating with me. It is a joy to feel like I'm making this journey with my Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church possie, my friends, and my family. This year would not have been quite as spectacular without people like you "in my corner" (yes, a Rocky Balboa allusion).

Love you guys,


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Please Pray For My Dissertation Proposal Hearing

This Tuesday, May 6 at 1:30 I will go before my dissertation committee of three (mentor, second reader, and doctor of ministry rep) to propose my dissertation project. They will either accept my proposal with some modification or totally reject my proposal. I am, of course, hoping it will be the former and not the latter since I have already written 90 pages for this proposal.

My dissertation topic is on preaching as a spiritual discipline. It is so easy for preaching to become a technical rhetorical task somewhat divorced from spiritual intimacy with the God who guides the preaching process. Preaching today has too often subtly drifted into a matter of mere rhetorical cleverness, entertainment or relevance. While communication technique is most certainly important, the main question that must drive the homiletic process is: what is God saying through a particular text of Scripture? The goal of preaching, then, is not neccessarily to find something clever or relevant to say, but to listen for God's voice through a Scripture text and then to communicate it in "grace and truth." While this may sound somewhat like a "given" or a "no-brainer," contemporary literature on and practice of preaching reveals the need to reinstate spirituality (one's relationship with Christ) as the lead in the homiletic dance with rhetorical technique. This is necessary since spirituality redeems and baptizes rhetorical technique.

So, I will be developing a new model for the development and delivery of sermons that invites Christian spiritual disciplines to guide the entire process. Over the next year, I will test this model by inviting ten pastors in the Penn-Jersey District of the Wesleyan Church to incorporate this spiritual homiletic in their preaching for six months. My hope is that when preaching is more intimately intertwined with the God who calls us to preach, pastors will have increased ethos and joy through preaching.

Please pray that I would be able to communicate the rationale for and benefits of this dissertation proposal without getting too tongue-tied or sweaty in the palms! I am convinced that this project will have a profoundly positive impact upon those of us who preach the gospel. Please pray that my dissertation committee would be equally convinced.